You should study and practice the following leg blocks. Sometimes using the legs is the only effective way to limit or prevent an attack from an opponent. There are quite a large number of these blocks and many more that you could imagine. Study and practice these blocks often.
A Note on Soto and Uchi
Within the martial arts the term Soto usually refers to a position to the outside of something. The term Uchi usually refers to a position on the inside of something. This seems simple enough, but the terms are not used consistently from one martial art to another or in various circumstances.
For example, in this article we will discuss the Soto SuneUke. This is a block with the shin. In many martial arts systems, this suggests the shin is first placed on the outside of the incoming attack and then moves inward. In other words, the block is inward-directed from the outside. But many other martial arts systems define this same block as outward-directed. This would mean the block would be initially placed on the inside of the approaching attack and then moved outward. It can be very confusing when you refer to something as a Soto movement.
Some additional confusion arises from where the word (such as Soto) is applied. You will see references to Soto Sune Uke and Sune Soto Uke. Both refer to the same block (assuming they are both talking about the same direction of travel for the block).
The term Naka is at times used in the same way that Uchi is used. They both mean “inside” and, within the context of martial arts movements, are synonyms. Uchi is encountered more frequently than Naka, but you may see either form used by various martial arts systems.
As a result, there is little consistency regarding the use of the terms Soto and Uchi when defining the direction of movement. The terms can best be described as contextual. You simply need to understand the context in which the term is being used and understand whether the specific movement is inward or outward-directed. It can be confusing at times, we know. But human languages are full of ambiguities.
We will strive to be consistent in our use of these terms. In Japanese, the word “Soto” means outside. The word “Uchi” means inside. To be consistent we will use Soto to mean a movement that blocks the outside of a strike. Uchi will refer to a movement that blocks the inside of a strike.
That sounds simple enough, but it is not without ambiguity. Consider a Chudan Uke for a moment. Let us assume someone is striking with a Migi Oi Tsuki. As the strike approaches, you reach out and block it with a Chudan Uke. Now is the block Uchi Chudan Uke or Soto Chudan Uke? Well, it depends on which hand you used, doesn’t it? If you used your right hand then it was Uchi Chudan Uke. If you used your left hand it was Soto Chudan Uke. No matter how you approach it, there will remain confusion regarding these terms without considering a specific context.
So, let’s adopt some standard definitions. If a block makes contact along the inside (medial) edge of your leg then the block is a Soto Uke. Normally this will mean you are blocking to the outside of a strike, though you can easily find exceptions. If the block makes contact along the outside (lateral) edge of your leg then the block is an Uchi Uke. In most situations, your block will impact the inside edge of a strike. We will all understand that this is not technically accurate in all situations.
Any definition we might establish will have flaws. The usage we have selected allows our block names to remain consistent with the usage applied by most martial arts systems.
Mae Sune Uke
The Mae Sune Uke, or Front Shin Block, involves raising the knee such that the shin moves forward but remains in a generally vertical orientation. The front of the shin is then used to form a blocking surface.
As anyone who has been impacted directly in the shin can tell you, this can hurt, especially if you are striking a bony surface or weapon. So, avoid this whenever possible. Instead, use the block when you have moved to the side and/or can block into a softer tissue area, such as the side of the calf or the upper thigh. For example, if you move using an R7 stepping pattern, then the left leg can be raised toward global octagon angle 3 to block the side of an incoming Mae Geri or the back of the leg if the opponent is delivering something like a Yoko Geri with their left leg.
If a Yoko Geri is delivered with the right leg instead this same step and block can still be effective if it contacts the thigh. Blocking shin-to-shin is a bone-on-bone block and should be avoided because of the pain and potential risks involved.
You may also notice that this block is most effective when used at the Gedan or Chudan level. It would be difficult (or impossible) to use this block when a strike targets your head. But even defending against an upper torso strike would likely be unwise with this block. First of all, it might take too long to get the shin into position. Secondly, if you did get your shin up that high then you would be standing on a single leg as you are being impacted in your upper body. This may not be a wise structural position. As a result, this block is typically used to defend the lower torso and your Gedan level.
Soto Sune Uke
This block, also called an Outside Shin Block, is similar to the Mae Sune Uke, except that your leg is moving inward as the block is applied. So, you might use your left leg to defend against a right-side attack from an opponent. The inside (medial) side of your left leg presses into the outside of the opponent’s arm or leg. This can be useful to block something like a Migi Mae Geri or Migi Yoko Geri initiated by your opponent.
This block is most practical when you are standing relatively square to your opponent or can easily use your front leg since this gives you the fastest delivery time (as opposed to the case where you would attempt to use your back leg). Since you may be pressing the attacking appendage toward your center where it could make contact, you may want to rotate your center as you deliver the block so that an approaching kick will move wide of your center on the opposite side of your body.
This brings up a point to consider. If the opponent is striking with Migi Mae Geri and you block with Hidari Soto Sune Uke, then the inward motion of your left leg combined with center rotation will cause the opponent to spin such that you will now be on the attacker’s Ear Side or Back Side (depending on how the block evolved). You will want to make this type of observation whenever you block a strike.
Uchi Sune Uke
The Uchi Sune Uke, or Inside Shin Block, is similar to the Soto Sune Uke, except your shin is making contact with its outer (lateral) edge. In this case, the left leg might be used to defend against a Migi Mae Geri from your opponent. The inside of your left shin would press against the inside of the attacker’s leg.
