Low Block differences
Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and most all other hard style martial arts focus on the low block in the same basic format. Hit downwards with lots for force at the intended target.
Where many students struggle is that the downward motion of the block/strike may have limited success against a big strong kick. Case in point is how to block/strike a round kick. I have intentionally used the concept of block/strike as the same word. The reason for this is that the force generated by the downwards strike is in essence a strike not a block. Yes we use the term “block” for this action because that is how we perceive the work that has to be done.
I would like to add a bit of a twist to the application uses of the block/strike. When utilizing the basic technique as we all learn at the lower belt levels there is a learned method of center and weight commitment that is developed. The use of this strong arm style is wonderful for strikes or simplistic blocks when used against something with a smaller mass such as the arm or if you are moving off line and are able to adsorb the attackers mass via your own deflecting body movement.
But what is missing from this application is how to block or deflect the attack while using less energy. The strong arm technique certainly has its place but when meeting force with force the arm tends to take a beating and elbow or other joint damage can result.
In approaching this concept you have to take the concept of the dojo out of the equation. When in the formal setting everyone tries to move with perfect form and we as the Uke or the Nage allow this to happen. In reality, the premise of a perfect kick is not likely to happen and that short coming needs to be exploited and understood.
In the dojo setting the receiver of the kick is typically static and allows the kick to come in and then tries to strong arm the block. Instead approach with the concept that you as the defender must always be moving. This can be small shifting movements or a full on dance around the opponent. Once you as the target are moving the opponent looses a fixed point of reference. And in loosing that point of reference the opponent must now kick based upon an opportunity strike. E.g. “move or get hit”
In building upon this movement methodology you as the blocker want to move on to or out of the attacker. Notice I did not say inside of the strike or outside of the strike. Your constant state of movement from the point above is built upon this point. As a kick happens you must move. Movement can take several forms such as: Slide In, Slide Out, Slide Side, or the one that is most beneficial is to simply rotate upon your stance along with a Slide. The rotation can be very minor and its strength comes from the fact that as the rotation happen the center is allowed to slightly drop.
This method works better from a natural stance and body movement than the full commitment of raising your striking arm all the way to your ear for the setup. In practice it can be started and executed with your arms hanging at your side as if in a relaxed conversational stance.
The application for performing the block is to keep the dual flow of reciprocal movements but instead of slamming the arm down with the intent of stopping the incoming leg with lots of force, instead make the block/strike have a short stroked snap. The idea is to make quick focused limited contact with the leg by using a focalized penetration point. Your support arm; the one you are pulling is still in play as normal but it too shortens its stroke and snaps with the block/arm.
What you are looking for is a snap similar to a jab punch. The technique follows the premise of speed vs. mass. If you move a smaller object with enough speed it will strike with the same force as a larger object moving at a slower speed. Don’t try to stop the leg just arrest its forward momentum.
Now envision a different way of creating or using your leg and body structure; instead of trying to be the tank that wants to stand tall and knock another tank around let the other tank move you when it hits. This movement or absorption of energy is an important factor in how this short stroked block works.
If we mate the rotational use of the core and center to assist blocking the incoming kick and now allow our stance to float until the point of impact we have in essence create a structure that has less rigidity and can be moved by an incoming kick.
As we disengage from wanting to be strong and stop the incoming kick we instead want the kick to move our core. This large mass absorption lets us use our whole body for the needed work instead of just our arms and shoulders.
The arms and shoulders:
As we moved from the formality of rigidity in the stance, the same must be done with the arms and shoulders. They are allowed to float and when it is time to strike into the block a quick snapping motion is done to provide impact on the kick leg. But as soon as contact is made to the leg the arm and shoulder structure is allowed to slightly relax and it is this tightening, counter striking, and relaxing that allows the technique to work.
A point to remember as with all blocks; the closer to the body of the attacker you can place the block the less energy you have to expend or adsorb.