Your Karate “Blocks” Are Dysfunctional. Here’s Why.

“Traditional Karate blocks don’t work against real attacks.”

That’s something I often hear.block-shotokan

(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.

The way many people use Karate blocks today is actually dysfunctional.


Because of a simple misunderstanding…

(Don’t worry, we’ll fix it.)

Check it out:

The Original Meaning of Karate’s “Blocks”

In Karate, we traditionally refer to blocks as “uke”.

There are many kinds of them:

  • Uchi-uke (“inside block”)
  • Soto-uke (“outside block”)
  • Jodan-uke (“upper level block”)
  • Age-uke (“rising block”)
  • Shuto-uke (“sword hand block”)
  • Juji-uke (“cross block”)
  • Mawashi-uke (“circular block”)
  • Kake-uke (“hooking block”)
  • Gedan-uke (“lower level block”)

The list goes on.

But here’s the weird thing..

“Uke” does NOT mean “block” in Japanese.


Teaching uke-waza (“receiving techniques”) at my recent seminar tour in Canada.

It actually means THE VERY OPPOSITE.

You see, the Japanese word “uke” is a conjugation of “ukeru”, which literally means “TO RECEIVE”.




Think about it!

Suddenly, you don’t need brute strength to force your blocks against incoming attacks.

You are now free to “receive” the energy of your opponent!

(And then use it against him/her, if you wish.)

Your blocks are not really “blocks”.

They never were.

They are ways of “receiving” your opponent’s attack.

Get it?

Here’s a video example from my Instagram (@karatebyjesse):

Of course, the old Karate masters knew this.

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.


Funakoshi demonstrating kake-uke, juji-uke & shuto-uke. Note the directions of arrows.

Yet, in modern Karate, we interpret “uke” as “to block an incoming force”.

Totally different concept.

And if you keep thinking like this, I’m sure we’ll continue to hear that “Karate blocks don’t work against real attacks”.

Because they don’t.

Not the way most people apply them today.

Remember; the original purpose of Karate was to make a weak person able to defend against a stronger person.

This principle needs to be manifested in every single technique of your Karate!

So, make this crucial shift in your mindset:


To “block” is to receive.


That’s the original meaning of “uke”.

Bruce Lee said it best: Be like bamboo. Not a stiff tree.

Suddenly, the dysfunctional becomes functional.

The old becomes the new.


PS. Here’s what one KbJ reader wrote after I explained this to him:

“Jesse-san, I was very frustrated in my kumite with constantly having bruises all over my shins and forearms from blocking attacks. Then, you explained that uke waza are receiving techniques, not blocking techniques. That small change in thinking dramatically changed my kumite! No longer am I trying to use my techniques to put up a solid wall against my opponents attacks, rather I am receiving the attack and guiding it to where I want it to be. This has helped with the specific issue I had, and also helped me look deeper into a broader understanding of karate. Thank you!”


