Karate Tips: First Nine Blocks
Descriptions of the nine blocks a novice (white, yellow and orange belt) student will learn during martial arts training.
In the martial arts there are as many varieties of kicks, strikes and blocks as there are in styles themselves. Many times the movements will be exactly the same in one style as in another but each style will have a different name for it.
In American Freestyle, there are nine different blocks, some which have variations on a basic block as well as some that are attack specific that a novice level (white, yellow, orange belt) student will begin to learn.
When a student is first starting out, he will be taught three basic blocks that he must be able to execute correctly before he can advance from white belt to yellow belt. These are the upper, middle and lower blocks.
The Upper block is used to defend against an assailant that is trying to use a knife, club or some other type of weapon in an overhead strike. In it, the block itself will end with your arm upwards, bent at the elbow and your forearm lying horizontally above and to the front of your head. The forearm itself will be slanted slightly downwards towards your elbow to allow the blow to hit and then slide off. It will also be a few inches in front of your face to guard that area in case the block misses, the knife or club will in turn miss your face. By the same idea, you will want your arm approximately a hand's width above your head to keep the weapon from hitting your skull. If you stop the assailant's wrist by having your block almost resting on top of your head, it won't be affective because the knife or club will have already hit your skull.
The Middle block is one that is often used against punches or straight in attacks. This basic move also has a second name, the "scoop" block. It is so called because when learning it, the beginning martial artist is told to imagine he or she is grasping a cup by the handles. They are then told to imagine a barrel of water at their feet and to take the cup, scoop some water and then throw it out. As the beginning student is learning the middle block, they are taught to drop towards the floor the hand that is making the block, The hand will then move in a circular motion crossing the body (to scoop the water), then as the cup would be held right side up, the arm stops upper arm and elbow stop but the forearm and fist move back across the body to throw the water out. The end block should have your upper arm close to the body, the forearm perpendicular to the floor and the backside of the forearm and fist towards the opponent. It is to the outer side of the body, not the middle so the strike you are blocking will pass on by and hence missing your torso. Remember, the upper arm is to be close to the body and not flapping like a chicken wing and the forearm and fist should be straight up and down.
The Lower block is used against a kick. If you were using your right hand to make the block, the right fist would first move to the left shoulder and then sweep sharply in a semi-circular motion to clear the area in front of you and end with the fist and forearm just to the right side of the right thigh. The elbow should always be kept slightly bent to prevent the chance of hyper extending it and the back of the hand and forearm are kept in a straight line. You do not want to bend the wrist.
The Upper Hook block is very similar to the Upper block except at the very end. As you set your block above your head, open and then cup the fingers and thumb of the blocking hand. That makes the "hook." As the strike lands on the block, use your hook to capture the arm and toss it to the side or advance students will retain a hold upon the opponent's arm to be able to use a restraining or breaking technique as a follow up.
The Push block comes in three different varieties on either side of the body.
1. With the Upper Push block the student will start by having the blocking hand drop to the waist, opening the hand into a slightly cupped manner and "pushing" the hand diagonally across the body and up to the top and side of the head.
2. The Middle Push block comes from the end position of the middle block and pushes or "sweeps" across the body to end at the opposite, outside edge of the body between middle chest shoulder height with the palm cupped. As with the simple middle block, the upper arm and elbow are kept close to the body.
3. The Lower Push block has the student coming also from the middle block position but moving downward in a diagonal motions to push the incoming strike to the outside of the opposite side of the body and ending just below the hip level. With this push block, the wrist WILL be slightly bent so the hand is setting upwards at approximately a 45-degree angle.
With the "X" block there are two varieties. The upper X and the Lower X. With the Upper X both hands move simultaneously and the fists come from the belt level. They will each cross the body and end with a literal X at the wrists that are above and in front of your head. The wrists will make a "V" type of trench in which the assailant's wrist will hit. From this "V" the defender will have an unlimited number of choices as to how to disarm, attack or break bones in the opponent. This "X" block is used for overhead knife and club attacks.
The Lower X block also starts at the waist and move across the body but in a downward motion with the X'd wrists ending just below the groin. This block is often used against kicks and can allow the defender a chance to trap the leg and follow up with a variety of techniques.
As with all martial arts techniques, practice it the key to proper execution, speed and affect. To become proficient in any of these, a beginning student will spend hours repeatedly doing the same motions until they are ingrained into their mind and become a second nature. One of the keys to building speed with any block, strike, kick or self-defense maneuver is to have it implanted in the subconscious so no actual thought is required to execute it. In a sense, it actually becomes an instinctual reaction to a given type of aggressive movement.