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Brick Break

Martial artists showing they can break bricks and/or boards with a single barehanded blow because they're martial artists. They often Kiai while doing so.

The fancy version of this is to break not the first object you hit, but the one behind it, or a specific one in a sequence. Thus demonstrating you have not only brawn, but control. The usual subversion is for someone to hurt their hand after failing to break the boards/bricks. Doing this at various levels of difficulty is often one of the criteria for advancement in rank. This can be taken to Up to Eleven levels in fiction, where characters are allowed to break the bricks with one finger or their minds or whatever.

For when a character doesn't break but literally cuts the blocks in pieces, see Razor Sharp Hand.

Has nothing to do with LEGO bricks or Arkanoid. A Flying Brick presents somewhat more of a challenge.


Examples

Anime
  • Akane in Ranma ˝, usually to relieve stress. Even the opening narration shows her doing this Once an Episode.
    • Ryouga learned a technique later in the series that allowed him to break boulders with a Finger Poke of Doom.
      • Actually, any kind of solid non-living matter he could punch his finger through (for starters, he could WRITE on stone by punching holes with his finger prior to mastering this technique), so this is useless used directly against living things (this doesn't make him shy to explode boulders and open craters near enemies, though)
  • Goku of Dragon Ball did it with a single finger when Oolong challenged him to.
    • Also, Mr. Satan breaks a stack of tiles to show how powerful he is. (Cell was not impressed.) Also a slight subversion, as he always, without fail, breaks all but ONE brick... which still settles him as a Badass Normal.
  • In Dr. Slump, there's a scene where Suppaman tries to convince Arale that he's impressive by setting up a stack of five clay tiles and breaking three of them with a punch (And boasting about it afterward while holding is sore fist). Arale responds by casually punching the Earth and cracking it in half.
  • Kuu Fei in Mahou Sensei Negima! moved on to boulders once bricks didn't provide enough of a challenge. And when those stopped being a challenge, she moved on to mountains.
    • Love Hina's Motoko is capable of cutting objects with her bare hands. She can even cut objects behind other objects without harming the front object. This is a result of her martial arts style, the Shinmei Ryu. Note that this style is practiced by Setsuna, Eishun, and a few others in Negima, as well as Kurōmaru in UQ Holder. Guess why.
  • An episode of Pokémon featured a contest where Croagunk had to break several bricks in order to proceed, using the Brick Break technique mentioned below. Brock's Croagunk managed to break all of them. Meowth, disguised as a Croagunk, only managed to break his hand.
    • A later episode featured the same thing, but with Oshawott and Dewott using scalchops to break the bricks. Meowth participates in this one too, disguised as a Dewott, using high tech scalchops that manage to break all twenty of the bricks, where the top competitors could only manage around ten or so.
  • The Karate Club of Youkai Academy in Rosario + Vampire once had a contest to see who could break the most tombstones. Kokoa won, beating the record set by the club captain.
    • Better than that: it was actually a ruse to gain members since the challengers were breaking actual tombstones while the Karate Club were using weaker ones. Kokoa is a superstrong vampire, so this didn't matter.
  • In Fist of the North Star, one of Souther's soldiers demonstrates his strength by breaking a huge rock in half with his head. On the very next page, Kenshiro breaks the man's skull with a single fist.

Comic Books
  • Gilotina, one of the Female Furies from New Gods, combines this with Absurdly Sharp Blade, as her karate chops slice through anything like hot butter.

Film
  • In the parodic Casino Royale (1967), James Bond is introduced to an agent who breaks a cinderblock with a karate chop... and accidentally knocks himself out saluting Bond. Later in the film, Bond cracks a boulder in half with a karate chop while showing off following a successful caber toss.
  • In the original The Karate Kid, Daniel sees a movie poster centred on a man kicking a log in half.
    Master, can you breaks a log like that?
    Don't know. Never been attacked by tree.
    • The Karate Kid Part II features this with several (6 to 10) sheets of ice. Of course, only the Karate Kid can do it.
      • In the same movie, Miyagi's old friend (and current enemy) Sato has been trying to break a tree trunk the pair cut down as kids, to no avail. Later, during the hurricane, Sato is trapped under said log, and Miyagi breaks it with one chop to save him.
      • It was not the same wood; the log Sato used to toughen his hands (he was not trying to break it) was a piece of driftwood that he and Miyagi had found together as boys, while still friends. The log Miyagi broke to free Sato was a fallen ceiling beam.
  • In Sidekicks, Mr. Lee breaks 10 bricks in the tournament. Barry then breaks nine bricks, which are on fire, for the tiebreaker.
  • Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan sometimes got frustrated with people who wanted them to break boards to demonstrate their prowess. As Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon, "Boards don't hit back."
    • This same line was used by the bad guy in Van Damme's Bloodsport, when Dux was able to shatter a single brick on the bottom of a stack.
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, The Chosen One proves his strength with one-and no-handed pushups, and punching a board. He starts the punch, stops just in front of the board, pokes it with his finger, and... it explodes, sending the two people behind it flying.
  • Happens in at Bloodsport, where Jean-Claude Van Damme hits a pile of bricks and smashes the lowest one. His sidekick breaks one brick in two with a simple punch, then another one on his forehead.
  • Parodied in the Bratz movie, where the failure to accomplish this is mistaken for an attempt at comedy.
  • In Kill Bill, this was used as part of Pai Mei's training method towards The Bride. In Vol. 2, she puts this to use after Budd buries her alive in a wooden coffin.
  • In Miami Connection, the main villain demonstrates his martial arts power by walking up to a stack of a dozen bricks and breaking about four of them. They must have only had the materials for one take.
  • In The Foot Fist Way, the main character is a suburban Tae Kwon Do instructor whose talent lies in martial arts demonstrations like brick-breaking, which impress the locals enough to sign their kids up for classes. When he runs afoul of an action star, he loses their fight, but returns to challenge the star to a brick and board-breaking competition, which he wins soundly.

