Whether you’re into martial arts or not, unarmed self defense is a practical skill set that everyone should have some introduction to.
While a practice like martial arts will eventually move into ideas like countering attacks, the first lesson in self defense is blocking strikes.
Different martial arts handle blocking strikes differently – and most have advanced blocks for attacks that you’ll likely only see from trained martial artists.
For this article, we’ll focus on more basic blocks for more basic strikes – assuming that you’re not being attacked by a trained martial artist.
A Note on Style
As we mentioned above, different martial arts handle blocking differently. More aggressive martial arts are more likely to focus on blocks that will set you up to counter attacks. Other martial arts that are more about self defense than self assertion focus on grabbing and reversals.
Most of my experience with martial arts comes from Soo Bahk Do, a Korean defensive martial art. Basic blocks in this school emphasize evading over reversing or grappling. If you decide to get into the martial art yourself, it does incorporate counter strikes, but this article is all about self defense.
The “Inside-Outside Block”
The most basic block in Soo Bahk Do is the “inside-outside block.” This aptly named block starts with your hand by your side. As you bring it up, you move it across your body and out with an open palm as you step out with the opposite foot. The goal is for your wrist to meet the wrist of the attacker, causing a level punch to glance away from you.
In addition to redirecting a strike, this block does a number of important things. For one, it puts you and your opponent in an “open” position, in which it would be easier for you to strike with your other hand. Because the strike uses an open hand, it also gives you the option of grabbing your opponent’s wrist. Finally, it sets you up for a quick escape.
The inside-outside block is handy for deflecting level punches. However, it is awkward when employed against lower attacks like kicks, or higher attacks like from a bat. It also lacks the strength to deflect more powerful attacks.
The Low Block
Another basic block is the low block. For the low block, bring the blocking arm up to the opposite shoulder and swing your arm down and out across the body with a closed fist. The idea of this block is to glance a strike, like a kick, off of the bony back of the forearm.
The size of the arm motion helps to block heavier blows, but also makes this block a little large and unwieldy. Having a closed fist helps to make sure that the right part of the arm makes contact, but it also limits the variety of ways in which this block can be used.
The “Two-Fist Middle Block”
The last block that we’re going to discuss is a more advanced technique, but it can be handy in a scrape. It’s called the “two-fist middle block.”
For this block, make fists with both hands and cross them below the wrists at about waist level. Then, swing both fists up over your head while sinking into a low lunge.
The idea of this block is to block heavy downward attacks at the head or shoulders. Between the high block and the low lunge, the goal is to make the block higher than the head. Using both arms helps to distribute the force of the strike between them. It also allows you to “catch” an attack rather than just glancing it off. The lunge helps to go with the force of the attack rather than against it.
In a martial arts setting, there are unarmed strikes and kicks that this block can be effective against. However, in self defense settings, this block is most effective in situations in which the attacker is armed with something like a baseball bat.
If something like that does happen, remember that the greatest force is going to be at the tip of the weapon, so try to engage the block as close as possible to the attacker’s hands. That having been said, this block doesn’t put you in a particularly good position to grab the weapon or disarm the attacker.
How and Where to Place a Punch
This article is about blocking more specifically, but it’s also about self defense. If the attacker was acting impulsively, was drunk, etc., blocking the attack might be all that you need to do. After that, they may leave you alone.
But, what if they don’t?
We’re going to round out this self defense article by teaching you a basic punch, and telling you where to put it.
The Basics of a Punch
You probably know how to make a fist. We’re not going to walk you through it finger by finger. Just remember that the thumb should be against the outside of the fingertips – not inside the fingers, and not sticking out over towards the force of the punch. Either of those configurations can break the thumb.
Also remember that the fist should rotate, fingers parallel to the ground at the start of the punch, perpendicular at the end. Twisting the punch gives it more force, like a bullet from a rifled barrel.
Now, where do you put that punch?
Where to Put it
The classic options – the face and the gut – both have their problems. The face is a hard target and you’re just as likely to hurt yourself as you are the other person. Plus, while a punch to the face might seem satisfying, it’s probably not going to do enough good to give you the time that you need to escape – which is the goal for the day.
The stomach has the opposite issue. Being very soft, a punch isn’t likely to do much of anything.
Between the stomach and the face is a spot called the solar plexus. If you’re familiar with anatomy, it’s right below the bottom of the sternum. This is a soft, yet shallow area unprotected by the ribs. A well placed strike to this spot will knock the wind out of your opponent – without doing them serious damage – giving you time to leave the situation.
For More on Self Defense
Any situation that requires self defense is a scary situation. The good news is that you don’t need to be a kung fu expert to protect yourself. You just need to get comfortable with a few basic moves.
We at How to Bulk Muscle hope that you enjoyed this post – there are going to be a lot more self defense posts coming your way. While we hope that these posts will help you grow your confidence, there’s no substitute for in-person instruction from a trained expert. If you really want to get into self defense and martial arts, we can’t encourage you enough to find a studio in your area.