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To Block Or Not To Block, That Is The Question
Copyright Pete Kautz / Alliance Martial Arts LLC 2006

Blocking!  It is a controversial subject for sure.  Ask around and you will hear a LOT of different opinions on blocking! 

Some people belong to the “blocks do not work” school of thought.  These people will tell you that blocking is “old fashioned” and simply not workable on the street.  (Often these same people will insist that "trapping" WILL work, however)

Others will try to tell you that “blocks used as attacks to the nerves of the arm” are a brand new tactic that is proprietary to their acronym-named tough-guy course, and so cutting edge as to make you practically bleed on the floor just to think of it.


I was up late the other week editing my DVD "The Indian Clubs: Conceptual Conditioning Tool For The Martial Artist" (which is available for FREE with Modern Knives!) and while taking a break I got looking through the bookshelf in my office.

For no particular reason I started flipping through Ed Parker’s 1960 book entitled “Kenpo Karate”.

Now, while the ignorant may write this off as “just another old kuhroddy book” there are gems there for those who would seek to *understand* what they are looking at.

On pages 67-71 there was something very interesting that caught my eye, and inspired this article.  It is here where Mr. Parker shows what most people would commonly call the inward, outward, upward, and downward BLOCKS of Karate – but he refers to them here as BASIC STRIKES!

These quotes, extracted in brief from pages 67 and 70, are pretty self-explanatory:

“These are a few of the basic strikes of Kenpo Karate.  You will be amazed when you discover the many counters in which these few strikes can be utilized.  These strikes can be used against all kinds of blows and kicks.  The secret of these strikes is that they are delivered to specific points on the arms and legs that can be learned from anatomy charts to paralyze, cripple, or injure.  A strike to the arm or leg has a dual purpose – to defend yourself as well as to hurt and momentarily paralyze your opponent.”

Notice the word STRIKE is used five times in five sentences!

Now, when it comes to WHERE to strike there are several basic systems of the body that can be attacked on your opponent’s arms and legs.  These are not explicitly broken down in the book, but when discussing strikes to the arms and legs:

1)  You can attack the skeletal system.  Here punishing strikes and scissoring actions are used to damage the bones themselves or the joints of the arm or leg.  This is one reason why students are taught to never lock out a punch or kick, because the straightened limb is the easiest to break with these techniques.  The first self-defense technique in the book on page 76 illustrates an inward strike with the right hand being used to attack the opponent’s elbow joint in this manner.

2)  You can attack the nervous system.  Here strikes are directed to areas that can “light up” the nerves of the arm or leg.  If you have ever hit your “funny bone” you know what this can feel like.  The direction of the strike can also affect the results.  Even a relatively light strike utilizing the correct direction and angle can get big results because of what is known as nerve-impulse reversal.  Interestingly enough, self-defense technique number 2 in the book on page 77 utilizes nerve-impulse reversal in the strike to the brachioradialis in photos 2b and 2c.

3)  You can attack the muscular system.  Here strikes are directed to areas that cause weakness in specific muscle groups.  Every muscle in the body has two spots that, if triggered, will cause this muscle to release.  These are very easy to find without a lot of training, you just need to know the “trick” of how to locate them.  They are roughly in the same spots no matter what muscle group, and in martial arts (as opposed to massage, where you will learn a great deal about these) we only need to know how to “light up” a very select few of these.  Attacking the muscle is seen in the self-defense technique on page 143 in the swordhand delivered to the bicep in photo 53c.

There are more biological systems that can be attacked on the rest of the body, but these are the ones that will be targeted on the arms and legs.  Arm and leg strikes in self-defense do not generally affect the reparatory system, for example, in the way that a strike to the throat or a choking technique would.

All of these methods described are based on Western Medical Science by the way!  They have *nothing* to do with Chi or Dim Mak.  While there are ways that some people can apparently attack “other” systems of the body (including attacks at a distance using energy alone that can be verified via muscle-testing to physically weaken a person) these are far, far outside the scope of this short piece and have less direct combative application than the ones discussed here.

So, the next time you hear that "blocking is old fashioned" take it with a grain of salt.  Like breathing and eating, it may be "old fashioned" but it WORKS JUST FINE when you understand what it is all about!

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