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Torquing In Blocks

It is very important for blocks to torque (twist) at the point to contact. When you block upwards (jodan uke), for example, your radius bone (on the pinky side of your forearm) faces down until the split second before contact, at which point it torques (twists or spins) upward. The more advanced you are, the more delayed the torque will be.

The same goes for other blocks.

Because your forearm is not round, the torquing at the moment of contact gives an extra "kick" and can make the block almost feel as it if cuts into the attacker. I am reminded of a saying by Sensei Chosin Chibana that Karate involves striking with the bones. This was told to me by Chibana Sensei's student, Sensei Pat Nakata.

Another reason for a delayed torque is to help the student learn to generate power in a short distance. Anyone can block linearly (without torque) if they have enough distance to get their arm up to speed. But we must be able to block from wherever our hand may be. If it is only an inch from the attacking hand, we must block in only an inch.

Torquing allows us to generate power in a very short distance. Short distance makes the block fast, and more difficult for the attacker to react to or counter.

I also emphasize that all blocks should recoil back toward our centerline. The arm itself recoils, but not at the elbow. Instead, most of the recoil is in the lats. It feels as if the recoil is in your side and back, not your arms.

When the recoil of blocks and strikes is back toward your centerline, you can quickly strike or block again. Your power recyles.

In addition, recoiling toward your centerline helps you to protect your centerline. When your block bounces off to the side or at an angle, you are more open to attack and will find it difficult to strike of block again.

Torquing makes it easier to direct the recoil back toward your centerline. A non-torquing block is more likely to bounce in the opposite direction of the block.

When you recoil (with your lats), you feel like you pull your elbow from the bottom. I do not mean that you flex your elbow (which is often a mistake), but that you pull your elbow toward your body by perhaps and inch or so. This also makes it easier to strike again.

There is a world of difference between Karate students who block and strike with torque, and those who move in a more linear or flat manner. The next time you watch your class, try to see if you can observe the difference between students. Watch students in a different dojo. Do they torque the same or differently?

Relaxing until the last moment and torquing into contact are two every important principles. Another is properly regenerating power by using the recoil, and directing that recoil back toward your centerline so that it can be used again in your koshi.

It may sound complicated, but actually it is relatively easy to do -- even children can do it. Most people move linearly simply because they have been taught that way.

I should add another factor to consider. Blocks should "strike" into the oncoming punch (or strike). They generally should not hit the punch from the side. When you block, the attacker's arm should not simply bounce to the side, it should be jammed and somewhat pushed back. You are blocking into the punch, not simply meeting it on the side.

I mention this because torquing works best in a jamming manner.

Of course, there are many ways to block. If you intend to lightly deflect the punch to the side, then that is what you should do. Sometime you block with a gentle touch, sometimes with a sticky touch, sometimes with a cutting feeling, and sometimes as if you are going to try to knock the flesh off the attacker's arm. It all depends.

And what counts most is what your sensei teaches you. The above is simply something that I am working on with some of my students.

There are layers upon layers to Karate training... which makes it very interesting!


Charles C. Goodin