High block question

Badhabits

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I've been playing with a version of the high block I was taught some years ago. In the basic kihon practice the block moves in the same direction as the hip, and the forearm is kept tight to the body as it rises, tight to the point your forearm almost brushes your nose on its way up. It does not move outward away from the body at all. I understand that blocks/deflections should ideally be accompanied by body/foot movement, and this block works beautifully when some sort of body shifting is paired with it. Not so much without. Can anyone shed some light on the point of it being kept so close to the body? It's different mechanics than other high blocks I've been taught- the others I can actually deflect a punch without body shifting at all. This one...the punch just rides a little higher up your face and you still get hit. Is it possible it's just not meant to work at all without shifting?
The higher belts performed it the same, so not a case of training wheels being added or removed as you go.
 
What style karate is this block from? I have not seen any block like this. I think there is a good reason for this - it's not a good block. Reasons:

1. If not moving away from the body, even if you block the attacking arm the fist will still hit you.
2. Without popping out towards the opponent, the block will not generate as much power.
3. Blocking so close to the body means the punch is at its max speed and power when intercepted.
4. This also means the move is useless as an offensive forearm smash to the opponent's face.

Moving away from the body towards the end of the move eliminates all these weaknesses.

The only possible application that comes to mind is as part of an upper chest grab/push release where the non-blocking hand pins the attacker's hand/s to your chest. Stepping and twisting back with that side will extend the attacker's arm. The close-in high block motion of your other arm can then act as an elbow break. (This combo is seen in a basic Ed Parker Kenpo self-defense technique). But since you said this block is part of your basic kihon, it's unlikely designed for this specialize use.

The only other explanation I can think of is that it's a poorly taught high block from poorly taught instructors. Perhaps someone else can venture a logical and effective explanation.
 
When I parry I create a frame rather than reach out and touch the punch. So going closer to my own body builds a stronger structure, creates less gaps for a strike to sneak in and let's me do the next thing quicker.

It should probably always go with a level change


You are specifically not strong with your arms outstretched like this. (Pushing is different)

 
You are specifically not strong with your arms outstretched like this.
The video has nothing to do with this topic.

I don't think the OP is talking about a guard, rather an active technique to "block" the punch and set up a counter strike.
 
The video has nothing to do with this topic.

I don't think the OP is talking about a guard, rather an active technique to "block" the punch and set up a counter strike.

How far does a block have to direct a punch before you are no longer in danger from that punch?

If you move your hands away from your body. Your ability to resist force with them decreases.(hence the video)

So therefore what is the optimal place to put a block?

Screenshot_20240616_121643_Google.jpg
 
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if you move your hands away from your body. Your ability to resist force with them decreases.
This is the misunderstanding - I think you may be viewing this thru the lens of BJJ rather than karate. In blocking a strike there is no resistance beyond the initial contact.

When you punch someone, you don't keep your fist pressed up against his resisting face, do you? A proper karate block is no different. This is not wrestling (or BJJ) where contact with resistance is maintained for more than a second.

You hit the attacking arm and continue on with your attack. You may grab the arm as part of this, in which case your grabbing hand retracts close to your body (hikite) because you are right, closer in is better for strength and control. But for the block itself, I see it the same as a punch - basically it's a strike against the attacking arm.
How far does a block have to direct a punch before you are no longer in danger from that punch?
Good question and one I often cover with beginners. We don't like wasted motion, so as soon as the punch is deflected off-line from a vulnerable target on your body (usually 3-6 inches, taking a fraction of a second) you can counter. In my style the high block arm is angled upward and toward the attacker. This deflects the punch without any further motion on my part. And I have passed his guard, so to speak, my blocking hand quite close to the opponent's face, if I'm inside. If I've blocked from the outside, my blocking hand is close to the side of his head.

Old Okinawan karate is quite offensive in nature and blocks are seen as offensive techniques to further one's counterattack, or ideally, be part of the counter. Other systems/styles/schools may have diverged from this original concept.
 
In forms, the block is kept in close primarily for esthetic reasons. In application, the block is as far from the body as it needs to be.
 
How far does a block have to direct a punch before you are no longer in danger from that punch?

If you move your hands away from your body. Your ability to resist force with them decreases.(hence the video)
This makes sense to me as well. Also there is a big difference between blocking a straight punch (little force is needed) that to block say a strong follow throw roundhouse with the shins, or a strong hooke punch.

For the stronger attackes, I think you need more structure, otherwise the attacker can blast trough your "block" or "guard".

