The Evolution of the Middle Block

BY Master Dan Harrison

The Middle Block has gone through a few refinements from when I first learned the Basic Techniques.  It started as a defensive block.  Through practice it became a defensive block with a counter strike.  Now it can be used as a defensive strike.

The Middle Block started out as a defense.  As a kyu, the Middle Block was taught as a way to defend against a straight punch to the chest.  It was Set. Step. Block. Strike.  Starting with the right hand.  Set by stacking the right fist on top of the left fist as it rests on the opposite hip.  Perform a good crescent step.  Keeping the elbow down, bring your right hand up and across the body in a sweeping motion stopping at the opposite edge of the body.  If done correctly in a wide arc, the block should sweep across your body, and redirect the incoming punch away, and outside the body.  Some changes in the timing of the block made it more effective.  Instead of waiting until the step was completed then blocking, I could start the block sooner.  Eventually the block finished its arc of motion when the foot stopped its crescent step.

The Middle Block then developed into a defensive block with a counter strike.  The block is always a reaction to the punch.  The action of the punch is always faster since it has a head start.  The next application of the block can be done in a couple of ways.  One way is to use the set as the block.  By using the set motion to block, the incoming punch is met with the part of the forearm behind the bottom of the fist. Blocking while setting redirects the punch and the opponent both outward and downward.  Bringing the arm back up and across the body is now a strike.  You can strike the now lowered head with the back of the fist during the block.  Another way is to use the front hand to parry the incoming punch.  This is part of the Advanced Set.  We went from starting both hands on the hip to using the non-setting hand in a guard position.  As the back hand sets, the front hand redirects the incoming punch away towards the outside of the body. The front hand starts the redirection of the punch, and the block can now strike the arm.  The added effect of both arms moving together in opposite directions makes it even more effective.

Now the Middle Block is used as defensive strike.  Different timing for techniques, dynamic motion, and reading your opponent are contained in kata.  Every turn, every stance moves you toward or away from the opponent. Eventually your movement will be the block.  Once you observe the body of your opponent move, that is the moment you have to also move.  Setting, stepping, and blocking are done at the same time.  Evading a punch by moving can be accomplished by any direction.  Not all directions are as equally effective, though.  You can move back, out of range of the punch.  You can move to the side out of the way of the punch.  The most effective is to move on the angle.  If you already evaded the punch by moving the target out of its range or path, the block is now available as a strike.  You are no longer using the area between the fist and the elbow to redirect the incoming punch. Now you are using only the back of the fist to strike the arm.

Though practice you will refine your basics, kata, and kumite.  It is not to change the technique, but to apply it in a different way as your knowledge and understanding of Isshin-ryu evolves.  Keep asking questions.  Keep learning.

Our guest article is written by Master Dan Harrison, 9th Dan and member of the AOKA. A 2013 inductee in the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame. Master Harrison currently lives in the Phoenix area, where he travels to dojos in the region to train and share Isshin-ryu with others. Known throughout the United States for his outstanding execution of technique and fighting spirit, he is a student of Master Steve Young and a longtime friend of the IIKA.