Monday, April 22, 2013

There are no blocks?

The need for a summary

A random snapshot of our sparring. I'm using a classic open
hand rising block - even though it was totally unscripted. 
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that the assertion that "there are no blocks" is a major source of irritation to me.  It's another way of saying that the movements in karate etc. commonly called "blocks" are always something else entirely.

"They have to be, after all, because "blocks don't work" - everybody knows that!"  Those of us who don't agree are just kidding ourselves.

Over the years I have attacked this assertion in a number of ways and from a number of different angles.  But this is not to say that each of my arguments is somehow separate and unconnected: rather they are all mutually consistent and supportive of each other, creating what I think is a compelling, indeed undeniable, picture of how blocks are a vital part of the traditional civilian defence arsenal.

Accordingly I felt it would be a good idea to create a summary of my position and address this assertion directly: a brief account of why blocks are blocks - even if they can, on occasion, be interpreted more widely.

What I mean by "blocks"

I've stated and restated why I mean by "block" so many times it is getting tiresome.  Yet I'm still getting regular comments from readers who think they've "caught me out" when I refer to an "uke" as a "block".
So I'll say it one more time: I use the term "block" out of habit: it's how I was "raised".1

I'm actually referring to a much wider concept, ie. what is known in Japanese as "uke".  "Uke" is short for "ukeru" which means "to receive".  In many ways this is really a most useful term since it refers generally to any method of  "receiving" a blow (ie. in a way that neutralises it!).  Unfortunately Japanese terms have only so much use in English (or any other non-Japanese language).  And "receipt" or some other literal translation sounds awful.

Get it? Got it! Good.
Accordingly, when I use "block" I don't just mean "creating a physical barrier" (ie. a literal "block" like a shield).  Nor do I mean "jamming" a blow at its source (which Marc MacYoung calls "cutting the supply lines"). 

Sure, these are aspects of "blocking" (ie. "receiving" a blow in a way that is safe) but there is much more to the concept than that.  I'm also (in fact, mostly) thinking along the lines of deflection, parry, "wedge" and redirection - with a healthy dose of interception thrown in.  These are all "uke" - hence they are all "blocks" within my use of the term.

Get it?  Got it!  Good.

So are there any blocks?

We are all familiar with techniques called "uke" in karate.  We know them as basics and we know them in kata.  Most of us who have been around for 30 years or so can remember a time when virtually no one thought they couldn't or shouldn't be used as blocks.  Yes, we knew they were amenable to a few other uses, depending on the particular technique, but mostly we were happy to call them "blocks" because, in many cases, that was their primary use.  Virtually no one thought this knowledge needed further "refinement".2

However in recent times increasing numbers of karateka are adopting the "refined view" that these "uke" aren't "blocks" at all.  They are locks, they are holds, they are throws, they are strikes... anything but blocks.  In other words they aren't ways of "receiving" attacks but rather they are attacks themselves.  Always.  (It doesn't matter if you call them "counter attacks" or just "attacks" as far as I'm concerned.  An attack is an attack - something quite different to defence, so please don't flame me with those semantics!)
Why is Danny parrying Basil's cut?  Doesn't he know
blade on blade is bad?

Why would they think this?  To my mind, it's a bit like saying:

"You know sword-fighting?  It's all about stabs and slashes.  There are no parries, deflections or other 'blocks'.  Heaven forbid!  The swordsmen/women are too busy for that: being proactive, you know - attacking!  There's no time for this 'blocking' nonsense!  Besides, hasn't anyone ever told you that blade on blade contact is bad?  It's very bad!  Anyway - blocks don't work - everybody knows that!"3, 4

Blocks don't work?