We are taught in kyokushin that to block a strong kick to the head, the shink can break the weaker arm, so different technique and structure may be required vs blocking a straight punch, to reduce force we recommend avoiding 90 impact angle between shin and blocking arm to avoid it beeing broken, and to avoid the arm beeing propellet in your head.

So a block where one hand is rooed on the head and your elbows point to avoid 90 degree angle is a block/guard (you can discuss wether to call it guard or block but I think there is a continuum here?). this want you can handle a much stronger attack, and minimize chance of breaking your arms or getting your stretched out arm beeing kicked into your face like a ball. So this is also to gain structure.

I also think minimal movement is an advatage. But it is uncomfortable to allow the attack (leg or arm) getting so CLOSE to you, but once you get over the feeling of wanting safteyt distance, I think it is very effective.
 
But for the block itself, I see it the same as a punch - basically it's a strike against the attacking arm.'
Yes a block can be a strike and vice versa, but from the point of transferring energy vs making local damage with peak force, a block and a strike can be still be very different. Do I want to BREAK the attackers arm, or deflect it? So a block often has more "push" than "peak force" to it, at least it's how i think of it. But there is a continuum in between where where they can transform into each other.
 
A couple terms I want to break out first:
Block - stops an attack, reduces the ability of the opponent to continue to fight either through injury, breaking of structure, or positioning, or a combination.
Parry - redirects and attack, often moves the opponent into a compromised structure.
Strike - collision of the intended weapon with a target
Guard - positioning of the body and limbs to protect from unwanted contact. Also can be called a cover.

I teach and have been taught to keep blocks on a plane about a fist out from the body. This is position where you have strength and structure to stop even a strong attack, with proper technique. It also reduces the chances that you'll reach out too far, leaving yourself unprotected and vulnerable, or compromising your structure and balance. Focusing on an upward block -- if you reach out too far, the length of your upper arm means that you simply won't get your arm higher than your head. You just may find this to be undesirable against overhead strikes like hammer punches...

Parrying may happen a little farther out, but relies on positioning and effective timing. Parries move the incoming strike into a place where it won't hurt you, and you should be in a better position to counterattack.

Guards are passive; they're safety measures to prevent unrecognized attacks, failed blocks or parries, and just about any other unplanned or undesired contact.
 
Block - stops an attack, reduces the ability of the opponent to continue to fight either through injury, breaking of structure, or positioning, or a combination.
Parry - redirects and attack, often moves the opponent into a compromised structure.
Isshinryu often employs layered defense, which is a flowing combination of the above, mixed or matched. This offers several benefits:

1. The first move keeps you from getting hit, the second one further manipulating the opponent's position.
2. Provides cover over a slightly greater area and amount of time.

Our blocks can secondary purpose of causing pain, not only from simple impact, but aiming that contact at a sensitive part of the attacker's limb and/or raking across the tendon as part of the blocking motion.
 
What jks9199 says about structure- it was a structurally a strong block, the arm angled up, it was like a wedge driving upwards, the angle was such that the blocking arm wouldn't fold on contact with a strong punch. It went with the turn of the hip so there was a component of moving the incoming punch upwards and outwards, like glancing off to the side a little as well up. A bit of a sweeping motion in there. It actually works very well when coupled with stepping to the outside of the opponent- and because of moving with the hip you can continue the motion and punch with the other arm without reversing your movement. Put together- there's a definite focus and stop at the terminal block position but still flows through to the punch. It's just that it's kept sooo close to your face. There's little to no room for error when your block is contacting the punch so close to your face. The more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards it being taught this way for the structural advantages. Not creating a habit of reaching out for the incoming punch makes a lot of sense as well.
Isshinryuronin, I don't want to identify the style or instructor, but it's a fairly common style here in the states. This particular instructor did a ton of tournament fighting, and he was an older gentleman when I trained with him. I tend to believe he had to have good reasons for teaching it this way. Maybe it's just one of those things I'm personally just not getting.
 
Do I want to BREAK the attackers arm, or deflect it? So a block often has more "push" than "peak force" to it, at least it's how i think of it.
The initial block doesn't have the goal of breaking the arm (too much effort, time and follow-thru); causing pain is a good enough result which can cause hesitation in the opponent's next attack attempt.

"Push" is kept to a minimum. Like a strike the block is executed in a relaxed fashion, tensing only at the moment of impact delivering "peak force".
 
so there was a component of moving the incoming punch upwards and outwards, like glancing off to the side a little as well up.
But to do this, doesn't the block have to be angled away from you to a certain degree to cause the wedge effect?
It's just that it's kept sooo close to your face. There's little to no room for error when your block is contacting the punch so close to your face. The more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards it being taught this way for the structural advantages.
I agree too close is bad as the attacker can strongly drive his punch., pushing your block back allowing the punch to contact you. I think practicing this way just to develop structure s counter-productive - you fight the way you practice.
Maybe it's just one of those things I'm personally just not getting.
Me either.
 
