Guarding blocks are some of the few techniques that many students learn before they encounter them in their patterns. It’s a part of many early sparring exercises, as well as board-breaking procedure, so students could learn it as early as white belt.
Guarding blocks are used to protect yourself with both hands, so it makes sense that they get taught as a part of sparring. (Of course, no one does a proper guarding block in a sparring match, but I digress.) The rear hand can cover your body while the front hand can also act as cover or can perform an active block.
They can be performed at the low, middle or high section, but today we will focus on middle blocks.
The most common blocking tools for guarding blocks are the knife-hand and the outer forearm. You can also use the inner forearm and reverse knife-hand. You will usually see guarding blocks performed in L-stance or rear foot stance, but other stances can be used as well.
When preparing for the block, make sure to keep your arms about parallel and reach out on a slight angle, not directly behind yourself. You should be able to see your front arm out of the corner of your eye. Keep a relaxed bend in your elbows and your rear hand a little above your front hand. Your hands should be in relaxed fists until they reach the end of the technique. Both hands should reach the final position at the same time.
In a knife-hand (or reverse knife-hand) guarding block, your front fingertips should finish at shoulder height. And if you are in L-stance your fingertips should also form a vertical line with your front toes.
For a forearm guarding block, the top of your fist finishes at shoulder height and also forms a line with your toes.
A good rule of thumb for both types is to bend your elbow roughly 90º (although it will probably be more than that in reality). And speaking of elbows, keep them pulled in toward your ribs; don’t let them flare out to the sides.
Your rear hand should be roughly in front of your solar plexus and about 3 cm away from your body. Your rear arm should be more or less parallel to the ground, and not angled upward. Remember to keep your wrist straight and your palm pointing up toward the ceiling.
The blocking tool (on your front arm) should be half facing the target at the finishing point. Your body should be half facing as well. Your blocking tool should also be in line with the outside of your shoulder.
An interesting note
Guarding blocks are almost always performed so that your hands travel in a straight line from preparation to finish. But did you know they can also be performed in a circular motion? This only happens in Yon-Gae and Tong-Il, so unless you’re already a 4th dan or above, you’ve got a little while until you need to worry about that.
In the meantime, go make those guarding blocks look great!