I've dedicated a number of articles to discussing why and how blocks actually work, the first one being "Why blocks DO work".  You should start there, but I fear that the article might be a bit "long in the tooth" now:  I've written a number of articles since then that have expanded on my argument.  Specifically I've noted that:
  • Civilian defence is not the same as sport fighting.  Now I'm not trying to argue that "in real fighting my sensei would beat Jon "Bones" Jones because there would be no rules" etc.  That would be ludicrous and isn't how traditional martial artists like me think.  (If anything, this would be more of a combat sports analysis, than a civilian defence one!)  You see, I don't care if Jones would beat my sensei.  He almost certainly would.  Good for him.  Jones isn't world number one for nothing.  What I'm saying is this: The assumption that street attacks follow a "similar script" to cage/ring fighting (and that combat sports skills are therefore sufficient/optimal in all the situations about which I'm concerned) is greatly overstated.  For a start, the civilian fights I've seen (and prosecuted!) weren't protracted one-on-one affairs.  They started with an attack launched with an element of surprise in what I have called the "melee range" - and not half a step or more out of that range.  They were often determined by one single blow.  Frequently the initial attacker's friends "climbed in" to "help" (I will be detailing some examples of this in a future article).
"Chest bumping" - don't do it.
  • Apart from organised fights (which are really just illegal combat sports), the closest (albeit still far from "identical") thing to "sport combat in society" comprises "chest bumping displays" between young men determining dominance (what Rory Miller calls "the monkey dance").  If you get involved in such a "dance" you generally have only yourself to blame.  It is not civilian defence.  Accordingly it is irrelevant to me if you base your tactics around fighting in such a scenario.  I don't.  I prefer not to "play according to that script".  You should too.  If the other guy wants to insist, then it might become a civilian defence situation.  In my personal experience, it often doesn't.  And even if it does, you're in a far better position practically and legally/ethically/morally than if you're an equal participant in the chest bumping display.
    Stills from a disturbing video titled "Best Slap Knockout Ever". I'm not going to link to it, as I don't think this sort of video belongs anywhere except on a court file as an exhibit in a prosecution. Sadly, these sorts of videos are dime a dozen (probably because young men keep engaging in this sort of "dominance display" - and because practically every mobile phone nowadays has a video camera).
  • Unlike a chest bumping display or sport fighting, civilian defence generally involves an element of surprise.  Attackers who mean business don't give you advance notice of their aggression.  This means that you will have (at most) a fraction of a second to respond.  One common example is that they might try to "king hit" you , ie. hit you from the side or rear (sometimes as you're turning after a tap to the shoulder - an odd "concession" to chivalry that tires to argue: "I didn't hit him from behind - honest!").  Or they might even surprise you when you are facing them, by striking you abruptly in the midst of a conversation that has not really implied imminent aggression.  In other words, they don't try to give you a "sporting chance" by saying "Ready, set go!" - or by preceding their attack with open "nose to nose" hostility.  Yes, you might have no chance of avoidance at all.  But if you're canny, careful and observant you might just find you have enough time to react.  Sure, you might not even be surprised, permitting you to "hit him first" or "aggressively enter into the blow" etc. (ie. be more "proactive").  If so, good for you.  But I wouldn't put all my eggs in that particular basket.
  • If you are faced with a surprise  attack, you won't have any real scope for such proactivity - for reasons of lack of time and/ opportunity as well as legal/ethical/moral considerations.  This means that in civilian defence you will, to a large extent, have to rely on reactive tactics.  Talking about how preferable the former is as opposed to the latter doesn't somehow mean you "get to choose".  After all, it would be preferable if you managed to avoid every attack in the first place.  Lots of things are preferable.  We shouldn't assume we will get what we prefer. Yes, we should always be vigilant and look for signs of imminent attack in non-verbal cues etc., etc.  But to assume that we will be able to be proactive in every case is just wishful thinking.
  • Accepting this, it is important to note that people who react to attacks will naturally respond with a flinch reflex.  This typically involves two things: the arms reach out while the body withdraws.  In other words, your arms go out to ward off the attack (block) while you simultaneously use your body to avoid the blow (evade).  We need to work with this, not try to "replace" it.  Such autonomic, subconscious reflexes can be improved a little, but they are very hard to change entirely.  Accordingly, traditional martial arts techniques work as a productive modification of the flinch reflex, converting it into two skills: blocking and evasion.  These are designed to work together.
  • Importantly, blocking and countering needn't involve some sort of "two count" exercise (ie. where there is a disconnection between the block and the counter).  Rather, they should occur as part of one continuum, which is exactly how they were designed for use in traditional martial arts.  To my mind, anyone who says differently is clearly basing their analysis on some extremely diluted examples of traditional martial arts.  A block and its related counter were always meant to flow into one another, effectively creating one movement as much as possible.  I keep going back to the gif below.  It isn't some "strange" example.  It is the very standard, basic, formal chudan uke of the Naha te school of karate.  When applied in free fighting it only becomes more connected
A standard, basic chudan uke (applied as a head height block): note how connected  the block and counter are. Compare  it to Machida's blocks below and you'll see similar concept and timing, albeit it using a different
technique. All that varies here is that the lunge punch and defence are a bit more "formal and basic".
The edges are rounded off in application so that it becomes even more "fluid".
  • It goes without saying that where circumstances allow, blocks are dispensed with entirely so that you enter directly and neutralize the threat without delay.  Traditional martial arts have plenty of techniques used for just this purpose.  There is absolutely no principle in traditional martial arts that requires you to use a block in every instance.  Quite the reverse.  The prevalence of "blocking" in kata might well reflect the physical and social reality of responsible civilian defence - but it has never been implied any sort of "rule of engagement".
Jeff does a more or less classical chudan hiki/kake uke -
using both arms in the way of the basic (heaven forbid)!
As an addendum to this article (prompted by David in the comments below) I'll refer you to my previous article "The anatomy of randori" where I had posted a video showing sparring using blocks (I've reposted the video below).

The video wasn't made for the purpose of discussing this topic (it related to kicking range) but it does have some impromptu sparring of the kind we tend to use in class - 3/4 speed, in the melee range.

If you want it harder (with contact) that is easily added.  If you want it faster, this is easily done (both sides are moving at the same speed, so both sides speed up).  In the video you'll see all sorts of blocks: age/jodan uke, chudan (hiki) uke, bong sau, gedan uke, palm blocks, inward depressing blocks, etc.)

A video I took for very different reasons that happens to have some impromptu sparring.  Okay, it won't be  "proof"of anything to some folks so I am reluctant to put it up.  Nonetheless it shows that blocks are used in a free form,  unscripted environment.  Note that comments saying things like "That isn't real fighting" will be simply deleted as moronic.
I know that no video will ever be "proof" to some people, so I'm not going to say any more on this subject other than to note that I'll sprinkle a few extra stills from this video throughout the present article, frozen at the moment of a "block".

Dilution, misapprehension and copy error

So what factors explain the emergence of the "there are no blocks" mantra?  Why are so many, many people spreading this nonsense to all four corners of the globe?

I do another chudan hiki uke - or is it Jeff?  Does it matter?
I think it comes down to this: dilution of traditional knowledge.

It's sad to say that many modern martial artists don't have a clue how to actually apply their traditional techniques, preferring to practise their kata/patterns/forms for one half of the class, then bounce around doing faux boxing for the other.

I suspect the traditional "don't ask questions - just train" mentality has a lot to answer for in this regard. Like some medieval monks copying the Bible, traditional martial artists over the generations have continued to faithfully replicate form without ever looking into the substance of what they are doing: without ever asking why, comparing alternate sources of the same material or cross referring with other, related, foreign styles to understand and rationalise differences in that form.

I use both evasion and an age/jodan uke against
Jeff's reverse punch.
And so today many martial artists don't understand threshold things like range.  They don't understand blocking surface, zone and rotation/torque.  They don't understand direction, angle, plane and motion.  And they don't know how these things were meant to be addressed and taught by traditional forms.

All the while, copy errors have continued to multiply, like in some generational game of "Chinese whispers".  At the same time, modern practitioners keep insisting on viewing what remains of this ancient movement through the prism of today's sport-oriented culture.

This brings us to fundamental misunderstandings like "Blocks comprise two movements"; misunderstandings that cause martial artists to go looking far and wide for elaborate "answers" to why they should bother doing things like "chudan uke" (just because they haven't been able to apply their diluted versions in faux boxing sparring).

Combine such misunderstanding with:
Jeff uses some fairly common kata blocks to deal with
multiple attacks by me.
  • the parochial assumption that "people in the street are likely to attack me in more or less the same way I practice with my dojo friends"; and 
  • the human tendency to apophenia (ie. pattern recognition - I'm going to write an article on this soon); and
  • some modern 10th dan "soke" speaking with "authority",
and you get the farcical statement: "There are no blocks" being accepted by the mainstream.

What about the traditional masters? Don't they also say there are no blocks?

I recently joined the KenpoTalk forum where some of my friends are members.  There I noticed a thread titled "There are no blocks" (perhaps echoing the same title on my own forum, which in turn mirrors similar titles on MartialTalk etc.).