  • Its all about energy deflection / redirection. "Blocking" an incoming strike with a static parry makes you a human makiwara :) Great article indeed
    • Thanks for chiming in CaDs-san! True indeed.
      • Tom
        Thank you Mr. Jessie, Receive to redirect and counter. Changes the mind frame of a young Karate-ka!
      • Joseph Perkins
        Jesse san I remember one of the fights from the original Blood Sport where Jean Claude-Vandamme is punched at by an individual and his responce is a uke like you are talking about in thid article.basically receiving the pinch not blocking it
  • mark wilkinson
    To note as well that on several blocks the "Chambering" of the block is the actual block and "Block" is the redirect but the majority of schools do not teach this and it is never passed down. The Chamber is more Reciever friendly/effective.
    • Aaron
      The idea that the "chambering" of a block (we would say "pump" in my dojo) is the true block is an interesting ideat that I have been thinking about. I think of it as a parry and a redirection. Do you know of any books or materials that discuss this idea? I would be interested in checking them out.
      • Yup! This is a basic principle of most Southeast Asian martial arts (including the original influencers of Karate). I teach this at most of my seminars Aaron-san. If you can't attend one, I suggest you get the video for KNX15 where I (and most likely Dr. Hokama sensei from Okinawa) will explain more about the original concept of uke-waza, and how it relates to bunkai. Here's the video: :-)
      • The reason for your Karate “Blocks” to be Dysfunctional. Here’s Why. Your technique is the most important part. If you block for instance with your arm, your arm should slightly twist at the last moment, otherwise it's bone against bone and you will hurt yourself. The proper block will push away the opponents arm instead of bashing the arm away.
        • Joe
          This is what I've always taught, and what I've struggled to convey to students of other styles.
      • Jerimy Brecheen
        I think that's a smart observation because if you start using karate technique in fighting one of the first things that can happen is someone grabbing your arm or wrist to stop your technique. So while the attacker holds your wrist you can start to bring that in to chamber as the other arm either receives the opposite hand attack or applies to the grabbing arm as a lock or such. I think this concept leads to using the "uke waza" to set up grappling-type or pressure point techniques.
  • J.P. Mitchell
    A response: There some basic terms that need to be addressed and ideas that need to be defined. The way the word “block” is used is inexact and the definition is very important because the deflection of, the redirection of, or the breaking or damaging of an attacker's limb are all valid meanings. However in this article, it sounds more like “block” is a covering or shielding from a strike, as in boxing. Does anyone who does any striking disciplines throw their hand or arm in the path of an oncoming strike? This seems like it would be a gross misunderstanding of the use of a “block.” So, we simply don't know in what sense Jesse means to use that word. Also, the word and idea of “receiving.” A boxer can “receive” a left hook on the jaw. Does that mean he used face-uke? What about when Steven Lopez scores a roundkick, his opponant has executed a hogu-uke? Thanks, but no thanks, I don't want to “receive” those packages! Does anyone? Maybe that's why one might move and block, of course! We simply cannot be sure what Jesse means in this article by “receive.” If explaining these ideas with translation and reference to old photographs were all that was needed, then this article would be redundant. I don't thinknit's redundant; I think the mere translation and photographs are far short of a sufficent description of what Funakoshi [sic] meant. Can Jesse add some insight further than what has already been presented?
    • Great comment J.P.-san! Yes. Terminology is a fundamental concept for any effective communication. This is why I place great emphasis on it when I teach my Karate classes/seminars. I think everyone could benefit from examining the words they use in Karate. As for your request, yes - I can always add more insight, to all my articles - but I deliberately choose not to. Rather, I leave the adventurous opportunity for further exploration of my blog topics open to each and every individual. That's the Karate Nerd™ way. ;-)
      • JP
        Jesse-san, this is an interesting exchange we're having. I have asked you directly three questions. In response you've deflected me to look at your other articles. Interesting that continual redirection avoids meeting force straight on. However, honest questions deserve honest answers. If I decided to read more of your articles on this topic, how am I to know you aren't simply setting me up to hit me with a huge waste of time? I'm not accusing you of it, but due to your aversion I have no reason to think you have answered those questions nor that you intended to. Thanks for your time and response, but I don't think you intend to communicate effectively, so I'll stop here as well. Good day, sir.
