Beat it, Meet it, or Eat it
There's more to boxing than hitting.
There's not getting hit, for instance.
Since Taekwondo is a defensive martial art, it means that usually practitioners must wait until attacked before acting. Taekwondo has a great variety of blocks that permit adequate blocking even if the blocker is weak, has an inadequate range of motion, or has an injury. This also allows blockers to deal with a variety of attacks, including those from armed and unarmed attackers.
Blocks are classified as either hard or soft. Hard blocks are used by "hard" martial art styles, such as Taekwondo and most styles of karate. Soft blocks are used by the "soft" martial art styles, such as kung-fu and some karate styles. Regardless of their primary classification as a "hard" of "soft" style," most styles (including Taekwondo) use a combination of hard and soft blocks.
A hard block may also be considered an attack since it not only stops the attack but may injure the attacking limb. Blocks, especially soft blocks, may also lead into other techniques, such as joint locks and throws. Therefore, do not be confined by the term block; think of blocks as a part of an overall plan of attack.
Ways blocks are used
- Block with enough power that attack is convinced not attack again
- Block gently, so that the attack is just parried or deflected
- Block and then counterattack, or block and attack simultaneously
- Block to unbalance the attacker
- Block the attack as it is about to begin forward movement
- Block attack at end of its movement
- Block and retreat to a safe position until an opportunity to attack presents itself
A sitting target is easy to hit; a moving target is difficult to hit. For an opponent to strike you with damaging force, the opponent must be set. Movement must stop for at least a moment so force may be generated from the floor, through the legs, and out an arm or leg to the target. If the opponent sees an opening and sets for the attack, if you are constantly moving, the opening will have closed or moved before the attack is fired. The attacker may try to "lead" the target and fire to where he or she thinks the target will be when the attack reaches it, but if you move erratically, there is no way for the opponent to predict where the target will be. This is why boxers move continually and why most of the attacking punches miss their target. To make up for this, boxers throw and array of punches in all directions, hoping one will make contact.
Therefore, the primary way to avoid an attack is to move; then blocking is unneeded or needed minimally. Stay on balls of feet and keep the feet moving (dancing). Erratically, but purposely, weave the body from the ankles to the neck. Erratically, but purposely, bob and weave the head using the neck and upper body. Erratically, but purposely, move the entire body in circles around the opponent. When all this is done, the opponent cannot set, so, even if attacks strike a target, they will be weak.
Blocks are used as a last resort when all else has failed, such as deflection or avoidance (sidestepping or ducking) or leaving. Even then, the block may fail. When a block fails, you get hit. Even if a block works, your blocking arm or leg may be injured. Blocks are violent—it is force is meeting force. Blocks require a lot of energy, they stiffen the body, and they cause mental as well as physical stress. You may rely on blocks against people who have shorter leg or arm reach, have much less body mass than you, are much less as strong as you, or who are frail for some reason; however, as a general rule it is better to evade than it is to block.
Interception is the preferred method of defense. Interceptions occur on intention (before the attack), on initiation (as the attack starts), or during execution (as attack is in progress), whereas blocks are used as the attack is about to make contact. Interception on intention is the best option but it requires a skilled fighter who may anticipate attacks by "reading" an opponent's non-verbal clues.
Ways to intercept an attack
- Using upper body. Most common interception tool is the jab. It draws opponent's attention away from the intended attack, causes the opponent have to think about defense, and it may make contact, which further makes the opponent reconsider an attack.
- Using lower body. Most common interception tools are the leading/trailing side kick, leading/trailing front kick, leading/trailing twist kick, or any kick used to stop the forward motion of an attacker.
At some point between initiation of an attack and your having to block it, evasion comes into play. Evasion is simply avoiding an attack. Evasion is highly efficient since no contact occurs with the opponent. Evasive movements may involve footwork (such as sidesteps or stepping backward) or just body movement (such as the duck, slip, or bob and weave).
To evade you must be able to change the direction of any part of your body with the smallest impetus and with no conscious thought or physical restriction. This requires you to be relaxed, reactive, rooted, and yielding. Humans think! When being attacked, this split second of thought, and possible indecision, causes a split second of body tension and non-movement. Animals do not need make a moral or strategic choices when challenged; they simply either fight or run.
Another type of blocking is covering. Covering is hiding the head and body directly behind the hands and vertical forearms. When covering, do not look down or away. Keep looking at the opponent so you will be able to react as needed. Do not cover for more than a second or two. Covering is only to avoid immediate blows; it is not a long-term solution. Quickly takedown, tie up, or counterpunch if you have to cover.
Komar, N. (2000). The Physics of Blocking. Niagara North Newsletter, Volume 28, September, 28 2000. [Online]. Available: http://www.wadokaikarate.com [2003, February 20].