Breaking hard inanimate objects has been a part of Kung Fu training since times immemorial. It is a test - of technique, of the strength of the student's mind, and of Ch'i.
In some ways, breaking is the spectacular aspect of the Arts which attracts many potential students. To see someone pit their muscle and bone against objects which can crush the human body sends a thrill through spectators. To successfully break a large stack of strong material can seem to defy the laws of physics.
To succeed with a large break, the Martial Artist needs to harness the necessary strength of mind and body, and this may take some mental preparation. Master Hardy, pictured here, may meditate on a large and challenging break for several weeks before attempting it, and must then concentrate absolutely, to put his mind through the material before his body follows.
The careful observer will note that when Master Hardy is breaking the stack of 10 concrete slabs - and they are fully hardened commercial concrete - he uses everything he has - momentum, power and Ch'i, in a focused axe-hand strike. He employs his strong right hand. In the video, he attempts 15 slabs, but using a heel palm strike from fingertip height. Both the nature of the strike and the flames on the concrete mean he has to garner his energies very quickly to succeed without injury.
Sometimes, difficult breaks can appear quite simple and easy - breaking even two or three concrete slabs without spacers can be as challenging - or more so - than breaking a huge stack. Breaking from fingertips with a heel palm break is much more challenging than breaking with a full strike. So, breaking a pine board in the air may seem easy, but is much more interesting than when the board is fully supported.
Another kind of breaking is shown here, with Master Hardy lying on broken glass, while concrete blocks are broken on his chest by a trusted student.
This requires the ability to protect his back and chest from different hazards simultaneously, and Ch'i is vital! Note that while the glass can leave deep indentations in Master Hardy's back, there is no bleeding, and no scarring!
However, it is wise for the student to remember that breaking is just one element of training (and not an essential element at that!). To commence breaking, students should be at least at Green Sash level, and at least 18 years of age. This is because not only is good technique essential, but breaking does create stresses on the body, and younger people are still actively growing. That growth can be severely impacted by the stresses. So - a plain warning: do not try breaking at home; seek competent instruction!