        • Shawn Bell
          JP, maybe you are just not smart enough to understand what was written in his article? When I read the article it was perfectly clear what he meant. As far as his response to you, it was kinder than you deserve.
    • arjun
      What you said is true but we can't ignore what Jesse said. As he said a week person cannot Defend an incoming strike from a stronger one. Thus rather than using complete force against an attack its better simply route that energy to other direction.
    • If I may interject, I think I understand what Jesse-san is getting at in this article (and it is consistent with what I have read in a number of other books on Karate and/or other martial arts). In Western culture (especially American culture), we tend to be very direct and very blunt. Japanese culture, on the other hand, is very, very subtle. This isn't just about interpersonal communication, however. Rather, it is inherent in the way people from each of these cultures think. Back to the point of this article... Westerners like myself tend to think of a block as putting a barrier between me and my opponent to absorb the energy of my opponent's attack before he can hit a vulnerable target area. This is okay -- it's far, far better to bruise your forearms than to suffer a concusssion! -- but it's not ideal. In the dojo where I practice, we study both Karate and Aikido, and perhaps it's just that training clouding my understanding, but I suspect that what Jesse-san is trying to say is the correct interpretation of "uke" is more like the Aikido principle of intercepting and *redirecting* (rather than simply *stopping* or absorbing) your opponent's energy. Just my $0.02; hope it helps!
      • I apologize for being so unclear. :-) English is my third language, after all!
        • Ian
          You English is much better than my Swedish. LOL. ... or should I say "SH" (If Google translate is to be believed ... skrattar högt) . anyhow . When I first learned karate, I would think of "blocks" in terms of a "strike" at right-angles to the enemy's attack: enemy's punch is north-south, and my block hits it as hard as I can east-west, and hope it hurts him more than it hurts me. But now ... But now, I think more of a softer (as little effort as possible) deflection to get the punch from north-south to end up south-south-west, just enough to miss me.
  • Would it not also be accurate to say that often they are ineffective as blocks because they are not blocks at all? A movement has a shape, and we hang a name on that shape, but then we get hung up on the name, and fail to see what that shape could also be. Depending on relative body positions and distance, the same motion can be applied as a block, a redirection, a strike, a joint manipulation, a throw, etc..
    • Exactly, David-san. Often it's easier to think "no labels, just movements". Particularly for bunkai!
  • Donald Miskel
    I've been involved in the martial arts for 58 years now; karate/kempo for 54 years. I didn't understand the science of redirecting and placing an attack though we did a lot of redirecting and blending with force in judo and aikijitsu. I learned these principles by studying the softer and the internal Chinese arts. As I've gotten older I've changed my method of fighting. I'm a pretty good sized fellow and do a lot of strength training but I don't like to use force against force. Because of old injuries and the subsequent surgeries I kick a lot less. I prefer to get in an opponent's face and fight up close and personal. Parrying and redirecting the force of an attack add to the effectiveness of my fighting technique. As usual, Jesse San, good insight on your part.
    • Thanks for commenting Donald-san! It's a great sign that you're using your experience in such a wise way - to keep flowing and never stagnate. You're right in the observation that many Budo (like Judo and Ju-Jutsu) practitioners, as well as "internal arts" practitioners, understand this principle very well. The trick is to apply it to Karate. Keep it up!
      • Donald Miskel
        Thank you Jesse Sensei: What many people forget in their attempts to westernize the art is that karate is basically a counterpunching art. 'There is no first strike in karate'. We use our (so called) blocks to place the opponent where we want him. Personally I don't like to stop an attack cold. If I can misdirect it and make an opponent overextend himself I can strike directly into his forward momentum and use his energy to double the power of my own (counter) attack. This couple with tai subaki allows a karateka to put an attacker in a disadvantageous position where the defender can counterattack and the attacker can't defend against that counterattack. That is scientific karate. Anyone can trade punches or kicks. Karate is more than that. Karate is less about combat and more against decisive self defense.
