On rare occasion I have spoken with someone outside of the school about the complexities of breaking a brick. Typically, anyone who shares their interest in the martial arts to a martial arts “enthusiast” can expect the question, “Can you break a brick or a board?” I used to resent this question. Of all the benefits the philosophy of the martial arts gives you, both physical and spiritual, why ask such a silly question? I used to be of the mentality that breaking anything was akin to a cheap parlor trick, like a carnival game. The man at the carnival makes the game look easy, meanwhile he collects hundreds from poor suckers mistaking the carnival man’s experience for intelligence and feeling the need to prove themselves make a pitiful attempt at “one up manship.” I have since learned that there is a trick to any type of breaking, but it has its benefits on the mind the same as any training method the martial arts has. I have since gained a great deal of respect for the art of breaking.
This is not a long winded tangent about the magical art of breaking, the different types of breaking and how cool it is for demonstrations. Please do not misunderstand, I seriously enjoy attempting different breaks, despite the risk involved, and can see its benefits to my martial arts training in the physical sense. Despite these benefits I will elaborate on later, I would prefer to discuss the philosophy one can learn from breaking a brick in the martial arts in destroying mental barriers.
For most people, you can use the brick as a metaphor for any problem in your life that you have struggled with. The brick lies there, staring back at you, unmoving. You, unshaken by the weight the brick has on your mind, attempt to crash through it. Most people undoubtedly fail in their first attempt(I know I did), this is not surprising. Just as you may miss a detail in your conflict resolution at work, or forgot to study a chapter for the test, you make mistakes and must learn from them. The beautiful thing about breaking is you receive instant feedback, which makes learning your lesson much faster than waiting to see if your actions were correct When you strike the brick and your hand feels immediate pain and swells up like a balloon, you have acquired a great deal of information about breaking technique. Perseverance is a powerful trait one can hone and sharpen through consistent failure. You can definitely cultivate perseverance breaking because IT HURTS WHEN YOU MAKE MISTAKES, you know exactly what to change and can typically try again immediately. This is a popular belief for some styles of breaking, you don’t leave until you do the break. Imagine if we all adopted this philosophy to great challenges in our life, where we do not leave until it is resolved or a plan of action is created. We would find a deeper fulfillment in life I think.
Technique is important in a brick break. The amount of force you use to go through the brick is the same as the amount of effort you throw at a problem. You can have poor technique, smash the wrong part of your hand, and still smash through the brick(I have and do not recommend this). By throwing excessive force around, but with little technique, you can smash that thing and your hand to bits. Try to come at your problems with a bit of understanding of the situation. Study and refine, do not just jump into a colossal problem eager to make a colossal mistakes. A bit of study can save you a lot of energy and prevent a great deal of unnecessary damage to you. Learn how to come at the slab with a sophisticated approach that limits your chances of injury and your odds of victory are even greater. Once you have found the correct amount of force and the right approach, you will slice through your concrete problem like butter. You’ll also find that this big problem of your five years from now will seem like nothing.
The last reason breaking a brick is like breaking through a mental barrier is it helps to have a good teacher(emphasis on the good). “Sifu” means the one who has walked the path before you (but hey an Italian told me that so if any Chinese people want to clarify, email me). Ever have someone give you good advice because they knew where you were coming from and what you were trying to accomplish? These people can tell you what your doing wrong, amend your errors in judgement, and in five minutes do what would have taken you five weeks. Learning from their philosophy and having them in your back pocket makes your challenges much simpler. If you have a problem and you haven’t picked up a book, attended a class or found a teacher to help you out, I can guess how much action you have taken on solving it, typically zero.
Now the brick metaphor does not apply to every problem in every way, but it’s pretty darn close. My current problem is my Applied Statistics class, I have a mental barrier when it comes to math. As soon as I stop talking myself out of studying (the brick in my case) I will be much better off. So, take the five minutes and ask yourself, “what brick is stopping me in life today from taking that next step in my personal development?”