Many martial artists have often questioned whether blocking is still a relevant practice or if it is a “classical” idea in the martial arts. Many contend that blocking slows you down and is too difficult to do; particularly when someone is jabbing or faking their moves.
Some martial artists have abandoned blocks altogether and put in “parries” and “bobs and weaves” in its place; opting for more evasive maneuvers. While these are great ideas as well, I recommend having some key blocks in your defensive tool chest.
There is a saying in KENPO that “every strike is block and every block is strike.” If that’s the case, then there isn’t a technique we teach that doesn’t have a block in it somewhere. That being the case, I encourage you to look deeper into your techniques and find how our moves have built in defenses from likely counters within the flow of each of our techniques in addition to the initial blocks that are part of the technique.
In AKKI KENPO, our yellow belt techniques primarily follow the pattern of “block then strike.” However, you’ll notice a departure from this idea in “Eye of the Storm”, a defense against a club attack, whereby we block and strike simultaneously between our rear hand (block) and lead hand (strike). Consider this idea as you train where you accomplish multiple things at once – building a defense and an offense into one movement or between two movements at the same time. While it’s certainly a good idea to strive to block and strike at the same time, it’s not always possible which is why we teach both ideas from the beginning.
Blocks not only serve the purpose of stopping an incoming attack, they also facilitate a very necessary first step – inflicting some pain! Parries can help redirect an oncoming attack (force meets force and rides the force) but it doesn’t inflict any damage or disrupt your opponents base like a block can. While parries are useful, they don’t put your attacker immediately on the defensive in the same manner as a block. I want to do what I can to not only destroy their physical might but their mental as well and begin to also alter their “will” to continue.
When an attacker sticks his hand and arm out there (grab, push, punch or what have you) – I train with the mindset that they just stuck his hand(s) into a blender. Once I turn that on, I’m chewing him up from the outside in. In my opinion, blocks are an important part of the KENPO blender and you can ignore them at your own risk. They inflict pain, disrupt your opponents physical and mental base, and help counter their follow up strikes.
In AKKI KENPO, we try to avoid putting “all our eggs in one basket” where we put two blocks in one zone of defense. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up and to leave a major opening on the other side of the centerline. We try to block and strike simultaneously as much as possible. If you take a look at “Eye of the Storm” again, you’ll see that by blocking with the left hand and striking with the right, we get more done, faster, without over exposing ourselves to follow up counters.
When you learn how to properly block, you begin to crumple up your attacker starting with your first move and absolutely ties into the idea of intercepting a move. If you can inflict pain on the block AND a simultaneous counter strike, you’re already two steps ahead versus a parry which has only redirected your opponents energy and has done little to put him in pain and alter his mindset.
You can’t be elusive 100% of the time and you can’t block your way out 100% of the time, either. Like anything, there is a time and a place and is something that should be included in your martial artist tool chest. Leaving out blocks altogether creates a big whole in your defensive system.
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