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Tau
Tau's picture
"Block"

The block - the mainstay of pretty much every Martial Art. Are they really so good, at least the in the classic sense of being blocks - meeting force with force?

Let's consider that almost all (maybe all) "blocks" as they are found in the kata are only defending movements as secondary or tertiary applications. I think we'll all agree on this. The head block can be used as a block but it has much better primary use. Instead reactionary defencive movements against strikes in kata are nearly always flinch responses.

Then consider the thread on x-blocks and my point that maybe "x-transition" is a better phrase. I mentioned Iain's take on stances that I never previously considered but wholeheartedly agree with and how the x-block is (or should be) essentially the same - a snapshot of a bigger movement.

I've heard one (Jujitsu) Sensei say that "block" is an outlawed word in his dojo. I personally teach flinch responses and body movement rather than meeting force with force. I do teach deflections.

With this in mind, does anyone teach "blocks" in their classic sense still? Are they worthwhile? Can they be wholly replaced? Is it another case, much like "stance" where it's not a great word to use, but we understand what is meant?

miket
miket's picture

We were through this a few times on the old forum, which I say only as a point of reference for you maybe looking stuff up there, not to shut down your thread.

My perspective:  From a simple standpoint, blocks don't 'work' (at least not as advertised) for a couple of reasons:  1)  they are by definition reactive.  So, you are getting a stimulus (attack) from the other guy which you must correctly read (Observe) and then select a motion (Orient and Decide) which is the APPROPRIATE  to use in order to fend off the attack (Act).  The appropriateness thing is what puts us up against the oft cited Hick's Law I beleiev, which some people think has been debunked, and which some aparently don't.  Personally I think Hick's 'exists' but it is often overstated and simplified. Yes, you can forshorten this 'selection' process with quality operant conditioning and the idea of defensive presumption (i.e. being on the alert for the ubiquitous overhand right), but blocking is still a reactive tactic and therefore always leaves you behind the eight ball in terms of initiatve  (unless you are dealing with someone who gives you a major 'tell' or who is super slow).  I tell students blocking and countering ('riposting') is their thrid of four possible choices for managing an encounter.  They are far better served attakcing first, or attakcing at the same time, and the riposting option preceds only what I call the 'recovery' staage-- going on the attack because you are clearly losing.

So, personally I do teach 'blocking' but I do so in a specialized way.  First of all, I teach a LOT of 'blocks', in two classes--  'parries' or deflections, and 'crashes', or covered charges into close quarter range.  The point of the 'lots' is twofold:  I want students to get facile with each method, but with the understanding that NONE of them will purely manifest in 'real' fight.  So, with the case of parrying, I teach a lot of parries but spend only a little time on each because what I want is for students to learn the method of DYNAMICALLY parrying-- i.e. from any angle,and WITHOUT a thought as to 'which tehcnique do I use'.  They just 'do'.  AND, I should add, they regularly get punched when they are wrong... 'welcome to fighting', i tell them, 'oin which case there is a afir certainty you will be struck'.

The second reason behind the 'lots' is that there is a large level of reduncdancy in what mechanics I have selected.  Again, this is to facilitate what I hope will be the 'melding' of disparate mechanical actions into a dynamic skill.  

Then, once the skills of 'deflecting' and 'entering' have been thorughly installed, we look at a LOT of drillls where we 'just fight', BUT where **the DRILLS** are structured such that the trainee side has to simply 'defend' .  No this is NOT what I want them doing in a fight (where I want them attacking most of the time), but at this stage we are simply trying to isolate 'defense'.  So I put them in situations where they have to practice dynamic defending against a facsimile assault from different angles, and then work on 'attaching' counters to those defenses to whatever (frequently highly imperfect) way they can; or to the cue of a specific trigger (i.e. the other night the trigger mechanic was a simple cross.  So in the drill, the defender simply evaded/ defended/ parried/ ducked / dodged/ blocked until they got the stimulus of the cross, at which point they entered with a particular crash OF THEIR OWN selection, then followed with a cross hook cross combinatoion I had specifed.)  So, they are moving in and out of sturctured and semi-structured zones of training, with little opportunity for thought (That part, I beleive is key).  The point is to get them USING their structured offensive and defensive 'stuff' that 'most' martial arts practice the majority of the time in a free motion context where it's **NOT** 100% certain what or when things are going to happen.

My youngest kid is 12 and plays keeper for his soccer team.  So, recently we were watching some really good coaching vids on Youtube.  There is one called 'Gaspar's Pit" where the coach is using very fundamentals-oriented drills but he is feeding the saves out to the kids in an 'alive' motion context a lot of the time where they simply have to react/ act.

