Sunday, February 10, 2013

The theories behind blocks

A recent discussion with a friend followed a number of different practices I was taught, or discovered, over the past years into the practice of ‘blocking’. This has been a 40 year search to date,

Remember there are differences because I am an Isshinryu stylist. Nor is it contained to our use of the vertical strike. This will mainly be a discussion of the side block (or inside to outside block) We perform it with the side of the arm, often referred to as the two bone blocking technique. Essentially the arm hinges across the body pivoting on the elbow, to stop on the line between the shoulder and ) the knee.

I will mostly refer to the use of the first section of Isshinryu Seisan kata (similar to most Seisan kata versions in the opening) for analysis.

What I have come to believe is that anything is possible with correct training.

The side block for blocking or deflection

Initially the side block was taught to me both to deflect a strike and to ‘block’ a strike. Applying Seisan kata then you step forward and the block deflects a strike, allowing you to counter with a punch.

The side block as preparation for a grab

I thought there must be an underlying principle behind this and worked out the following “a block must be followed a grab to be followed by a strike/kick followed by a takedown” Years later I found this worked. Especially how Sherman Harrill would use the Isshinryu punching hand as a grab, in this case the block followed by a grab and pull of the arm, their clothing of even their neck.

The use of the side block for striking

As stated on occasion use of blocking techniques as strikes is possible.

The Side block as a fractal technique

This uses fractal analysis (a term I borrowed from PaKua stylists), sections of the motion are used as individual tools, or many techniques are contained within the movement. The first example of this is that when you perform the side block you actually cross both hands first and then un-cross them in the motion of blocking. This motion can be used many different ways:

¶ The right hand strikes the attacker’s striking arm, then the left arm blocks to the side

¶ The right open hand parried the attacker’s striking arm, then the left arm blocks to the side

¶ The right open hand parried the attacker’s striking arm as the left strikes into the attacker’s left lower abdomen (where they do not expect an attack), then the left arm blocks to the side. The right hand chambers with a slicing motion (this can strike the face or slash across the torso, or slice into an attacker’s left strike finally to strike out with the right hand.

The Lower Body used with the Side Block

This covers a wide range of potentials.

First, Step on the attacker’s foot as you block. Or use the crescent step inside to lock their leg as your shin presses against their shin, stopping their forward momentum as you block, Or use the crescent step outside the leg to ‘trip’ them as you block. There is a whole range of potentials there.

Second, the lower body can shift to a more advantageous position. There are various methods for this.

You can step backward as you block.

You can step forward *standard* as you block.

You can slide your body to a position 20 degrees across their line of attack.

You can use reverse stepping (your left s\moves alongside you right then you right steps back and out to a position 20 degrees across their line of attack.

Alternatively you might shift non-standard to the left line of defense outside of the attack.

Each has a different purpose and rationale. The reset of the line of defense off 20 degrees is that the attack can accelerate faster to the front that you can retreat to the rear, by offsetting yourself you remove your body from the prime target area and at the same time are capable of response.

Tactically each has different strategic potentials.

The Sucking Side Block

Sherman Harrill opened new potential for me when he showed how the side block could move out and draw back to use its sliding momentum to pull or suck the attacker forward, making closer response possible. This is identical to Bando stick technique we study.

The Side block and body alignment theory

Taken from my tai chi training, after 15 years after my instructor rightly demolished my technique (which I needed but more importantly, he then proceeded to instruct me in alignment theory, how correctly aligning the ‘energy points’ made a difference, and it instantly worked when applied to karate. Now, good technique is good technique, but this was a tool that allows you to prove it to the student. If they’re misaligned touch an energy point and the fall out of balance. Then move them into correct position and they hold correctly with balance when touched. The position of the eyes makes a difference. Tightening the chambered fist makes a difference.

Osae with the side block

One of Chibana lineage students Pat Nakata has written on Charles Goodin’s blog about applying osae with the side block. This in a pressing motion to down the opponent. I have verified this works effectively and is yet another way to perform the side block effectively.

This is part of what I now see.. Blocks to the side, or Sucking, or with Osae (Pressing down). Or striking, or with movement of the body, or with the lower body incorporated in the defense, or a mixture of the above.

I am still learning.

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