Martial artists have certainly made it over the years to grandiose heights in Hollywood. Let’s face it, compared to a bar fight with Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson, martial arts is like a college seminar, and a bar fight American style is like first-grade math. The two are hardly on the same level when considering acrobatic agility, speed, and athletic acumen. Martial arts such as kung fu and karate also have the distinct advantage of being highly photogenic film making. The aerial ability of such martial artists as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li demonstrates a superb mastery of human musculature, such that most other athletic or combat sequences appear a little sterile in contrast.
Above and beyond its film pinache and glamor, though, martial arts is an extremely difficult science of mind and body that takes years, if not decades, to master. In its more mystical and mysterious levels, practitioners are believed to harness the power of ‘chi’, a mystical life force, to shatter bricks and perform mind-defying feats. It’s often very difficult to conceptualize these feats as a bystander. To work on one’s hand power to the level of being able to cut through stone or wood seems almost impossible, if not impossible. And yet every year, many martial arts experts ascend to this god-like realm of mastery over form. Here’s a look at 15 of the best and most difficult martial arts feats ever done.
15. 82 Bricks. One Blow. With His Elbow.
Breaking multiple bricks in a row with a single blow is a pretty common feat within the martial arts community. You might find it interesting that some of these are nowhere near the world record this man holds. That title surprisingly doesn’t come from Asia but America, where Randy Richey of the Omega Force Strength Team demolished this rack of 82 bricks with one pulverizing blow of his elbow. The record is a recent one. Richey pulled off the stunt at the 2016 Jacksonian Days Festival in Scottsville, Kentucky. In the video of the event, we can see Richey had to climb up on a construction platform to be able to perform the record-setting demonstration. Richey delivered the hit with his right elbow.
14. He Broke 100 Bricks In 30 Seconds— With His Head
To break a brick with your hand is an astonishing feat. To be sure, it requires a high level of discipline and training of one’s hands to strike at the right juncture in the hand to sever a stone-line surface. But imagine doing it with your head, and imagine doing it with your head twenty times in a row. This guy shown above is currently the world record holder for breaking the most bricks with his head in a 30 second interval. The final tally came out to 100 bricks. Seeing that he broke five bricks at a time this way, that would require him to break five bricks every 1.5 seconds. We’re not sure how he did this without causing brain damage, so don’t try this at home.
13. Bruce Lee Lights A Cig With His Nunchucks
Another film short online shows Bruce Lee yet again performing an almost impossible and unthinkable feat— lighting a cigarette with nunchucks. For this stunt, Lee pasted a course match surface from a match box to the edge of his nunchucks with a bit of string and cloth. In the video, another black and white, a man stands in front of Lee, holding a cigarette in his mouth. With his iconic kung fu howl, Lee twirls his nunchucks around his back and then forward, then winds up, and with an intense blow strikes the end of the nunchucks right onto the end of the cig with one try. The cigarette lights up, and the guy stands there puffing, making you wonder whether he was totally freaked out of his mind by the experiment. Who needs a light when you can do this party trick? But then again, who else out there can do this?
12. The Guitar Player
Martial artists, at least when they are functioning in a professional capacity during demonstrations and matches, appear to be pretty serious bunch. Rarely do they laugh during demonstrations or make jokes, probably because they have to remain so focused they can’t spare the energy. But this stereotype isn’t always true, as evidenced by this martial arts expert who decided to do something hilarious with the world record books— playing electric guitar whilst chopping up a bunch of bricks with his bare hands (these also weren’t just ordinary bricks; they were also burning at the time). Matt Sikorski is currently the world record holder for breaking the most burning bricks with his bare hands while also playing the guitar. You might find fault with Sikorski’s guitar playing here but not his final execution of 30 bricks, which he ultimately pummeled with almost flawless precision.
11. Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch
Probably Bruce Lee’s most famous feat is the one-inch punch; a punch so powerful he could knock a large individual down with only an inch to work with. Legend has it that he sent a large guy reeling back several feet into a nearby swimming pool with this incredibly focused punch for the ages. In the video above, we see a stunt he pulled in front of a live audience, Lee smashes through a solid wood board held up by another martial artist, holding his fist almost right up to the board. Seemingly an implausible act, the feat was performed at varying stages of Lee’s career. The power to use his muscles and leverage so much energy within such a small radius stands as one of the most amazing feats in kung fu, regardless of how many boards and bricks one can break at any given time.
10. Shaolin Training
You might have heard of the Shaolin after the Wutang Clan came on the rap scene in the 90s. The name of the east coast hip-hop group from New York got its name originally from the Shaolin monasteries, which the group eulogized as home to some of the toughest, grittiest fighters on earth, mainly due to their unbelievable prowess in martial arts. Many of the monks who live at the Shaolin monasteries train incessantly at kung fu, and after much training, are capable of incredible feats. Here is one pictured above. We see two monks with a spear between their necks, bent in a U-shape downward. Their arms are outstretched, and the spear snaps between them. The spearheads here, we’d expect, to cut through anything soft, but it’s not happening in this case. Seems impossible, right?
9. Shaolin Spear Balance
In this photo, a Shaolin monk is balanced on row of spears, with a few other monks below him. This very difficult feat would normally skewer someone completely, but in this case, it doesn’t. We might wonder why, but we read that many kung fu practitioners train for years to strengthen and optimize certain parts of their body so that they can withstand tremendous force and pressure. In this case, the monks have worked on the areas where the spears are applying to their physique. Kung fu practitioners also claim to be able access a mystical force called the ‘chi’, which enables them to create such internal bodily protection. Whether science can ultimately explain these feats remains to be seen, but for now, they appear almost supernatural in origin. Generally it is believed by science that martial artists develop this ability over time through progressive injury and resistance, similar to a bodybuilders developing muscle.
8. Bruce Lee Plays Ping Pong With Nunchucks
Probably the most legendary figure in martial arts, Bruce Lee has been the subject of endless intrigue and, in some cases, obsession for his highly adept abilities. His films such as Enter the Dragon remain probably the most watched martial arts movies, highlighting his Michael Jordan-esque dominance of the martial arts world back in the 70s. It’s interesting to observe that one of Lee’s most memorable and extraordinary feats didn’t involve any sort of combat but merely a simple game of ping pong. Recorded in black and white, the video of Lee’s ping-pong match with a friend shows Lee doing something incredible: contending in a tough game of ping pong with nunchucks and ultimately winning against an opponent with a paddle. If you imagine how small a surface Lee had to work with in order to return a volley— it’s really only millimeters that make all the difference— then you can begin to understand how difficult this feat really was.
7. Breaking Bricks While Lying On A Bed Of Nails
In the video above, you can see two separate feats performed recently by Neal Hardy. A martial arts expert from Canberra, Australia, set a new world record for heaviest concrete block break on a bed of nails. The more impressive of the two stunts was the second, (about 3:30) and it involved placing 1173 pounds and eight ounces of concrete blocks on top of Hardy’s abdomen. Hardy had a board place on his body first. The 150 millimeter nails were spaced two inches apart, making this an almost ludicrous assignment, especially for someone untrained. For the record-setting event, Hardy lay on his back on the bed of nails, while someone with a hammer kept breaking each layer of concrete in consecutive progressions. For the first stunt, Hardy shattered six thin blocks of concrete with his left hand just prior to this. Hardy is a fifth level black belt in Pai Lum Kung Fu and he performed both of these feats with a broken right arm; as if it wasn’t already impressive.
