(Originally posted on Back in the Gi)
Similar commercial equipment: Masters Secret, ProForce Break Mate, The Board Breaker, Superior Martial Arts Supply board holders, Board Brother, Century Board Breaker, Aluminum board holder, Board Buster
Board breaking is not a major part of traditional karate, but it can be fun as well as informative about one’s technique. I recently purchased some rebreakable boards, which are made of plastic and come in several different difficulty levels. In this particular set, there are four colours that represent easy (yellow), intermediate (blue), more difficult (red), and expert (black). So far, I like the rebreakable boards as they can be put back together easily and used again and again without creating a large pile of firewood.
One issue with breaking boards, whether rebreakable or wood, is that one usually needs a partner to hold the boards. If no one is around, or if family members are reluctant to assist by holding the boards, one may be limited to downward breaks with the boards resting on cinder blocks or some other supports. If you want to practice more common techniques like punches, knife hands, or elbow strikes, you’re pretty much out of luck in that case. However, there are options for purchasing portable board holders that allow horizontal breaking without needing a willing helper. From what I have seen, these range in price from about $100 to $600 depending on materials and features. All I need is something to hold the rebreakable boards, so this seems a bit much. Plus, I enjoy DIY projects, so I thought I would make something myself.
After looking at various examples online, both commercial and home made, I settled on a design that works well. It can be easily attached to a heavy bag or could be mounted on a wall or held by a partner (if handles are attached), and it has a capacity to hold up to seven 3/4″ pine boards or about the same number of black (expert) rebreakable boards.
Here are some details on how to build one of your own if you’re interested.
1. 3/4″ plywood (see below for list of cuts)
2. Eye bolts and nuts (x2)
3. Wood glue
5. Foam padding
6. Staple gun
7. Bungee cords (x4)
All told, the board holder can probably be made for under $20.
1. 10″ x 9.5″ (x3)
2. 15.5″ x 9.5″ (x1)
3. 12″ x 11″ (x1)
4. Side panels, as shown below (x2) — these can be cut out with a scroll saw or band saw
Put the pieces together using wood glue and screws. Once assembled, it should look like this:
Note that I ended up adding an additional piece of plywood to the top, so that both top and bottom have double sheets of wood for strength. The bottom has an extended platform to help hold the boards, but this is probably optional since they will also be held in place by bungee cords. The eye bolts have also been attached at this stage.
Using a belt sander (or just sandpaper and elbow grease), round all of the edges and smooth all of the outer surfaces.
Then, add foam padding to the edges and surfaces on the inner part of the holder where your hand will travel if it breaks through the boards. This will help to prevent injury in case your strike has more power than you anticipated and you come into contact with the holder beyond the boards. I used foam floor mats, which were on sale for about $7 for a package of 4. This provides nice, firm padding for added safety. There is a single layer of foam on inner surfaces with the exception of a stack of 4 pieces of foam on the back inner wall. I also attached a sheet of foam to the back of the holder to help prevent damage to my heavy bag or the wall when it is hung up.
Finally, attach the bungee cords to the eye bolts. You will need two for holder the boards in place plus two if you wish to attach the board holder to a heavy bag. You can also attach the holder to a wall or build an adjustable stand. You could also attach some handles to the sides if you want the board holder to be something that an assistant can grasp without having to have their hands on the boards as you break them.
UPDATE: I decided to cut off the bottom shelf so that it could also be used for kicks and downward strikes (by placing it boards-up on the ground). I also painted it and attached a chain to the top so that it could be hung on the wall.
Attach the board holder to a heavy bag, wall, or stand, put the boards in place, and give it a try. My initial tests were very successful, and the only thing I will look to improve is how it is attached to the heavy bag (probably just some tighter bungee cords).
If you decide to build a board holder, make sure you know what you are doing when it comes to breaking. It is better to have a friend nearby even if you use a holder. The design suggestions provided here are for informational purposes only. I assume no responsibility or liability for any injuries you may sustain if you build and use a board holder based on the design presented above.
For another very nice design, see here: http://www.fusionmartialarts.com.au/blog/?p=57