So, like most things, I think the real answer to your question Tau, comes down t how you train the skill you are trying to develop.  As I have observed myself, anyway, many 'classical' methods, I don't beleieve adequatley prepare people to USE blocking (or more importantly, perhaps, the mechanical PATHWAYS DEVELOPED Bblock counter training)  in a realistic sense.  But, with some creativity, I beleieve that drills can easily be adapted such that the neural pathways DEVELOPED by such one step training can be deployed in LATER imperfect situations where something RESEMBLING the structured-feed MANIFESTS impurely and for a split second.

So you never 'get' that pure feed in a real fight (and if you do, the guy has simply thrown you a bone, be happy).  But you do FREQUENTLY get spontaneous, split second situations in which some point of contact appears that allows you  to connect to the training you have done in this area, provided you have trained to recognize and faciliatett those associatations.

Personally I beleieve a lot of martial artists mentally ACCEPT that 'real' fighting will necessitate adjustment and spontaneity in the application of their pure dojo technique.  Yet, if we don't TRAIN for that 'chaos' factor, it is my own belief that this is why its virtually impossible for even highly trained blackbelts to pull off much of what they think they 'know' in a 'real' fight, which is why you don't SEE it.  (Last real fight I saw between two blackbelts they ended up rolling across the parking lot like a couple of school kids, and this AFTER crashing together to a spontaneous hockey clinch like a couple of mountain goats.)  10,000 years of evolutionary human biology is a hard thing to reprogram I guess.  :-)

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Even the (arguably less effective) use of uke techniques as "blocks" does not meet force on force, unless they are being taught wrong. More accurately, simply using force does not imply using it inefficiently.  Force on force would be something like trying to punch someone's fist. I agree that the use of blocks as seen in many two man kihon drills is not realistic , but it is mechanically efficient at the end points. If you look at the end positions of something like a chudan-uke vs. a mid level punch, it is nothing like "force on force" unless done incorrectly, in fact it is just a stylized version of the "parry and shield" taugh in various places. If you have someone do an oi-tsuki, and do gedan, jodan, chudan uke to the outside of the limb, it is definitely a position of mechanical advantage. As you say, the timing and the single 'feed' is completely unrealistic..but perhaps that was never the point of these drills anyway?

I am not sure the stylized version of thes drills have much use, but in speculating about what their original purpose might be, I think simply teaching the positions of mechanical advantage is a good bet. I DO think that all the uke waza can be used defensively, however obviously using anything defensively is not the ideal thing.

So basically, much in the way that you'll probably never use Ogoshi from a referee grip by statically pulling someone toward you, you'd also never really use a chudan uke the way they show up in two man kihon drills.

Mind, I am not trying to defend unrealistic training here where one guy throws a slow, telegraphed oi zuki and the other 'blocks' it out of range. I am just saying that as far as using these as 'defenseive' motions, I personally would not throw the baby out with the bathwater just because most of the drills commonly seen are bad.

Dod
Dod's picture

I think the fact that you don’t really see the classic “blocks” used even in sport sparring says a lot.

First of all the “blocker” is making a reaction which has to be slower than the attacker’s action.  Second,  the classic “blocks” use two motions to the attacker’s one ie the initial thrusting out of the hikite arm before crossing with the “blocking” arm,  which is then thrust out.

However,  if we look at that first movement as being the real block or parry it is a fast and simple flinch-like move,  and the second movement being an attack maybe it makes sense?  The attack being against the attacker’s head or arm (strike or arm-bar) after the hikite hand has pulled and twisted the attacker’s arm.

miket
miket's picture

To Zach's last point., an irony for me is that the more I loosen up the action in my drills, the more opportunity I ffrequently find for the application of so-called 'orthodox' technique.  It's just that I find such situations completely outside of their typically 'advertised' context...

DaveB
DaveB's picture

I second Zach's comments.

There is nothing wromg with blocking techniques, they work fine if you train properly.

The macro movement of the traditional blocks in karate is an exercise in coordination that allows the experienced practitioner to use their whole body to generate smaller and smaller techniques. Additionally they have other applications.

I am probably on my own but in many cases I am happy for blocks to just be blocks in the kata. This is true because I know that not everything called a block is a block, not every block is a dumb deflection and a whole host of other contextual caveats that require part of kata lesson to include "deflect attack" (as Zach pointed out you almost never meet force with force; unless things have gone wrong and its out of your control. Stopping a straighht punch on your palm = force on force, sweeping forearm across the path of a punch = perpendicular forces = best use of force you can get).

The notion that you have to react to a punch in flight is largely wrong too. As a trained martial artist you react to the flexing and tensing and shifting of your opponents body before the punch is away. If you are only aware of a blow in flight, 9 times out of 10 your only hope is an awkward unbalanced dodge if your lucky. The classic "Oh %h!t" moment. Maybe a really well trained flinch response.