But to do this, doesn't the block have to be angled away from you to a certain degree to cause the wedge effect?

I agree too close is bad as the attacker can strongly drive his punch., pushing your block back allowing the punch to contact you. I think practicing this way just to develop structure s counter-productive - you fight the way you practice.

Me either.
I should've said upwards and to the side- blocking arm moving straight up, with the rotation of the hips and/or upper body depending on stance causing the the whole body, including the arm to rotate sideways. Think of a triangle moving straight up, while the base that triangle is sitting on is at the same time moving sideways. The kihon is practiced in a back stance, with your belly button ideally facing same direction as your rear foot with the block chambered, body then moves into hanmi with the block thrown( block reaches terminal position with body in hanmi), then immediately flows into a reverse punch in front stance, body in shomen.
 
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Some general thoughts

Theres no need to block a strike thats not going to hit you. When you do that youre going fishing and may become susceptible to fakes.

Theres no need to block something thats far away from whatever guard youre using. When you do you tend to overextend your defense.

Blocking to hurt and damage an incoming technique is fine, you just have to be careful. Fighting is often too fast and too frenzied to safely do so.

In my opinion, if a martial artist has the opportunity to train in a good boxing gym it can up their Martial game considerably. Both offensively, defensively and learning to develop an economy of motion.
 
Oh boy. So much to unpack here. Isshinryuronin is 100% correct, as usual.

Think about it this way. Imagine the incoming blow as a crowbar to your noggin, being swung in an arc. The crowbar will have the most speed and power at the end of the swing, and at the end of the crowbar furthest from the person swinging it. Is that where you want to intercept it? No.

Therefore, waiting until the last possible moment and blocking the crowbar at the moment it is about to crush your dome isn't wise.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you could somehow intercept the crowbar as the attacker began his swing, that would be ideal. The crowbar would have little momentum and not much speed. But, it's hard to be there at that very moment, especially as the swing often begins behind the attacker as they wind up.

So you compromise. You attack the incoming crowbar as quickly as you can, and as far from yourself as you can manage without compromising your structure.

This is a good karate upper body block.
blocking-old-karate.jpg


In Japanese, a block is often termed an 'uke', as in 'jodon uke' or upper body block. But 'uke' means 'to receive', not 'to block'. One receives the attack. Note the structure of this old-time karateka. See the straight line down his upper arm to his rear foot. That's where the incoming power is received. And there's not that much power, because he's intercepted the incoming arm (crowbar from my example) way up high on the arm, not at the very end of it where all the speed and power are. He is about as far forward as he can be without compromising his structure, and the incoming strike is nowhere near his head. Ideal.

Let us also mention that blocks like this should cross the center line. Because you are moving before the blow comes close to landing, if you do not cross the center line and the attacker throws the other hand instread, if you don't cross the center line to pick up ALL incoming attacks, you might get clocked blocking a blow that isn't there.
 
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This is the misunderstanding - I think you may be viewing this thru the lens of BJJ rather than karate. In blocking a strike there is no resistance beyond the initial contact.

When you punch someone, you don't keep your fist pressed up against his resisting face, do you? A proper karate block is no different. This is not wrestling (or BJJ) where contact with resistance is maintained for more than a second.

You hit the attacking arm and continue on with your attack. You may grab the arm as part of this, in which case your grabbing hand retracts close to your body (hikite) because you are right, closer in is better for strength and control. But for the block itself, I see it the same as a punch - basically it's a strike against the attacking arm.

Good question and one I often cover with beginners. We don't like wasted motion, so as soon as the punch is deflected off-line from a vulnerable target on your body (usually 3-6 inches, taking a fraction of a second) you can counter. In my style the high block arm is angled upward and toward the attacker. This deflects the punch without any further motion on my part. And I have passed his guard, so to speak, my blocking hand quite close to the opponent's face, if I'm inside. If I've blocked from the outside, my blocking hand is close to the side of his head.

Old Okinawan karate is quite offensive in nature and blocks are seen as offensive techniques to further one's counterattack, or ideally, be part of the counter. Other systems/styles/schools may have diverged from this original concept.
For various reasons, I believe you and @drop bear are both correct.
To be certain, it is has nothing to do with the 'brand' of martial arts, but it does have a Lot to do with the mechanics of the movement.
Where the lines blur is when you use a logic that says "I will only see 'these' kind of attacks". This is not a logical approach.
 

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