Simultaneous techniques: Part 1

Here is another title that is a misnomer: excluding "hard" blocks that hurt your opponent's attacking limb, there is no such thing as a simultaneous block and strike. Why? The answer is very simple; any block or deflection that you perform will always occur before you land your strike.

Consider the following sequence of pictures of the haiwan nagashi uke together with a punch - usually regarded as one of the prime examples of a "simultaneous" block and counter. You will notice from the frames on the left that the block (a "steeple" block) intercepts and deflects the blow just before the punch lands.

The same is true of any other type of 2-handed block and deflection as is illustrated in the video below.

Many martial artists make a lot out of the fact that their art features such "simultaneous" movements, but as you will note, the only real difference is that they leave the blocking arm in place during the strike. In that way the blocking arm can continue to control the initial attack. However the move is most definitely not "simultaneous".

I demonstrate the principles of "simultaneous" blocking and striking.

It is marginally more correct to call a technique a "simultaneous block and strike" if one hand is used to deflect and strike at the same time. But even then, the block occurs just before the strike. Why? Again the answer is simple: the interception of the attack happens closer to your body, while the strike lands on your opponent (who is further away). The sequence will always be "block, then strike".

The latter is indeed a most direct way of dealing with an attack. I tend to use it a lot in sparring. However the "directness" comes at a cost. Any punch that also serves as a deflection relies on pin-point accuracy and very fine angles of deflection. Faced with a determined and tough opponent are you really going to risk your health and well-being by relying on such fine angles - or will you default to a safer alternative?

The safer alternatives are not to be scoffed at; for all intents and purposes they can achieve the same goal when done correctly while minimising risk. Consider the pictures to the right which illustrate the steeple block applied against a cross punch. Note the body evasion and the flow with the opponent which both work in your favour to ensure that your opponent is taken off guard. A well executed "non-simultaneous" combination is not going to give your opponent time to recover if your timing is correct.

Moreover the "non-simultaneous" 1-2 block and counter will also compare favourably in terms of speed - consider the following video of the standard goju chudan uke, followed by a straight thrusting punch at about 0:40.

A demonstration of the primary movement of chudan uke (chest block). Note the speed of delivery of the counter at 0:40...

Next time: Part 2 - seizing initiative

Copyright © 2009 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. As a beginner, I can't disagree. But my experience is...a block can be a strike. Last year, my teacher's sensei 'blocked' my punch in a seminar, and 'killed' the arm. Thought I was going to pass out...and that was just for practice.

    Conceptually, is a 'strike' a seperate 'technique'? Because when kung li is in a IS a simulateous strike.

  2. You're quite right Narda.

    If you're blocking, and you do so with the intention of "hurting" your attacker's limb, then it is indeed simultaneous.

    However it is my view that if a traditional block (age uke) is being used to hit (eg. his/her face) but not block/deflect, it is a strike. In other words, there is no block, just a strike!

  3. Two comments really. First is that I definitely agree with Dan if your "block" is used as a strike then I'd say its a strike and not a block at all.

    Second is that I genuinely believe that in the system of Xing Yi I practice we use simultaneous attack and defense. The difference being we don't have any blocks. If you define a block as putting something in the way of an incoming strike - i.e. to block the strike's path, hence the term block. We use deflections yes, but Xing Yi is not a counterpunch style, as you deflect you are moving and taking the opponent's centre and striking with the other hand or with the feet.

    The highest level is to see the incoming attack and to move through it or around it without it touching and without needing to touch it. The next step down would be to just slide past the incoming attack and hit the guy. The next is to redirect the incoming strike as you strike. The least favourable is to jam or stop the attack (using friction rather than a dead block) and to strike at the same time.

    I would agree that if the aim is to first redirect and put the guy into a bad position and then launch an attack then that isn't simultaneous attack and defense. If you can, and its difficult, deflect or avoid the incoming attack at the same time as stepping in with your own attack then that is simultaneous.

