Monday, 12 October 2009

Blocking: I'm all inside out!

I have been doing karate for nearly two and a half years now so you would expect me to know what the basic blocks were. Indeed if you ask me to do an age uke, gedan barai, uchi uke or soto uke (and one or two others) I would know exactly what you were asking for and be able to show you. However, if you asked me to do an inside block or an outside block I would be confused!

There seem to be different interpretations of what an inside or outside block means. Is the block an inside block if you make contact with the inside of the attackers forearm as you move your arm in the direction away from your body (such as using an uchi uke)? Or is it an inside block if your arm is moving in an inwards direction and thus making contact with the outside of the attackers forearm (as in a soto uke)? This assumes that you are blocking with the opposite arm to which the attacker is striking with, i.e he punches with his right arm and you block with your left arm.

If you block with the same arm that the attacker strikes with then does the uchi uke block now become an outside block because you make contact with the outside of the attackers forearm? Likewise does the soto uke become an inside block because you would make contact with the inside of the attackers forearm? Or am I now describing a cross block (as opposed to an X-block - another source of confusion!)? Can a cross block be described as inside or outside?

Are you still with me or have I confused you as well?

I have now discovered that some people use the terms inward and outward block rather than inside and outside block. By inwards block they mean moving towards the inside of your own body so to block the outside edge of the attackers forearm (?outside block) and by outwards block they mean moving away from your body to strike the inside of the attackers forearm (?inside block).

So is an inward block the same as an outside block and is an outward block the same as an inside block? Then again if you're cross-blocking an inward block is also an inside block (and vice-versa) isn't it?

I would really like some clarification about this if anyone can help........

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Anonymous said...

I’m not a karateka and ipso facto no expert on karate but we did have some karate incorporated in our early ju-jutsu curriculum (basic blocks, kicks and punches, no kata), and I was taught (I cross-checked our old technique-database) soto-uke is a block with the forearm from outside to inside, uchi-uke travels from inside to outside. My current sensei is a 4th kyu in both goju and wado-ryu karate and he says the meaning of the blocks change with the system or style: what is called soto-uke in goju is an uchi-uke in wado and vice versa. Which makes sense up to a point: inside can mean both the arm traveling inside to outside or blocking/pushing the arm to the inside. It really depends on your viewpoint or more precise the point the arm starts from or ends up at the end of the technique.

What I don’t really understand is why karate has two types of blocks (sometimes even three) for every attack: a chudan-tsuki can be defended with both an uchi and a soto-uke (even with a gedan-barai), yet in combat quick decisions and quick actions are needed. Why complicate things and force the brain to choose between two blocks while there is a perfectly sound tactical reason (blocking from outside to inside is generally quicker than the other way around and when defending you want to end up on the opponent’s dead-side as opposed to inside where he can still employ his other weapons) to prefer one over the other? In ju-jutsu and silat there are defenses (mostly parries instead of blocks) that do put one on the inside but this is generally done to open up new lines of attack and other possibilities for defense (certain locks are impossible to do from the outside, for most throws inside is better), since karate is basically a striking-system I don’t really see why you’d want to take the risk. In any case I’d always use the arm on the opposite side from the opponent’s attack to defend with (if he attacks with the right you defend with the left and vice versa): doing otherwise will set you up for a knock-out (if he punches with his right and you defend with your right the whole right side of your face is open to a hook from his left arm).

I’ve never quite understood why you’d ever want to use an X-block (juji-uke) since it occupies both your arms in order to defend against just one of his arms or legs, basically this means you have no defense left and you’ll have to be very quick to bring your arms back in case of an attacking combination and no experienced fighter will attack with just one move.

I’m curious what you and other karateka think of this.



PS: I do regret (at least a little) that I didn’t take up karate as a child instead of judo, judo was a drag but since my parents were quite opposed to the ‘violent nature’ of punching and kicking (like throwing a guy hard on his back isn’t dangerous or violent) the only MA I was allowed to take was judo. I guess it was better than nothing but judo does not adequately prepare one for self-defense (there are no defenses against punches and kicks until first or even second dan) and I wasn’t really into the whole throwing and wrestling game. You’ll always learn more if something actually interests you (internal motivation always beats external pressure) and in my case I was only mildly interested in the class which is why it took such an enormous amount of effort to get through the exams which I absolutely dreaded. For small children just starting in the MA judo would probably be safer (children are very flexible and are not likely to get hurt doing throws) but karate is far better in terms of developing practical fighting-skills and arguably more exciting. The best preparation (for ju-jutsu or any self-defense system) would be a combination of judo and karate (striking and grappling, stand-up and ground) but that’s another topic entirely.

Man of the West said...

Clarification? That's easy, in a way.

Most of them aren't blocks.

Sue C said...

I think the point I was trying to make is that there appears to be a lack of standard use of the terms 'inside' or 'outside' block which also get confused with the terms 'inward' and 'outward' moving block. It seems that different martial arts use a different point of reference to decide what the block is inside or outside of. ie it relative to the attackers forearm or the defenders? Or is it the direction of movement of the blocking arm in relation to the defenders body.

