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Boards Don't Hit Back -- Bruce Lee's Famous Line is Only Entertainment

Last Saturday at our practice, we took a few minutes to have fun with board-breaking. We tried different breaks from short range, the idea being if you are in close, can you generate enough power to do some damage to an opponent.

Here is the video that resulted.

When you put a video like this online, you will inevitably have someone reply with "Boards don't hit back." Sometimes a friend will say it in jest, but sometimes it is said by someone who is serious.

"Boards don't hit back" is a line that Bruce Lee said in "Enter the Dragon," when Bob Wall broke a board at the beginning of a fight with Bruce. 


Since 1973, some Bruce Lee "purists" and "Real Fighting" macho guys have pretended that board breaking is stupid.

They would be wrong.

Yes, boards don't hit back. Neither do heavy bags. Neither do makiwara boards. And neither does paper.

Did you know that Punching Paper was one of Bruce Lee's training techniques?

Here is a video I shot in 2006, showing my cute wife Nancy holding a newspaper page up very lightly with two fingers as I try to punch my fist through the paper. It doesn't count if you rip the paper. You must put your fist through the paper. Try this sometime.

When I first put the paper punching video on YouTube, a troll made the comment, "That's great if I'm ever attacked by a newspaper."

He didn't get it. And I'll bet he couldn't punch through a newspaper. It's harder than you think.

Of course, Bruce Lee also used a lot of tools extensively, including heavybags and wooden dummies. The last time I checked, heavybags and wooden dummies don't hit back.

Bruce even broke boards occasionally to demonstrate power.

This is one of the problems when people take an entertaining line from a movie and try to turn it into Holy Scripture. 

Heavybags, makiwara boards, board breaking, Bob bags -- it's all good for focusing your technique and your power. I can't break my training partner's face tonight, and I can't break his ribs. So how do I train to focus and test my striking power and my ability to break an opponent? I use the right tools.

So the next time someone tries to be an Online Know-It-All and says, "Boards don't hit back," tell them to come closer and let you use their face instead of a board.

As a Taiji teacher I respect -- Michael Chritton said, "The air doesn't hit back, either, and I punch it all the time."

Now THAT is a good line worth repeating.

Here is another board-breaking video my students and I shot last winter. Fun with a purpose.

Self-defense is serious business, but you can't take yourself so seriously. It takes all the fun out of the arts. And even at age 62, I want to have the power to break an opponent's face, but I'm still in it to have fun.


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