  • Ossu! Hey, thanks for this article! I've been getting bits and pieces here and there, but haven't put the "whole" together until now. I'd noticed "uke" is used for "the person Sensei chooses as a partner for demonstrating something" (it's much easier to say "uke," LOL). A Sensei at a sister dojo showed me how I'm undermining myself by powering through these "blocks," and compared proper execution to the nice, loose, comparatively small movements we use in kumite to redirect our opponent's strike - thus a "block" can be a redirection. My own Senseis have said and demonstrated numerous times that a "block" can be used in different ways (just as David said above). So I began to get the idea that "uke" in the context of "blocks" was more of a label for a technique rather than a definition of a technique. Now you've put it all together in this article, and I think I've got a better idea of the whole. Now I just gotta coax my body into doing it, LOL! Practice, practice, practice...
    • Awesome Joelle-san, makes me glad to hear! Don't give up.
  • Preach, Sensei Jesse! Preach! Of course, "receiving" an attack doesn't always mean softly redirecting it, either. You still have the choice to stick it to someone! The problem--as always--is thinking there is only one way to view or manage a situation. Thank you for opening doors and widening horizons, sir!
    • A block is a lock is a blow is a throw, sensei Ando! ;-)
      • Ha! Old wisdom for modern times... and extra points because it rhymes! :)
  • wayne
    The fundemental principle of blocking or receiving assumes that you are aware of what you opponent is about to do... You never are ! It also assumes you are aware that you about to be attacked. If you play any action reaction drills you will find that your block/reciver is generally far too slow especially if you ambushed. So how to articulate these movements relevant to real violence... Why always playing the middle distance when most fights are CQ... You would be surprised but that is for you to find out... So goes the journey.
    • That's right Wayne-san. You are never aware what your opponent is going to do! But... that doesn't mean "the fundemental principle of blocking or receiving assumes that you are aware of what you opponent is about to do". You are the receiver of an attack no matter how you choose to respond to it. So make a choice to to deliberately practice the optimal ways of receiving attacks. When - or if - you are attacked, your body will react the way you've practiced.
      • Jeremiah
        Having devoted my life to studying karate, alongside law enforcement defensive tactics, U.S. Army combatives and MMA, I have yet unravel the mystery of uke waza. Furthermore, I also have yet to locate a single karateka (regardless of rank or experience) who can successfully employ uke waza against an unpredictable array of realistic attacks, let alone provide a detailed explanation of how they are successfully executed. I do not say this to be disrespectful, trust me, I would love to rectify this problem more than ANYONE. The problem that I've always encountered with karate "blocking" is that the success of blocking is largely dependent upon having predetermined knowledge of an attack. For example, if both partners agree that a straight lead punch (kizami tsuki or oi tsuki) will be executed, almost any blocking technique can be used to stop/deflect/parry/etc. For that matter, the receiver can simply move out of the way. However, as soon as padded gloves are put on (for the protection of the karateka who is confident in his blocking techniques) and an undetermined strike or series of strikes are executed, the defender's ability to successfully block the attacks WILL decrease exponentially. I refuse to believe that the originators of karate failed to understand principles such as action vs. reaction, the autonomic nervous system, and the flinch response. I sincerely hope that someday I'm able to find someone to get my kenkyukai on with and figure out the success application of the uke waza mystery. Nana korobi ya oki!
        • Ian
          I do not disagree with your findings. Indeed, I see much of the same thing myself ... including in myself. . ... I would suggest, though, that there is in general too much training emphasis on practicing pre-set attack/counter drills, prescribed bunkai, and the like, most of which is done from unrealistically far away. (Not that this stuff is worth-LESS, but over-emphasised.) There is not enough work done on in-close, spontaneous practice ... where things will be a much more fluid mix of blocking, shifting, twisting, deflecting, absorbing &c. We become what we train to become.
  • J D Del Vecchio
    A wise Okinawan woman who was one of my Karate senseis once explained to me that a proper Karate block is the same as in life--you redirect aggression away from you with a simple movement, rather than standing firm and taking it head-on. To take the aggression head-on means you are accepting that person's negative energy and pulling it into yourself.
    • That's why Karate is a Way of Life... J D-san :-)
      • Ridzuan
        Great! You have understand the function of your tool.Million more karateka and taekwando practicioner need to be clear about this.
  • Charles James
    I no longer think, "Blocking," rather I think of "Deflection," when in receipt of some empty-handed form of attack. Excellent article, thanks!
  • Patrice
    Great article, that was my tought also about blocks. Do you have any references about this topic ?
  • Martin