On that thread, one of my friends posted the following quotes and invited comment:
"There are no blocks in Karate,only striking and locking." --Eizo Shimabukuro 
"There is no 'uke' in karate. There is 'tsuki'(thrusting). There is 'Geri' (kicking). There is 'ate' (striking). But there is no 'uke' in karate."
--Teruo Chinen
I don't know if these quotes are verbatim.  I'm going to assume that they are.  Regardless, I'm pretty sure they don't mean what people think they mean.

Either that, or the masters involved are simply saying one thing and doing another.  Look at their videos and you'll see what I mean: blocks/uke abound!

Yep - "no blocks" in Eizo Shimabukuro's "self defence".

Teruo Chinen shows how karate has "no uke".

"Ah - but that is because this is just basic karate, intended as a step in the process of learning.  This isn't real karate as it is applied."

Jeff uses an inside age/jodan uke.
Yeah right.  The good stuff is kept secret and hidden - well off Youtube.  These masters are deliberately showing you white belt stuff - knowing full well how useless it is tactically and misleading it is in terms of how karate is meant to be applied.  At most it is only "stem cell" stuff which no one will understand or appreciate, but heck, they put it out there as representative of real, effective karate anyway.

As if!

Look, let's not be revisionist here: we all know that most karate and other traditional martial arts masters show "blocks" in their applications and always have.  This is true no matter how "realistic" or "basic" their demonstrations might be.

Jeff uses an inside chudan hiki/kake uke.
It is also true even if they go on to mention that it is preferable to use a more "proactive" means of dealing with an attack: one that neutralises the attack without having to "receive" it first.  Most are aware that, as soon as possible after an initial surprise attack, a good fighter goes from the defensive to the offensive - ie. he or she "seizes initiative".  Maybe this is what the above masters meant by their quotes.  I certainly suspect so.  But they most definitely didn't mean that there are simply "no blocks at all" - or that they only occur in "impractical beginner stuff".

So perhaps the above quotes meant to reflect a sentiment similar to what Choki Motobu meant when he said:
    “The blocking hand must be able to become the attacking hand in an instant. Blocking with one hand and then countering with the other hand is not true bujutsu. True bujutsu presses forward and blocks and counters in the same motion.”
I use a gedan uke with evasion.
I think Motobu was arguing for a kind of "simultaneous" block and counter (which is different to, say, Machida's block shown previously).

The whole "simultaneous" issue is one I've done to death (see also this article). Accordingly, here I think it is sufficient for me to express my view that Motobu is just arguing for a more "proactive", aggressive approach - one that is tactically preferable in terms of pure fighting (although not always preferable for civilian circumstances, as I've noted).  Motobu would have also known that this approach is more "advanced", requiring a higher levels of training to ensure safety in a conservative, civilian context.

Or perhaps he was coming at things more from his own "challenge match" background (which is quite likely!).  Whichever way it goes, he would have known that the "proactive" approach is, for the reasons I've mentioned above, not always available.  And Motobu certainly never maintained a "no blocks" position.

I use wing chun's bong sau.
In respect of the latter, I note that even the most ardent "no blocks" teachers out there will occasionally demonstrate applications with some element of "receiving an attack".5  That they typically gloss over this element reveals, I think, a subconscious awareness of this issue - but a relative lack of skill to know how much specific training is required to make defensive techniques work.

Such cursory treatment of blocks and other defensive techniques is probably encouraged when there is a failure to practice against a realistic, resistant attacker.  Rather, they have "faux attackers" who lurch forward slowly like zombies - or simply act as mere targets, waiting to be hit, then collapsing obligingly.5

It's about civilian defence - not civilian offence!

No, when it comes to quotes, I don't think you need to go past the karate masters of old.  For example, let's look at what Gichin Funakoshi, founder of shotokan karate had to say:
"Karate ni sente nashi. (There is no first attack in karate.)"
I use a gedan uke against a low punch (shock horror!).
To my mind, Funakoshi wasn't just echoing the legal/ethical/moral reasons for being "reactive". He was also recognising that, as a civilian defence art, karate strives to equip you for what you most need: the ability to deal effectively with that first surprise attack.

Most civilians aren't expecting to face a protracted one-on-one fight: they aren't training to be conditioned for three full 5-minute rounds in the cage against "Bones" Jones, Silva or GSP.  Rather, they fear being assaulted in some socialdomestic or other casual situation (eg. walking home after work): a situation when their "guard" (ie. awareness) is down and they quickly find themselves in a defence situation.

For that matter, attackers aren't generally in the business of such protracted fighting either.  Even in the case of a man attacking a woman on a deserted street late at night, the attacker isn't thinking:
"If she resists for any length of period, I'll switch my game to the ground, maybe try for a submission.  By the 15 minute mark I'll go for broke with a big knockout.  Otherwise if it lasts to the 25th minute, I'm hoping my superior fitness and conditioning comes into play."
I use the inside, "secondary" movement of hiki/kake uke
which, due to the range, is turning into a palm block.
It should be clear that this scenario is patent nonsense: "real" fights don't last long at all.  For example, if the woman on the deserted street is even moderately successful in resisting, the attacker will usually abandon the attack (maybe to seek out an easier target instead).  That is consistent with my professional experience (and the experience of direct family members - my mother being one).  Criminals go for easy targets because they are just as averse to "MMA style fighting" as civilian defenders.  If nothing else, the longer they are tied up unproductively with a potential victim, the greater the chance that a bystander will assist or that the police will arrive on the scene. [I have moved my comments about "blocks in MMA" to this separate article.]

By now it should be clear that both defenders and attackers in a civilian attack are risk averse, but that this manifests in different ways.  The defender is conservative in countering because he or she is aiming to protect himself or herself and not create openings.  The attacker is conservative by "stacking the odds" in his or her favour.  Whichever way it goes, neither side wants a protracted "fight" (cf. a combat sports match).  They both want to keep any exchange as brief as possible.

The exchange does not exist to prove "who is better at fighting".  It exists only in order to establish control necessary for:
  • the attacker to subdue the defender (and then humiliate, rob, rape, otherwise hurt or even kill, etc. him or her); or 
  • the defender to repulse the attacker (whether by subduing the attacker or, simply, thwarting the attacker's attempt to subdue - the latter is often enough for the reasons I've just mentioned).
Jeff does an open hand age/jodan uke and counters with
a simultaneous uppercut.  Note his body evasion.
This process of "establishing control" is largely the sum total of what civilian defence is all about - not "fighting".  Blocks play a crucial role in this.

