Common techniques learned in 52 Blocks include stances, blocks, strikes, kicks and evasive movement. These techniques are then combined and built upon during technique practice, forms practice and sparring. Common techniques learned in the grappling arts include takedowns and throws, joint locks, chokes and a variety of leverage moves from the ground. A simple approach when introducing a new technique is to ask what, why and how. Ideally your 52 Blocks instructor should provide an explanation and demonstration and allow you to practice. Using the front kick as an example:
What? The front kick utilizes the ball of your foot. Unlike the roundhouse kick, which impacts the target using the instep in a semicircular motion, the front kick impacts the target in a linear motion.
Why? The front kick is an excellent deterrent. When your opponent tries to close distance, time the kick so that it lands as he is in the process of stepping forward. Doing so adds his momentum to the momentum of your kick, and stops his advance.
How? To throw the front kick with your lead leg, start by lifting your lead knee high and pointing it at the target. Curl your toes back and extend your lower leg from the knee.
When learning a new technique, it helps to break it down into its component parts and practice each segment separately. For example:
1. The first move when learning the front kick involves chambering the leg.
2. The second move involves extending the leg toward the target.
3. The third move involves rechambering the leg after the kick has landed.
4. The fourth move involves replanting the foot on the floor and resetting your stance.
Do the technique slowly at first to ensure that the mechanics are correct. When increasing the speed, avoid leaving out one or more steps. Are you chambering your leg fully? Are you extending your leg or are you snapping the kick back before full extension? A common tendency is to cut short the extension of the technique. For example, we throw punches, kicks and blocks utilizing only arm or leg power without proper body rotation.
Many 52 Blocks students practice the exact same pattern of 52 Blocks techniques to such an extent that if one reference point suddenly changes even a fraction of an inch, they are unable to land their strike on the target. This also happens if the speed of the attack suddenly changes, even if the change is slight. Consider the spinning back kick, which relies on a spin in your upper body with an initial chamber in the kicking leg. The kick is then released straight toward the target. If you practice this kick at a consistent speed but suddenly speed up the spin, you are likely to overshoot the target. Techniques should therefore be practiced at a variety of speeds to learn that, your mental reference point changes as the speed changes. When I was a yellow belt in karate, my instructor taught me five punch combinations. He had me do number one first, followed by number two. Next he had me do number one again. Then he grabbed my lapels and pulled me off balance, and asked me to do number two. Next he had me do number three and number one in combination. The point was that the intensity and uncertainty of this exercise placed me under pressure to respond.
When you have learned a new technique, you should practice it on a regular basis. If you allow months to pass without practicing the technique, you might as well not have learned it at all. Just as you must meet your instructor halfway, he must meet you halfway. If he is unprepared, he might think of something to teach you at the last minute and thus fail to build on the technique from the previous lesson. Granted, when you have learned a hundred techniques, you can’t practice every one of them every time you come to class. But you should recognize the similarities between techniques. A shuto (knife hand strike), for example, is used in many techniques and covers a great variety of situations.