Literature
  • Danica in the RA Salvatore series could do this to chunks of rock, being a Dungeons & Dragons monk. Eventually she also tried to do it with her head, which was considered suicidal until she succeeded.
  • In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, when Lu-Tze is being sniffily dismissive of all martial arts, he calls one of them "a waste of good bricks".

Live-Action TV
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers did this in one episode when they were on a talk show.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Storm also had it, though the Rangers ended up hurting themselves and Cam - not officially trained, but still the sensei's son - was the only one to succeed.
  • Subverted by Hudzen in the Red Dwarf episode "The Last Day", who demonstrates his strength by breaking a brick in half with his penis.
  • A Saturday Night Live skit had Will Ferrell try to do this, but failed to break the board, yelling "What kind of wood was that?"
  • Played with in an episode of WWE Raw, where to either build him up or get people to mock him more, Eric Bischoff claimed to be an "eighth-degree black belt". He then proceeded to break things with his bare hands and feet, though the harder ones seemed fake.
  • Used in an episode of Home Improvement, where both a guest on Tool Time and Al have studied karate. Not knowing this, Tim tries it...and, being Tim, and it being this trope, hurts his head.
  • Done in a "How it's done" manner by Phoebe in Beakmans World (allowing Senta Moses to use her karate skills). And yes, Lester breaks his hand on the board beforehand.
  • Done to show how 'hard' Rob Riggle is on his Daily Show leaving montage. "BOARD!"
  • Played with in an episode of NewsRadio. At first it looks like Joe is going to do this for a talent show, but when the board doesn't break, he reveals that his real talent is hitting stuff very hard without hurting himself.
  • Cliff did this in an episode of Cheers, using his head, after claiming to be a karate expert. Diane had to sneak him off to a hospital.
  • Max claimed to be able to do this to a large number of wooden boards on Get Smart. It used the usual "would you believe it" Running Gag, until he was eventually claiming to be able to break particle board or something.
  • During the second Ninja Special on MythBusters, the guys tested the "one inch punch". They showed highspeed footage of their expert breaking the third of a set of hanging boards, something Jamie couldn't duplicate with a normal (and higher-force) punch.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Will goes to a karate instructor for lessons but finds nothing in the dojo but a board on two cinderblocks. He stomps the board and makes martial arts noises, but a moment later the sensei (played by Pat Morita) comes in, looks down, and asks "What happened to my coffee table?"
  • One episode of The Prisoner featured Number Two doing this in his office.
  • Very fatally used in 1000 Ways to Die. A skinny nerd attempts to break some bricks with his head as a part of a viral video he's shooting to score with chicks... and is dead after hitting himself on the head with a nunchaku. The brick breaking trick had actually cracked his skull, and the nunchaku hit fully fractured it.
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! did an episode about martial arts and showed that board breaking is essentially a parlor trick that any reasonably fit person can do when they know to strike it along the wood's grain and even multiple boards if you separate them with weak supports like a line of chopsticks between them.
    • Also demonstrated by Stephen Fry on an episode of QI to make the same point.
  • Doctor Who has the Fourth Doctor karate chop through a brick effortlessly just after regenerating. Significantly, at the end of the episode, he punches the brick in childish frustration and hurts his hand, indicating that his hyperdriven physical processes had reverted to normal.

Music
  • Done in the video for Nicki Minaj's "Your Love", where she breaks through two cinderblocks at once.

Newspaper Comics
  • There was a The Far Side cartoon in which a martial arts class sees invading aliens whose bodies are made of bricks and boards, and know that their time to shine has come.
    • Another had a martial artist about to break a brick...with the wall behind him about to land on his head.