I accept that many will disagree with my position, but if I do sound like I'm making sense then do we really need to worry about the semantics of the term?
Finlay
Finlay's picture

when i teach my students i don;t use the term block, i agree with going on flinch response and taking the most natural movements and then working on them. most blocks are counter intuative anyway ii.e. opening your body up whan an attack is on the way.

I thik thevenb the term block tends to send the mond in the worng way, block sounds like something rigid and unmoving so for that split second you are rigid and unmoving which of course in a fight is a a big issue. i prefer to use the terms 'connect, control, counter' in this i use connect instead of block, for me this has a much wider meaning. to connect can be a cover up, a parry a grab etc., but nothing in my explanations i try to stay away from anything which might mean static.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

@ Tau:

Quote:
With this in mind, does anyone teach "blocks" in their classic sense still? Are they worthwhile? Can they be wholly replaced? Is it another case, much like "stance" where it's not a great word to use, but we understand what is meant?

What a really interesting post and excellent questions posed. I also agree with Zach's comments that force against force is not generally how blocks are taught (in my experience anyway) and sub-optimal, but there are occasions where that may be the best response depending on the attack and the legnth of the OODA loop. I also sympathise with your instructor friend where the word "block" is outlawed. Nomenclature can have a profound effect on mindset.

My current training options are not optimal. I do see blocks being taught in their classic sense in that they are merely deflecting or stopping an attack without being incorporated into a response, or not realistic in terms of how you would want to react insticntively, leading me to feel very skeptical. But in other classes I see it being taught the way I think people posting on a forum like this would expect, that it is part of a flow to maximize your positioning in relation to an opponent. I think the issue is whether or not lower grades have the coordination to be able to think and move dynamically like that and training practises have evolved to break the movement down into 'now block the punch, step through, counter-punch'.

This is why I am such a fan of sensitivity drills - I think they teach your body how to flow around your opponent, how to instinctively know from your opponents positioning what is coming next. You can start to feel what is the fastest, easiest, strongest and least predicatible position or movement to disadvantage your opponent.

I suppose an advantage of classic style 'blocking' is that they can teach strong body structure which is arguably a prerequisite for more advanced use of uke. You can practise that moment of tension and release that gives a technique power. 

The main use I find for classical blocks (personally) is as strikes, and in fact quite a lot of use for strikes as blocks. I find this especially in the context of sensitivity training. Gedan Uke as a 'strike' to the elbow in an arm lock scenario, like wise soto uke, gedan barai as groin stike, jodan uke as a head level strike or press. And I use mawashi empi as a block quite a bit. I digress....

So I suppose the value in classical blocking is 1) teaching good body structure 2) breaking down the movements into digestible portions for lower grades. Whether that really is the optimal way of going about it is debatable.

nielmag
nielmag's picture

Stevenson wrote:

This is why I am such a fan of sensitivity drills - I think they teach your body how to flow around your opponent, how to instinctively know from your opponents positioning what is coming next. You can start to feel what is the fastest, easiest, strongest and least predicatible position or movement to disadvantage your opponent.

Great thread!  I have never done sensitivity drills (chi sau, kakie, push hands, sticky hands, etc), however they definitely look interesting.  I would like to learn, my only question I have (again, question not criticism since I have no experience whatsoever with them) is that it looks like they are mostly to deal with mid level grabs, strikes, etc.  Wouldnt one of the most common attacks in a real conflict be a swing to the head, haymaker type?  and do these drills help with that?

As far as blocks go, i like to think the classic "uke-waza" are really strikes, locks, etc.  Real "blocking" is probably more like the "Oh Crap!" blocks, in other words, just covering your head similar to a boxer.  I know Iain has a good bunkai on his Tekki/Naihanchi videos in opening move, in which you cover your head, then extend arm for forearm strike to jaw or shuto uke to jaw, followed by elbow.  Also, I like Iain's kankua dai opening move bunkai, where someone is swinging, and were basically just pushing their head.  Can think of the guys name, but I think someone came up with a similar technique called "the spear"

miket
miket's picture

"If you are only aware of a blow in flight, 9 times out of 10 your only hope is an awkward unbalanced dodge if your lucky."  This is exactly to my original point, Dave.  In the chaos of real fighting this condition typically IS the case, AFTER the moment of initial action by one side or the other.  The original question assumed (I believe) that the threat is acting first. It's therefore quite conceivable that the blocking party becomes 'aware' of the punch AFTER it's made contact.  In these cases the only thing for it is to close. I have had this discussion over and over again with experienced blackbelts who seem to WANT to believe that their blocks will work under pressure (and I am talking 10 and 20 year vets here).  Most assure me quite confidently that they can rely on thier blocks.  So, OK, I say, let's test that theory with a controlled drill where I pad hands and tell them I am going to punch them in the face and see if they can block to test their conclusions.  I ask them to get ready, and ask them if they are ready.  The first thing I do is kick them in the shin or groin, which I have found in my informal tests I can land about 95% of the time.  I have had only a couple of people who flinch and 'cavity' their hips for me and I don't count those as successful attacks.

