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About blocks

Intro

Beat it, Meet it, or Eat it
There's more to boxing than hitting.
There's not getting hit, for instance.
                        - George Foreman
Since the martial arts are defensive arts, it means that practitioners must usually wait until attacked before acting. The martial arts have a great variety of blocks that permit adequate blocking even if the blocker is weak, has an inadequate range of motion, or has an injury. This also allows blockers to deal with a variety of attacks, including those from armed and unarmed attackers.

Last resort

Blocks are used as a last resort when all else has failed, such as deflection or avoidance (sidestepping, ducking, bobbing or weaving. Even then, the block may fail. When a block fails, you get hit. Blocks are violent so even if a block works, your blocking arm or leg may be injured. Blocks require a lot of energy, they stiffen the body, and they cause mental as well as physical stress. You may rely on blocks against people who have a shorter leg or arm reach, have much less body mass than you, are much less as strong as you, or who are frail for some reason; however, it is better to evade than it is to block.

Hard/soft blocks

Blocks are classified as either hard or soft. Hard blocks are used by "hard" martial art styles, such as taekwondo and most styles of karate. Soft blocks are used by the "soft" martial art styles, such as kung-fu and some karate styles. Regardless of their primary classification as a "hard" of "soft" style," most styles (including taekwondo) use a combination of hard and soft blocks.

In a hard block, force meets force. The force of the block is used to stop or slow the attack and sometimes push it away from its intended target. A hard block may also be considered an attack since it not only stops the attack but may injure the attacking limb.

In a soft block, force deflects force. The force of the block is used to deflect the attack so it does no harm.

Blocks, especially soft blocks, may also lead to other techniques, such as joint locks and throws. Therefore, don’t be confined to the term block; think of blocks as a part of an overall plan of attack.

Ways blocks are used

Blocks may be applied in various ways. You can:
  • Block with enough power that the attacker is convinced to not attack again.
  • Block gently, so that the attack is just parried or deflected.
  • Block the attack just as it is about to begin its forward movement, during its movement, or at the end of its movement
  • Block and then counterattack, or block and attack simultaneously.
  • Block to unbalance the attacker.
  • Block and retreat to a safe position until an opportunity to attack presents itself

Keep moving

A sitting target is easy to hit; a moving target is difficult to hit. For an opponent to strike you with damaging force, the opponent must be set. Movement must stop for at least a moment, so force may be generated from the floor, through the legs, and out an arm or leg to the target. If the opponent sees an opening and sets for the attack, if you are constantly moving, the opening will have closed or moved before the attack is fired.

The attacker may try to "lead" the target and fire to where he or she thinks the target will be when the attack reaches it, but if you move erratically, there is no way for the opponent to predict where the target will be. Therefore, boxers move continually so that most of the attacking punches miss their targets. To make up for this, boxers throw and an array of punches in all directions, hoping one will make contact.

Therefore, the primary way to avoid an attack is to move; then blocking as unneeded. Stay on balls of feet and keep the feet moving. When moving, move erratically, but purposely by:
  • Weaving the body from the ankles to the neck.
  • Bobbing and weaving the head using the neck and upper body.
  • Moving the entire body in circles around the opponent.
When all this is done, the opponent cannot set, so, even if attacks strike a target, they will be weak.

Interception

Interception is the preferred method of defense. Interceptions occur on display of intention (before the attack starts), on initiation (as the attack starts), or during execution (as the attack is in progress), whereas blocks usually occur just before the attack is about to make contact. Interception upon display of intention is the best option but it requires a skilled fighter who can anticipate attacks by "reading" an opponent's non-verbal clues.

Ways to intercept an attack:
  • Using upper body. The most common interception tool is the jab. It draws opponent's attention away from the intended attack, causes the opponent to think about defense, and it may even make contact, which further makes the opponent reconsider an attack.
  • Using lower body. The most common interception tools are the leading/trailing side kick, leading/trailing front kick, leading/trailing twist kick, or any kick used to stop the forward motion of an attacker. 

Evasion

At some point between the initiation of an attack and you having to block it, evasion comes into play. Evasion is simply avoiding an attack. Evasion is highly efficient since no contact occurs with the opponent. Evasive movements may involve footwork (such as sidesteps or stepping backward) or just body movement (such as the duck, slip, or bob and weave).

To evade you must be able to change the direction of any part of your body quickly and with little or no conscious thought or physical restriction. This requires you to be relaxed, reactive, rooted, and yielding.

Humans think! When being attacked, this split second of thought and possible indecision uses a split second of body tension and non-movement. Animals do not need to make moral or strategic choices when challenged; they simply either fight or run.

Covering

Another type of blocking is covering. Covering is hiding the head and body directly behind the hands and vertical forearms. When covering, do not look down or away. Keep looking at the opponent so you will be able to react as needed. Do not cover for more than a second or two. Covering is only to avoid immediate blows; it is not a long-term solution. If you have to cover, immediately follow it with a takedown, tie up, or counterpunch.

SOURCES
  • Komar, N. (2000). The Physics of Blocking. Niagara North Newsletter, Volume 28, September 28, 2000. [Online]. Available: http://www.wadokaikarate.com [2003, February 20].

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