Do Karate Blocks Work? (Yes. Here’s How)


do karate blocks work lg

Blocks are used in virtually all martial arts, and Karate is no exception. Being able to block oncoming punches is an essential part of becoming a well-rounded fighter. But do Karate blocks work?

Here’s what I know based on my experience:

Karate blocks do work when executed effectively. There are 11 blocks, but 4 of them are the most effective for defending against an attack. Those 4 are the inward, outward, upper, and lower blocks.

They are highly useful in protecting different parts of one’s body. But, they’re often misunderstood.

Once they’re properly grasped, they become a formidable part of a Karateka’s arsenal because they do double duty: They’re used to protect and also to counterattack.

In this article, we’ll learn how Karate blocks are executed and whether they’re useless in real fights.

Then we’ll check out why downward or low blocks are vital and how many different blocks there are in Karate. Lastly, we’ll wrap things up by finding out the importance of blocks in Karate.

Let the fun begin.

How are Karate blocks executed?

Execute a Karate block by spreading the legs shoulder-width apart, bend the knees slightly, and keep enough tension in your body to deliver power without being too rigid. Raise the arms accordingly for which block is being executed. Many, but not all blocks would have 1 foot step forward as the block goes up.

Also, ensure the block does not interfere with your line of sight. But don’t worry, we’ll go through the basic steps below.

Karate blocks are best executed when timed perfectly to absorb an opponent’s energy and return it to them. Do not simply take the full impact of the strike. Think of it as energy deflection, not like a stationary structure meant to contain oncoming force.

To execute Karate blocks effectively, you don’t need super-strength or brute force. The ideal way to employ them lies in the Japanese word that translates to “block.” It’s Uke, a conjugation of Ukeru, which means to receive.

So, the idea is to receive the assailant’s strike and then use it against them. 

Blocking techniques in Karate are a part of Uke Waza (receiving technique). The vital thing to remember is that to block in Karate is not the same as what we ordinarily think of as a block in the ordinary usage of the word.

There are many kinds of blocks, so we can’t cover them all here. But let’s check out one of the most common: the upper block.

It’s effective for deflecting and stopping high punches trained on your head and downward smashing strikes with the fist or a weapon.

Upper Block

The first step is to make sure you assume the right defensive stance. How? It’s simple.

Spread your feet apart such that it’s more than your shoulder’s width. Then lower your center of gravity such that your knees are bent a little, and you’re balanced.

Your weight should rest on the balls of your feet so that you can move swiftly if you have to.

Your arms should be poised and ready. Before initiating the block, your arms should be held upward, so they’re ready. They could be held at either hip or raised in front of the body. The fingers face upward and are clenched at the moment of impact.

Your opponent is about to strike! Ready?

Bend your elbow at about 45 degrees. And raise the arm you intend to use for blocking up and outward in a tight arc till your forearm is held sideways over your forehead.

As your arm makes contact with the opponent’s, the block is instantiated as you catch the opponent’s strike and redirect its force safely over your head or to the side.

Are Karate blocks useless in a real fight?

Karate blocks are useful in real fights as they can prevent or minimize the damage of a full-contact punch. The essence is to use skill and motion, not brute force, to deflect what could cause harm. 

Blocks are one of our most natural responses when attacked. Even untrained fighters instinctively employ blocks. Karate teaches us how to execute them properly.

When used properly, Karate blocks are about using the attacker’s energy against them.

The ideal is to deflect and counterattack in one swift and fluid motion without expending too much energy. The key thing is to learn how to use them properly.

When you see the word “block”, what it suggests in the English language is a bit different from its real meaning in Karate. Understanding the meaning is critical if you’d make blocks your ally in real fights.

The intent is not to prevent an attack directly. 

Oh, no. Karate is more nuanced than that. It’s to “receive” the attack and then use it against its source.

When blocking, say with an arm, it should be more of an “arc.” Shortly before your arm makes contact with the opponent’s, you bend it a bit. So, that it’s not a full-contact “collision.” That could lead to broken bones!

In a lot of real fights, brute force, not technique, is often dominant. 

Blocking (as taught in Karate) is a technique most street fighters would not have in their arsenal. Their variant would be too direct, crude, and not as effective as what you’d learn in Karate.

A lot of people assume that Karate blocks are meant to be employed directly, with brute force being the main thing. That’s probably why they say that the blocks are useless.

Now, you know that’s not the case.

Is it wrong to block with full force?

It’s not wrong per se. The context is the defining factor. But, it’s not effective. It’s not useless, it’s also not efficient. Karate is about leveraging minimum energy for maximum effect. 

It’s smarts, not brawn.

