These upper level blocks all deal with a strike that may be directed to your upper torso or head level. As a result, the normal positioning for these blocks is at the Chudan or Jodan level. But you should keep in mind that any block might be delivered at any level under the right circumstances (although you may find many physical limitations that make a specific block impractical or impossible in some circumstances). Generally, you will want to keep an open mind about block placement. Think instead of the mechanics and timing of the block sequence, then see how it might be employed in a variety of situations.
All of the blocks in this section are what might be referred to as double blocks. Either two blocks are delivered or both hands are involved in delivering a single block. In most cases, these blocks involve combinations of blocks studied in the Yellow Belt Uke curriculum. If you are unfamiliar with these blocks then you may want to study them before exploring the blocks below.
Morote Ura Chudan Uke
The Morote Chudan Uke is an outward reinforce block. The blocking hand performs an Ura Chudan Uke while the other hand presses against the forearm of the blocking arm. The reinforcing hand might be formed as a fist or the open palm might be used to press into the blocking forearm. This has the effect of adding stability and power to the block, but also has the added advantage of keeping yourself better centered as you progress through the blocking motion. The blocking arm should still undergo rotational delivery to minimize potential injury. This is especially important with this block as the additional force provided by the reinforcing arm can result in an increased risk of injury to the arm.
Experiment with where the support hand presses into the blocking arm. You will find different benefits and risks when the supporting hand is placed at various locations on the forearm of the blocking hand. It is quite beneficial to appreciate these differences.
You may wish to consider that this block is best applied when blocking on the ear side of the opponent (on the outside of the opponent’s arm). If you block on the face side (inside of the opponent’s arm) then you will be subject to a natural second strike coming from the opponent’s opposite arm. Since both of your hands are occupied during this block you may find it hard to block the second strike in a timely manner.
Chudan Uke – Ura Chudan Uke
This is a Keiretsu blocking combination using both arms. As the Chudan Uke is delivered the other hand is positioned, palm down, immediately below the elbow of the blocking hand. The moment the Chudan Uke begins to impact the target the other arm rises just forward of the Chudan Uke blocking arm and extends outward to block the same target with an Ura Chudan Uke. As this second block makes contact the first arm is retracted to guard position. Both blocks utilize rotational delivery.
This combination (often called an Inward Outward Combination Block) could be used against two separate incoming strikes but is more frequently used against a single strike. This proves to be most effective when the Ura Chudan Uke is combined with center rotation to move both the opponent’s center away and to bring your center so it is focused directly on your opponent. Adding a vertical component (either up or down) to the blocking movements will also add a level of increased manipulation that will further work to destroy your opponent’s structure. In general, you should strive to have blocks operate in all three dimensions to establish dominance and control of your opponent from the onset.
Chudan Uke – Age Uke
This is a Keiretsu combination commonly called an Inward Upward Combination Block and is very similar to the prior blocking combination, except that the second block is an Age Uke instead of an Ura Chudan Uke. Otherwise, the blocks are quite similar. Again, rotational delivery and center rotation are essential concepts that should be used whenever this blocking combination is employed.
(Morote) Kakiwake Uke
The Double Outward Extended block is roughly the equivalent of doing an Outward Extended Block with both arms simultaneously. Generally, both harms come together (or slightly cross) at your center line and then extend up and outward at the same time. Using rotational delivery your hands will complete the blocks with both palms facing your opponent. This combination is often used to thwart an incoming grab attempt or to interrupt a Morote Ken Tsuki. Both hands should utilize rotational delivery as they are employed.
It should be noted that the general movement of this block will often impart an outward rotational movement into your opponent’s outstretched arms. If the opponent continues and amplifies this movement they are likely to arrive at a Morote Ura Ken Tsuki to your face. For this reason, it is recommended that this block should either be limited in its outward movement or include a structural destabilization aspect that would disrupt this outcome (for example, also pressing forward into the opponent’s upper arms or pulling down on his or her forearms). There are several different disruptive patterns that you might consider. Experiment to see if you can discover some of them for yourself.
Generally, this block is referred to as Kakiwake Uke, but some martial arts styles refer to it as Morote Kakiwake Uke. You may use either form of the name. You will see and hear both names used in Tensoku Ryu.
Morote Ura Chudan Shuto Uke
Delivery and utilization of this block are similar to the Kakiwake Uke, except the striking surface is the outside edge of the open hands (Shuto Uke). This works well when blocking will impact the muscles in the forearm or upper arm. Because this block has a smaller impact area and is, therefore, more penetrating it is a little less likely to induce a circular arm movement by your opponent – though this is still a significant risk. Using the open hands has the advantage of imparting some focused pain into soft tissue areas on your opponent, but more importantly, it allows the hands to bend, grab, encircle, or strike your opponent with relative ease and effectiveness immediately after the blocks.
Morote Shotei Uke
The Morote Shotei Uke uses both open hands to block a strike or defend against a frontal grab. The orientation of the hands varies depending upon what you are blocking and what you wish to accomplish with the block. The block is delivered using both open hands, typically using the palm or heel of the hand as the blocking surface. Here are a few examples of how this versatile blocking sequence might be utilized.