Put another way, traditional martial arts are not about "what you do once you after you control" (ie. "attack, attack, attack" or the "target focused" mentality of some schools).5  They are about what happens before that point: ie. what you need to do to "turn the tables".  Traditional martial arts are primarily concerned with that threshold civilian defence question: what if I find myself staring down the barrel of a punch with only 0.25 seconds before it lands?  They don't assume that this threshold question is a non-issue, then fast forward to a point where "the tables have been turned" and the attacker can now be viewed as a "target".6

In other words, traditional martial arts in the Far East are about civilian defence - not civilian offence.  They are also not about sport offence.


Yes, traditional civilian defence arts have many, many offensive techniques.  But you'll notice that virtually every single kata/xing/pattern/form in Okinawa, Japan, Korea and China starts with... You guessed it...
A block! 
Forms start with moves that give you situational reflexes appropriate to surviving that first, unpredictable attack.  These moves not only enable you to "receive" attacks in a way that leaves you unharmed, but also set you up in a way that enables you to establish a level of control sufficient to prevent future attacks.

These moves are called blocks.

As Choki Motobu, Funakoshi's great rival, said:
"One cannot use continuous attacks against true karate. That is because the blocks of true karate make it impossible for the opponent to launch a second attack."
I don't think Motobu was talking about how blocks are actually "offensive weapons".  This is a popular view today, but I believe it is clearly misconceived.  When you consider the preceding analysis I think it becomes clear that he was talking about how blocks allow you to establish control in a situation where you have little or none.  When you establish control, you can dictate terms.  You are no longer being dictated to.  Blocks enable you to "turn the tables" from a position where you are facing an attack, to one where you are not.  That is because blocks deal with (ie. "receive") the attack in a way that thwarts it and any others that would follow as part of a combination.  They cut off that whole line of assault while simultaneously setting you up in a safer position from which you can counter or simply escape.

A good block is the civilian's "last-second save" that does the above things.  It is not some sort of quaint or basic reading of a mysterious move that is actually a "coded attack" (even if the move might be capable of being applied offensively).  It is a recipe for dealing with the kinds of attacks we realistically face in society - no a recipe for counter attack.

So when it comes to traditional civilian defence arts, the statement: "There is no block" is a nonsense.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

  1. Some habits die hard.  I've been using the term "block" for 33-odd years.  And I've not been alone in this: it's not as if the use of this term isn't widespread to the point of being ubiquitous!  So cut me some slack already!  Sure, in the book I'm writing on civilian defence I'm thinking of defining and using some term that covers the broader meaning of "uke".  But for the time being, I'm sticking with "block", trusting that you'll know what I mean.  Accordingly, please don't flame me for using "block" without endless qualifications - or for forgetting to put the term in inverted commas.
  2. There is an old saying in Serbian: "Немој да ми солиш памет."  Translated literally, it means "don't put salt on my knowledge/intellect" - in other words: "Don't try to "refine" my knowledge condescendingly by "correcting" me with your own embellishments" or, more simply "Don't tell me how to suck eggs."  I feel this way with the legions of karateka (many of whom haven't got a clue how to do a decent chudan uke) who would proclaim that there are "no blocks", then proceed to show me some far-fetched striking application of chudan uke in order to teach me its "true essence".
  3. Alright, before you start flaming me with about "movie swordfighting not being real fighting", remember that I'm just having a bit of fun here with the Danny Kaye images.  But, jokes aside, how many swordfights in history do you think were fought without significant blade contact in the form of parrying, deflection and other blocking?  Do you really think swordfighting was all "dodging and weaving" - or better, yet, pre-empting an opponent's attack and thus never having to face it in the first place?  I suppose this is achievable: but only if your opponent is blind, too drunk to stand or simply unaware of your very existence!  Yes, I know that weapons fighting isn't the same as unarmed fighting.  But is it really that different so as to remove entirely a combat skill central to almost every weapons system (excluding things like archery!)?  Or maybe, just maybe, does the "amplification" in armed fighting simply make the need for blocks so much more obvious...?
  4. Going back to Danny Kaye, it's worth noting that his sword-fighting scenes in The Court Jester (from which the above stills are taken) are highly regarded in fencing circles. Basil Rathbone (who played his opponent) was himself a champion fencer.  He wrote in his autobiography: "We had to fight a duel together with saber. I don’t care much for saber but had had instruction in this weapon during my long association with all manner of swords. . . . After a couple weeks of instruction Danny Kaye could completely outfight me! Even granted the difference in our ages, Danny’s reflexes were incredibly fast, and nothing had to be shown or explained to him a second time." Rathbone put Kaye’s aptitude down to his being a brilliant mimic (about the same period, the French mime Marcel Marceau was also an excellent fencer).  Kaye got so good that Rathbone couldn't keep up (he was 64, after all) and so he had to have a stunt double for the fight scenes with Kaye.  So take that, doubters!  Engarde! 
  5. The exception to the idea that most teachers will show at least some token "block" seems to be this guy.  I have yet to see him show any sort of defence.  Heck, I can't find even one example of an attack to be "defended": all of his "attackers" just act as "targets to be hit".  To my observation he doesn't seem to be teaching a method of "defence" at all.  He is teaching a method of offence (and only offence)  - no doubt under the guise of "offence is the best defence".  This might be appropriate for military and even law enforcement - but in my view it has little to do with the needs of the civilian.  As emotionally appealing as it is, and as "useful" as it might be for quick "removal" of our human instinct "not to hurt", it is hardly a recipe for civilian defence success - in legal/moral/ethical terms as well as pragmatic ones.
  6. One unfortunate fellow used to keep writing to me, unable to grasp the simple point that defence requires defensive skills.  He kept insisting that arts like karate have very poor "attacking" skills; that addressing this "deficiency" (in the manner of the teacher mentioned in point 5) would be a kind of panacea, curing the "ills" that affect traditional martial artists.  Well I'm sorry, but we traditional martial artists don't need to be taught how to "suck eggs".  We don't need "salt on our intellect".  The stuff taught by the teacher mentioned in point 5 is hardly "news" to a well-trained traditional martial artist.  In fact, the "attacking skills" I've seen in his videos leave much to be desired: It is clear to me they try to reinvent the wheel, ignoring far more sophisticated, effective, tried-and-tested striking methods developed over two thousand years.  As with "blocks", noting some poor examples of diluted, so-called "traditional" martial arts today is hardly the benchmark for criticism of traditional attacking technique.  And there is more to offering a "modern alternative" than the slick marketing of someone submitting to be a punching bag while someone else pretends to hit them.
Copyright © 2013 Dejan Djurdjevic

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why chudan uke makes a very poor strike


I have previously discussed how blocks aren't "strikes in disguise".  While they can sometimes be put to use as strikes, they are, in many cases, unsuited to that purpose.  This is because they are often movements that are, for a number of reasons, intrisically defensive rather than offensive in nature.