    Totally agree with this but sometimes stopping an attack with force could be the fastest way to end a fight. Keeping in mind that we are getting attacked by some regular dude of course, not by an mma fighter.
  • pete
    Real fighting cannot be trained for. You just have to hope your training has sufficiently strengthened and enlightened you to react effectively.
  • Bill M
    First rule of karate; don't get hit. I guess I am lucky, this is all taught as common sense in my dojo. Meet soft with hard, meet hard with soft. Everything is circular, turn linear attacks by redirecting them, repositioning yourself, and always seek the opponents' unbalance while you keep your balance and stay grounded. This is fundamental and should be taught early.
  • Jim Sorrell
    I am a brown belt (san-kyu) in Chito-ryu karate, In my training I thought "blocking" was a way to cause an attacker to go away in pain. Experience and injuries caused me to realize a flesh and blood arm and hand makes a fragile bo. I asked a sensei to elaborate on the purpose of blocking. He agreed that "uke" does mean "receive" as you "receive a letter." You "receive" a block or kick and direct it where it will do no harm. This gives me relief and no pain. Of course, if I have no other option I'll use force to make that bully go away in pain. I may have pain but it will be worth it. Thanks Jesse Sensei for easing my training.
  • Stewart Ratzker
    When students are young they are taught movements is simply terms and when they are more seasoned the teachers let them experiance more sutle parts of the art. The Original Karate Do Kohan written by Funakoshi Sensei shows many things that in his students versions written his name (like Oshima Sensei's Classic american text) omit. Often the open handed block are shown as capture moves. Hand open to capture a hand or anothe part of the body and as part of another movement. The recieve it appears is not only to accept the attack but often to redirect the energy of the attach in other ways. That is not to say that there were not simple blocks there were but often there is more to that is happening then what we say. The problems develop because we had the view that the perfection of the art was ongoing and the views of his leading students on that perfection of the art often dirverged from each other. For example the Shotokan (Funakoshi's School) (JKA) and the Shotokai (Funakoshi's Organization to develop the school) (Egami Sensei's Group) For example the first picture you showed with the open hand block was shown in a combination move where it was a capture and part of the throw in his original edition.
  • Neville
    Jesse, I first learned Karate 45 years ago, before it became fashionable here. All of our "blocks" were taught as redirections of the opponent, ways of redirecting the oponents position to your own advantage using a minimum of effort. I cant remember any of the names we were taught as I have since had a severe brain injury. I like the way you treat tyhis issue
  • Claud
    I used a yodan uke this evening in tokyo station as a womann was aboit to hit my head with a long bow (commpletly unintentionally on her side) and automatically on my side. I used no force at all and did the uke in a circular way. No one wad hurt, the bow is still intact and the woman completely surprised.Our sensei taught us always use a circular uke, so the surface will only be touched a short timr.
    • Claus Anders
      Correction: I used a yodan uke this evening in Tokyo station as a woman was about to hit my head with a long bow (completely unintentionally on her side, because she was distracted) and automatically on my side. I used no force at all and did the uke in a circular way. No one was hurt, the bow is still intact and the woman was completely surprised.Our Sensei taught us always use a circular uke, so the surface of the hand,arn or led will only be touched a short time. I had problems with my touch screen, sorry about the many typos
  • Per
    Language is a funny divider. In Danish we do have a word like "block", but that's not the word we use for "uke" in karate. It more like "guard". By the way, does that imply that "tori" means "giver"? :)
    • Claus Anders
      Tori comes from the verb 'toru', which means take, control, harvest ... Thus tori is the Aite, which controls or harvest(and eventually completes) the move. And of course, Uke is the one, who receives the fruits of the harvest ;-)
  • Eduardo
    Nice, great article and makes total sense. In Goju we do circular moves to deflect the incomming attack. I was never really taught to recieve it. From now on, I won't use the word "block" i'll call them "defenses" :D
  • Great post as always! Many of "my" kids have problems understanding Age-uke. "How can I block a blow to the head when some adult like you strike me?" is often the question I get, the answer have always been. "It's not a block you should freeze solid in, if you block and move WITH the attacking opponent instead of against, you will deflect the blow". But I do agree, many have forgotten (in Karate at least) the very purpose of the game. To move with the incoming force rather than against it.
