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I came across this You Tube video that demonstrates a specific Kung Fu move, where an individual breaks a concrete brick with his head.

Generally speaking, conditioning of certain body parts is necessary in various types of martial arts. For example Muay Thai fighters condition their shin by kicking a tree several times.

So are there any specific training available to condition the head/skull so that an individual can eventually break a concrete brick with his head?

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I just want to point out that a lot of martial arts demonstrations like these are actually illusions. Bricks used for breaking are often chemically treated and baked longer to become more brittle. They look like ordinary bricks, but they're far easier to break. At some demonstrations I've seen, I laughed because I saw bricks actually crumble into pieces just from picking them up!

The video you linked to actually shows a good example of such a brick. It crumbles apart with ease. This isn't impressive at all. You can tell by looking at how much force is generated by the kung-fu practitioner in the video. To break the brick, he actually jumps up and lets his head come down on the brick. But the total distance his head travels is around one foot. This is the same as dropping a weight from one foot high to the brick. The weight is going to be a fraction of his body's weight, probably not his whole body weight. But given that he's pretty slim, I don't think he weighs a lot. The force he generated is very small. Yet the brick crumbled apart easily. It's obvious this brick was very brittle to begin with.

The same happens for metal bar breaking demonstrations. You often see a kung-fu master swinging a 2 foot long metal bar at his forehead, and the bar just breaks in two. The key thing to realize is that the bar is made of iron. And iron can be very brittle if it's made with more carbon. It breaks very easily. It's not the same hardness as wrought iron is. Because people are only familiar with wrought iron and steel bars, they naturally assume the kung-fu practitioner is using a bar that has similar hardness. But it does not. That's why this is an illusion.

As for wood, that too can be an illusion. First of all, you want to use a brittle board to begin with, so choose pine instead of oak for example. Then you can bake the boards in an oven until they're completely dried out. There are instructions for doing this all over the web. Use spacers if you're breaking multiple boards (the physics makes it a lot easier than not using spacers). Doing this and other things with the boards really makes it easy. Some demonstrators even pre-break the boards, joining them back together with some weak glue or tape.

Martial arts demonstrations are filled with these and other illusions. And even "legitimate" martial arts masters do it. My opinion is that they're just making themselves and their style look very foolish by doing these sorts of demonstrations. They should stick to what their style actually teaches, not parlor tricks.

Hope that helps.

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  • Thank You! Just to clarify, are you suggesting that in real life, no amount of head/skull conditioning will allow an individual to break a brick with his head? – CSinha May 19 '16 at 19:08
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    @CSinha: At least it is a high risk. Always. No matter your condition. Look at all the funny videos where people run into timber that isn't prepared and just fail. But using your head instead of your chest and failing to break something for whatever reason can make serious and even mortal injuries. – Philip Klöcking May 19 '16 at 20:24
  • If you get yourself a brick that's made for construction (buildings), that one isn't going to break, no. People swing sledge hammers at those to break them. Using fists and especially your head will not end well. – Steve Weigand May 19 '16 at 20:50
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    @D_S Nope. The bricks I see in that video were very long, not very thick, and had spacers between them. These weren't used for construction. Bricks that are very long and flat are going to be super easy to break compared with standard paver stone bricks or cinder blocks. And that these were not manufactured for construction leads me to believe they're a good deal more brittle than anything you could buy at Home Depot. Granted, it probably does take some effort and skill to break, but it's still an illusion, because they're not as hard as one might think. – Steve Weigand Jun 5 '16 at 21:31
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    @Steve Weigand fantastic answer, very informative. – chris Jun 22 '16 at 8:32
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According to this Livestrong article, it starts with pressure against sandbags:

The head is hardened over time through static contact with other objects. Areas of focus on are the forehead, the top of the head and the back of the head. The student begins by leaning the head either perpendicularly or vertically onto sandbags for several months, two times daily. When the head begins to become more resilient, the student moves to trees and finally to rock. Beginning training sessions last for just a few minutes on the sandbags and at the advanced stage can go for at least 20 minutes up against a stone slab.

Outside of that, the skull is pretty strong, so as long as you can avoid the sudden deceleration of failing to break your target (which leads to the brain sloshing around, aka concussion) and your neck is in good enough shape to decelerate your head, it's not that terribly dangerous comparatively speaking to use your head for a break.

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I think this kind of demonstration requires a lot more than just physical training. It requires also training of the mind and Qi (or Chi).

In my school, we are required to train a lot of Qi Gong (research a little about it, it's very interesting) to perform breaking techniques. Even for the simpler ones, like breaking bricks with the palm of the hand or breaking them in the ribs.

So, for advanced techniques like breaking stuff using the head, I think Qi Gong is an essential part of the training. I agree that the brick in the video is not impressive, but I've seen (live) harder techniques, like bending metal bars supporting its edge on the neck, a really soft part of the body.

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    Can you elaborate on how your style uses Qi Gong to train to break the bricks? :) I'll give you fair warning that a lot of us are skeptics here, but we're willing to listen if you can elaborate, at least. – Macaco Branco Jun 22 '16 at 4:23
  • @Miguel Péres: Can you please elaborate how performing Qi Gong can help? – CSinha Jun 26 '16 at 10:42

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