Would you believe that this technique is actually meant
to be a chudan uke?
My "strikes in disguise" article dealt primarily with the rising block (age or jodan uke) and its shortcomings as a "weapon" in terms of things like optimal rotation of the forearm vs. striking surface. 

Other "blocks" have a more fundamental failing when used as "strikes" - and this is their relative "lack of power".  

This failing is particularly relevant to the "chest level" deflection known as as "chudan uke".

Like many "blocks", chudan uke uses a motion that is inherently weak.  This has led many people to practise the chudan uke in a way that tries to "wring as much power as possible" out of this movement (resulting in the exaggerated two movement "side swing" I discussed in my articles "Blocks comprise two movements? Dangerous hokum!" and "Why blocks comprise only one movement").

Blocks need power!  Don't they?

"But don't blocks need 'power'?" I hear you ask.

An unfortunate shotokan man on whom
I keep picking
Actually, no.  If you read my earlier articles, you'll see that blocks work best as "soft" redirections for a number of very good reasons.  And, necessarily, they work less than optimally the "harder" you apply them (or try to apply them). 

First, this is a matter of efficiency: If you're deflecting you want to focus your efforts on that task - not on "punishing" the attacking limb.  The two objectives are necessarily largely inconsistent.  If you don't believe me, read my essay "Hard blocks" where I go into the physics in detail.

Second, it is a result of effective tactics: As I note in my most recent article: "a block works best when it is barely noticed by the attacker.  The less biofeedback your opponent has while he or she is being redirected, the more he or she will not be able to recover from the failure of that attack (at least, in time to offer an effective resistance to your counter)."  Again, my "Hard blocks" essay is apposite.

Third, it is a function of availability:  Noting that a chudan uke seems to require "two movements" (ie. a "move into position" followed by a "deflecting action") to generate any real force is not a "damning assessment" of that movement as a "block".  Rather, it is entirely consistent with the fact that the "block" isn't at all dependant on such "force".  We all know that you hardly ever have a full range of motion at your disposal to effect a "forceful" block using a "wind up" swing.  So what are you typically left with?  A much smaller movement.  What is this movement good for?  Well it is useless for any kind of "strike".  It can't effect a "hard block".  What is left?  You guessed it: a soft redirection.

Last, it is a reflection of biomechanics: Some movements are inherently lacking in their ability to apply force: they just aren't good candidates as "strikes".  However as soft redirections, they work just fine.  This is particularly the case with chudan uke as we will see:

No wonder you're swinging your arm to get "power"!   

You get an idea how weak your rotator cuff muscles are
from rehabilitiation exercises
To understand why chudan uke isn't, has never been, and cannot be a "power" movement, you need to look at what muscles are being activated.

Essentially, the muscles used in the chudan uke motion are almost entirely those comprising the rotator cuff.  I won't attempt an anatomy lecture here, so you can research this on your own, starting with the link I've provided.

However most martial artists and other physically active people are intimately familiar with rotator cuff strain and injury.  Indeed, I once injured my rotator cuff badly while moving a fridge: you don't need to be an athlete to experience this discomfort. 

It happens so easily - and takes so long to heal.  Why?

Because the relevant muscles are all in your shoulder.  They are small and relatively weak.  They are easily over-stressed when we put too much reliance upon them.  Put simply, they are not "power" muscles!  They work to abduct and rotate the arm - motions that are fundamentally not "load bearing"

Accordingly nature has not equipped us with large muscles in this area.  If we want to lift or pull something we use our legs, back and bicep muscles.  If we want to push something we use our legs, chest and tricep muscles.  Lifting or pushing a heavy load via raising our arms to the side and rotating them is fraught with injury potential.  

Supraspinatus muscle powering
the abduction of the arm
Yet the primary movement of chudan uke - of both goju and shorin versions - involves an abduction and an external rotation

Furthermore, the preceding "chamber" of the shorin version, as well as the "outward interception" of the goju version, involve an internal rotation.

Finally, the secondary movement of both versions involves  an internal rotation.

So the chudan uke mainly utlises the various rotator cuff muscles, with the primary movement relying, to a large extent, on the smallest muscle of all the rotator cuff group: the supraspinatus muscle

The latter tendency is highlighted in schools where the primary movement of chudan uke is performed without any rotation of the forearm (requiring a great deal more work of the supraspinatus to generate any decent force).

(See once more the Zanshin Shotokan fellow depicted above: I'm really very sorry to pick on him because he is far from a minority when it comes to this unfortunate way of doing chudan uke, but his example is too illustrative to ignore.)

Contorting the chudan uke to make it an "uraken"

It's no small wonder then that people who insist on using the chudan uke as a strike have to make some fairly hefty adjustments to the basic form to give it any semblance of "power". 

In fact, they end up with something totally different, usually an uraken (back fist strike) - which the chudan uke is most definitely not.  

Chudan uke as a "strike". Note how radically
the basic movement has been altered to
accommodate this "interpretation".
Even then, the "uraken" is performed in a manner that is largely unsatisfactory; I think it is patently obvious to all who try this "application" of chudan uke that it feels "weak", even for an uraken.  I suspect this is largely because there is at least some attempt to retain the chudan uke mechanics - mechanics that are inconsistent with those of the uraken.

Consider for example this chap who interprets the chudan uke in just such a manner (note the stills to the side and below).  You'll observe that the technique morphs from its original function as a deflection to something resembling (in a rather crude way) a backfist strike.

However the chudan uke is not an "uraken":  It does not use a forward or downward moment.  Rather it involves a side moment - one that, as noted previously, abducts and rotates the arm.
"Ah - but maybe his uraken is different," is one possible response.  "Maybe he cuts a different angle and plane of motion.  Maybe this is how chudan uke was always meant to be done."

Indeed, this is possible.  Not probable, but possible, in a vague and hypothetical way.  So I have to address it:

Unfortunately for the above chap, his own performance of the "air block" makes it clear that he is doing a move that is totally unlike his "uraken" application and much more like "chudan uke".

Note how his "chudan uke" uses the
same motion as the rotator cuff
rehabilitation exercise - and how it
differs from his backfist application!
Where in the applied version, he does a backfist to his opponent's face, in the "air version" he is clearly doing an abduction and sideways rotation: a rotator cuff movement that is virtually identical to the rehabilitation exercise depicted previously.  This approximates (poorly, but still recognisably) the form of the traditional chudan uke.  It is not an uraken.

