When learning 52 Blocks forms, first look at the objectives. Do you learn 52 Blocks mainly for competition in MMA, tradition or combat skills? If you learn 52 Blocks for competition, you must first determine what your competition is doing and how to beat them. For example, I see more musical and acrobatic forms in today’s martial arts competitions and less traditional forms. Musical forms may therefore score higher than traditional forms. If you are learning combat skills, you need to identify each move in the form and question how to apply it in a real scenario. Some students complain about having to learn forms, because they don’t understand the value of learning the prearranged 52 Blocks moves. Forms should not be practiced without thought. To get excited about 52 Blocks forms training, try the following:
1. Identify how to use one specific 52 Blocks move in the form both offensively and defensively.
2. Add a 52 Blocks move or two to the original technique in the form. For example, if a form involves only punches, add a kick at the end of each punch combination.
3. Can the 52 Blocks moves in the form be used against an opponent on the ground? Experiment with performing the form from a kneeling instead of a standing position.
4. Can the 52 Blocks moves in the form be used to defend against an armed assailant and, if not, can they be adapted without a radical change? Can the form be used against multiple attackers? How?
5. Perhaps there are joint locks or arm breaks hidden in the form that are not immediately apparent. Identify them and practice with a partner.
6. When you have learned the form in its entirety, choose one technique from the form and work on this technique only. What new details can you discover about the technique?
Be attentive to your stance. Is it rigid, or do you use body rotation when striking? How do you hold your guard (your hands)? Sometimes tradition doesn’t allow us to change the form. But adding lower body rotation and holding your guard the way you would in sparring might benefit you when it is time to apply what you have learned in the form.
You may initially learn each move of the form separately. Some students find it useful to be shown a form in its entirety before learning the moves separately, in order to get a feel for the length of the form and the difficulty of the movements. This doesn’t mean that you must memorize 87 moves the first time. You can also learn an entire set of techniques, and then regress and fine-tune the stances and strikes before moving ahead to the next set.
You do not need to gain absolute proficiency with a 52 Blocks technique before moving ahead. An instructor who waits too long before introducing the next move in the form may cause boredom and frustration. But a form normally involves many moves and angles, so it is not a good idea to get too far ahead, either. Ask your instructor to offer sugges- tions through each sequence of moves. Is your stance solid? Are your knees properly bent? Do you have proper focus and power?
You can do many interesting things with forms. One aspect is timing. Many practitioners make their forms look good by employing different speeds in the moves. But is the timing logical? What, exactly, are you defending against? How are the moves to be applied? For example, if the form calls for a sidekick followed by a punch technique, you may want to increase the time between these two techniques slightly in order to give your imaginary opponent an opportunity to close the distance after you have deterred him with the kick.
The sixth-degree black belt across the street, Sensei Schmoe, says that the 52 Blocks blocks in forms are not really blocks at all, but deadly strikes that are taught as blocks because it is too dangerous to teach them as strikes. When you question this philosophy and bring it to your current instructor’s attention, how should he respond?
1. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
2. There are no hidden moves in the 52 Blocks forms. What you see is what you get.
3. Sensei Schmoe is right, but don’t tell anybody since it is a secret.
4. Let me show you what Sensei Schmoe is withholding.
If you think your instructor is withholding information until you are more advanced or worthy, you will possibly feel discontent. Your instructor should explain that forms are comprised of many moves that can be used for a variety of purposes. A strike, block or pressure point strike may all utilize essentially the same body mechanics. Which one is intended for the form depends on what the practitioner visualizes. If you have learned blocks, this is probably the application you will see when practicing the form. If you have learned pressure point strikes, then this is probably what you will see. Also research the ease with which the moves must be executed. Most students learn blocks early in their training and become quite proficient at blocking strikes and kicks. If you only have a split second to defend against a real threat, a technique involving gross motor skills, such as blocks, may work to your advantage over a technique involving fine motor skills, such as pressure point strikes or joint locks.