PSA: "Karate blocks" are not blocks!

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by Hotora86, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. Hotora86

    Hotora86 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:
    "Karate blocks" are not blocks!


    This common misunderstanding has been clarified by wiser Karateka than myself so in this thread I will begin by citing them with source links. I hope that at least some Sherdoggers will find this helpful or interesting. Thank you for your attention.

    Let's start with the term "UKE" itself.

    One of the most commonly mistranslated and misunderstood words in the karate lexicon is “uke.” Just about anyone who has trained in traditional karate for more than a few weeks should recognize that word. Despite the familiarity of the word, most karateka will erroneously say that “uke” means “block.” This is something that has been deeply ingrained in karate culture – so much so, that even people who know what the word actually means will still say “block” when speaking about it in English. The word “uke” is actually a shortened form of the word “ukeru,” which means “to receive.” This is a much more nuanced term when you apply it to a fighting technique, because you can receive an attack in many more ways than simply blocking it. That nuance is likely why the literal translation of “uke” never gained popularity. A lot of people (particularly Western people) prefer terminology that is specific and precise, rather than vague and nebulous.

    SOURCE: http://www.karateobsession.com/2015/03/terminology-confusion.html

    “Traditional Karate blocks don’t work against real attacks.”
    That’s something I often hear. (Especially from people who don’t practice Karate.)

    They claim our Karate blocks require too much strength, power, speed, intuition and effort to successfully work against an opponent attacking full force. I agree.

    You see, the Japanese word “uke” is a conjugation of “ukeru”, which literally means TO RECEIVE”. Your blocks are not really “blocks”. They never were. They are ways of “receiving” your opponent’s attack.

    Even Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957), the founder of Shotokan Karate – a style known for being very hard, direct and linear – used “blocks” in a totally different manner in his books compared to today’s Karate practitioners. Yet, in modern Karate, we interpret “uke” as “to block an incoming force”. Totally different concept.

    So, make this crucial shift in your mindset:
    To “block” is to receive.
    That’s the original meaning of “uke”.


    SOURCE: http://www.karatebyjesse.com/karate-block-real-meaning/

    Uke-waza (receiving techniques) are not solely defensive – they are both defensive and offensive at the same time. (...) If you block your attacker’s initial attack and simultaneously land a significant strike of your own (particularly to the head, as Motobu often suggested), you stand a very good chance of stopping the attacker. The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, you are interrupting a committed attack, which the attacker expects to be overwhelming, so you have a psychological effect. Second, your attacker will likely be moving forward, meaning that they will be moving into your strike. As combat sports pundit, Jack Slack, often says, “creating collisions” like this is the best way to knock someone out. By interrupting your opponent’s attack, and creating a powerful collision, you can end the fight entirely by knocking them out, or daze them enough to cause them to stop their continuous attack and have to reset.

    SOURCE: http://www.karateobsession.com/2016/02/motobu-choki-and-stopping-attacks-with-blocks.html

    Finally, my favorite example - Gedan Barai or "low block".
    (not quoting anyone here, just my personal thoughts)

    The word "Gedan" means "low-level" but also "downward", while "Barai" means "sweep" and by no means "block". Note that everyone translates the "barai" in Ashi Barai correctly as "foot sweep", yet in Gedan Barai it suddenly turns into "low block" and nobody bats an eye! :eek: How we ended up with both "uke" ("receive") and "barai" ("sweep") translated as "block" is beyond me...

    Now note how a "full" Gedan Barai always starts at the shoulder.

    [​IMG]

    Why? Some people say that this is "windup" to make the block even more powerful and devastating... Sorry for being blunt but this is plain wrong. In a fight where strikes are thrown fast and continuously you don't have time to waste on "windup"! Anyone who has ever done free sparring knows this.