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
  • Bill Cosby has a routine about a Karate instructor whose advice was "Don't think about the surface of the brick, you think through the brick." Unfortunately, the brick was thinking "No you won't". He now only picks on things like Jell-O.

Video Games
  • Trope Namer: Brick Break is a Fighting-type move in Pokémon, which, besides being a fairly powerful Fighting-type move that is learnable by many Mons, it can be used to break Reflect and Light Screen, moves which halve physical and special damage when active.
    • Breaking bricks is the Fanon behind why Fighting is super effective against Rock, Ice, and Steel.
    • The TM/HM Rock Smash counts as well, which has the secondary effect of lowering the opponent's Defense stat.
    • The Block Smash event of the Pokéathlons in HeartGold and SoulSilver, which involves breaking stacks of cement blocks.
  • Kim Kaphwan breaks several boards while they're in the air with his feet in one of his Capcom vs. SNK 2 intros.
    • Try to hit a really light object in the air without just pushing it away. It's pretty freaking hard unless you know the method to it.
    • He does one better in his intro in the Real Bout Fatal Fury games: he breaks a column of ice blocks that's even taller than himself with one kick. See it around 01: 14.
  • The Bonus Stage in the first Mortal Kombat was based around breaking rocks in this manner. The "Test your Might" tests were reintroduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, but dropped thereafter until Mortal Kombat 9. For the record, it started with wood, then went to stone, steel, ruby and finally diamond.
  • Sort-of present in the bonus rounds in Street Fighter II (and Super Street Fighter IV), where you destroy things like cars for more points.
    • Oh, and "breaking tiles" is listed as Joke Character Dan Hibiki's special skill in his official bio.
    • It was already in the original game, with two mini-stages where you had Ryu or Ken break either boards held up by others or some traditional brick pieces on the floor. if you failed the latter, the crowd booed you.
  • The Chatterbox radio station in Grand Theft Auto III features an interview with a karate expert who demonstrates his prowess by chopping a desk in half. He fails and hurts himself.
  • One of the challenge stages in Karate Champ features brick-breaking.
  • The first Art of Fighting had one minigame where you broke several sheets of ice, and another where you karate-chopped the necks off of beer bottles. The prizes range from better stamina to new moves.
  • The bonus minigame Megaton Punch in Kirby Super Star has Kirby and his opponent breaking large piles of bricks. Do well enough and you'll crack the planet itself.
  • One microgame in the first WarioWare game involved this in its basic level.
  • Mario, of course.
  • With the release of World of Warcraft's Asian-themed Mists of Pandaria expansion and its monk class, this inevitably pops up a few times, including vanity items the players can buy and then break whenever and wherever they feel like. The most impressive example is probably the quest chain of Master Bruised Paw, who trains the player in pandaren kung fu, including the use of three successively-tougher Brick Break challenges (bamboo, then wood, and finally stone) and two Training Montages.
  • The Sims 3 expansion World Adventures has the martial arts skill which includes an object to break blocks on. The possible blocks range from foam to space rocks. Once you've broken enough of the tougher boards you can collect gems from breaking space rocks. The sim can hurt their hand trying to break a block too high above their skill level.

Western Animation
  • During the Training Montage in Mulan, they did this with their heads.
    • Then during a fight later on, you see the same guy doing it to an enemy soldier's back.
  • The first episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) show had Hamato Yoshi explaining where he got his other name, narrating over another scene.
    "My students [the turtles] nicknamed me Splinter. For...obvious reasons." *he chops through two boards, and then bites through a third*
  • SWAT Kats had this, but with cinderblocks.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade signs Jackie up for this during a martial arts tournament. When he protests, she points out his motto: "The greatest victory is the battle not fought. Thought you liked to avoid hand-to-hand combat?" Jackie breaks the first stack, but is ordered to break a bigger one. Cue Gilligan Cut to Jackie with broken hands.
  • In a Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry short, both of them take judo lessons and show off this way. It leads to an Escalating War as they try to outdo each other by breaking bigger and bigger things. Finally, Tom tries to break a huge marble block, but the block is too heavy and it, along with Tom, falls through the floor.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, during a Training Montage, Baljeet karate chops a stack of boards only to have them remain unbroken, but the two cinder blocks supporting the boards turn to rubble.

Real Life
  • Not that uncommon in certain martial arts, in fact it's a pretty standard part of training and competition in Tae Kwon Do. It's also not nearly as difficult as people think it is, though you can still break your hand or foot if you use bad technique, even with the wooden planks they start beginners with. It's also worth pointing out that one of the main goals behind this is that it builds confidence and trains students to always follow through with their strikes (failure to do so is what gets you hurt), not so much to show off how badass you are.

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