Saturday, 7 May 2011

Technique- Blocking and parrying

Generally blocking and parrying techiniques are used to prevent the opponent's attack from striking you. These techiques rely usuall rely on the hand's outer edge, the palm, the forearm, the shin or the foot. Regardless of the type of block or parry used the following guidelines apply to all blocking techniques.

1.     The stance has to be rooted firmly.
         If you want to remain on the balls of your feet for quick retreats and sidesteps, then face it- 
         you don't really need to block then. It's no use tapping your opponent's forearm after he had
         missed. Practicioners of Taijiquan and tradional Karate will tell you that a rooted stance can
         even cause your block to knock an opponent off balance. The blocks using the foot and shin
         demonstrated in the video draw on the balance and rooting developed through regular Crane
         Stance training. I've dealt with the crane stance in the post on Force Training Exercises (check
          the archive of this blog.) In Wen Hsiu Chuan being rooted means that the feet are placed flat
         on the ground, chi is sunk to the abdomen, legs are bent, body is upright and the hips are not
         pushed forward or backward, but rather kept in place with the sacrum pointing downwards.

2.     Arms and shoulders are relaxed.
        We NEVER hunch our shoulders- not even when blocking overhead blows. With the muscles
        and arms relaxed, swift reflex action is possible. You will find that your arms and hands can
        actually block by themselves if they are held in position, but relaxed.

3.     Twisting the forearm and the elbow
        A good image to bear in mind is that of a nuncahku. Your upper arm would be the stick of the
        nunchaku being held in the hand. Your forearm would be the chain and your hand would be the
        stick being swung at the target. This is important as the forearm is not really used to deflect any
        blows and I really do not advise anyone to make a habit of putting your forearm between a blow
        and yourself. Impact on the forearm should really be limited to the very minimum as the force
       from a blow should rather be directed away from you than being absorbed. Check the recommen-
       ded blocks for downward strikes for an example of that principle. Twisting the forearm as the
       arm's muscles are clenched at the end of the technique assists in knocking the attacking limb back
       as you channel force through your hand or forearm into the attacking limb. It is even possible to
       fracture an opponent's arm with such a block. With the elbows being kept relatively still and
       using them as a fulcrum from which the forearms swing the block or parry is performed in the
      most economical fashion. The opponent's blow is usually taking the most direct route to its
       target. This principle ensures the most direct route to intercepting it.   

4.   Using the "Twitch".
      I have already said that a blocking technique starts out with the arms relaxed. The sudden reflex
      contraction of muscles that is employed during a blocking technique can lend devastating power
      to the block as it strikes its target. You may want to clench your fist when stiffening the
      muscles. Wen Hsiu Quan however prefers blocking with an open hand as an open hand can
      most easily be transformed into a grab, hook, striking palm or fist.

5.   The purpose of a block is not to prevent you from getting hit.
      Do not regard blocking or parrying as your master plan to prevent being injured. The only
      prevention for injury is common sense. When you find yourself in the situation in which you
      have no choice but to fight it is too late to concern yourself with ways to prevent injury.
      It is foolish to even attempt it in a fight. Blocking and parrying serve as ways to set an opponent
      up for a counterattack, to immobilise him by grabbing techniques or to knock him off balance or
      to damage bone or muscle to allow you to escape. Simultaneous blocking and counterattacking
      and "entering" past an opponent's defense shall be dealt with in the chapter on tactics. For now
      you can consider the hip twist and leg block in the video.

As a last thought I want to mention that Wen Hsiu Quan, in the tradition of most Chinese martial arts, stresses avoidance of violence. When forced to fight, however, the mind of the Wen Hsiu Quan exponent is not focussed onself preservation, but at least on incapacitating the adversary. Therefore fighting should only be resorted to when escaping and avoidance are not available options. Blocking, as part of combat, has to be considered in this perspective. It is not a means for a fearful combatant to avoid injury, but rather a devious tool to  render the opponent helpless in order for him/her to be put out of action!

Keep well and feel free to e-mail me at with any questions. Next post will deal with attacks using the hands, elbows, forearms and shoulder.

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