  • Let's go even further and consider them attacks on the opponent, that way they receive the message. And as Jeremiah put it, instead of using our autonomic flex response, why do we not induce the opponents autonomic flinch response so they "Receive" it. We spend too much time involved in self, when the full focus should be on the opponent. It is far better to give than receive.
  • Jim Sorrell
    I was working San-bon-kumite with a long-term sensei. When we locked forearms in soto-uke I was going to "receive" his force and redirect it. Instead I received bruises. It felt like I struck stone instead of bone. This showed me training and experience can toughen a karateka to the point he/she can deliver force without thinking of it. Thanks for the article.
  • Hisham
    I believe the reason a lot of people consider blocks ("uke") dysfunctional is because of a fundamental misunderstanding: "Blocks are isolated techniques". In the dojo, we isolate blocks for practice (like repeated jodan ukes in kiba-dachi), but that is only to develop technical ability. In practice, blocks are to be used in conjunction with evasion and hand-trapping/limb-control. Executing a jodan uke while evading to the outside of the attackers arm ( not only decreases the chance of us getting hit, but also takes us off his attack line. Now he has to turn his body if he wants to launch an attack with the other hand.This is why blocks in kata are mostly found with a turn at a specific angle ( Also, if we maintain contact with his arm and grab his forearm/wrist, we have prevented him from using that arm to launch another attack. This is consistent with Motobu's kumite drills: every drill involves trapping and controlling at least one arm ( In my opinion, this entire process of redircting his attack, moving off-line, and (sometimes) hand-trapping constitutes an "Uke". It prevents us from getting hit, makes it difficult for the opponent to launch subsequent attacks, and puts us in an advantageous position to counter-attack. I think this is what Motobu meant when he said: "One cannot use continuous attacks against true karate. That is because the blocks of true karate make it impossible for the opponent to launch a second attack." P.S- the non-blocking hand (in the chambering movement) of the block is actually a 'back-up' block ( Thus attacks are received and redirected with two hands, not one. This further decreases the chance of getting hit.
    • ShotoNoob
      HISHAM'S JULY 12, 2015 POST: ONE OF THE MOST COMPETENT POSTS I'VE WITNESSED. | The article's author point is of course sound. Yet the premise that that kihon karate blocks as taught are 'dysfunctional' is false. | An early TMA instructor of mine once criticized karate blocks the same way. Karate, he said, is power against power. He was proposing the same argument -basically - as set forth in this article. | There is this great impetus to somehow figure out how something needs to be better, certainly among popular karateka. And what the author proposes can be better. But how about just learning to do Itosu Anko's[sp?] karate by ALL the principles? | One straightforward principle, and which is demonstrated in the post I referred to in the title above, is that the blocking limb applies power against the attacker's limb @ a leveraged point. So, in application, a hard power block is applied against a physically weak point on the attackers weapon. Hence the amount of force needed is reduced & the effect of the blocking force multiplied. A double-barreled effect. \ The HISHAM POST goes on to demonstrate additional principles. | My closing point: Traditional karate is never 1-dimensional. Putting a 1-dimenstional understanding on karate.... no, it won't work 'cause you understanding is "dysfunctional." HISHAM post illustrates very well that karate is multi-dimensional. Props....
  • I totally agree with everything you say on here. I mean karate never had any blocks because they aren't blocms but are grappling techniques, submissions, arm lock etc. However people don't know that because they don't teach that anymore. Do you think you could make an article on the application of the grappling techniques and how to initiate the.
  • Moises Fallas Wahrmann
    Excelente información. Si el Uke fuera defensa no podría ser usado por cualquier tipo de personas (refiriéndome a condición y contextura física, edad, etc.). Tiene mucho sentido su explicación Sensei Enkamp, recibir el golpe, recibir la energía que trae y proyectarlo hacia otra dirección, ya sea para contra atacar o no tiene mucho más sentido. Gracias!
  • Ray
    In full-contact karate styles, like Kyokushin, this is taught from the very beginning, because we are supposed to be able to receive (absorb) attacks without blocking them (with the exception to the head, where more practical non-standard blocking techniques are used). So blocks are used mostly as supplements in order to soften those attacks. So in my view painful bone-to-bone blocks are rather a sign of incompetence, causing completely unnecessary traumas in training. Moreover, I'd say, in Kyokushin painful blocking is considered as rude and even dangerous to the defender. But since contactless karatekas live by the “don't get hit” rule, this understanding doesn't come naturally, is not needed to be a successful athlete and therefore is not taught. I hope you understand that I'm not despising contactless styles. They're beautiful, with their own strengths and weaknesses. I'm just sharing my insights from a different perspective.
