Chad Melton saw the seemingly daunting task in front of him.
He took a deep breath and focused intently on his target.
Within a split second it was all over. Concrete crumbled to the floor and lay in pieces at his feet.
Melton rose up, stood proud, a wide smile on his face, and bowed.
He had just ripped through concrete with his bare hand.
Melton, 27, won the gold medal Saturday in the 19-to-31-year-old concrete power breaking event at the Show-Me State Games tae kwon do competition held at Rock Bridge High School.
He had one attempt to break through four concrete blocks measuring eightinches wide, 16 inches long and 1-1/2 inches thick, with each block spaced a quarter inch apart. Melton was successful as he accelerated his entire 160-pound frame into his right arm, bringing it down like a knife and tearing through the concrete slabs with the side of his palm.
“It’s really a good feeling,” Melton said. “You get a real strong feeling of fluidity, strength and power when you finish the break. You have so much adrenaline and all kinds of chemicals rolling through your body.”
Melton, whose personal best is six blocks of concrete, says it’s not as much a mind over matter experience as it is basic physics.
“You want to try to bring your weight down directly at your target and snap your arm as fast as possible,” Melton said. “It’s a simple physics equation: force equals mass times acceleration. So you bring your mass down to the target and move your arm as fast as you can and that’s it.”
But that doesn’t mean this should be tried this at home. Melton is a fourth-degree black belt with nearly 20 years of experience in tae kwon do. He began training at the age of eight and now is the head instructor and co-owner of the International Martial Arts and Fitness Center in Columbia. He plans to travel to Argentina in October to compete in tae kwon do events, including power breaking, at the Pan-American games.
Melton will be going with a couple of students who also medaled in the power-breaking competition. Dennis Leporin finished third after missing his attempt to break five blocks. Leporin only got through two.
“It is certainly not an easy thing to do,” Leporin said. “The biggest thing is not being afraid of it. It definitely requires a lot of good technique and a lot of power, which Chad has.”
Melton attributes his love of the sport to the disciplines tae kwon do instills.
“It teaches you confidence and consistency and self-discipline,” Melton said. “With the things it teaches you can do anything in your life.”
With the exception of a faint red line across the side of his palm and a few sweat beads on his forehead, Melton was fine after the intense concrete blow. He said the hand stings a little for a short time, but that the concrete absorbs more of the beating during a successful break.
It’s when you miss that it really hurts, he said.