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Finlay's picture
Flinch response in Kata/forms

what are people's thoughts on the first movement of some forms being a 'flich response', or for that matter 'flich response' being included in the forms throughout.

i have been thinking on this for a while and thought i would throw an example out to see what people think

i want to use the following form as an example (it is a TKD form but the principles should apply to other kata/forms too)


take a look at the movements 1-2 and the 3-4

generally this is taught as being an outside block followed by a punch

however i have a few problems with this:

1. the arm stays in line with the shoulder so a hook punch would go round it

2. it is not a effective block for a straight punch becasue it is a mechanically weak movement

3. you are exposing your inner wrist to your attacker

4. if the block is a 'wrist on wrist' block then the punch would fall way short of it's target, you would need ot step forward as in other forms

so with the objections above, I would say that the actual block is what is usually taught as a preperation i.e. the  crossing of your hands in front of your face. this makes you much tighter and in a better defensive position, and is more natural. from this position we can then use one hand to pull the attacking arm down and the other to reach and grab the attacker by the hair (or ears or anything that you can get a hold of) enabling you to pull the opponent into your punch.

this is just an example but i would like to know others thought on this as it is something i have been looking at for a while, i.e what is genreally taught as a set up for a block (the crossing of the hands) is actually the block itself. and what is often taught as a block is a grab, strike , range finder or something else

thanks for any input


Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

Hi Finlay. If you look at applications on the common blocks used throughout the forms you will notice that their uses can bee applied in very different ways. As "defensive" techniques I too have come to the conclusion that many "blocks" have the actual block in the prepatory motion. In WTF Taekwondo the "blocking hand" generally comes from the outside of the "pulling hand" . The prepatory motion of most WTF Taekwondo blocks usually puts the "non blocking hand" straight out with a fist before comming back to the hip or as in the case with the video motion 1 and 3 in the video you provided it comes across the body from the outside in before going to the hip. In the cases where the hand comes straight out I usually intrepret as strikes or as reaching out and grabbing.

Examples are the low block where one arm comes straight out low while the other comes across your body to your oposite ear. I see the arm comming across the body next to the ear as the "block" the other arm as a strike, and the block itself as a hammer fist strike to the groin or kidney (depends on how you are facing your adversary. But you could use the same technique as an arm bar, wrist release etc too. Another examble is the high block where you cover your body high and low in the prepatory motion (one arm on the oposite hip, the other at the oposite shoulder). This I see as a flinch response and it is very natural because the body is programed to move the limbs in to protect the core (or center line if you will). The actual block can be intrepreted as a forarm strike to the neck, or in case of the prepatory motion "blocking" the arm, the block can be used to move the oponents arm up and to the side opening him up so you can counterstrike.

I have seen simular applications in both Iain Abernethys books, Stuart Anslows book and Simon John O`Neils book. So you have a simular red thread going through Karate, ITF Taekwon-Do and WTF Taekwondo forms. I think that the formulators of the Kata (and so the building blocks of the Taekwondo forms) understood the importance of working with the flinch response and with adrenaline rush instead of against it. Unfortunatly many mainstream applications fail to do this and often works against both the flinch and the rush of adrenaline. I think most of the complaints about "useless" techniques is a direct result of this.

Best regards from Oerjan

JWT's picture

Hi Finlay

I wrote an article on this a few years back:


Hope it's of interest.


Harald's picture

Hi altogether,

I find it important to look at very simple things in kata, one has to ask the questions that you asked but you have to find out the answer(s!) yourself. That is the task that comes with karate kata since in Japan they have been doing it without a partner (contrary to Okinawa as fa as I am informed). Kata only shows techniques (and has unshown techniques, ura-waza)

What you see in the kata is a block and a counter-attack. That is very basic. One can interpret the block as not being a block, this is quite common and there are very practical interpretations (see Iain´s clip on shuto-uke, for example). But first one should analyse the problems.

1. If a (big) hook attack comes jodan, you just have to rise your arm a bit higher. If you accompanies this by going inside and simultaneously doing back-hand punch to the chin or throat this will be quite practical.

2. The block is weak? Why should it be stronger? For such a block to work moving and timing is essential. If you want to break the elbow with this block, this is a different thing. 

3. Exposing inner wrist to opponent: What´s the problem with this? Anyway, it´s not necessarily the case. If someone wants to touch your shoulder from the side you can apply it from the outside, grab, destabilize by pushing and counter-attack...

Isn´t this block a natural movement if attacked by the side, you have your arms insdie. To defend with the other arm would be not as fast and ihat arm has not the distance. The movement before the block soed not seem applicable against a strong attack. (Besides, the guy has not even turne his head before starting this technique).

In sum, there are ways in which this technique does not work but others in which it works. One has to find out oneself.  Aspects like (right) distance and timing should be adrressed in partner exercises.

I would have some suggestions since among shotokan practioneers it is very common to judge this technique (block) inpractical. Done the way they do, it is!



Finlay's picture

Hi Harald

Thank you for your response,

When I first learnt this form the first moves were introduced ot me as block and counter punch, but this never really sat well with me and i could never really make it work. i would like to make my points a little clearer

1. it may not be clear in the video, but the block doesn't go past the shoulder, in this way it is ineffective against a hook, you could extend the block past the shoulder and make it higher, but then that would make it a different technique. A good and effective technique but a differerent one nonetheless. I think it is worth considering why we are taught a technique in a certain way.

2. some blocks are redirectional, but if this is to a hook then it is taking a very much more force on force idea. again becasue the block has gone outside the shoulder, the muscles in the back of the shoulder haven't been used very well. it is possible to create power here, but there are move effective ways to get that power than putting yourself in an awkward position and then working on in.

3. for me i don't really like opening the inside of the wrist to my opponent, maybe it's not the most vital part but if my opponene thad any sort of a weapon the damage would be alot worse to the inside of the wrist, and i don;t always have the luxury of knowing if my opponent is armed or not

after re reading my first post I left some things out, i i would like to add these points now

4. if crossing the arms is there for preparation then the actualy block is too slow, you are taking a long way round to blocking a fast aggresive punch.

5. the other arm is dropping to  the person's hip, with his other arm extended this is a very open postion to be for a block which again is not effective or useful

6. if crossing the arms is needed to perform a block correctly (i have met some teachers that say you need to cross your arms to create power) whay don't all blocks use the same set up? it si common but not for every thing what is labeled block, if you watch the 5th movement of the form there is no crossing of the arms. so why is it there some times and not in others. in my view in is all in the application. in fact the apllication of the 5th movement (knife hand guarding block) i find as one of the most interesting, but that is for another thread

thank you very much for your responses and input

Mr. Nilsen, i received you pm, I will be in touch