As you can see in the above image, Bruce Lee is now made of metal. If you are also made of metal, you can stop reading here. Karate blocks are used to stop you from being hurt in a fight. The concept is simple. You use a hard body part to defend your soft parts. Use blocks to protect your face, neck, chest, stomach and groin. You can move straight from a block into a fight-winning throw (read more about throwing here).
You will usually block with an arm or leg. Here are some basic karate blocks. Practise them until they become second nature. Then your opponents will find it hard to land their punches or kicks.
1. Blocking Punches
Punches are the most popular attacks in Karate, MMA and fight videos. They are also the go-to attack on the street. Punches are faster than kicks and still hurt. But you can block a punch, this is how you do it:
This blocks a straight punch. Make a closed fist. Draw your fist in an arc across your body. It should go past the opposite shoulder and end with your arm at a right angle. Your forearm should point upwards. The forearm knocks the punch away from your head or body.
This blocks straight punches but can also be used against a hook punch. Move your fist in an arc so that it goes away from your body. Your forearm should come across your body, pointing upwards. The punch should be blocked away from your body as you step away with your back foot.
Blocking blows to the head. Raise your elbow so that your forearm is parallel to the ground. Now push your forearm upwards so that it is above your head. This will push punches over your head. It can also soften blows delivered from above (e.g. defending against a Tonfa).
Top tip: to block lower punches, drop your knees and adopt a horse stance (like a cowboy). Then use the above blocks as appropriate.
2. Blocking Kicks
If punches are so fast, why do martial artists still use kicks? Kicking is more powerful and can cause more damage. That is why Karate, MMA and fight videos contain a lot of kicking. Kicks are slower so you can anticipate them. But they are just as hard to block due to the force required to stop them. These blocks will also be effective against opponents who hit below the belt.
You want to block a kick with the side of your lower leg. If our legs are all hard then why only this area? Legs have a lot of bone: foot, ankle, shin, knee and hip. If you take a hard kick to the foot or ankle you could break one of their many small bones. Shins, knees and hips will hurt a lot from a kick. Your upper leg is your kicking muscle. If your opponent lands a good strike on your thigh, do not expect to be able to kick them back. It is hard to win a fight on one leg.
Kick up and out towards the incoming leg with the side of your lower leg. Expect sore shins, but you will still be on your feet. This is better for blocking your opponent’s leg or groin-shots.
This is a block for higher kicks (ribs or stomach). The higher a kick gets, the more dangerous it is. A stomach kick could wind you. A kick to the side could break your ribs. Step away with your back foot. Swing one arm down in an arc across your body. Like the inside block, but going down.
Inside Block #2
This is used against high kicks. It is executed just as before. But doesn’t the inside block stop punches? Yes, but it can be really good against kicks too. Drop your hips and bend your knees. Step to the side and perform the inside block. You will have more time to do so against a kick. As you block, catch their leg or foot in the crook of your arm. From here you can punch, kick or twist as you please. The opponent will be at your mercy.
Blocking high kicks. This karate block has a pretty name. But it is a great way to block upper body kicks.
Drop low. Put your chin to chest, protecting your head. Your front forearm points down out to your side. The other forearm points upwards, elbow behind the front elbow. Now your arms look like the wings of a butterfly. The point where your arms cross goes beside your head. This protects your head behind the area which can absorb the most force.
More from our Karate Basics series: Karate Basics 1-4, Basic Karate Punches, Basic Karate Kicks, Basic Karate Throws