These are blocks that generally travel from the outside edge of your center triangle toward your center on an inward trajectory. This is often referred to as a Soto or outside initiated movement. So, the Chudan Uke described below could also accurately be described (and often is by other martial arts systems) as Soto Chudan Uke in some circumstances, for example if you are blocking the outside of an attacker’s arm.
While there may be occasions where you will want or need to extend these blocks outside of your center triangle the blocks are usually most efficient, protective, and otherwise beneficial if they are delivered solely within the confines of your center triangle.
This is often referred to as an Inward Block because the direction of travel is generally from your ear and inward toward your center. You should perform this block with a tightly closed fist and impact the opponent’s arm (or other target) with the little finger side of the fist, but below the fingers using the muscular part of the side palm. Using rotational delivery the hand then rotates while still in contact with the attacker’s arm in order to move their arm outward, downward, or in some other controlling manner.
It is important that you make contact with the hand rather than the arm. New students always want to block with the arm because they instinctively feel it provides a broader area of protection. While this is true, there is another underlying factor that must be considered.
When you strike with Chudan Uke the little finger side of the wrist is directed into the target. If you strike with the forearm then the area of your arm just above the wrist is what will impact the attacker’s arm or leg. If you and the attacker are both using your right arms, then your arm will contact the attacker’s arm just above his or her wrist. This will be on the side of his or her arm adjacent to the attacker’s thumb.
Near the wrist in the forearm are two bones, the radius and the ulna. The radius is largest near the wrist and then tapers down to become smaller as it approaches the elbow. The ulna is much the opposite. It is largest near the elbow but then grows increasingly thinner as it approaches the wrist joint. Anatomically the radius bone sits adjacent to the thumb side of your wrist while the ulna sits adjacent to the little finger side of the wrist.
If you slam your lower right forearm into the striking right forearm of your opponent then you are in effect slamming your smaller ulna bone into the larger radius bone of your opponent’s arm. If a bone is going to break, it will likely be yours.
For this reason (and others) we stress that is important to block using the fleshy part of the compact fist rather than the forearm. Self-preservation in a conflict is essential. You do not want to do anything that may result in an injury that gives your opponent an instantaneous advantage.
A Shuto Uke is essentially a Shuto Uchi (Karate Chop) delivered against an attacker’s incoming arm or leg. When used without rotational delivery it is nothing more than a strike. When used with rotational delivery it can be used to both deflect a strike and then grasp, maneuver, and control your opponent. When used with a bend in the wrist the block allows you to gain further control of your opponent. Try moving the wrist in various directions during a block to see how this can be used for different effects.
You should note that the Shuto Uke can be used in almost any direction. It can be used as an inward, outward, upward, or downward directed block and you will find many uses for this block in each direction.
Many martial arts styles refer to an open-handed Ura Chudan Uke as a Hooking Block. They use the wrist to hook over an opponent’s arm (typically) and use this to then grab or control the opponent. We would refer to that block as an Ura Shuto Uke. This is largely semantics, but we have a different definition for a hooking block.
To perform our version of the Hooking Block requires that we use a stepping pattern to move away from our current position and then outside of the incoming strike. We then deliver what might look like a Mawashi Tsuki but use our forearm and bicep areas to contact the inside of the attacker’s arm or shoulder. We then bend our elbow and drop our fist downward to pull the opponent off balance and into an awkward position. It is important to have the other hand up in a viable guard position. This block cannot be delivered well from a static position.
The Kote Uke, or forearm block, is a form of Chudan Uke or Ura Chudan Uke in which the forearm makes first contact with the striking arm or leg. The forearm must utilize rotational delivery to minimize impact injury to the arm and to gain greater influence over the attacker’s structure. Raising or lowering the forearm while it rotates and moves into the attacker’s leg or arm can further compromise the structural stability of your opponent.
This is a palm heel block and can be delivered in different ways depending on a) orientation, and b) elevation. The fingers are pointed upwards for a Chudan or Jodan block, but may be either pointed upward or downward for a Gedan level block. The palm might be pointed inward or outward when blocking an arm, but might be pointed forward if blocking a shoulder. The palm could be pointed in nearly any direction if blocking a kick.
This block may seem to be somewhat frail, but it is a truly powerful and effective block. It can be used to project penetration into the attacking appendage by first pointing the fingers toward the target, and then suddenly projecting the wrist forward at the moment of impact.