Since the attacker’s leg is moving toward your outside, less center rotation is required to make it miss. You will likely end up on the face side of the opponent. Your block will probably force the attacker to step forward to retain his or her balance when the kicking leg descends. This step might be accompanied by an opposite-side strike. You should prepare for that by thwarting the attack before it can occur.
Mae Hiza Uke
The Mae Hiza Uke, or Front Knee Block, can be a risky block if not applied correctly. Blocking by impacting the knee cap (the Hizagashira) should be avoided as this can cause serious injury. Instead, you should block with the portion of the leg immediately above the knee. This limits the possible strikes and kicks that can be affected by this block.
If the heel of your blocking leg is lifted higher than your opposite knee then the top of your thigh will be projected forward and upward. This makes this block useful for contacting the thigh or back of the calf of a kicking leg. It is also useful to defend against an opponent who has dropped their head to the Gedan level to strike at your lower extremities.
If the foot remains lower than the knee then your thigh will remain generally pointed downward or parallel to the floor. This is useful for blocking upward and under an attacking limb. This can be extremely effective when blocking the return of a kick such as the Mae Geri. As the kick is delivered you position your knee so it will impact the back of the opponent’s thigh as they return the kick. This will likely disrupt the opponent’s structure and balance, allowing you to gain a strategic advantage.
In both cases, this block is applied by pressing the knee directly forward of your torso. The contact surface for this block is normally the inferior portion (lower end) of the thigh. Less frequently you might employ the superior portion (upper end) of the shin, though this might technically be considered a Mae Sune Uke.
Uchi Hiza Uke
The Uchi Hiza Uke, or Inside Knee Block, uses the outside (lateral) surface of the knee to block a strike (often a kick). You must be careful to avoid striking with the knee cap.
The most common use of this block is to protect the groin area from an attack such as the Mae Geri. The knee rises and presses the incoming kick toward the outside of your body. Rotating your center as you apply the block helps to make it more effective and moves the target area away from the strike. As with all leg blocks, you must now get your foot back on the ground quickly so you can begin your next movement sequence.
Soto Hiza Uke
This is the opposite of the Uchi Hiza Uke in that the block uses the inside (medial) surface of your knee. This block is also called the Outside Knee Block. Once again the admonishment to avoid contact with the knee cap is applicable. Rotate your center during delivery to make the block more effective at turning your opponent’s center away.
Sokutei Mawashi Uke
This is also referred to as a Sweeping Sole Block. The Sokutei Mawashi Uke is applied by raising your shin and then positioning the foot in a vertical orientation with the toes facing either upward or downward. The sole is then swept horizontally into the targeted surface. The toes are normally pulled back to reduce the chance of them suffering an impact with a hard surface.
In some ways, this will look like a Mikazuki Geri, especially if the toes are pointed upward. This block does not typically have the same broad circular path, acceleration, and extension that is associated with a Mikazuki Geri.
The most common use of this block is to intercept an opponent’s arm or leg and to direct it away from its intended target. It is frequently used to impact the inside of an opponent’s limb but has other uses. It may be used to impact the outside edge of a limb, but can also be applied to a hip, the back of the knee, the calf, or the back of the ankle as more of a controlling maneuver.
Sokutei Osae Uke
A Sokutei Osae Uke is a Downward (or Pressing) Sole Block. It is similar to the Sokutei Mawashi Uke except that the sole is pressed down and into the target rather than used to sweep the target to the side. The block is commonly used to interrupt a kick by impacting the ankle, shin, or knee of the kicking leg at the earliest stages of the kick. The toes of the blocking foot are normally turned to the outside, but turning the foot in the opposite direction can be effective in some situations. The block looks similar to the Shovel Kick, but again lacks the focus and intensity of the kick.
Sokutei Gake Uke
The Sokutei Gake Uke uses the instep to hook the back of an approaching kick, pulling the kick forward so that the opponent’s structure is severely compromised. If an opponent uses Migi Mae Geri then your might employ Migi Sokutei Gake Uke to hook behind the heel of the attacker’s leg and then hook or pull that leg toward you. Since the opponent is standing on a single leg this movement will have a dramatic impact on his or her balance and will provide you with an immediate tactical advantage.
You might note that this block can be used in the early stages of kick delivery or following the kick at the moment just before the opponent will place his or her weight on the kicking leg.
This block is not always easy to perform because it requires excellent timing. When you can use this block it is often extremely effective.
Mae Momo Uke
The Mae Momo Uke, or Front Upper Leg Block uses the thigh to block a strike. Your leg is projected generally forward until the upper part of the leg impacts or redirects the incoming attack. This block is perhaps best applied against the thigh of an opponent. Using it to block something like a Yoko Geri is likely to result in a painful injury. It would work in an emergency, but you will probably suffer a Charlie-horse and/or a substantial bruise.
Uchi Momo Uke
This block is also referred to as the Inside Upper Leg Block. It uses the outside edge of the thigh to encounter the incoming strike. This allows your relatively strong leg to redirect the opponent’s strike off to the outside. When used with some centering movement as well the effects of this redirection can be amplified.
Soto Momo Uke
The opposite of the Momo Uchi Uke, the Outside Upper Leg Block uses the inside of the thigh to block a strike. Care must be utilized here to ensure your block does not simply guide a strike directly into your groin or lower abdomen. Therefore a significant amount of centering rotation usually occurs to move the lower torso area out of the direct path of an attack.
Like Momo Uchi Uke, be sure to include center rotation as part of the mechanism for employing this block. It will reduce the likelihood of a strike impacting our groin.