This is one way of doing it. There are better ways though!
This article explains some basic concepts behind blocking punches. If you have ever wondered how to block a punch then have a read and start practicing today!
The chap on the right didn't manage to pull off a successful block, that is why his face now looks like a pancake.
You don't want that, so let's get started and I'll explain the concepts behind the block.
This is the sort of block that won't work in real life
I've seen the Karate Kid. Wax on wax off right?
This is the traditional way that some people think about when it comes to blocking punches, the karate style block. Arm comes up in a rigid fashion and punch gets blocked. Then reverse punch is thrown a few inches short of the face. Bow, then go home.
This isn't the sort of block that will work in the real world. The problem with practicing that sort of block is that unless you're being hit by someone else who is punching in a rigid style, it just won't work and you will end up getting whacked in the face and smashing face down on the kerb. In fact if you look at the picture there, which is a demonstration which makes it worse, the punch would never have hit even if it hadn't been 'blocked' as the attacker is too far away. Don't practice like this..
This punch never got the chance to get going as it was blocked before it could get build momentum
So how should I block then?
There are a few important things to remember when thinking about blocking strikes.
Defusing the power of the attack
Let's say that someone throws a big swinging roundhouse punch at you. This is the sort of punch where if it connects, it will almost certainly cause major damage or a KO. There is a part of the attacking limb (the fist) that will do you damage. This will only happen when it gets to the right part of the punch though. If the fist is swung and connects while at full speed and power, then your jaw is a goner. However at the start and at the end of the movement, there isn't much power behind the punch. One way of blocking the punch is to block the hit/be inside it before it gets chance to build up any momentum. This is done by moving forwards onto the punch, not with your face, but having your arm up to protect you while you're moving forwards inside the arm.
This is one of those things that seems counterintuitive and is one of the hardest things for martial artists to train themselves to do, but if you are always moving forwards onto punches, then you can often stop them before they build up any power. Of course you're not blocking them with your face, you either have your own arm up to cover your face while you strike the attacker to the face or body, or you're grabbing or striking the arm that's throwing the punch on the way in, before then following up with your own attacks to the opponent. Whichever you're doing, you are causing damage and not allowing the hit to cause you any issues.
If you can try to ignore the punch to some degree and instead focus on where you're going to hit the person attacking, then you will find that you will move inside their punch anyway. I have trained before with people and to demonstrate this told them to throw some punches at me and managed to get inside their punches by just stepping in. If you do this right even if they hit you they won't have much power, while what you're throwing into them will have power as you are focussed on what you're hitting.
Mr Miyagi isn't doing a very successful job of attacking anything here
Attacking the attack.
If you have the right sort of commitment in your own strikes, then you can often attack the attack as it is coming in. This can be done with any sort of strike, even elbows. The way you need to do this is to either block with enough commitment that the opponent hurts themselves when they hit you, or to physically punch, kick, knee or elbow their striking limb as it is coming in.
This sort of thing ties in with what I was saying earlier, which is about moving forwards. If you are moving forwards towards your attacker and can keep yourself relaxed, then this is easier as you tend to be able to move faster and you are attacking their attack before it has reached full momentum. Of course you don't want to be punching their fist with yours, or kicking their foot, the way you want to do it is use something hard to hit something of theirs that is soft. So if they are throwing a kick you step inside and punch straight into their thigh, or potentially their stomach, before the kick has reached full speed, if you have put enough power into it then you will often hurt them and throw them off balance. This won't finish them, but your follow up strikes will. If you are inside the kick, you will manage this, if you aren't inside it far enough then the kick will be at maximum speed and will hurt you. So this again needs practice. Start by practicing walking inside kicks as they are thrown. It's not tough as if you get past the shin, the kick will just glance off you.