Such 'cheating' on my part is usually met with protest:  "Yeah, but you said you were going to punch!!" to which I reply:

Yes, but you assured me your reactionary skills could successfully read and block ANYTHING.

Then, with the cat out of the bag, (and my opponent now purportedly 'on guard' for such chicanery a second time around), I agree with them that this was "not fair" (really?!?) and we set up for another square go  where they are FULLY threat aware.  And in that case, I blitz them, not with one punch but with an overwhleming flurry of five six, seven all at once, along with the accompanying MOMENTUM and FORWARD PRESSURE of a real assualt.  This is not some controlled boxer's combination but an all out punch-fest of 'attempting to strike from any angle'.

I don't do this to make people look foolish.  I started doing it with a buddy of mine after reaching the conclusion myself that blocking doesn't work and wanting to test that theory.  It's a simple drill anybody can do with their advanced students, the ones that have usually drunk the systemic koolaid and who belive that they are truly 'ready for anything'. 

My informal tests have been CONSISTENTLY met with one of only two results:  a) about 90% of the time the person will turn away from the flurry toward their open side (i.e. pivoting toward their back foot) and raising their arms to protect their head, e.g. they will flinch AWAY from the pressure.  b)  the more experienced ones (typically those who have actual fight experience) will 'close' to some sort of sloppy clinch (usually some derivative of a double bicep tie) as they try to basically 'smother' the barrage with grips (i.e., in my parlance, they 'crash').

Sure, to be honest, I am occassionally struck in these exercises by an inadvertant technique (like the 'defender' will **TRY** to block the first punch and get the bastardized motion that Dave refers to.  In all cases, this has been off the FIRST motion only.  And, it's important to add that I have never been ***STOPPED*** in these experiments, or by this reaction.

Also interestingly enough, NO ONE HAS EVER HIT ME BACK (i.e. countered).  In situations where I do get 'injured' (i.e. bruised) it's because I get a forearm flinched up into my face.  Let me assure  you, this is NOT a classical 'block', this is a flinch reaction.  Usually with eyes closed and  the chin down and away to the right in what amounts to a 'mini version' of the larger 'flinch away' pivoting reaction. 

So, on the basis of this empirical experience to the contrary, I'll maintain that in my highly limited experience, reactive orthodox blocking (jodan chudan (outside or inside), gedan, and kake-te uke) doesn't 'work' in the way I have seen it advertised in 9 out of 10 dojos and in 9 out of 10 'traditional' drills--- i.e. with parrying contact forearrm to forearm and a follow-on riposting counter.

And if a person is telling me that it's really the 'hidden' hand doing the parrying / blocking and that what you CALL a "middle  block" is really a backfist/ arm break/ what not, that's fine.  Some of those 'applications' for classical motions DO work, depending on the context and variables.  But to me that method is kind of the equivalent of saying 'ok, we're going to study these things we CALL numbers, and which we can further subdivide into two subclasses:  one  we call 'vowels' and one we call 'consonants'.  The obfuscation is unhelpful to communication.  It's not a 'chudan uke' in that case, it's a kake-te uke with a follow-on  'uraken'.  Or is it really a 'jab' when I throw a 'cross'; or a 'jab' when I throw any permutation of a straight punch?  I understand we have inherited the art, but how is this kind of argot helpful in communicating what the trainee should be after?

For me, this is why I have bothered to go to reclassifying by action.  I think the terminology IS important, I think it is HUGELY important.

It is true that you rarely meet force with force IF YOUR INTENTION is to deflect.  In English, especially to the degre ethat this action tends to take on a circular manifestation, we generally call that 'parrying'.

However, if your intention is to smash or break, then you might actually meet his force with a greater force.  So if you are trapping a lapel grab and pivoting to break or hyper extend the elbow joint with an outside 'chudan soto uke', is that really a 'block'?  I guess in the sense of 'thwarting an attack' it is, but to me, that is a 'trap' and a 'break'.  But I had understood the original question as being pertaining to punches. 

At best, riposting training is only about the FIRST stimulus cue, which as Dave notes (and as I noted in my first) you CAN correctly 'read' and REACT TO at least 'some' percentage of time with quality OC training.  The question is:  WHAT percentage of time?  And I would assert that 'the problem' is bad guys rarely attack with one-at-a-time motions that we frequently isolate and train against inside the artificiality of the dojo.  If yopur bad guy comes in with four punches as a beat of 'one', your screwed with reactionary training that doesn't immediately create pain and stall his forward momentum as you go on the offensive.

