Rising block: the debate over its usefulness!
I often find myself debating with seniors about specific techniques. As I get older the debates and chats seem to be limited to my instructor, his son and a few online friends. One of my discussions I had a while back was about Age Uke as a actual Kumite technique. See Age Uek has many different flaws as just a simple block to a punch! First off it leaves you open for a counter to Chudan and also, when done poorly or executed under stress…blinds you to other movements!
Age Uke has its place however, it’s a movement that helps in physical development and also can be used for more offensive techniques, which makes far more sense in a grappling style of Karate than a shiai tournament. If you are looking to block your face in a tournament free style encounter it makes far more sense to use a sliding block, a palm block or even a high outside/inside block!
However, I have had this conversation with the old guard and they disagree. Apparently some feel that Age uke is better used in Self-defense because it is so basic. They also say that when done properly the issue of one blinding themselves is limited if not non-existent. I have to side with my Sempai however, In Kihon waza I can see the value of balancing the body and also as a great exercise, but in Kumite…especially Budo style Kumite….Age uke should be limited to grappling and as a way of breaking the elbow joint in simulation. Movement and Tai sabaki limits the usefulness of age uke and most rotational movements from Kumite are better suited with Soto or Uchi style blocking.
I also have a fair bit of anecdotal evidence and personal experience that suggests that Age Uke is simply not the best route to take when one is sparring with faster or bigger partners.
I recall sparring with a senior when I was coming up in the ranks, Scott. He was a big guy, about 300+ pounds of ex Judo fighter that could move fast for a man his size. His best attribute however was his strength. The guy was built like an oak tree with limbs to match. I remember doing three step with him and his arm would come out and slightly down on top of my blocking arm, and his hand would rest on top of my head. I could not move his arm no matter how hard my 10 year old body tried!
Several years later I learned a trick from Dingman Sensei that allowed me to not get smacked on top of the head…..GET OUT OF THE WAY….that was the only defense against the freight train that was Scott! I later took the lessons of training against people like Scott and others and figured out that if you learn distance and avoidance then the embarrassing and potentially dangerous habit of stepping straight back and using Age uke would not be repeated!
This is not again to say that Age Uke does not have its place, but at green belt when movement skills are being introduced to encourage lateral movement in Kumite, Age uke should be replaced with Sliding blocks.
Most beginners don’t use Age Uke properly anyways, actually most don’t block correctly in the first place would be a better statement. Years ago Sensei said “blocking is not the art of smashing your partners arm”. And suddenly we went from “Hard Blocking” to “Deflection”. Recently he commented to me that we block to light and that we are to nice to our partners….granted I still block way to hard so He was obviously talking to the more refined in our group!
The key to blocking as it were is to mix a snap to the opponents arm, control so as to not over block and also a deflective force to the incoming technique! Even a Age Uke can be used with this mix of perfect timing and force as well as control, but it still leaves the issue of Age uke partially blinding you and also opening up your ribs or chest to a solid second attack.
So, while the debate over the use of Age uke rages on amongst the seniors in an organization, the Juniors need to learn how to properly block and then the seniors and intermediate students need to train in methods that will allow them to use Budo Karate in a self-defense situation and also continue to develop physical attributes that will assist them in this endeavor.
In closing, Age Uke has its place in training…but perhaps better blocking exists in Karate to deal with Kumite and self-defense situations.