“The true science of Martial Arts means practicing them in a way that they will always be useful at any time, and to teach them in a way that they will be useful in all things.”
There’s the old saying “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” While this sentiment is speaks truth for developing multiple skillsets in order to solve a wide array of problems, today we are going to dig down and see just how handy a single tool can be. As this is part of the Tao of Life series, we’re going to incorporate some martial arts in order to help illustrate this point.
Is it a Block?
A little trick we play on new students after they’ve attended a few classes is to demonstrate a low block and then ask them what kind of technique this was: A block or a strike?
Every single time, their hands will shoot up and answer confidently “A block.” At this point in time, the instructor will usually have a smirk on their face which will predictably prompt the student to second guess themselves. “A strike?” they’ll ask, confused.
Finally, a senior student who’s already gone through the ringer, will show pity and answer. “It’s both.”
What’s so special about the movement of a low block that designates it as a block and not a strike? It’s merely you flinging your limbs through space.
In all honesty, there is nothing special about the low block technique inherently classifies is as only a block. In fact, this goes for every single technique. A block is a block…and it’s a strike. The only thing that differentiates the two is what you are needing the technique to accomplish.
For a long time afterwards, the student will begin performing the low block as a strike, pretending they are bashing someone’s thigh or smashing them in the groin. This is good, but it’s still rudimentary, shallow thinking of the technique.
What if the block was actually in the act of crossing the hands over the body?
What if it’s a parry and strike?
What if it’s a parry and strike followed by a second strike?
What if this isn’t a block or strike at all, but is actually a throw/sweep?
I think you can see where I’m going with this. This is what puts the “art” in martial arts; the creative thought processes needed to take something seemingly basic and find dozens, if not hundreds, of applications for it. Suddenly, that hammer has gained a lot more utility.
Take a scrutinizing look about your life and find multiple uses for as many things as possible. One day you might be without the proper tool for a job, but if you have mastered 100 different ways to use each tool that you DO possess, you’ll be able to complete the task laid out in front of you.
So remember, when asked if a technique is a block or a strike, be sure to answer “Yes, and so much more.”