From day one in martial arts training, the typical student learns how to perform all types of blocks: the high block, low block, middle block, knife hand block, etc. These blocks are taught as actions to stop an impending attack. This is all fine and dandy except for one thing: blocking rarely--if ever--works in a real fight. A couple of points will illustrate this.
*Think about how a real fight works. Typically, there is some kind of verbal exchange ("What the f*** are you looking at?!?!" or "Give me your wallet!"), and at some point (usually very quickly) the two combatants are within punching distance and then, if the fight proceeds further, to grappling distance. At this distance it is virtually impossible to block any attack; any punch or kick is coming from too close a distance and simply moving out of the way would be much quicker than trying to block. To illustrate this point, pay attention to a boxing match (in which they are within punching distance about 90% of the time) and see how many blocks are thrown.
Then why-as many people ask-do blocks work in settings such as free sparring and one-step sparring? Blocking works in these situations because of the exaggerated distance between the combatants. They start outside of kicking range, in which there is plenty of time to block an impending attack. If someone starts 10 feet away from you, with the exception of the exceptionally quick fighters, anyone can effectively throw a block.
The other problem with blocking is that it breaks one of the fundamental rules of self-defense: blocking does nothing to stop the attacker from completing his attack. In other words, blocking a punch does nothing from preventing the attacker from throwing another punch or any other attack.
This leaves the question of why we teach and practice blocks if they really don't work. I'll answer that question in my next post.