  • Ray
    On a philosophical level, the ability to receive and absorb pain without countering it with equally painful counter-action, has great value. For example, in life, especially on social media, we often encounter some rude people who engage in personal attacks. That hurts and it is natural to try and hurt them back in self defence. But if we're able to absorb the [psychological] pain, we're able to ignore those attacks. This can be enough to win an argument by convincing the aggressor that their attacks are harmless, so they may give up. If that's not enough, instead of wasting time and energy on self-defence, we can focus on our respectable “counter-attack” using sound reason and undeniable facts. And since there is no “block” against facts/truth (except censorship), the unreasonable aggressor can only defeat themselves by going into self-defence. After all, a true and skilled “karateka” will never initiate a “fight”, rather will do their best to resolve the conflict peacefully. So their aggressor is most likely to be an unskilled bully, though we should never underestimate our opponents.
  • Waliyel
    really it is a great article Jesse San .....thank you very much....i was also thinking about the same thing that why the blocks doesn't work all the time....but now i understand has been really helpful...thanks again Jesse San...
  • Luca
    I remember training with some judo people, and whenever they punched they were constantly trying to grab my arm as a "block". I then copied them when I was sparring against karate guys, and I found that my arms did not have to do as much effort...if you are having trouble with the concept outlined in this article just try and grab the opponent's arm. During sparring, I also found that I could get deeper into my opponent's "personal space" and score more points. Osu! /Luca
  • Vicky
    A great read, thanks Jesse. Too many people nowadays use force with force, and all that comes from that are bruised arms or a punch in the face! I can't tell you the amount of times I walk away from a kumite session after partnering someone junior to me and finding bruise all up my arm. Very frustrating. Definitely something that needs to be taught more.
    • Dan Beck
      My take, and my experience have taught me that a soft block typically works better than a hard block. Save your power for a powerful counter. Only use a hard block if you actually want to do damage with it. At that point it become more of an attack than a block.
  • Jon
    This is something one of my instructors was covering with us a few months ago and calling it just that "receiving" or "accepting". He also said we should inhale when receiving and exhale on the counter (e.g. gyaku zuki), which in itself helps makes the "block" soft, but to exhale if the block is being used as an attacking strike - definitely a good article!
  • Aditya
    Jesse-San, your views on the ideology of martial arts has completely changed me as a person. I love you man :')
  • Brad Lee
    I'm glad someone else is aware of this enough to point it out. The idea most people have of blocking is almost self-destructive.
  • While I appreciate the point... Other than your sensei telling you so, and all that sanbon kumite. What makes you think that they were created to be used to defend directly against strikes? Looking at kata, that doesn't seem to be how they are used.
  • Ridzuan
    Dear Jesse san, please create an article regarding gedan barai and age uke. We really intrested to know how your thought on it application.
  • Rooshman
    This is a revelation. It is so simple I am astonished at not appreciating it before. It makes perfect sense now when thought of in this way. It also gives one new appreciation for the fluid movements of the masters. Watch them carefully and this principle becomes clear. Their movements essentially guide the force of an attack in the direction it naturally wants to go, but only slightly altered by the master to be harmless, thus exposing the attacker to a counterattack.
  • Dmitry Boguslavsky
    Glad to know I am not alone. Good article. Thanks
  • Karate nerd cuber
    this is a very good article because as my friends asked me always that how will you get defended with the help of these blocks.greetings from india .thanks jesse san
  • daniel
    love this article because its explain well the exact definition karate was..
  • Buddhika
    Hi Jesse, I saw this "receive" concept on an okinawan karate documentary. But could you please elaborate on HOW to receive? The documentary was not clear about it either Thanks, Buddhika (from Sri Lanka)
  • Kim
    nice article! I just want to comment what my Kenshin Ryu Karate Sensei (Style developed by Seichi Akamine Sensei) use to tell me. It's 2 ways to do a block. You can be Ju or Go. If you are the bigger and stronger, a strong (go) block will do the job by destroying the attackers weapon (arm, fist or leg) in the other way if you are the smaller guy you should avoid direct contact and use conductive blocks (Ju) as the chances for you to get damaged by a stronger opponent are higher. Then you go from Go to Ju or Ju to Go depending on the situation. As well a light attack will be deflected with a strong block and a strong attack will be better managed by a conductive technique.