And, in those situations where you are ALREADY BEYOND the ability to 'read' the first 'tell' (which I classify as earlier in the initiative process) and are instead on to identifying his (second, third, fourth) attack, your best option is (I believe, assuming we are talking hand to hand with no apparent weapon) to 'close' distance and stop the damage... i.e. to 'cover' the human CPU of the head, and 'enter' BEYOND (e.g. INSIDE of)  the striking range of most UNTRAINED fighters.  So, a person can call that 'blocking', 'blending', or entering, but in the context of whether that is classical blocking I would say that it is not the way most people interpret such actions.  One thing I noted on the old forum I picked out of one of Funakoshi's books is his identification of several different actions which he classifies as 'blocks' but which are seemingly 'outside of' the scope of 'blocking' as it is typically conceptualized  by most karateka I know.  For instance, the oft cited 'Hiki-te' or 'pulling hand' is classified as a "hand block" in the English language translation of Karate-do Kyohan).  Looking quickly this mornng, this section references "pulling off balance", "block and catch", "hooking blocks" (of which Funakoshi describes hiki-te as a "variation"), "sweeping blocks", "Trapping blocks" and "striking blocks".

The last, especially is a good example of what I called unhelpful obfuscation, above:  i.e.  to the degree that a person  tells me that smashing my forearm into the guys face or hacking the side of his neck with my hand/ forearm BEFORE he throws a punch is a [defensive] "block", I guess "blocking" does work.  :-)  But blocking defined as 'riposting' a punch I believe is destined to fail more times than it is likely to be effective.

And, like all things, this can be easily tested, Tau.  Free your fastest student to 'attack you from any angle'. using more than one motion and forward pressure.  Or, give your senior students the instruction to 'attack you unawares' some night as you are padding up for sparring or a contact drill and see what happens.  You will be threat aware (i.e. you know it will be that night of the week, that class, or whaetever, which is somewhat comparable to being 'aware' of a threat in a generalzied sense as you might be in say a darkened public parking garage).  See if you can block an unpredictable blitz from them, especially if it is from an oblique angle and you are not 'squared' to the trheat where you can even flicnh your arms into some sort of de-fence.  But I'll bet you a digital beer that you are going to get punched.

I have a cop friend (one with a lot of 'real' street experience) tell me recently that the best service I could do for my students would be to "punch them hard in the face on the very first day of class", with the expectation that they needed to continue the fight from there.  He says the biggest underpreparedness he sees in rookies is that many have never been punched hard, or in some cases at all, and it is the accompanying 'surprise factor' that is their worst enemy in early on-the-job encounters.

That's sure to boost retention.  :-)

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Quote:
 would like to learn, my only question I have (again, question not criticism since I have no experience whatsoever with them) is that it looks like they are mostly to deal with mid level grabs, strikes, etc.  Wouldnt one of the most common attacks in a real conflict be a swing to the head, haymaker type?  and do these drills help with that?

The main purpose of senstivity drills is to allow your body to read what an opponent is doing by feel. It's greatest value is for close quarters and in-fighting but if you can get a hand on any part of an opponent during kumite you can press their guard and control the direction of their attack even at longer range. Sensitivity training can help with reading when a haymaker is about to start - definitely if you are in contact with your adversary, but also because there is visual feedback connected to the touch training. You are able to react faster to touch than you are to sight because the neural processing for touch is faster.

But a haymaker is not the only self-defense scenario. Where sensitivity drills help you  feel how to move is from grabs, pushes, and grappling.

@Miket

Great post. The issue of blocking and taking of initiative is something I have been looking at quite a bit lately. I compltely agree, that if you become reactive you just don't have time to respond. I practise trying to anticiapte the moment of attack sen no sen and sen-sen no sen. So the 'block' I use most is oese uke - or pressing block. My goal is to have smothered your attack the split second before you started it. If I am too late I have strategies that are ok, but there's no doubt that if you lose the initiative you are at a massive disadvantage.

Quote:
Free your fastest student to 'attack you from any angle'. using more than one motion and forward pressure.  Or, give your senior students the instruction to 'attack you unawares' some night as you are padding up for sparring or a contact drill and see what happens.

Rory Miller discusses this - in fact it is one of the things he dicusses a lot. He has a simple drill and strategy for dealing with these sudden unexpected blitz attack when you have not had a chance to establish a fence. His view is to have a specific technique trained to reflex level that you can call on instantly you are aumbushed. The two he favours are a spear hand (his personal favourite) which looks like the guard from Wing Chun, and the second he calls the 'Dracula Cape' which is like the preparation for shuto uke with elbow raised in front of the face, but the other hand protecting the torso rather than raised in search of the attacker as we would do it.