    And maybe the deflecting hand contacts first but this would be picking at straws, its of no real consequence; if the intention is to press an attack the deflection just facilitates the attack and is in fact one part of the attacking movement and not a separate technique in itself.

    That said I also do some kempo and they will block then move and attack in a counter punching way in some styles and it is just as effective if trained well but also they don't advocate a dead block like putting your arm up and letting the strike hit the arm to stop it.

  4. Thanks Background Reader.

    I use the term "block" to mean "deflection". I have gone over this in some detail in my article "Why blocks DO work"; I use the term "block" only out of habit (it is a literal translation of "uke", I believe). A better term would be deflection.

  5. "Block" is not a literal translation of "Uke". Uke comes from the verb "Ukeru" meaning "to receive". Therefore "receiving" an attack can take many forms: striking, deflecting, blocking, intercepting, etc.

    Also liked the application on the sanseru post.

  6. Thanks for the clarification Mario.

  7. Hi Dan, Firstly I am not a Karateka, I am a Wing Chun man, we are one of those styles that claim to have simultaneous attack and defense, on one level I agree with you without question, but I think the real problem is the use of language, when we claim to use simultaneous attack and defence it is not that we leave an arm out in the wind to catch the incoming attack while we strike, but rather that we initiate the two moves at the same time, because the incoming attack will always be closer than the opponents body there is usually a deflection of the attack just before contact with the opponent, so yes, the contact is not simultaneous but the initiation of the two different actions is, at least that is how I was taught and how I teach Wing Chun.
    Regards Derek, I enjoy your blog.

  8. Thank you Derek.

    Yes - you're right that some techniques are initiated more or less simultaneously. I say "more or less" because even the initiation is staggered to some extent.

    This aspect is not evident in arts like Wing Chun because your arms tend to be on the centreline already so the movement of the strike will follow so quickly after the deflection as to be simultaneous for all intents and purposes.

    However if your striking arm is unavoidably moved away from the centreline during combat, you will notice that the same "simultaneous" technique can still be applied, albeit there would be a slight "1-2" action.

    The further your striking arm is away from the centreline at the point of deflection, the more noticeable the "stagger" between deflection and strike.

    I actually think that this is the case with every art's deflection and counter once you get above basic level and once you put the movements into a dynamic continuum.

    The problem is that very few people are aware of this; many karateka will use their block and strike in basics in a very rigid manner during line practise, then abandon them altogether when they spar.

    However once karate techniques are placed in a dynamic, free-flowing environment you notice how the basics "round" and join together.

    When your arms are both up in a centreline guard, there is no need for any real discernible "lag" between the initiation of the deflection and the strike.

    Thanks for reading and for your contribution!

  9. Kind of splitting hairs here. If you want to say that a block and a strike do not reach target at the exact same millisecond, I think that is inconsequential to the action.

  10. It might seem inconsequential to you, but a millisecond is a lot in a fight. A miss is as good as a mile. A millisecond might be as good as an hour.

    It's true, some techniques are launched more or less simultaneously and the block and strike land very close together. But the vast majority of so-called simultaneous techniques don't meet this "ideal" model when applied. The delay between the 2 is about the same as any properly connected block/punch combination.

    The reason they don't meet this "ideal" is that in the chaos of the melee you very rarely have the chance to move your hands from the same position and at the same time; your hands will necessarily be doing different things.

    And this is how things were meant to be; like your feet, your hands have evolved to move in opposition to each other (like a runner's arms swinging), not together.

    I perform lots of "simultaneous" techniques in forms. But there are many out there who build an entire house of cards theory on a "simultaneity" that isn't really there or is really quite impracticable in the majority of civilian defence conflicts.

    So am I splitting hairs? No. I'm calling a spade a spade and doing my best to counteract false assumptions, unwarranted leaps in logic and unrealistic expectations.


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