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Eight Basic Blocks


William Johnstone

   One of the fundamental skills that any martial artist must attempt to master is blocking technique. Good blocking skills protect the fighter and set up the opponent for counter attack. Blocking an attack can be accomplished in a verity of ways. Too often inexperienced kung fu or karate students skip any attempts at blocking and simply lunge away from an attack or meet offensive with offensive disregarding blocking altogether. One set of blocking techniques that attempts to impart solid, applicable skills is the Eight Basic Block Set. The technique found in this short pattern will serve to protect the kung fu student from attacker and sparring partner alike.

   Before learning the Eight Basic Blocks an understanding of terms and concepts is needed to clarify the information in the mind of the student. These ideas will lead to a more full understanding of attacking, blocking and fighting strategy.

1.      Gates

Chinese martial arts theory divides the human body into three “gates” or levels. From the top of the head to the bottom of the sternum is designated the upper gate. From the bottom of the sternum to the just below the groin area is the middle gate and from that point down to the soles of the feet is the lower gate.

 2.      Centerline

The centerline is an imaginary line that runs down the center of the body dividing it into two equal parts. When the extended hand or leg crosses this line the centerline is said to be closed. A closed centerline interferes with techniques thrown with the opposite side and leaves the person open to attack. This is the same as being “out flanked’ on the battlefield. When the centerline is opened the inside or front of the body is exposed to attack.

 3.      Power blocking

Power blocking is using a hard powerful interception of an attacking limb in an attempt to drive it off its intended trajectory.

   The Techniques of the Eight Basic Blocking Set


   Standing in a balanced bladed fighting position with one hand held up in front of the body and one across the mid-line-

1.      Block inside- Move the blocking arm to your inside as you rotate the arm so that the attacking limb is meet with the outside of the forearm. This block is used to protect the upper and gate middle from an attack coming in from the side or down the centerline.

2.      Block outside- Move the blocking arm to the inside of the body, once again turning the forearm so that the block is performed with the outside of the forearm. This movement protects from an attack form to the inside upper and middle gates.

3.      Block upward- Bock above the head using the lead arm, make the block with the forearm.

4.      Block down with the point of the elbow-Drop the elbow downward using the point of the elbow to impact the attacking limb. You may also use this elbow drop to cover the body and take the impact of the strike on the arm. The middle gate is protected and or covered with this block.

5.      Block downward with the forearm- Block down and out with the lead arm protecting the middle outside gate. The forearm or the outside of the forearm may be used.

6.      Block upward with the back hand- This block is used if the lead hand is occupied and an attacking limb has slipped past it. Raise the inside hand upward to protect (with the outside of the forearm) the inside of the body and head (inside upper and inside middle gate).

7.      Block downward with the back hand- Use the back hand to protect the inside middle gate by blocking down along the body. Make the block with the outside of the forearm.

8.      Block with the leg/shin- Raise the leg to meet a kick to the middle or lower gate. The outside of the lower leg can be used as the area of impact.  If “Iron Shin” or “Tieh Ching Kung” is part of the training the shin itself can be the blocking surface.


   Several drills can be utilized to develop skill with these blocking techniques.

1.      Mirror drill-Stand in front of a full length mirror and perform the blocking set by the numbers. Check to see that each block is executed correctly. Start slowly the build speed as the technique improves.

2.      Free standing drill- Stand in the fighting stance and perform the blocks against imaginary attacks. Picture the attack coming at you before blocking it.

3.      Freestyle with a training pardoner- One person takes the role as the attacker and the other the defender. One person attacks at will at any target while the other person defends.

   Train the blocking technique hard, this is the first step in developing counter-fighting skills. Start slow, use good technique then develop speed. Two person works will build reflex/reaction skills.


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