The drill is you have a piggy in the middle who is being attacked, and other students with kick pads and someone standing behind pointing to the students with the kick pads randomly. The idea is to respond immediately and ferociously with your elbow raised in front of your face (or which ever favoured and reliable technique) and train it until it is reflexive. The Dracula Cape approach has been used in action to good effect.

I think as a strategy for self-defense in the scario you describe it is as good as any. Being ambushed can't be fun.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Quote:
Also, I like Iain's kankua dai opening move bunkai, where someone is swinging, and were basically just pushing their head.  Can think of the guys name, but I think someone came up with a similar technique called "the spear"

Actually that might have been Rory Miller I mentioned in the previous post. Yes I love that bunkai from kunka dai. You can't really practise that unless the attacker had some safety gear. There is also a great bunkai from Saifa for that scenario which is also difficult to practise without your partner having plenty of safety gear. It is the part in the kata where you effectively use the whole side of your body as weapon - your fist, elbow, knee foot. It's a real crashing technique but it gives you good protection and would most likely cause an attacker to have second thoughts.

miket
miket's picture

"Rory Miller discusses this - in fact it is one of the things he dicusses a lot. He has a simple drill and strategy for dealing with these sudden unexpected blitz attack when you have not had a chance to establish a fence. His view is to have a specific technique trained to reflex level that you can call on instantly you are aumbushed. " This is essentially the concept behind Blauer's SPEAR as I understand it as well.  This is essentially what I am describing as 'crashing' (which term I beleive comes out of the Inosanto JKD tradition.. at least that is where i picked it up.)

I defer to both Rory's and Blauer's significantly vaster experience.  The reason I still teach 'multiple' motions of both parrying and crashing is that personally, I believe that it is less important what specific structural body 'frame' is adopted and more about the principles which underly 'successful crashing' as a skill  (e.g.-- creating both simultaneous defensive and offensive coverage from literally ANY unpredictable point of aggressive contact, lowering the COG, driving with the legs, meeting his momentum with greater momentum (or harnessing it judo like), creating immediate pain and seizing initiative, cueing to immediately 'switch on' an offensive response, and maintaining the forward pressure of an attack until a point of escape or control is estballished).  Personally,  I see these cooncpets as being 'somehwat universal to all crashes';  whereas, I beleieve that a specific posture has some limitations in the sense that people don't 'always' flinch the same way as Hock Hocheim has noted at his website and as my own experiences would dictate.  (Consider for example, the difference bwteen Rory's crash and Blauer's).  So, accordingly, I teach my own interpretation of both along with several other potential frames.  This is because that is how I see each position-- as a POTENTIAL manifestation of what is ultimately the tactical CONVERSION of a hardwired biological reaction, which will likely be only partially predictable.  It's conceivable (and an interesting point of theory for me) that such approach may be either outside of or even contrary to the notion of selecting a 'single' go to move as an initial response.  Personally, relying strictly on my own experience, I find that some postures work 'better' from different positions or common reactions (i.e. the 'fetal turning away' flinch above)    But, I also have to add to that that I have never trained with either Blauer or Miller, and am going on my own interpretations of what I beleive to be their excellent work.  They are both on my 'someday' list but they haven't gotten close enough to where I live yet for it to be an affordable endeavor for me.   :-)  And as usual, I don't ask anyone else to either believe in the effectiveness of what I am teaching or to follow what I am doing, other than what they can verify for themselves.  :-)

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

You can use all the uke-waza as "crash" or flinch movements, they don't have to be against specific attacks or single punches. As an example, have the attacker feed a flurry of straight punches and simply cross your arms in front of your center or face like chudan-uke while moving forward, then complete the "block" and look at what's open, the hand that does the block can act as a shield, a wedge, a strike, a limb clearing, whatever. Even better for a lapel grab or similar, in any case, the technique can put you in a good position, cause damage to the opponent etc, 

I don't think you need to modify any of the basic uke waza such as chudan, gedan, jodan uke at all for them to "work", you just need to drill them in a way that isn't the standard "vs. a single far away karate punch" method. At any rate, the answer is pretty simple, you can either experiment with them this way and like the results, or not...but IMO they are every bit as applicable (and "non-diagnostic" to borrow a term) as simply doing a "crash and cover", and in fact are not very different from that.

