So its good news. I'll start by saying that all the cliches are true...
its imperative to believe that you can put your foot through the board...
you do need to aim a little behind the board and throw the weight of your body behind the kick...
and of course, when you actually do break it, you hardly feel a thing, you could have been kicking through a sheet of paper.
On my last test, for a green belt, one of the tasks was to break a single board with a back kick. I wasn't able to do it during the test (1, 2) after a couple of tries and I was pretty bummed out because everybody else in my group did break theirs. My kick felt ok, but I felt like I just kept bouncing off the board! I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong, perhaps I was just too weak, and needed to get more power in my legs.
In our school, we improve on the things that are pointed out to us during the test before we move to the next rank. So I had until the next testing cycle to do all my improvements. I kind of pushed the board breaking to the back of my mind. I slowly retested on all the other techniques. I went kind of slow because of having to miss a bunch of classes because of travel. Why did I save the board breaking for the end, I keep asking myself. Some weird reason like it was the last thing we were tested on, and I was doing all my retests in the same order.
Anyway, I ended up in the situation where I had two classes to break my board, Thursday and today. I tried on Thursday with black belt helping me by pointing out what was lacking in my technique, like the best way to chamber, starting with butt slightly pointed to target, chambering without turning the body and then exploding the kick out - causing the turning action. I tried and tried but wasn't able to break it on Thursday. I was pretty depressed that night. I had the same feeling of bouncing off the board, and I could feel that as I made contact I was withdrawing too quickly as though I was scared of going too far.
Also, I'm a bit ashamed of succumbing to it, but in part I felt bad because everybody else would advance while I felt I wouldn't be able to complete the break by Sunday.
Miss Chris had suggested once that getting a wavemaster was a good idea. I can't fit one of those into my apartment, but we do have them at school. Thursday night I decided I needed to kick against that and get over my fear of following through. That night, I read on the net something like a 3lb hammer can easily crack plywood and our legs can do much more damage. I have a block of plywood, which is actually a cabinet door that I use as a small coffee table. I tried smashing through it with a hammer, and indeed it produced a satisfying crack without even hitting very hard. For good measure, I hit it again with the ridge of my hand to crack it some more. I wanted to get over my fear of committing to the strike while hitting hard things. I went to bed that night a little less sad.
I've never practiced kicking on a wavemaster before, and it was an eye-opener. You can kick with so much more power when there is resistance. I always hold back when sparring in class, and though we do drills with pads, I guess I still hold back because I don't feeling like 'letting it all go' with someone behind the pad. I also didn't realize how far I could go. But somehow I knew that to break the board I'd have to get over that. I spent an hour on Friday on the wavemaster just doing back kick. I felt quite a bit of improvement in committing to the kick. Another aspect I felt I needed to improve was leading the kick with the heel and then striking with the whole foot. My senior helping me test had pointed out that many times I was hitting with the ball of my foot, and this was causing the 'bouncing off'. I practiced really hard getting that right. At the end, suddenly I noticed that I was so engrossed by it that when I would hit, a shout would come deep in my belly. That felt very natural, and I think it helped me push energy in the right direction.
I went back on Saturday and did another hour of back kicks. The wavemaster is REALLY GREAT! I am definitely going to practice on that from now on.
I spent the day not thinking about the breaking very much at all, and I wasn't at all emotional about the outcome, whether I broke or not. I was certainly more confident about it after my kicking practice. I had a niggling doubt about the fact that it was a board and not a springy wavemaster but I pushed it away.
After class, I started trying to break. First, my senior asked me to practice with sheets of paper. Those kicks were all good and she told me to kick the board in the same way. Finally I tried on the board. I tried about half a dozen times or so. Sometimes too close and I couldn't extend my leg out. Sometimes I wasn't pushing out my thigh first on the kick, and it would go too low. Sometimes, my knee would splay out after the chamber, and I would hit the side of the board. And it was all in the details because my kicks weren't bad; they just weren't perfect. Finally, I corrected each of these things and then the shouts from my belly from practice started coming out and I was more in my groove. It still wasn't breaking though. Another senior took a look at my kick, and asked me to throw my body weight behind the kick, so that when finishing the kick, I landed on the kicking leg, in the direction of the kick. Two more tries with that in mind, and then it broke.
I felt a lot of satisfaction and realized how correct your technique has to be before you break it. Its good practice. I felt good, but I actually didn't feel surprised when it broke. I think that's good. Maybe it means deep down, I really did believe I'd do it.
I feel kind of stupid posting this (because the rest of you have probably done this a million times and don't make a big deal out of it), but I'll do it just this once, because it was my first time. Its 3/4" thick and about a foot square.
I feel very grateful to my seniors and friends in class who helped and encouraged me when I thought it just wouldn't happen.