    Gedan Barai is one of the first techniques any Karateka learns, whether it's in Taikyoku Shodan or in Heian Shodan. And here's the proper bunkai (application/analysis) for the opening movements of both kata:



    Thus, Gedan Barai (in Taikyoku and Heian Shodan) is:
    1. Limb control while you're moving / evading
    2. A neck crank throw (there's that "windup" movement!)
    Here's another take on Gedan Barai as limb clearance and a takedown:



    And that's not the only thing you can do with Gedan Barai. Here's a self-defense class showing a completely different application (with the "windup" again):



    The takeaway.
    Okinawan Karate has always been an art very much focused on close-quarter limb control (http://www.karateobsession.com/2015/03/karate-limb-control.html). It is not surprising then, that a group of its fundamental techniques called "receiving" and "sweeping" (uke / barai) transitions directly to limb control and takedowns. The original terms themselves convey the proper meanings so let's not ignore them for the sake of simplicity. "Blocks" are not really blocks.

    PS. to my Karate bros:
    Any other examples of "blocks" used for control instead of impact? Post your favorite.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
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  2. spacetime

    spacetime Black Belt

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    The Karate nerd went through this too. Not only does it affect Karate styles but also TaeKwonDo, since incorrect applications are passed on. One sweeping hand motion technique is clearly meant to dislocate the wrist, but the application is to sweep an incoming kick with the palm!
     
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  3. shinkyoku

    shinkyoku Brown Belt

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    I think one of the most important things to remember (or discover) is that punch or "block" -you are supposed to use both hands at the same time. A guadr is a dead hand. Nice if you need it, but waste of time otherwise. If one hand is pulled back or down in basics, it is supposed to hold on to something while doing that.
    It may be pulling a guard out of the way of a punch, holding on to a lapel of a jacket so the opponent cannot dodge, or it may be some part of the body that suddenly makes a worthless "block" be used as a fairly common throw from grappling arts (quite often as a defence against one of the above mentioned grab/pull/hold).

    It is also important to remember that karate is not -or atleast were not originally- a long range art. It was close range with a lot of grabbing. I guess a good analogy would be hockey fight range
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Karate is a pretty complete system, once you get over the worthless system for skill transmission that has allowed vital core information be lost to the vast bulk of practitioners (If it had been a good method of transition, we would not need to have this debate and reinvent the lost stuff over and over).
     
  4. BillytheFish

    BillytheFish Brown Belt

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    It is always nice when the opponent complies with the instructor. However would love to see this in real time fights/security footage from an incident or via sparring?
     
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  5. eternaldarkness

    eternaldarkness Brown Belt

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    After years involved in martial arts, I have come to the conclusion that all styles have some merits and all have their flaws. Personally I relate with the karate mindset far more when it comes to self defence, than i do with boxing (my favoured style).
     
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  6. BillytheFish

    BillytheFish Brown Belt

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    I agree theoretically, but I have yet to see these types of 'blocks' or non blocks as the videos put in reality
     
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  7. eternaldarkness

    eternaldarkness Brown Belt

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    Like Bruce lee said, any motion the is overly complex doesn't work. This is the reason Eddie bravo's rubber guard is fundamentally flawed, it has too many steps in the set up. Bravo's system is a-b-c-d-e-f to get a result. I prefer Bruce's system of a-face.
     
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  8. Jimmy Jazz

    Jimmy Jazz Red Belt

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    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  9. MaxMMA

    MaxMMA Purple Belt

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    I've never trained traditional Karate, but I was coached by an MMA instructor that held a BB in shotakan. He taught us a couple different blocks but out blocks are the only one I remember. I used them successfully in sparring and in some of my early MMA fights. They are effective against over hands and hooks.

    I haven't used them much these days, I've been training mostly boxing and use a lot more head movement. Maybe I should try them out again.
     
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  10. panamaican

    panamaican Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    This is an example of one of the takedowns from the Abernathy video.
     
  11. panamaican

    panamaican Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    And of course there's always the first half of that motion, that Machida used effectively until people started preparing for it. Which is what led to him using the technique in the Bader video.
     
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  12. ironkhan57

    ironkhan57 Brown Belt

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    I think we should all just get spiked gauntlets, so they will think twice before kicking lol.
     
  13. LEGS MAHONEY

    LEGS MAHONEY genetically modified man shark

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    This.

