Orange Belt Mid and Low Level Blocks

Mid-Level Blocks

Mawashi Empi Uke

In this blocking strategy, the fists of each hand are placed onto their respective hips such that the upper bone of each finger (the proximal phalanx) rests on the hip bone. The elbows stick directly outward to local angles 3 and 4. As a strike approaches from the general direction of angle 1, your center is rotated to bring your arm surface into contact with the edge (inside or outside) of the incoming strike. This circular motion presses the strike away from your torso and toward your front. Although both hands are postured for this block, only one arm at a time is typically involved in blocking.

This block is featured in the Pinan Sandan Kata and is surprisingly effective, especially when used with a counter-strike of one kind or another with the same arm.

An obvious disadvantage of this block is that your hands are nowhere near a rational guard position. Both hands are down and occupied at your hips. That may not make this the most practical self-defense strategy. But, if you are standing around with your hands on your hips and somebody kicks you from the front, well, then, there you go.

Low-Level Blocks

Gedan Barai – Ura Gedan Barai

This is often a difficult blocking combination for students to perfect so we will be quite detailed and explicit in our definition. Please pardon us if this seems ponderous, but it may help you better define exactly how to move each arm to complete this sometimes troubling blocking combination.

This combination is sometimes called a Kick Block Combination and involves both arms performing a sweeping block to the Gedan level (other levels might be considered in some cases). The first block is an Ura Gedan Barai and the second is a Gedan Barai. Typically the Gedan Barai is performed with the front arm and the Ura Gedan Barai is performed with the back arm.

With both arms in an effective guard position, drive the back arm down into an Ura Gedan Barai to strike the side of the incoming leg (presumably). As this arm begins to descend, the opposite arm moves until the hand is positioned, palm up, directly in front of the shoulder of the back arm (the arm performing the Ura Gedan Barai). As the Ura Gedan Barai impacts the target the second arm begins to descend as a Gedan Barai. The first arm now terminates its block and begins its journey back to an effective guard position. As the second hand completes its block, it too returns to an effective guard or initiates some other planned function.

In this blocking combination, it is extremely important to note the following points:

  • Both hands are almost always in constant motion. No hand is stationary except at the beginning and end of the combination.
  • Since arms are striking a leg (normally) rotational delivery must be used to reduce the chance for injury and to better affect the attacker’s structure. It is also important that these blocks impact muscle tissues in the legs rather than bone.
  • The kick won’t be there for long so both blocks must be delivered in rapid succession.
  • The first block is the most critical for it redirects the path of the kick. The second block is then free to control and manipulate your opponent or to further press the kick away from your torso.
  • Do not lean forward to deliver this block as this could place your Jodan level targets in the path of the kick. If your timing were bad then you may allow yourself to be kicked in the face.
  • The Gedan Barai should be delivered with effective center rotation to drive your opponent’s center away, allowing you to close on, strike at, or escape from the attacker with relative ease.
  • There is a short moment in time when you have no effective guard up. If your opponent strikes to your face during this time you could be easily struck. You must be aware of this limitation and, to the extent possible, use the first block to rob your opponent of the structural integrity required to strike.
  • Both arms must be slightly bent and maintain a smooth natural curve to reduce the risk of injury.

Morote Gedan Barai

The Morote Gedan Barai can be thought of as a low-level version of Kakiwake Uke. It is used primarily to defend against a low-level or waist grab attack in which the opponent is using both hands (though it can work if the attacker is using a single hand).

To perform this blocking combination both hands begin at Chudan level near your Center Line. Both palms would face your torso. As both hands concurrently descend they undergo rotational delivery and contact the opponent’s arms while in rotation. Eventually, your palms turn to face the floor as you press the opponent’s arms outward.

This combination might be used to block something like Mae Geri. The dual movement of both arms can provide a balanced and symmetrical sense of power and stability. If using this combination for that purpose you will want to ensure you have moved off the Center Line, are employing center rotation, and only one arm is making contact with (preferably) the outside of the attacker’s leg. Ask yourself, why would you not want to block the inside of the attacker’s leg with this blocking combination?

An astute observer might conclude that this block is nothing more than a low-level Kakiwake Uke. They would be correct.

At times this block can cause a grabbing opponent to lurch forward since you are causing them significant structural instability while he or she is leaning somewhat forward. Watch out for this eventuality.

It is common to confuse the final hand positions of this blocking combination with the final hand positions of Yoi. After Morote Gedan Barai reaches its final position, the hands are generally oriented horizontally. In Yoi, the hands are oriented vertically.

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