6. Iron Fist
We often see a lot of kung fu and karate experts break boards and bricks with their bare hands, a seemingly impossible action. But what happens when they try their hand at something metallic, like a piece of steel or iron? Well, this demonstration performed in front of an audience at the Shaolin school in Qufu proved that even this difficult-to-imagine feat is certainly possible. Here, in this photo, we see Zhang Shifu and Wei Shifu of the school assembling some bricks for the demonstration, which was broadcast on Youtube.com later. Not only did Zhang shatter two bricks with his bare hands, but Wei also managed to break asunder a piece of iron by smashing the bar against his head.
5. Thirty-Five Bricks In A Single Blow
Breaking a few bricks at a time is pretty unbelievable, as we saw. This karate master was barely able to smash apart a row of 35 bricks, all set up like some teetering tower. Most of his students around him could hardly keep the tower of bricks up, as he delivered a punishing, brutal blow that collapsed the tower of bricks right down the middle. You may notice that a lot of these martial artists take a long time to prep themselves before delivering a final blow that appears so smooth and so effortless you almost imagine nothing is going to happen. It appears they are tuning up their chi, or life force, for some focal moment in which they deliver that force with a moment of clarity and extreme intent. But really, it might take years of practice before one really understands whether this is true or not.
4. Almost 600 Bricks In Under 60 Seconds
In this clip, we see martial arts Grand Master Kevin Taylor smash through a large line of bricks, lined up in a series of rows all along a sidewalk. A crowd of spectators, spaced along the edge of the area, cheer him on as Taylor pulverizes brick after brick with relentless but methodic blows. The event marked a new world record for a different sort of sport we almost never see, speed brick breaking, and was hosted by the World Speed Brick Breaking Association. Taylor achieved an astounding number of brick breaks in under a minute’s time: he smashed 584 bricks in 57.4 seconds, setting a new world record for the sport.
3. Hardest Ever Kick To The Groin?
We might not expect anyone to ever record the hardest kick to the groin. That’s because virtually no one ever really plans such an event and, for that matter, never really quantifies or measures such a painful and debilitating impact. But, if you think this has never happened, think again, because a karate master by the name of Rod Sacharnoski actually allowed this happen to himself on live TV on a reality show called Sports Science. For the show, Sacharnoski allowed a six foot eight inch American gladiator weighing 290 pounds to hack him on the neck with his hardest karate chop. Sacharnoski didn’t budge an inch, so strong was his ability to control his body. When the gladiator wound up next with a kick to the groin that would have tabled virtually anyone else out there, Sacharnoski let out a characteristic karate yell but shook the guy’s hand a second later, indicating it wasn’t a problem for him. The estimated pressure of the kick was around 1,000 pounds, which is a world record as of now. We can assume there’s not going to be many more trying to beat that record anytime soon.
2. The Record For Board Breaking
You might be surprised that the martial artist who has broken the most amount of boards in the shortest amount of time was not from Asia or a Shaolin monastery. Compared to brick breaking with one’s bare hands, board breaking is usually considered a dream by comparison and a starting point for less advanced adepts at the martial arts. Still, it’s a tough task to do, even just one one plywood one-inch thick board. During a charity event for St. Jude Hospital in 2002, Matt Brown, owner of Penacook School of Martial Arts, in New Hampshire, set a new world record for the most amount of boards broken with his bare hands. This total came out to 2148 boards in 31 minutes. After setting the record, with splintered boards littered all around him, Brown appeared visibly exhausted and appeared as if he might even collapse.
1. Fastest Woman Board Breaker
In 2011, Suzanne Finnegan similarly set a new world record for the most amount of boards broken during a 60 second period. In the video, Finnegan handily cuts through 347 one-inch pine boards in the space of a minute with a concentrated and methodical karate chop, as a crowd of onlookers raise a familial ruckus of support. The event ran the gauntlet of a red-brick overhang with sets of three pine boards stationed hundreds of feet up the walkway. Mike Reeves from the Sport Karate Association was on hand to verify the results of the competition, which took place during a Relay for Life in Tribury, CT. Suzanne trained with two-time world record holder Leif Becker and martial arts instructor Amanda Bleier. Apparently, all that training paid off.