 Again, if you look at static drill like sandangi or similar to understand the basic "block" techniques they will not seem to make any sense, you have to play with them in a different way, start from the first motion of the "block" and go from there, if you look only at the end points, you WILL just end up with something like the two man klihon drills, because that's all those do - demonstrate end points.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Quote:
As an example, have the attacker feed a flurry of straight punches and simply cross your arms in front of your center or face like chudan-uke while moving forward, then complete the "block" and look at what's open, the hand that does the block can act as a shield, a wedge, a strike, a limb clearing, whatever. Even better for a lapel grab or similar, in any case, the technique can put you in a good position, cause damage to the opponent etc,

Hey - I had to point this up - this is one of my strategies for when things go pear shaped and how I use and interpret the X-block - which started this discussion. You've described almost exactly how I like to use it. Never-the-less, miket's point remains very valid - if you lose the initiative it is hard to regain, and it is really something to train for.

 

@ miket

I have the enormous privilege to train with Rory at a seminar in Swindon. If you ever get the chance do NOT miss it. This guy has spent a lot of time on the other side of the looking glass and his words are really worth hearing. That said, I often get the feeling the experience he is used to is at the very extreme end of badguy-ness, and it colours his persepctive.

From everything I understand about where he is coming from it seems to me you are very in tune with his ideas and you would probably get a lot of confirmation from reading some of his books or following his blog - chirontraining.com. Especially with this comment - you sound like Rory himself:

Quote:
 And as usual, I don't ask anyone else to either believe in the effectiveness of what I am teaching or to follow what I am doing, other than what they can verify for themselves.

miket
miket's picture

"I don't think you need to modify any of the basic uke waza such as chudan, gedan, jodan uke at all for them to "work", you just need to drill them in a way that isn't the standard "vs. a single far away karate punch" method. At any rate, the answer is pretty simple, you can either experiment with them this way and like the results, or not...but IMO they are every bit as applicable (and "non-diagnostic" to borrow a term) as simply doing a "crash and cover", and in fact are not very different from that."

No dispute Zach, again assuming that this is the way they are truly being trained.

Stevenson, thanks, I have had some direct contact with Rory via the worldwide digital dojo and have a couple of his books.  I really liked especially his first book, and I saw the other day that Zach (I think) had commended his 'Drills' book at one point (which regrettably I don't have yet).  He is one of six or seven names on my serious 'someday' list (along with meeting our illustrious host :-) ), I just haven't made either happen yet,  more's the pity.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Quote:
Hey - I had to point this up - this is one of my strategies for when things go pear shaped and how I use and interpret the X-block - which started this discussion. You've described almost exactly how I like to use it. Never-the-less, miket's point remains very valid - if you lose the initiative it is hard to regain, and it is really something to train for.

For sure, the technique ends up being different things depending on timing, and using it as a "shield" is probably the worse of all possible worlds, certainly less effective than smashing a forearm into a neck or something else you could do with it!  If there is some 'real life' messiness in your training it will never be the exact same thing every time anyway. If you wanted general categories for use you could use the time tested:

late initiative

simultaneous initiative

pre emptive initiaitve

It's worth pointing out these timing concepts exist in a ton of martial arts and martial sports, east and west...so as a model for basic timing concepts (artificial though they me be sometimes) I think they are  a good direction for understanding inititiave Just words and constructs like any part of training, but the whole point of treating uke waza as seperate techniques is to freeze a point in time and analyze it.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

One of the rerasons I start with basic 'hard' blocks is that we may, just may not be in control in self defence - and at times like that you may have no option.........................apart from sticking your arms up, or down (think your stunned, feared up, outnumbered etc.).

Often I feel training is taken to far, to soon for actual effective application - we do of course progress to soft blocking, and a combination of the 2.

DaveB
DaveB's picture

Hi Mike,

miket wrote:
  In these cases the only thing for it is to close.

What about tai-sabaki? Personally I have found movement to be invaluable in such situations.

miket wrote:
  I have had this discussion over and over again with experienced blackbelts who seem to WANT to believe that their blocks will work under pressure (and I am talking 10 and 20 year vets here)... 

So, on the basis of this empirical experience to the contrary, I'll maintain that in my highly limited experience, reactive orthodox blocking (jodan chudan (outside or inside), gedan, and kake-te uke) doesn't 'work' in the way I have seen it advertised in 9 out of 10 dojos and in 9 out of 10 'traditional' drills--- i.e. with parrying contact forearrm to forearm and a follow-on riposting counter.

I have done much the same thing. The difference is I concluded that the flaw was in my ability/understanding not in the technique (much the same way I did not discard kata that I could not immediately decipher) and so kept experimenting and studying until I found answers that worked.

My own understanding of the basic uke techniques (coming from a non-standard Shotokan background) suggests that your experiment is trying to test uke waza against something they weren't designed to deal with and something that is actually less common in my experience than what they are designed to deal with.