(Actually, his chudan uke has all the hallmarks of George Dillman's flawed version which I have dissected here.)

Let us be brutally frank: you never want to try a "blow" using such a movement.  It isn't strong enough to do diddly squat.  No wonder the instructor feels the need to contort it into a backfist strike (which is itself only marginally more powerful - more on that in a second)! 

"All the more reason to abandon this useless 'chudan uke' nonsense!" is one possible reply.  "Maybe the ancients knew this and their 'chudan uke' was always meant to be a full uraken!"

But if that were so, why would generations of karateka persist in doing the chudan uke in its "blocking" form - even people like the above fellow (see his "air block")?  Is this some sort of "secret" or "hidden technique"?  Is every chudan uke really just an "uraken in disguise"?   And what's so special about the uraken that the masters of old thought it necessary to "hide" it? 

The mind boggles.

The limitations of uraken

It is worth remembering that an uraken isn't exactly a powerful technique to begin with (hence my earlier discussion whether it was a "folly of karate").  At best it will startle an attacker.  But it carries almost no "stopping power". 

In this circumstance, while facing a grab followed by a cross punch, you want to do something that, in the words of Marc MacYoung, "cuts the supply lines".  You want something that stops his punch at its source.  All that an uraken will do here is give him a bit of nasty "tap" while he is pulverising your face with a full force overhead cross.

The correct form of an uraken.  Note the downward or
or forward moment in this example which approximates
the angle in the preceding pictures - but is totally at odds
with a chudan uke.
Now I know that the above fellow's application might still seem effective enough to the casual observer.  But let's get real: he isn't even facing a pretend attack never mind a realistic one.

The assistant might have grabbed him with a raised hand (as if about to do a cross punch), but he doesn't proceed to do anything after that.  He just stands there like a zombie.

The instructor makes no attempt to defend himself against the possibility of the threatened cross punch : instead he makes the (I think, manifestly flawed) assumption that his counters to the "attacker's" lead arm and the following counter to his face/neck etc. will be sufficiently faster than the threatened cross punch - a punch that, in reality, might follow the grab by as little as 0.16s (160ms) (that's my experience of analysing many surveillance videos in my former job - and I took an active interest in timing unprovoked attacks, noting that they usually took somewhere between 0.16s and 0.3s).

Playing with basic form: morphing techniques

Despite these limitations, I suppose you can do an uraken in the move the instructor shows above.  But if you're going to do something like that, you're changing the technique: you're playing around with it and creating a variation.  You can't do that and legitimately claim it is an "application" of "chudan uke".  The variation is far too great.  It has no connection with the substantive principles of the chudan uke movement.  You aren't just "changing the angles a bit".  You're using totally significantly different muscles, direction and emphasis.

I have personally been happy to "morph" my chudan uke into an uraken - note for example towards the end of my video below.  But I'm honest about what I'm doing.  I don't pretend that this is an actual application of chudan uke.  Very simply, I've done something other than a chudan uke - in this case for the fun of variation.

I morph the chudan uke into a forward uraken at the end of this video

Heng quan: another alternative "chudan uke-like" strike

There is a technique that I once confused for chudan uke, and that is xingyi's heng quan ("crossing fist").

Of all the punches/strikes I've ever learned, heng quan would have to be closest to chudan uke in terms of its movement.  Indeed, this is why, as a beginner in xingyi, I (and the other karateka in the class) kept associating the two. 

This fallacious association was reflected in my technique, earning frequent slaps to my arm from my teacher who would cry: "Bu hao!" (ugly) as he did so.

The reason my teacher was so strident in his criticism was that heng quan is almost nothing like chudan uke in its principle.  It is a punch forwards that uses a kind of rising, "curved" path. 

In other words, it is more a forward thrust than a sideways chudan uke.  And it is more an uppercut than it is a downwards uraken.

So what is the "weak" chudan uke good for?

Faced with the above, I think we must conclude that chudan uke is not "uraken" in disguise" just as the heng quan is not a "chudan uke in disguise".  Techniques can share some gross mechanics yet still differ substantially in form, structure and concept/objective.

Chudan uke is also weaker than both an uraken or heng quan.

It is hardly surprising that a technique so lacking in ability to apply force would be "reinterpreted" by modern karateka, particularly those who have no real appreciation of the function and utility (indeed, necessity) of "softness" in martial movement.

Yes, the chudan uke is not a "power" movement.  But, as I noted at the outset, it doesn't need to be in order to achieve its objective, namely:
to receive blows. 

It is an "uke" after all.  And (as many of you know) "uke" comes from the Japanese verb "ukeru" meaning "to receive".

I hold it to be self-evident that "receiving" blows (but not being harmed by them) is the cornerstone of arts like karate.  This is because they are, first and foremost, about civilian defence - not civilian offence: they teach you how to defend yourself, not how to attack others.  And defence in civilian society tends to involve a high degree of response to unprovoked, barely anticipated attacks.

True, you might well have to "counter attack" someone who is trying to hurt you.  You might even be able to pre-empt your attacker by "getting in first" in some circumstances.  But, as I've said ad nauseum, civilian defence is, to some extent, necessarily reactive rather than proactive.  I refer to my remarks in a recent article
"[B]locks offer the key to civilian defence (as opposed to sport or military fighting) - especially where you are faced with an element of surprise in close quarters with little time, opportunity or legal/ethical/moral justification to launch a pre-emptive strike and where you are forced to rely on a withdrawing flinch reflex..."
That so many people would persevere in a traditional art like karate ignorant of this key foundational aspect is perplexing to me.  But it does explain the (rather strange) "interpretations" given to an effective and elegant - indeed poetic - technique like chudan uke: the epitome of "softness" in martial arts.

I discuss some of the aspects of chest level deflections

For me, chudan uke - in both its major guises - is virtually a defining element of the traditional martial arts.  I've seen it in Okinawan and Japanese arts as well as throughout the classical Chinese systems.  It always takes the form of one of these guises - or perhaps a hybrid of the two (such hybrids even occur in Okinawan kata - eg. seipai). 

However in no case except in diluted forms of modern karate does it take on the rather strange, "dead-arm", "side swiping" action I've discussed in this article.  And in none of the classical arts is it contorted into some sort of absurd "strike".

It is what it is - chudan uke.

Copyright © 2013 Dejan Djurdjevic

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why blocks comprise only one movement

The issue

Last time I promised to explain exactly why "blocks" comprise just one movement and not two.

