Learning proper 52 Blocks involves more than learning the mechanical movement of the technique. For example, many styles of karate use the parry to redirect the path of a strike. But instructors sometimes fail to tell students which part of the hand or arm to use when parrying. Although such details may seem insignificant, failing to teach them may result in bruising of the small bones in the hand and a reluctance to use the parry again. Regardless of a person’s size or strength, the ulna (the bone on the outside of the wrist) and most other bones in the hand are not strong enough to withstand the impact of a good blow. When you parry or block, the force against your hand or arm is the same as the force with which your opponent throws his strike. Newton’s third law of motion states, For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. To avoid injury when blocking, use a part of your body that is stronger than your opponent’s striking weapon. Use the fleshy part of your arm rather than your hand or wrist. Try a parry or forearm block at an upward angle, impacting with the muscle in your arm rather than with the bone.

When learning 52 Blocks techniques intended to separate your opponent’s arms (for example, when he reaches out to push you), try using the sides of your forearms rather than the back of your hands. Using the back of your hands can cause your wrists to bend upon impact and weaken the block. The study of defense also involves the use of head and upper body movement to avoid a strike and to leave your hands free for counterstriking.

Exercise 1—Forearm Blocks Practice the upward, downward, inward and outward forearm blocks from a stationary position. Keep your arms close to the centerline of your body until it is time to block the strike or kick. How does the position of your block prevent you from exposing vital targets to your opponent? Pay attention to the part of your opponent’s arm you impact when blocking. When blocking to the inside of your opponent’s arm, an impact below the elbow is better than above the elbow because it limits the mobility of his arm. When blocking to the outside of his arm, the opposite is true. Experiment with combining two or more forearm blocks. For example, throw an upward forearm block with your right arm. As your hand is returning to the guard position, throw an outward forearm block with your left arm. What types of attacks would these blocks defend against?

Exercise 2—Angled Attacks Practice the four basic forearm blocks in the air. Step forward or back with each block. Experiment with different angles when blocking, such as defending against overhead attacks or attacks from the side. How should you position your feet for greatest stability? Identify attacks that require forward or backward movement when blocking. For example, blocking an overhead stabbing attack might be done by stepping forward to intercept the attack (that is, if the attack can’t be avoided entirely) and impacting your opponent’s arm rather than the weapon. What are the drawbacks of stepping forward? In a straight kick attack (front kick, side kick), it may be better to move back and allow the kick to miss rather than trying to jam it. Why?

Exercise 3—Follow-Ups Pair up with a partner and practice the upward forearm block against an overhead strike, and the downward forearm block against a kneeing attack. Experiment with proper follow-up techniques. Can you block and follow with a trapping technique? Can you block and follow with a kicking technique? Identify the best point of impact when blocking a kneeing attack. Note how blocking a knee with your arms leaves your head exposed. Experiment with using your free hand as a check or simultaneous counterstrike.

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