I’m here to tell you a couple of things about trying to break a board with your hand

On May 27, 2010 by Eden M. Kennedy

Two weeks ago Sunday: the second half of the new draft of my and Alice’s now-65,000 word manuscript was due the next morning. (How did we add 15,000 words? When did we find the time?). It needed fourteen more hours of attention before we could send it to our editor and go to bed in our respective time zones. Along with those fourteen hours of editing, Alice had to start packing up her entire apartment and I had to conjure up an additional five hours to take Jackson to his karate testing 20 miles south, in Ventura. I also hoped to find 6 to 8 hours in which to sleep before my new job started at 8:30 the next morning. I have long rued the day that our country rejected the metric system, trapping us in years bloated with 12 months and days that last a mere 24 hours. But I knew that, even though I lacked a clock divided into 100-minute hours, I could cram it all in somehow.

Since Jack had been shopping, cooking, and kid-wrangling for weeks to give me the space to work, and despite the overwhelming pressure that this was the last day Alice and I had to rewrite (and dear God, suddenly it seemed like there was a lot to rewrite), he needed a day off, so I sucked it up to go be a karate mom. It was okay. All that acupuncture I’d been having for my lady parts was having the side-effect of making me supernaturally calm. Plus I heard that some teenage girl black belt was going to be demonstrating the Shaolin Double Chain Whip! It was all going to be very Jackie Chan. I wasn’t going to miss it.

The testing was closed to observers, but after killing an hour (AN HOUR WITH ONLY 60 MINUTES IN IT) at J. C. Penney buying pillowcases and washcloths, I arrived in time to watch the belt-giving-out ceremony. Chinese lion dancers then came out and tossed an orange back and forth between their mouths. Getting hit by the orange would give you good luck for a year! Some karate guy muscled past all the kids to get up front, and then the lion dancers threw the orange right at him. However, the rest of us who had not TOTALLY RIGGED our luck and had thus avoided being bruised by flying fruit could still ask fortune to smile upon us somewhat more safely by sticking dollar bills into the lion’s mouth. Yes, there was shrieking. Adorable shrieking!

And then, of course, there were feats of strength. The sensei brought out a stack of 3/4″ plywood cut into 2′ x 2′ squares for people of various ranks to try and break. Some of the littler yellow belts set boards against concrete stairs and stomped to break them in half. An older brown belt with dyed red hair went KEEYAAAAH! and snapped one in half with her bare hand.

Then Jackson went up to his sensei and said, “My mom wants to break a board.”

Me: “No, I don’t.”

Jackson: “Yes, you do.”

Me: “Why don’t you do it? Mr. Orange Belt. Mr. Bossy Boots.”


Sensei, sizing me up: “I can teach you what to do.”

Me: “Buuhhhh . . .”

Sensei: “You can do it.”

This was the guy who’d just performed an archery demonstration wherein he’d shot an arrow through an apple seventy feet away, so I figured maybe if he thought I could do it, I could do it. He told me how to stand and how to pull back with my left arm while thrusting through the board with my right, palm out flat. I took a couple of practice thrusts. They were terrible.

Sensei: “Twenty percent harder.”

I am here to tell you a couple of things about trying to break a board with your hand. One is, don’t close your eyes when you hit it.

Me (hopping up and down and clutching my stinging right hand): “I think I closed my eyes when I hit it.”

Sensei, trying not to smile, holding intact board: “I think you did, too.”

Jackson: “TRY IT AGAIN, MOM!”

Sensei: “You want to try it again?”


Me: “Jesus Christ my hand stings like shit.”

Sensei: “Twenty percent harder.”

Me: “Uh, sorry about the cursing.”

Sensei: “Push through the board.”


I was high for about a hundred minutes after I did it, too. Adrenaline is no joke, my friends. My hand wouldn’t feel right until Wednesday and I didn’t even care. I went home and edited the CRAP out of that manuscript, and after five hours of sleep, I went and had an absolutely stellar first day at my new job.




41 Responses to “I’m here to tell you a couple of things about trying to break a board with your hand”

  • I love it! *bows in reverence*

  • You are kidding me! You broke the board? That is the most wonderful thing I’ve heard all day… and I’ve had a pretty great day.

  • 天晴れ (Yoku ya~tsu ta) or “Well done!”

  • awesome! when i taught women’s self-defense, in the intermediate classes we broke boards for graduation – and the key is definitely picturing your target being like a foot beyond the actual board. pushing through it, in other words. i still have one of the boards i broke.

  • Damn, I bet that felt great!

