When people walked into our camp, I’d invite them to play with Karate Robot. They’d enthusiastically say yes and I’d lead them to where he stood. I explained, “This is Karate Robot and he will hold a board for you to break.” A couple of things happened at this point…

First, as Wylie noticed, folks that were excited to play with a robot, were even more excited when they learned that the robot wasn’t actually animated, and they were the ones who would be doing the “karate”. Cool.

Second, the reactions to learning that they would be the ones to break the board ranged from enthusiasm and eagerness to disbelief and incredulousness. I listened carefully to where the participant’s reaction landed within that range.

With the more confident and eager, I coached on technique and focus, mostly for their own safety. I wasn’t really concerned about whether or not they would actually break the board. I knew they would. (I was also using what I would call a “junior” board. Still, my “junior” board is an inch thick with no scoring, glue or any of that other nonsense.)

Those that were more cautious and timid, I lended my own strength. I shared my experience with them, letting them know I’m a Master Instructor in Traditional Taekwon-Do with nearly 20 years of experience training and over 15 years of experience teaching. I convinced them that they could do it. The instructions were the same, but the delivery was different and they were listening.


Every person broke their board. Some on the first try and some on the 3rd or 4th. Watching the reactions of the participants (and their friends) when they broke the boards was priceless. You can actually see self-confidence replace self-doubt.

It was beautiful to watch and I can’t think of a better gift than the confidence that comes from accomplishing something you thought was out of your reach.

It’s one of the benefits of martial arts training. Confidence doesn’t come from the color of the belt around your waist, but from achieving the goals that make up the criteria for that rank. Lowering standards is not the answer to increased confidence, but setting and achieving small incremental goals is.

First though, you must believe you can. There were a few people, who doubted themselves so much that they even spoke out against themselves saying “I can’t do that.” I stopped them before they could go on and reminded them not to speak that way about what they were about to do. They would not break a board with that belief present. As I used to tell my young students, your body will listen to what you say.


My request is for you to listen to how you speak to yourself, especially when faced with a challenge. Do you empower yourself with your speaking? If not, just notice it. That’s the first step in making any change. Then, choose to say something different and see how it changes things.

Finally, share your story with us! Your story will inspire others!