Blitz attacks are IMO far less common than single (or repeated) all or nothing shots, either full swings or semi curved straights. I believe that uke waza is for these, hence they are commonly trained against a lunge punch: the karate archetype of the power shot. You can still reality test people in the same way, but try grabbing as a lead into the punch, starting from inches away etc.

miket wrote:
  ...It's not a 'chudan uke' in that case, it's a kake-te uke with a follow-on  'uraken'.  Or is it really a 'jab' when I throw a 'cross'; or a 'jab' when I throw any permutation of a straight punch?  I understand we have inherited the art, but how is this kind of argot helpful in communicating what the trainee should be after?

IMO (and I do not teach) at early stages the student should be less worried with technicalities of application and moe concerned with trying to move correctly. To that end you fix one simple idea of the technique and let them get on with it. In the later stages of training we should have the flexibility to not be blinded by a label.

Also the various applications are permutations of a base movement. Letting all those applications fall under a single umbrella term I feel is mentally useful/appropriate from that angle i.e it's all variation on a continuum; all connected not disparate isolated techniques. Finding a new terminology for every single usage or partial usage of a core movement like the uke waza is just over complicating things to my mind.

miket wrote:
And, in those situations where you are ALREADY BEYOND the ability to 'read' the first 'tell' (which I classify as earlier in the initiative process) and are instead on to identifying his (second, third, fourth) attack, your best option is (I believe, assuming we are talking hand to hand with no apparent weapon) to 'close' distance and stop the damage...

You can never assume that your situation is hand to hand only.

As I stated I prefer to move, insert my gaurd between my attacker and myself and then intercept him as he advances/changes direction. I believe that this is the lesson of the Shuto uke at movement 5 or 6 of Hiean Nidan (Pinan sho - also movement 11 of kanku dai) where (taken in isolation) you shift backward while making the shutu uke before advancing with other shuto techniques.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Not sure I fully agree with DaveB here..but he has an excellent point about the Tai sabaki.

When you learn 'traditional' blocking (granted that's  a wide range of stuff - this is just as i've learned it, and i've been priviledged to have teachers who go the extra mile) you learn them such that each time you use one, you are using body movement that's puts you enough away from the other hand ( not in terms of distance, but body angle) that the person has to adjust to get another strike with any real oomph behind it, to a degree this address the flurry of punches thing IF you mmediately hit back agressively, i mean seriously hit whatever moves over and over again..if you don't it's a different deal and you are left with a more 'default' approach.  this is a different thing timing wise than simply rushing in with a ' crash shield' or similar. I like and use both approaches, for me they are both valid use of Karate kihon.

I like the crash thing, but on some level they strikes me as being equivalent to a training tabletop drill with someone already on your back - training a worse case scenario. Glad to know it, to train with it etc...it especially makes sense in terms of surpise/ambush attacks. However if someone is throwing multiple blows such that you require a prolonged 'guard' to hit back, you are already on the losing end of things timing wise.. I think this is a good default thing, but there are other options in some cases. it is possible to gain time on people, and learning from the people I do, gaining time is a big part of what I try to do with Karate. I'm definitely open to opposing viewpoints of course!

Related things to bring up here, timing is a different thing when you are 1) attacked from the side for instance with little to no foreknowledge , 2) attacked by someone standing in front of you that has to step to hit you, and 3) attacked in either case by someone standing near enough to you that they do NOT have to move. Just a few examples, but in terms of "uke waza" the three scenarios all have different directions they can go in. While i'm all for simple answers, I think it's important to understand that timing isn't something that starts after the fight begins, it's something that is there before and during the initiation of violence too.

Since we're comparing approaches though, i'd like to throw some devil's advocate stuff out there regarding the crash or shield concept, I like this concept, but in my experience it is not as universally applicable as I see it presented in some places.

Crashing in usually ends up with a clinch fight of some sort before hitting can take place, even if just a few seconds. This is great with someone your own size or smaller, and probably adequate against any kind of habitual violence, however try this out full bore sometime with someone much taller and stronger than you, and it ceases to be anywhere near as effective, most especially if they are smart enough to control your head back  - (and i'd point out here, I think there are "untrained" fighters who know how to do this well), getting into a 'clinch fight' with someone much taller, stronger, and  especially with longer limbs than you is (in my experience of course) not always a great idea, even if you do everything correctly, at this range the extra leverage is such a big deal that you might just get tossed around like a rag doll by the head anyway - even if you do everything right with your crash entry, and you are facing someone "untrained".

In this case you have to fight differently, just having a person whose head height is well above your own changes the possibilities drastically.. I do not claim to know the solution by any stretch, the main reason I bring it up is that this conversation is going in the direction where we will be talking about two related things, timing and range..I love simple answers, but the fact is that when you alter these things, it DOES change what is possible, and so it also changes what is likely to "work".

Wow this came out longer than I wanted, hope it doesn't just look like nonsense!

Thoughts?