  • I first read the title of this post as “how to break up with your hand.” Which, since you were talking about all the writing you’d had to accomplish, made sense to me. Ah well, good job breaking a board with your hand and somehow maintaining the relationship.

  • Hell yeah! Next time hand somebody the camera so you can document the bad-ass feat.

  • I already knew that you kick ass but DUDE. You LITERALLY kick ass.

    *Bows to you*

  • They let you keep the pieces? That is so cool! Congratulations.

  • I am totally high on karate right now too. Congratulations to you and Jackson!

  • That is one of the most wonderful things I have heard in ages. You are awesome!!

  • I’m so glad you kept the pieces – that was the first thing I wondered! Well done you!

  • This makes you the best mother ever. I hope you display those bits prominently in the house as a reminder for no one to fuck with you. I love this post.

  • Hells yes!! You are one bad ass lady. Breaking boards and editing manuscripts and inventing 100-minute hours. Is there anything you can’t do?

  • That is FUH-reaking awesome!! I am so in awe right now.


  • Sweet Pat Morita, do I love this post.

  • wow. that actually made me want to take up karate.

  • Nicely done, Jackson!

  • Reading that was better than watching Scarlett Johansson kick ass in Iron Man 2! My son used to take karate, and I loved that they had break-away boards so even the tiniest kids could have the satisfaction of breaking one with their fists. But you broke a real board!! Yea, you!

  • DUDE that is awesome! Never let those pieces go.

  • P.S. Love that Jackson knew you could do it, and (for lack of a non-cliche) pushed you outside your comfort zone.

  • What sort of new job are you starting? And you definitely want to hang onto those boards. One day, when you are nose to nose with a sullen teenager, you can point to the board and remind him that you are a Mom Who Can Break Boards with her Hand, and Probably With Her Mind, If She Really Needs To!

  • hot damn!

  • great post, thank you. :)

  • Editor: Yeah, I just have a couple recommendations about the manus..
    You: I WILL BREAK YOU!!!!
    Editor: …
    You: IN THREE!!!!

    Jackson: Mom, can I have some ovaltine?
    You: *Holds up board; shatters it with fist*
    Jackson: Nevermind. I’ll just clean the house, instead.

    I think your newfound confidence could move things along nicely.

  • My husband glanced over my shoulder while I was reading this post. He saw the photo of the kid in white karate outfit with orange belt and asked if I was reading a blog about the Klan. I laughed, and laughed. He looked at my sideways … I don’t know who he thinks I am … a closet Klanswoman?

    Anyway, thanks alot Fussy!! :-)

  • I don’t know why but this post brought actual tears to my eyes. So %$&^! awesome.

  • And this is why you’re amazing: because somebody else would have led with the board, the lesson learned, and then maybe their conclusion would have been, “So now in looking back I realize that my son’s confidence in my strength etc and also in life it is necessary to push through blah blah.” but you just set it all out and let it do its own talking. With the cursing, because you’re funny as well as amazing.
    Congratulations on getting the book done and on the new job! 2010 is really treating you the way you deserve, it sounds like.

  • Wow! What a totally awesome happy ending *THAT* was and the best thing I’ve read in weeks and weeks. You rock, Mrs. Kennedy. I mean, seriously rock.

  • *fist pump* excellent empowering story. Also, I keep mentally coming back to your “don’t let the panic decide” post- also excellent and empowering- and it helps me to get out of my own way, to GET EXCITED and make or do something. Thank you.

  • Do you have to call it ‘Karat-aye’ now?

  • Adrenaline kicks ass. I think it pumps me up even more as I get older too. I just went on some fantastic roller coasters last week and I was SO RAMPED UP after that I was bouncing off the walls for hours. I couldn’t sleep that night. I dreamed about roller coasters for days. It was awesome.

  • You are awesome–I can’t believe you did it!

  • Kinda weird they would have a lion dance (Chinese) at a karate rite (Japanese), but WOW YOU DID IT??? WITHOUT TRAINING? cool.

    Am going to think extrapolatively (izzat a word?) re: the push through the target to point beyond. Sounds like it just HAS to be useful.

  • I just knew that 19% harder was going to get me nowhere.

    Congrats on the new job.

  • Great job to you!

  • I usually just lurk but *that* is the best story I’ve read in eons. Awesome!!

  • I am so @*&$%ing proud of you. I knew you could do it.

    btw, my kids are blasting the shit out of Talking Heads’ Girlfriend is Better right now, and that is contributing to my prideful feeling. Eat that, Universe.