Saturday, May 4, 2019

The original guarding block chamber

Many schools, I've noticed, practice a variant of the guarding block chamber. Some shoot both arms straight back before moving them forward. Others begin with their hands down near their hips.

The original way to perform the guarding block, as shown in General Choi's books, is to begin with the back hand high, near the ear, and the the front hand at blocking level, such that it moves in a horizontal line when executing the block.

Guarding block from Taekwon-Do: The Art of Self-Defense (1965) and The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do 2nd Ed (1987)
Why bring up this minor point? Because originally it was the chambers that were the "blocks", not the motions we today call blocks. The reason the back hand sets up near your ear is to defend against a haymaker. After this, you overhook the opponent's arm (back hand downward motion) and push out on their neck (front hand horizontal motion), preventing them from throwing another strike.
The traditional use of the guarding block in action. Source: CrossFit
A few things should be said about this application:

(1) This is a defensive technique, not a "strike". Although pressing on the side of the opponent's neck is uncomfortable, the purpose is to control the opponent until the situation de-escalates. If it does not, then there are several follow-ups from this position.

(2) The motion of the back hand is an overhook, not a pull. The purpose is to hold the opponent's arm in close to your chest to prevent them from attacking you further.

(3) Notice that when the application is executed, you are 90-degrees from your opponent. Hence while the chamber seems to be performed to your side, in reality it is performed in the direction of the haymaker.

Two other applications

The downward motion of the back hand has other uses. Another common application is an underhook, performed by making the movement more circular. You may simultaneously use the front knifehand to push the opponent's head forward. If you manage to place the opponent's forearm onto your shoulder, you can lock their elbow, creating what's call a standing ude gatame in Judo.

Underhook/ude gatame application for the guarding block. Source: PracticalKataBunkai
Like the overhook, there are several follow-ups from this position; Iain Abernethy shows a few in the linked video. The circular performance of the guarding block is also found in Choi's books, and in some karate styles such as Kyokushin.

The circular guarding block performance, from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol 3
The third application is a head crank, performed by bringing the two hands closer together. Working together, the movement of the two palms becomes a head twisting motion. The back hand begins high and then twists low, throwing the opponent by cranking their head.

Source: Jesse Enkamp
Another example by application researcher Richard Conceicao is here. This works well for the 180-degree turn into the guarding block in move 3 of Choong-Moo. In fact, all three of these applications are scattered throughout the Ch'ang Hon forms. Try looking for one the next time you spot a guarding block.

This post is an expansion on Ørjan Nilsen's article

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