THE MOTION OF A MIDDLE BLOCK
by Richard Conceicao
“The purpose of blocking is to maneuver your opponent into a disadvantageous position”
No form of attack ends in a block.
One of the problems with our use of terminology that always creeps up is when we define things in only one way. Even after years of practice, when we of course “know better”, we still use the same terms as a shorthand description. This closes our minds to all the possibilities that can be developed out of the motion that we describe as a middle block.
Here is a brief list of the basics:
Scooping Block (sukui-uke) Striking Block (uchi-te uke)
Pulling in Block (hiki-te uke) Sweeping Block (harai-te uke)
Trapping Block (kakae-te uke) Hooking Block (kake-te uke)
Opening Block (kakiwake-te uke) Circular Block (mawashi uke)
Single-Double Knife Hand
I have cheated a little by taking this list from Gichin Funakoshi’s “Karate-Do Kyohan”. I did this for two reasons, one-Shotokan is a primary influence on most TKD styles, and two, to show how much can get lost in translation. All of these (with the exception of the Circular) fall into what we would call middle section body blocks, with, perhaps, a further descriptive “inside to out” or “outside to in”. At this point we are pretty much done as far as common TKD vocabulary goes.
But take a closer look at the above list. Notice that they all delineate the function of the movement. Each type is used for different reasons and, as such, have different applications. In addition, each of these variants also has both a defensive mode, and an offensive mode. They are not completely identical motions changed solely by intent. Once again this shows the problems that come with a limited descriptive vocabulary, it limits our realization of possibilities.
I am not suggesting that these concepts are unknown to some TKD practitioners, or are not demonstrated in many of our forms. What I am suggesting is that the multiple variations are never really thought of as we remain fixated on the most common type—the focused striking block.
In the following sections I would like to cover some of the mechanical fundamentals, basic structural testing, alternative applications, and lastly some theoretical ones.
I suppose it is important to start at the very beginning and recognize the most elemental concept, i.e. “How you get there is more important than where you get to.” All of the important action occurs before the final position. This applies to all of our practice, not just the subject this particular discussion. We tend to look at our movements (including those in our forms) as a series of end points. “I kicked here, I blocked here, and then I turned this way, and then punched high.” Once again, the movements that lead up to those positions, such as the initial chamber, the arcs of the hand and elbow, center line covering, and so on, are the critical components that make everything work. In fact, very often the final position can be written off as mere follow through.
You must observe the function of each component of the movement. Each motion in any form comprises a unique system in its totality.
When you first went through learning the movements that comprised a “low block” or a “high block”, you started by separating the action and function of each arm. Where did the upper arm start and end up, where did the bottom one go. You then put both motions together and developed the ability to perform them in a smooth integrated way. You may not consider it the same but, in my opinion, these were your first forms (or kata, poomse, hyungs– however you wish to describe them), albeit much shorter than the more official ones.
Each of these white belt/simple/beginner techniques is packed with applications that are not immediately obvious, especially when you are focused on just the end position.