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Why Block?

This is a multiple choice question. Why do you block?

  1. To keep from getting hit.
  2. To deflect the attacker's punch.
  3. To stop the attacker's punch.
  4. To destroy the attacker's arm.
  5. To set up for a counterattack.
  6. To get closer to the attacker to that you can counterattack.
  7. To protect yourself while simultaneously counterattacking.
  8. To push off the attacker temporarily while you try to reason with him.
  9. To give the attacker a chance to back down.
  10. To create a space that will enable you to escape.
  11. To establish that you tried to protect yourself first before counterattacking (thus bolstering your self-defense argument in court).
  12. Because when you are caught unaware, your first instinct is to protect yourself by throwing up your hands (in a block).
  13. Because we are taught to block in Karate.
  14. You don't know.
  15. All of the above.
  16. Some of the above.
  17. None of the above.
  18. Other: ___________________________________
OK, have you thought of an answer?

I have to admit that I hated multiple choice questions in school. I would either think that all the answers were right (or at least partially correct) or I would have my own different answer. Perhaps that is why I became a lawyer -- in law there is usually not only one answer, and your get points for being able to argue the facts and law.

So when it comes to blocking, why the multiple choices? Because... why you block shapes how you will block and move.

If you are only trying to stop a punch, you will probably get hit by a second or third punch. No one can stop every punch. Eventually one will get through.

Beginners are taught to simply block. We do pairing off drills. One student punches and the other blocks. Punch, punch, block, block. But that is only for beginners.

For more advanced students, the drills have to be more complete. What comes after the block? Do you counterattack, and if so, how?

Block, then counterattack.

Even that is basic. A more advanced student will simultaneously block and counterattack.

Even that is basic. A more advanced student might not block at all. If a punch is coming, he might simply punch the attacker in the face before the attacker's punch can land. Blocking is slow. Even the fastest block is not as fast as a swift punch. Sometimes we divert the attacker's punch with our own punch. He misses and we hit him in the face (or wherever we desire).

The more advanced a student becomes, the less he relies on simple blocks.

But at a very, very advanced stage, a student might revert to blocks to destroy the attacker's arm. This sounds very severe, but actually it is very humane. Which is worse, a broken arm or a broken neck? Can you imagine the damage an expert would cause if he hit an attacker in the face? A broken arm is much more humane, and should stop the fight.

My good friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata once told me about an incident. A guy ran up and tried to punch him (I'm leaving out the details that led up to this, but it was not Nakata's Sensei's fault). Nakata Sensei punched the guy in the head and knocked him out. While he was unconscious, a policeman came. Nakata Sensei started to explain what happened. Without warning, the guy regained consciousness and jumped up. He was ready to continue the fight and had no idea that he had been knocked out. Fortunately, Nakata Sensei and the policeman talked him down. Actually, the guy was impressed when he realized that he had been knocked out by such a well known Karate Sensei.

But the point is -- he wanted to keep fighting. Being knocked out did not permanently injure him (he probably did lose some brain cells). He could have kept going.

But he probably would have been unable to continue if his arm had been broken. And that would have been more humane. If he had been able to continue, he could have been killed. (Also, he certainly picked the wrong person to mess with.)

Why you block will shape how you block. What are you trying to accomplish?

In the dojo, someone punches and you block. In the real world, it is not so simple or nice. My Kenpo friends often say that the fight isn't over if the attacker is still standing. When you block, are you thinking of simply stopping or avoiding a punch, or starting a process leading to the destruction or incapacitation of the attacker?

Block and counter should not be thought of as two things. They are parts of the same thing.

Just something to think about.


Charles C. Goodin