Special Thanks
Our thanks to the instructors and students at Karate International of Raleigh for their help with this article!
To the untrained observer, karate skills can seem like magical superpowers. Using only her body, a 5-foot 5-inch tall, 120-pound karate master can take down a 6-foot, 200-pound man in a matter of seconds. In strength and sheer bulk, the man has the upper hand by a considerable margin. But somehow, the karate master prevails with a few elegant punches and kicks. Using the same set of skills, advanced karate students can break thick bricks and boards with their bare hands and feet. How is all this possible?

Black belt karatekas practicing at Karate International of Raleigh

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll see how students of karate (called karatekas) accomplish such amazing feats. Karate is a highly complex art that takes many years to master. It is impossible to sum up this ancient, transcendental discipline in a short article, but we can get a handle on some of the underlying principles. Though its execution is highly complex, the root of karate is fairly straight-forward: By applying physical, mental and spiritual force intelligently and precisely, you can realize the maximum potential of your strength.