- If dealing with an incoming strike then the hands can be placed vertically on opposite sides of the opponent’s arm such that the palms both contact the arm. One hand is placed inside and just above the opponent’s wrist and the other outside and just above their elbow. Pressing both hands inward will put stress on the opponent’s elbow, enabling a throwing or controlling motion. If the palms are pressed inward sharply they can potentially cause joint damage to the opponent.
- With the same attack, the hands can be placed such that one hand is inside the opponent’s arm just above the wrist and the other hand is placed outside and just below the shoulder joint. This provides an opportunity for a controlling maneuver that will force the opponent’s head forward and down.
- Again assuming an incoming strike, place one hand outside of the opponent’s arm and just above the wrist. Place the other hand inside of the opponent’s arm at the elbow joint. Pressing both hands inward will cause the opponent’s arm to bend severely, offering an opportunity for a throw or controlling maneuver.
- In a dual frontal grab where the opponent is attempting to grab with both hands near your shoulders or head, pressing dual palm blocks inward at your opponent’s wrists will likely thwart their grab attempt.
- In a similar dual grab attack pressing Morote Shotei Uke upward under the opponent’s forearms will cause his or her hands to rise above their intended target, opening the opponent up for subsequent strikes to their torso.
- Alternately, pressing two Morote Shotei Uke down at the top of an opponent’s outstretched forearms will cause his or her hands to move downward as their head is pulled down and forward, allowing you to strike with dual index knuckle strikes to the opponent’s head, a combination that Taichichuan (Tai Chi) refers to as Striking the Tiger’s Ears.
In the first three options above you would likely want to move off of your opponent’s center while initiating the blocking sequence. The last three options might suggest staying somewhere near the opponent’s center so that you can easily reach both of his or her arms – but you should consider how you could accomplish each of these sequences by moving off-center as well. You might have occasion to use either version.
Consider what would happen if you used option number four above, but blocked near the elbows instead of at the wrists. The downside is that the opponent has probably already grabbed you by this point, so this action may be less effective as a block. However, if you impacted the elbows with substantial force then you may cause injury to their outstretched elbows. This brings up an important consideration. Would this be a block, or would it be a strike? It clearly could be either. What makes it a block, and what makes it a strike? As you will study in future belts, the only distinction between a block and a strike is your intent.
Morote Chudan Barai Uke
Executing Morote Chudan Barai Uke normally requires that you perform some form of escape stepping pattern to move out of the direct line of fire, usually moving to the outside of the incoming strike. The blocks are usually both concurrently focused on a single arm. Your back arm will sweep inward and encounter the inside edge of your opponent’s forearm, often near the wrist. Your front arm will sweep inward in the opposite direction and impact the outside of your opponent’s upper arm, often just above the elbow.
The blocking surface can be the closed fists or the forearms (using the open palms would make this a Morote Shotei Uke). This block is often used to simply interrupt a strike and then manipulate the opponent, but the block has many other uses. You may note that if you apply adequate pressure, the opponent may have difficulty returning his or her arm. With sufficient impact, the blocks can hyper-extend the opponent’s elbow causing significant pain. With more force the elbow joint might be more seriously damaged, rendering the arm unusable (this, by the way, is one of the reasons we always insist that your arms remain slightly bent so that you reduce the risk of this type of injury to yourself). While we do not encourage causing injury to others, the latter version of this blocking strategy might be warranted if your opponent is intent on causing you harm.
Ensure that any forceful impact involves the side of your closed fist or open palm so that you avoid bone-on-bone contact that could lead to you receiving a significant injury. The forearms are often used in this blocking combination but you should ensure they do not impact the opponent’s arms forcefully. Once in place, your forearms can apply tremendous pressure to the opponent’s arm.
Morote Ura Chudan Kote Uke
Morote Ura Chudan Kote Uke is related to the Morote Kakiwake Uke, but the blocks are delivered such that the palm of your closed fists will face your bicep muscles after the blocks. The blocking surface is the forearm of each arm, and rotational delivery is used to both distribute energy over a larger surface area and to impart manipulation and influence over your opponent’s structure.
If this block is performed with open hands then the hands can immediately invert and then descend following the blocks to check the outside edge of your opponent’s arms. This will prevent the assailant from performing a circular arm strike against you.
It is vitally important that you do not use this as an impact block. That would likely result in bone-on-bone contact between your forearm and your assailant’s arm or leg. This could lead to you receiving a broken arm injury. That is not advantageous in a struggle.
These blocks should be thought of as glancing or manipulative blocks rather than impact actions.
Rotating Center Blocks
As you become more proficient at blocking you may notice that blocks are often best delivered by keeping the arm locked in a fixed position and then rotating your center (and the blocking arm) to deliver the block. The Rotating Center Blocks are multiple blocks using this delivery mechanism. The hands are held in the guard position and then the center rotates to apply one hand (or forearm) or the other as a block. Your center is rotated no more than 45° to deliver any block and then instantly returns to its original position again (unless you have some other strategy in mind). In this way, you can quickly block a variety of incoming strikes simply by rotating using a fixed guard position. This affords you good vision and good Jodan level protection while keeping your hands in a position from which they can readily strike at the opponent. It does not work well below the Jodan level, and blocking more than a few times in this manner will naturally invite a strike to a lower level. You should notice that the arms can be used to block to the inside and the outside with the same ease and rapidity of movement.