As far as punches go, when a punch comes towards you then if inside the arm, you can punch straight into the biceps or forearm, on the outside you can punch straight into the forearm close to the wrist. These blocks won't work so well if you're wearing gloves, but bare knuckle these sort of strikes can be devastating. My martial arts instructor told me about a punch to the forearm which broke the attackers arm at a seminar he attended. The arm just folded around the defenders fist. This was purely because of momentum and positioning, so don't think this sort of attack is weak. This sort of attacking block works well against knives too. Rather than trying to apply wrist locks, or in fact anything technical at all against someone who is waving a knife around, the easiest option is often to hit them fast and hard in the wrist which 99 times of 100 knocks the knife clean out of their hand. Well the best bet is to never fight anyone with a knife as chances are you'll be killed, but if you absolutely have to, then attacking their knife arm with as fast and hard a strike as possible is far better than trying anything complicated. Don't wait for it to be thrown in your direction though!
Here is a counter punch. Dos Santos on left threw a punch, Nelson on right slipped inside and nailed him. Somebody fetch an aspirin!
Being out of the way of the attack
This of course is the best form of blocking. Not being in the way of the hit in the first place. This is not always possible of course, but this is something that you can practice. If you ever watch really good boxers, MMA fighters etc, then they can be just out of range of their opponents strikes as they throw them, whether on the inside, or more commonly the outside. If you are just out of range and the opponents strike misses, then you're usually in range to counter punch. This is how a lot of people get knocked out in fights, throwing a big punch which misses and then being counterpunched. Usually the person who has thrown the first punch has put a lot of power and momentum in, so when the other person counterpunches then their fist hits with even more power.
I have a drill that I practice with a partner which improves this skill. You take turns to try and hit each other on the chin. If you do it with a loose fist, then it won't really hurt, but you have to make sure that your punch will hit the others chin and won't fall short. One of you throws their punch as fast as they can and tries to catch the other on the chin. Jab, straight, whatever you want to throw. The other aims to move out of the way of the strike, whether slipping to the inside or outside but making sure they move forwards and set up a counter punch and maybe a follow up couple of hits if you like. You don't need to throw the counter with full force. But the person throwing the initial punches needs to really try their hardest to hit the other on the chin. If you get caught, then swap over.
This isn't something that you can start doing at full speed as you will end up just continuously being punched in the face so start slow, but after a while you will find that your reaction speed gets better and better. If you get hit, then so what? A hit on the chin from your training partner is a sight better than getting punched full force from someone for real and if you practice this enough then you will find that you will be able to get out of the way of punches a lot better.
Don't block a strike like this
This is a bit more like it. Forget the attacking hand, move in and attack them!
Outstretched arms for training purposes? Don't do it!
Something that a lot of martial arts don't tend to teach is that no one ever throws a punch and then just stands there with their arm outstretched. If you ever see that being taught, don't train there. In reality if someone is trying to hurt you, they will throw multiple punches and possibly kicks, knees etc until you are down. If you block the first hit but don't then cause any damage, or you back off, all that will happen is that other hits will follow and you can't successfully block full speed attacks forever.
This is why moving forwards and being aggressive with your attack is far better block than just throwing up a block and being static. If the attacker throws a punch or kick and you are inside it, nullifying its power, while moving into and hitting them, then they will not be able to follow up. I would generally say that although blocking can be effective, a far more effective method is to be inside the range of the attack so it can't cause any damage and focussing on where you're going to hit them instead.
When training, then a good idea is to work up to having your partner throw multiple strings of attacks, trying their hardest to catch you. You want to not let them get to the point where they are able to throw a second hit. If they do and they catch you, then once again it's better to have that happen in training than in real life!
Keep moving forwards and put your bodyweight behind your blocks and attacks. Keep your arms and legs relaxed for extra power and speed. Above all practice!
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any comments, please leave them below. Thanks for reading.
Rain Defence (author) from UK on December 12, 2012:
Well I think if you're going to practice something, you should practice properly! There is no point training for completely unrealistic scenarios.
Thanks for your comment.
dommcg on December 12, 2012:
So many times i see martial arts taught by throwing a single punch and then blocking that punch. You are absolutely right that that a single punch rarely gets thrown in real life and is usually followed up with more punches or a kick. You give some great tips here on how to block and get inside to put your opponent down before they can strike you again. Many thanks.