The confusion becomes apparent when you practice more than one martial art. In my karate class we don't generally use the terms inside and outside block because we use the Japanese names for the blocks. However in my jujitsu/kobudo club all the moves tend to be described using English words or terms. Last Sunday I was doing basic blocks with the tonfa and was asked to show both inside and outside blocks - I did this incorrectly because my interpretation of inside and outside was different from Senseis. Not only did it matter which side of the attackers arm I blocked, it mattered which arm I was using to do it with. Apparently I was doing cross-blocks. Yet in karate when we do sambon kumite exercises we always block across the body! This is why I was getting confused - the 'rules' seem to vary depending which MA you are doing.

I think which block you choose in karate depends in which direction you want to deflect the attack - which obviously depends on what you were planning to do next. We have to learn 6 defenses against an oi zuki and use 3 different blocks. If the punch was chudan we generally use an uchi uke, either with the same arm or opposite arm to the attacker depending on which way we wanted to deflect. For a jodan punch we would do either an age uke or x-block. The advantage of the x-block is that once you've deflected the punch you can use one hand to grab their wrist whilst turning sideways on to them to execute an elbow strike into their abdomen.

You are mistaken to think that karate is mainly a striking system (perhaps it depends on style). Nearly all our self-defense moves end up with the attacker being taken down in one way or another. this usually involves unbalancing them by either pushing or pulling whilst they are in a lock then using a sweep or 'trip' to get them to ground - it's very effective.

Man of the West: I presume you are referring to the fact that all blocks can also be stikes - if so, I agree.

Anonymous said...

The great majority of Karate-styles are almost exclusively striking-orientated with very little, if any, grappling. I’m aware this applies mainly to modern, Japanese karate (very popular these days and practiced all over the world) and not the original, Okinawan styles like shurite, nahate… I presume your style must be predominantly Okinawan since it does incorporate techniques like locks, throws, etcetera. The main difference is that Japanese karate tends to be more sports-orientated (scoring points in matches) while the Okinawan ancestor-art focuses almost exclusively on self-defense (protecting one’s life, survival). Using locks, throws and sweeps to get an opponent to the ground is basically the ju-jutsu way of doing things: it’s an excellent fighting-strategy (once you’ve got him on the ground he’s basically defenseless) and it doesn’t require you to stay at a distance and trade blows (a bad idea if he’s bigger, stronger or better than you). In that respect it does make sense to have different blocks, thanks for clearing that up.

About the x-block: we used to do it too in ju-jutsu (against overhead-blows, bottle or knife-attacks and downward against kicks) but we abandoned it because we thought it was too dangerous. Our striking-system (atemi-waza) is now almost exclusively boxing/kickboxing orientated (mainly western boxing, JKD and panantukan or Filipino boxing), retaining only a few specific karate-techniques like shuto and kin-geri, and against a boxer it would be very hard to pull off an x-block. Most likely he’ll hit you with his other hand before you could complete your defense, a JKD-guy will trap your arms and score with his other hand or one of his feet. I’m pretty sure this technique could work against your average street-fighter but I wouldn’t want to take the risk. Against a kick you might pull it off but again he still has his two hands to follow-up with. Anyway: tonight I’m training one-on-one with a guy with some kickboxing-experience (two years in JKD), I’ll experiment a bit with this block and see what he thinks. Either way he’ll be wearing gloves since I don’t like to walk around with a shiner. I’ll jot down my findings sometime tomorrow.

With regard to your problem: I think it does indeed depend on style and interpretation, I’m afraid you’ll just have to memorize the correct terms per style you practice.


Anonymous said...

We were so caught up in our training I didn't have a chance to try it out, afterwards I asked my sensei about it and he said it was possible/doable but not against a fast striker. His word is enough for me, especially since he's very experienced in sparring and knows both karate and kickboxing (JKD, panantukan, thaiboxing and savate). Either way it's a typical karate-technique and it stands to reason to respect the peculiarities of your art. There's a difference between techniques, exercises and kata done almost exlusively for the art's sake (or maintaining tradition) and drills and techniques that are meant for fighting and practical application. Ideally a martial-art should contain both aspects and an advanced practioner should know what to use when. I have no doubt Okinawan karate has both and can be effective, eventhough I'm more comfortable using a boxing/kickboxing structure. To each his own.

Perhaps I should have refrained from commenting on this one since my knowledge of karate is relatively superficial. I'm certainly not an insider although in the past I have trained basic karate on occasion. You could always ask Michelle to comment since she's an experienced karate-instructor.


Sue C said...

I agree with your sensei too - you'd never get an x-block up in time against a trained karate strike. However, in the street, an attacker is not likely to be trained in karate punches - so it could work. It wouldn't be my block of choice though!

John W. Zimmer said...

You say tom(A)to, I say tom(ah)to. Interesting post on the different names for the same blocks from system to system. I learned the four basic blocks, inward, outward, upward, and downward. But whatever they are called, I have to assume they are about the same function.

Sue C said...

Hi John, I thought you said toma(A)to and I said tom(AH)to (:

Anyway I think writing this post has helped me to sort out in my own mind what inward, outward, inside and outside blocks are - so it was probably worth writing about it. Thanks for commenting.


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