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In a martial arts system that is primarily based on the block and counter theory, understanding and navigating the differences between blocking and countering is essential. That seems pretty simplistic and rather over stated but you might be surprised by how easy it is to forego one for the other or to lose sight of the functionality of a technique because you are too focused on either ham handed blocking or overly decorative counters. Transitions and timing, flow and efficacy, power and precision are all subtleties of block and counter. I have seen many students get so intimidated by being hit that they either cave under the attack by blocking weak and running away from the strike or stiffen up and block so hard they can't counter at all. Neither one of those states is correct. But, this is the meat and potatoes of what we teach. It is incumbent on the instructor to help navigate the treacherous waters of subtlety; teaching when to be solid and when to be fluid and making sure the student does not ignore the block to get to the counter or drop the counter because they are too focused on the block. Whole systems seem to be oriented on one or the other from what I see these days. There are many systems that have elaborate flourishes in their counters that include off angle hits, abaniko techniques, rolls, passes, locks, and any number of things I can't even imagine. There are others that emphasize hard blocking and then stand there like a deer in the headlights waiting for the next strike. Elaborate counters and follow ups are particularly entertaining to watch. But, their worth ends there. Teaching students to counter after a block with 11 different strikes to various parts of the body then slipping past the weapon and executing some complex stick lock and take down seems irresponsible to me. The reason I think it is irresponsible is because the entire technique is predicated on the fact that 1) the initial strike from the attacker was weak and short and 2) the attacker will stand there with his arm extended while you perform some ritual dance around him. Combat is dynamic and people trying to kill you generally aim for their target and hit with significant force. I understand the need to train for options but if you are teaching your students to block weak because you are so enamored with the ritual dance, then God help them when we deliver. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone thinks they can block until someone actually tries to hit them.
 
Make sure when you practice that you know the difference between a block and a counter, that your partner delivers to the target, and that they deliver with a little authority; stepping up the pressure as you get better at the technique. Meanwhile, keep your counters simple and practical; exploiting the natural next progression of the attack rather than having your partner turn into a statue. Once you understand this concept, you can explore the subtleties and intricate timing of block and counter. Perhaps you might begin to see the block as the counter.
 
That's an exploration best done in class. Come on by and learn some more.
 
Have a great weekend all.
 
GLM

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