Boards Dont Hit Back

Tameshiwari is the art of using unarmed strikes to break things: boards, roofing tiles, blocks of ice, and even stones. It sometimes includes breaking flaming boards, shearing off the tops of beer bottles, and snuffing candles with the force of a blow. Tameshiwari is inextricably linked with Karate in the public mind - especially since many schools use it in flashy demonstrations and promotions. In reality, it's a minor, fairly impractical aspect of the martial arts.

Tameshiwari normally takes place under highly controlled conditions. Practitioners carefully select wood -most often pine - that is free of knots and has a clear grain. They choose tiles made of pottery known for its breakabili-ty and the fact that it doesn't shatter into sharp, hand-shredding shards. There are many tricks involved, too -some of them legitimate "training wheels" for beginners, others the tools of unscrupulous showoffs. These include drying or baking boards to remove springiness; separating multiple boards with spacers to make them easier to break; and shaving ice blocks in half and re-freezing them with rock salt between the halves to conceal the flaw.

Tameshiwari isn't purely for show, though. Karate masters often teach their students to pull their punches and kicks in practice, to prevent injury. Tameshiwari represents an opportunity to strike at full-force and prepare for actual contact.

NEVER FIGHT UNARMED BY CHOICE I - Ned Beaumont, Kill-As-Catch-Can

Asian styles aren't the only ones to emphasize showy techniques. Greek wrestlers were fond of demonstrating their strength, balance, and dexterity. To show off their ability without fighting, they would break rocks, stand on a greased shield while people tried to dislodge them, and so on. More recently, Western circus wrestlers and boxers took on all comers and paid out prizes to those who could stand against them.

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