When a person is competent in Karate, even if they’re weak, they can defend themselves against bigger, fitter, and stronger opponents.

This ethos is also reflected in how masters of the art use blocks. Blocks are not useless. When leveraged in the right manner, they’re very useful.

Say you’re intrigued by Karate but also curious about Kickboxing. Which one’s better for self-defense?

In a recent article, I revealed whether Kickboxing is a good form of self-defense. I also addressed whether Karate is good in a real fight. And, I outlined how dangerous Kickboxing is.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the importance of the downward or low block?

The essence of the downward or low block is protecting the forearms, core, and base of the body. It’s to deflect attacks aimed at these parts of the body. Practicing downward or low blocks also strengthens the forearm, and at the same time, it makes them more flexible. 

Downward or low blocks are known as Gedan Barai in Japanese.

They’re one of the most vital blocks Karatekas learn in the white belt stage. Your groin and legs are safe from harm when these blocks are used effectively.

They are primarily for self-defense. 

And yet, they can also be used as strikes against the outer thigh or shin of an attacker. Used that way, they serve a dual purpose and are more efficient.

Because they’re practiced a lot, they also help practitioners become more physically fit. They offer an excellent workout for different parts of your body, such as the muscles in the arms, back, core, and chest.

It’s best to learn how to use low blocks in an excellent dojo, but maybe there isn’t one nearby, or you’d like to augment that with training yourself.

If that’s the case, you’ve probably wondered if you can learn Karate at home. Can you teach yourself?

Check out a recent article of mine where I explained whether it takes longer to learn it at home and whether you could learn it on YouTube. I also spoke to whether you could earn a black belt if you learned it at home.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How many different blocks are there in Karate?

There are many blocking techniques in Karate. Some are fundamental, while others are a bit more advanced and complex. About 11 are the most common. Out of these, 4 are basic and are taught at the white belt level and the others from the orange belt level onwards.

The below list shows the most common:

  • Uke – Middle-Level Block
  • Gedan-Barai – Downward Block
  • Juji-Uke – X Block
  • Age-uke — Rising Block
  • Morote-Uke – Augmented Block
  • Shuto-Uke – Knife Hand Block
  • Soto-Uke – Outside Block
  • Sukui-Uke – Scoop Block
  • Sune-Uke – Shin Block
  • Teisho-Uke – Palm Heel Block
  • Uchi-Uke – Inside or Inward Block

Source: blackbeltwiki.com

When you’re just getting started (white belt stage), the following are what you should be focused on:

  • Rising Head Level Block (Jodan Age Uke)
  • Inside Hooking Block (Uchi Uke)
  • Outside Block (Soto Uke)
  • Downward Block (Gedan Barai)
  • Groin Sweeping Block (Gedan Uke)

Blocks are used in almost all martial arts.

That says a lot about how vital they are. Each one above would have to be learned and practiced so often they become an instinctive part of you. It’s a lot of work.

This leads me to an interesting question that’s probably on your mind: Are martial arts worth the hassle?

I bet you’ll enjoy reading a recent article where I shared the reasons why it’s important to learn martial arts. I looked at whether they make you violent and if they teach you discipline. But I also shared some of the downsides.

Just click the link to read it on my side.

What is the importance of blocks in Karate?

The importance of blocks in Karate lies in the fact that they are an effective defensive strategy for stopping or deflecting an attack and preventing injury to oneself. They are also a basis from which to launch counterattacks before the assailant regains their balance. 

So, they’re complementary to a Karateka’s offensive strategy.

Karate blocks serve to stop, weaken, or even deflect the assailant’s punches and strikes. Even if you’re good at attacking an opponent, they can still win in a contest or crush you in a real fight if you’re not skillful in blocking their attacks. One effective punch or kick to a vulnerable part of your body might be all they need.

Blocking is important because there would be times that you cannot evade an attack. Evasion is more effective.

Why wait for a punch or kick to hit you? 

But because your assailant is as quick or even quicker, there will be times they will be able to aim at and attempt to hit you, and you may not be quick enough to evade it.

This is why blocking is vital. You can leverage it to “push away” the impact of their strike or even contain it. In a nutshell: The essence of blocking in Karate is self-protection.

Now, I’ve got a question for you: can you tell Kung Fu apart from Karate? 

A lot of folks find both a tad confusing. But, you’re in luck because a recent article of mine is devoted to exploring 9 key differences between both highly popular martial arts.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

We learned how Karate blocks are executed and whether they’re useless in real fights or if Karate blocks get used in MMA fights. Then explored why downward or low blocks are vital and how many different blocks there are in Karate.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by finding out the importance of blocks in Karate.


Photo which requires attribution:

Karate by Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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