The purpose of a block is to disrupt an oncoming attack and to discourage further attack. My partner Jim Sheeran likes to remind people that the purpose of blocking is to: break, smash, bruise, and destroy the opponent’s weapon. A good block will knock the opponent out of balance. A block is not a passive move, the force of your block meets and strikes the weapon that is directed to you.

The principle we teach for blocking is referred to as the “three Rs” – Remove, Replace, and Return. That is:

  • Remove the target (yourself) from the oncoming attack
  • Replace the target with a block
  • Return (immediately) with a counter-strike to the opponent

Let’s take this piece by piece.

Remove: Removing the target (that is, you or a particular body part) involves a combination of body angles, shifting your center of gravity, and stepping. Depending on how you remove the target, a block may not even be needed. The tradeoff is that the further away you move yourself, the harder it is to “return” with a counter strike. Using a “slip” allows you to stay within range, but requires precision in evading the attack. On the other hand, using stepping to create distance can be the right strategy, allowing you to leave the scene instead of continuing (this can be the smartest strategy in some situations!).

Replace: Only after you’ve removed the target, incorporate the suitable block, which is appropriate to the body zone under attack. For example, attacks to the head can be blocked with a rising block, a side block, or a cross-body block. Use whatever stepping is needed to deliver the block.

Return: If you are in sufficient range to block the weapon, you’re also in range for a counter-strike. Choose your counterstrike based on whatever openings you see in the opponent. There’s no cookbook here, it’s all situational.

It’s all well and good to write about this, but effective execution requires practice, practice, and practice until it’s in muscle memory, and until you can do each of these steps under stress. Trust yourself and keep practicing!

Want to read more about blocking? Check out Jim’s essay on blocking, which is posted on our Piedmont Bando blog.