Breaking Through Barriers


What do setting targets, reaching goals, and overcoming perceived or actual barriers have in common with martial arts? As an avid martial arts enthusiast in my 20’s, I achieved a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Although my belt has been in storage for some time, it remains a great honor to see its framed certificate hanging on my office wall and read its inscription; ‘Loyalty, Perseverance and Integrity.’

One of the tests for the Black Belt is to break a cement paver. The most vivid image I recall from the experience was watching a 14-year-old boy do the same thing I did as a 200+ pound man. To put this in perspective, an article I read states that an expert martial artist’s hand reaches the speed of 24mph, which exerts a whopping force of 3,000 newtons or 675 pounds on the concrete.

Thinking back to my preparation for this experience made me think about a few things that breaking a cement paver has in common with breaking barriers in a broad sense and here are the similarities.

Practice and Training

The strike had to be practiced on plastic boards several weeks in advance. I can’t imagine a successful break for most people without plenty of dress rehearsal; planning, failed attempts and retries – all normal aspects of training.

Form and Focus

The martial artist has to pay attention to the pivot of their hips, the rotation of their upper body, and the placement of their hand, as they must all be focused on harnessing energy toward a central point.


This may be the most important part. You see, the training teaches one to visualize where the hand stops at the end of the strike rather than the actual strike of the paver itself. Since the hand must stop beneath the paver, there is no alternative to the paver breaking.  That is an interesting way of setting goals, isn’t it?

It’s clear that with proper practice, a focused training form and a clear visualization of your process, you too can break through any barriers in your life – including a cement paver.