But before I do that, I must first set out what is meant by "one movement" and "two movements" in this context.

First, I want to make it clear that I'm not talking about two different arms moving (which I covered in my article "Two for the price of one: more about karate blocks").  Rather, I'm talking about two movements off one arm, intended to deflect or otherwise stop an incoming attack.

In a previous article I related this anecdote:
I recall as a young martial arts teacher being confronted with this issue when a rank beginner asked me: "What stops me from just hitting you as your arm goes to the side?"
The beginner in this instance was talking about the chudan uke or "chest level block" but he might as well have been talking about many of the others.  I recall he smirked as he demonstrated how the chest level block comprised two separate movements:
  1. a swing to the side;
  2. a swing back to "smash the attack out of the way".
Indeed, the same is often said for downward blocks: there appears to be a swing up to the ear, and only then a downward swing to "smash the attack (eg. a kick) out of the way".

I must confess that I was left gobsmacked by this question.  It was right at the end of the lesson.  I had never even considered this "analysis" before so it was hard for me to find a response.  It simply wasn't on my radar.  I knew that what he said was fundamentally wrong but I couldn't, for the life of me, say why at that moment in time. 

The beginner left with a smirk, probably destined never to revisit a traditional martial arts school again.

The answer: no block requires you to "swing away first"!

Of course, the answer came to me when I got home (by which time it was far too late): the analysis was hopelessly misconceived precisely because it bore no actual resemblance to what I'd been showing the beginner

In other words, it was nothing more than a particularly weak "straw man".

No block - I repeat no block - requires you to "swing away" first, then swing back to "block" or "smash". 

Rather, in every case - and I mean every case - the so-called "block" moves directly to intercept the attack, either so as:
  • to redirect it; or
  • less commonly, to jam it at its source (strikes tend to be used more for this purpose than traditional "blocks").
This is what is meant by "uke" (ie. what we call "block" but which comes from the Japanese verb "ukeru" meaning "to receive" - a rather more apt term I should think!).

In other words, there simply is no "technique" of the kind described by that beginner.  "Blocks" don't involve swinging away from the attack, nor do they envisage some sort of "sideways smash" (like a car reversing first, then accelerating out of a side street so as to "T-bone" yours).  

Such an approach would be manifestly absurd.   No martial art has ever featured such tactics, so pulling them apart hardly evidences the shortcomings of traditional "blocks".

Consider the above gif and you'll see what I mean about the chudan uke (the very same one I was showing the beginner that night 28 years ago). 

You'll see immediately that my chudan uke moves out towards the punch so as to intercept it and deflect it sideways.  To do so, it has to reach the punch at an angle.  But this doesn't mean it has to "swing sideways".  The line to the attacker's forearm is straight.  It is the shortest distance between two points. 

And no "swing to the side" is required of the arm so as to "create momentum" for a "smash":  You will note from the gif that the block doesn't have to be "hard".  In fact, a block works best when it is barely noticed by the attacker.  The less biofeedback your opponent has while he or she is being redirected, the more he or she will not be able to recover from the failure of that attack (at least, in time to offer an effective resistance to your counter).  (I cover this and other deficiencies of "hard blocks" in this article.)

So what is it that makes people think that there is a "sideways movement" to blocks like chudan uke?  Probably the fact that the outward movement of your forearm is angled as you effect your interception. 

"Aha - isn't this a 'sideways' movement?"

No.  It isn't.  It is just the necessary angle of attack - the angle that allows you to redirect the punch optimally (ie. with the greatest efficiency) rather than meet force with force (ie. "head on").  After all, you don't exactly want to end up fist to fist.  That might be an even "straighter" line to your attacker, but it is scarcely productive of a good outcome (at least, for the average person).

But that's not how I do my blocks...

The inevitable response is this: "But I don't do my blocks like that.  For example, I have a very different chudan uke.  We do swing to the side first!"

Hmm.  I see.  When I think about it, even I "swing my hand up to my ear" for basic downward blocks... 

Oh dear - there goes my whole thesis that blocks work!  I suppose I'd better pack up now and call it a day!

Or not.

I feel like facepalming when I hear this sort of argument because it contains an assumption that is so manifestly false that I scarcely feel I need to point it out.  Let me put it this way:

Who says any swing to the side / up to the ear, etc. is part of your "block"? 

It isn't.  It is nothing more than a repositioning of your arms in basics practice in order to permit consecutive repetition of blocks.  It is a convention adopted during formal exercises in class - not a literal application of the block.

Rather, in application against a resistant opponent, you block from wherever your hands happen to be.  You shouldn't "swing your arm" anywhere.  You make do with whatever position you have.  If your block can only avail itself of a small range of motion, so be it.  Thankfully, most traditional blocks don't require much range - precisely because they don't need force; they are "soft"!1

But what if your range and/or positioning are simply inappropriate for the block?  Well, you don't get to use it in that circumstance!2  It's that simple. 

If you think the latter is an issue, just remember: the fact that your arm is unavailable for, say, punching (eg. because it has just punched outward or is being held in a lock, etc.) doesn't invalidate the very concept of a "punch".  You can only use a technique if it is available.  If it isn't - tough.  Find something else.3

A video in which I discuss the how blocks use one movement, not two

So why practise the "basic version" of a block?  For this simple reason: it is a platform that enables beginners to exercise the full range of the technique in a repetitive format

It's true that you can practise punches solely as "three inch jabs" from your guard  (ie. using very little range).  On the other hand you can also throw a full power punch (using a full range).  While there is some scope for "short techniques" for developing specific skills, which one do you think is going to be more imporant to a beginner?  And which one are you going to use (most of the time, anyway) against a bag/shield/makiwara? 

Answer: the full-range punch.  Why?  Because it permits you to throw full-force punches.  To some extent it also covers the shorter ranges (eg. the short inverted punch to the ribs as well as a jab with the last few inches of your punch).  In other words, it is a more complete movement

Sure, you can exercise the smaller movement from time to time.  But, particularly when you are learning as a beginner, the more complete movement gives you a much better idea of what it is that  you should be doing - if for no other reason than the technique is "amplified" when it uses its full range: small angles, subtle planes of movement and other significant, if tiny, details can be more easily noted, understood and assimilated.

Blocks have different "starting positions" or "chambers" to permit full-range movement

If you're going to exercise a full range of motion with a technique, you need to be aware of the different "starting positions" to permit that full range of motion.