  • Adrian
    unrealistic "blocks" against prescribed attacks equals unrealistic training methods and what happens when you venture into black belt territory you're totally unprepared because what you've been taught since you began doesnt actually work. You're standing there flat footed while black belts are teeing off on you while you're trying to make you age uke and gedan barais work.
  • Spiritual Warrior
    I have always understood the object is not to get hit. It has been mentioned that one cannot train for a real fight. There is no hard and fast rule. Most of the discourse above is semantics; labels; perceptions. If I found myself in a fight situation later today I would not be obsessed with whether my block deflected the attacker or hurt him. But I would not lose the fight.
  • alistair rae
    Soft blocks and tai sabaki are used in traditional Shotokan dojos. Open hand, soft to receive the energy and use it to move, closed hands can be strong ,hard and used to injure the attacking limb. Same techniques, different applications. The block is to receive, but how it is received is different. Uche uke is a softer block than gedan barai or soto uke. Gedan barai can break a leg or arm, or put the opponent off balance. Tate shuto uke from Heian sandan is a block to the shoulder of the attacking arm. The idea is to dislocate the attackers shoulder, it is a soft block, but hard at the end of the technique, and can also be used just to deflect a blow with no real strength. Both hard and soft should be practiced. So what you say is correct, blocks were meant for other things not just stopping an attack. A good article since many people only practice hard blocking without ever thinking why.
  • Oliver
    JP-san, I wish to respond to this with a more complete answer, as Jesse-San likes people to be adventurous, which is fantastic, but I am a teacher by trade. I believe that Jesse is only discussing the softer method of receiving a blow rather than the equally valid deflection (hard block) or destruction of limbs (block as strike), because the latter two methods are more traditionally seen as the blocks of Karate; Jesse-san wanted to juxtapose the common view of blocks with his own view to make a stark comparison. In terms of the last point of a boxer "receiving" a punch to the jaw, I think this is a misunderstanding of the original intent of the post. An uke, a received attack, is an action on the part of the Karate-ka who is defending and receiving, it is a choice. The reception is correct if it prevents damage to the Karate-ka and more correct if it also sets up the Karate-ka for a counter attack or for positioning that continues to keep him/herself safe. "Receiving" a hit on the face is not a choice by the Karate-ka (I hope not!) and, as such, is not an Uke by the definition above. I hope this answers your question, albeit two years late.
  • really interesting, I also enjoyed a lot of the comments! In particular interesting is, that you, Jesse san, used three of Funakoshi's illustrations where he receives an attack and will show throws in the next picture (i.e. yari dama, tsubame gaeshi and byobu daoshi). These movements do not follow this usual block - counterstrike pattern used widely today, because they are intended to prepare or effect kuzushi (notice the arrows!), which is essential for throwing. Hard blocking i.e. to stop toris energy from going somewhere useful is pretty counterproductive for throws, though your nose shouldn't be hit of course. Hence this redirecting of the oncoming force. Personally I see these blocking techniques as "receivers" usually already while "chambering", whereas the "blocking" itself is mostly already some counterattack, like strikes,throws or attacking joints and such. By the way - the throws Funakoshi showed - that is a very interesting theme and not just for technical reasons. But this here is about blocking and receiving ...
  • Adrian
    Your articles are always interesting and informative ?. The problem with words is they have so many different ways to interpretation them, just think how many words we have for “One” won, first ,top, premier, apex, winner all are similar but different. I would say receiving an attack just means you are being attacked you can actively or passively receive it blocking the energy from damaging you, you could guide it passed Aikido style or strike and damage the limb with the technique you used to receive the attack still blocked its energy entering you.
  • Haneef
    Great knowledge, Thanks Sensei Jessi.Oss
  • KW
    On a rising block (JKA) If your familiar with it ? They use a open hand set up first, then the block ? Can you tell me why the upper open hand set up first before the initial block ? Why not just the rising block itself. Thank you
  • Ozmen Ozturk
    Sensei, what is the difference betwen a block defined as a barai and a block defined as an uke?

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