    Its common to post the arm across the body like that in Mt with a kick catch involving a leg sweep as well so i dont know why the poster thinks its not applicable

    [​IMG]
     
  14. shinkyoku

    shinkyoku Brown Belt

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    Because its karate and karate is bad?
    Seriously. These kind of stuff are not unique to karate or even unusual. It is just not ideal for sport fight where you have little to grab hold of, gloves that makes grabbing even harder, and starts on a set signal from 2 m distance.
    Really, it is mostly just transitions from striking to oldschool judo/JJ type throws/takedowns -although it is seen as a mistake to follow the opponent to the ground.
     
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  15. babycart

    babycart currently in the Land of Demons

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    Gedan barai, as its name implies, is a "harai"/sweep.

    Not gedan barai, but another karate technique.

    Not gedan barai. Note the upward direction of the sweep as opposed to gedan (lower level).

    That's gedan barai in a limited orthodox-southpaw encounter. Not equally applicable to a heavily-defensive encounter to be allotted the privilege of being one of the most practiced move in karate and its derivatives.

    BTW, "uke" is the term for the catcher in a Brokeback Mountain relationship...
     
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  16. panamaican

    panamaican Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    I disagree regarding my first gif. It's very common for people to look at the real life application of a technique and not see the technique because it's not identical to the stylized movements.

    In that gif, Machida beings to execute the movement identically to the version Abernathy shows in his video. He "winds up" the gedan barai and his initial movement is the downward sweep. But Machida's opponent isn't just there to be a complict partner. He doesn't roll will the sweep, he opposes it. You can see the opponent lean into the Machida's arm, he uses his arm to clutch at Machida's gedan barai. As a result of the attempted defense, Machida's arm slides up the body of his opponent because it's not going to physically pass through the man's body and the man isn't just willingly going to fall on his back.

    When it comes to the techniques that you see in katas, it's the principles that matter. It's also why it's so important to actually spar noncompliant partners, preferably from non-karate backgrounds. You learn that the katas teach you the core movements but the application against every opponent is going to look different. You're going to positioned slightly differently, they'll be positioned slightly differently, They might be taller than you or shorter. Heavier, stronger, smaller, weaker. They won't be standing still, you won't have the chance to perfectly position your feet. You're rarely going to be able apply a picture perfect technique.

    However, the principles will always be applicable. Positioning your leg behind him, driving with the rear leg while sweeping your arm down from your shoulder with the goal of unbalancing them over your leg. That remains the same, no matter the opponent.
     
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  17. MadSquabbles500

    MadSquabbles500 Steel Belt

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    Ok so if Karate Blocks are not blocks then are they parries, or what, strikes against the opponents strikes?
     
  18. babycart

    babycart currently in the Land of Demons

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    From what I know, it's the sukui nage pick up throw. The reason I said it's not gedan is the direction of the arm. A bit technical but judo is kinda anal about that.


    And that's very sad. People see the techniques, but not the set-ups. Good kata link techniques by making the preceding move the set-up for the next move. My knowledge might be shallow, but I've never seen a kata that has gyaku-zuki followed by this "bedan barai."

    Principles used change depending on the desired effect.
     
  19. babycart

    babycart currently in the Land of Demons

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    A catch. A combination parry and check. Makes it so that the strike being defended is slowed down when entering AND exiting. Especially exiting. Many old-school TMA desires that effect.
     
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  20. panamaican

    panamaican Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    They're movement patterns. Like the videos showed, the gedan barai can be a parry, it can be part of a sweeping technique. If you can safely slip outside a strike, it can also be strike to the opponent's lower torso.

    The thing you're supposed to learn from the movement pattern in the proper way to generate power. That the arm should start high on the opposite of the body, that rear leg provides the driving force that powers the arm through it's range of motion. That the arm's motion is to cross the body with a downward trajectory. That it goes from coiled to full extension.

    The kata doesn't tell you to only use that movement pattern for one circumstance or the other. That boils down to the fighter and the circumstance. When karateka learn it, they usually learn it as a block. That becomes the application that they identify the movement with. But the movement shows up in multiple katas in multiple types of sequences. It's the teacher's role to teach the student not to pigeon hole the movements into a single application. Of course, that's complicated because some sequences really only have one realistic application, while others might have multiples.

    I think the best thing I ever read regarding some of this is that the movements are snapshots of moments in time. The katas teach the proper biomechanics to end in that snapshot or to move out of that snapshot. But why you're in that snapshot is varied.
     
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