In the case of a basic chudan uke of the kind I demonstrate in the gif at the start of this article, this typically involves moving from the chamber at your hip (in much the same way that a basic punch exercises a full motion by proceeding from such a chambered position). 

In the case of what I call the "shorin" version of chudan uke, the full range is exercised by moving from an extended arm starting position - which in basics terms means that you will probably be extending it out from the hip before you can execute the block. 

This "shorin chudan uke" uses a rotation of the forearm to deflect attacks.  It is for this reason that the forearm must be extended - either across your body or directly in front of you. 

As I discuss in the above video, the "shorin chudan uke" is particularly useful after you've punched.  In the adjacent series of pictures I depict a rather more "stylised" postion after a punch, but my video shows more realistic variations. 

The same principle is illustrated in the video below, in which Jeff and I demonstrate a drill which employs "forearm rotation" chudan uke after a punch:

 Jeff and I demonstrate a drill which uses consecutive "forearm rotation" chudan uke of the "shorin" kind.  Note: there is nary a "sideswing" in sight, even in what is a patently artificial drill.

You'll note that with your arm extended, you don't have the luxury of throwing your arm out to meet the attack - because it is already "out"

Instead you must rely on the rotation of the forearm to redirect an oncoming attack, either to the side (as per naihanchi, for example) or side and back (as per sanchin kata after the punch4 - see the adjacent gif) or side and forward (as per many wing chun blocks). 
Yes, when practising this as a basic, you might position your arms in a kind of "chamber" necessary to explore a full range of motion in repetitive practice.  But you certainly aren't "swinging" the arm anywhere so as to "smash things aside".

Similarly, for the downward block (gedan uke), the "starting position" or "chamber" is high - ie. near the ear.  Again, this is so as to permit a full-range motion  

As with the "shorin chudan uke", the "reset" movement (in this case the movement from your hip chamber to your ear) is not part of the block.  It is just a basic practice convention, permitting you to keep repeating basic, full-range, downward blocks one after the other.

Yes, you can interpret this "reset" movement as something - especially in the context of a kata where it exists dynamically  (rather than as an isolated basic). 

But if you look closely, this is quite rare, especially amongst the higher kata.  Any "chambers" on the low block are usually done mid-turn, mid-step or in some other dynamic context.  It is rarely "imposed" as an "additional move" which requires you to "lift your arm to the ear" while the attacker waits...


Accordingly I think it is simply incorrect to say that some practitioners have a "different way of blocking" - one that actually uses two movements.  They don't. 

To be remotely credible techniques, blocks must all follow the same basic principles, one of which is that they must go directly to the attack to intercept it so that it can be either deflected or jammed.  Blocks simply cannot take a circuitous route to their destination.

Yes, it's true that we traditional martial artists often exercise basic movements that require us to "reset" our arms between repetitions.  But this is so as to enable us to practise full-range techniques consecutively.  This reset essentially involves moving from the finishing position to an ideal, full-range "start position" or "block-specific chamber".  The reset is usually not part of the block itself.  Rather is inevitably just an artifact of basics practice.

I know the above will be hard for many to accept - particularly those who have been "raised" on a plethora of "alternative" interpretations of blocks (some of them plausible, some not) that are said to deliver the "true" meaning of these traditional movements.5 

I've had quite a few comments already on this issue (largely in response to my previous article).  A common theme to these comments has been the sentiment: "I believe that blocks are both blocks and other things". 

To a large extent I agree.  But I am also sensing a latent fear among some of these commentators that if they accept a "blocking" explanation it might somehow necessitate abandoning other applications.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many "strike applications" for blocks are not only plausible, but arguably preferable.  This is the case with many "low blocks" - especially those that finish with a "tetsui" (hammer fist), eg. in gekisai kata.  I think that in such cases we have a strong indication the the designer intended a strike - as an equal or perhaps even primary application.

In other cases, even if the application is a bit of a "stretch" it is still consistent with the biomechanics of the movement and a good extrapolation.  I have myself played with numerous locks and holds that are consistent with basic blocking movements - some of which were probably never intened by the designer.  (For the sake of these applications I will sometimes even treat the "block" as if it comprised two moves!)

There is nothing wrong with this.  We need to use our kata for inspiration, as well as understanding the more general principles of the movement (which can translate to multiple scenarios).

At the same time, I see many "alternative" applications that are decidely inconsistent with the biomechanical principles of the relevant traditional block.  Often they use diametrically opposed angles, planes, timing, contact surface - you name it.  All to avoid the obvious, namely that (to paraphrase Freud): 
"Sometimes a block is just a block." 
A classic example is attempting to use the chudan uke (whichever version you like!) as a kind of "uraken" (backfist) - which it can never be!  I propose to examine such a case another time.

In the end, if you are of the "there are no blocks" conviction I hope this article leaves you with some greater awareness of the issues. 

Presumably you've reached your conviction on the back of the assumption that "blocks require two movements".  As you can see, this assumption is manifestly false. 

And if you have labored under it, I think it is fair to say that you still have a lot to learn about "blocks".  How can you say otherwise?  After all, you've built an entire art avoiding these marvellous tools all because of a false assumption! 

If this is the case, isn't it time you had another look at the "humble block"?  I assure you that there is much more to this art and science than shield-like guards and palm slaps!

  1. I suspect that many people who employ "power adding" measures to their blocks (eg. the "double hip") have an insufficient understanding of "blocks".  In particular, they don't seem to understand that they work best as "soft" redirections.  This is true from the perspectives of efficiency, effectiveness and simple availability. In terms of the latter, you hardly ever have a full range of motion at your disposal to effect a "hard" block using a "wind up" swing.
  2. In this context it should come as no suprise that many "power adding" advocates are also at the "cutting edge" of "there are no blocks" revisionism.  After all, if you interpeted each "block" as requiring two movements (the first being a kind of "momentum wind up", the second being a technique that relied entirely upon that wind up) you'd quickly realise that these techniques were hardly ever available for defence.  So they'd have to be attacks - right?  
  3. Curiously, the corresponding lack of availability for "wind up" attacks never bothers "power adding" advocates.  They'll happily point out that a block comprises "two moves" and accordingly "cannot work" but they ignore the fact that a "double hip" also involves "two moves"...
  4. The forearm rotation block in sanchin kata is one I call "mae ude hineri uke". I hope to cover it in detail in a future article.
  5. When we spend a long time thinking one way, it can be very challenging indeed to change our minds.  The name for this tendency is "cognitive dissonance".
Copyright © 2013 Dejan Djurdjevic