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Finlay's picture
X- blocks

What are peoples different applications for high and low x-block

For the most time I see the as strangles and reactions to having arms grabbed, I would be interested to hearing what others think

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

If you think of them less as a single movement and more of a 1-2 you can apply them as a grab (to shoulder, collar, upper arm areas) with a follow up punch to the jaw.

Also, low 'block' to say an uppercut with your left arm followed by immediate sweep away of attacking arm with your right arm.

Turning movements with a high level x block in them are useful for opponent's elbow hyperextensions (maybe a break?) across your shoulder. Followed by a straight arm throw (ippon seonagi - the jiujitsu way rather than the judo way).

Just some immediate thoughts on this.

Zach_MB's picture

The most common that I have seen for the high x block is for frontal attacks on the high line, such as shoulder grabs, chokes, ect. I have also seen them applied to overhead clubbing attacks. As an alternative, I have also done the high x block as a collar choke.

I have heard a lot of people claim that the low x block is for blocking a front kick. I really don't like this theory, as it leaves the high line wide open and I doubt that I need to tell anybody here what happens to people who drop both hands to deal with a kick. The main way I treat the low x block is off of a low swinging motion with a weapon, most likely a knife. I know most of the people here do Japanese kata, but the Korean kata Hwa Wrang has a great example of this in it. I know a handful of Japanese kata, but I can't say for sure which one that the Koreans took that motion from.  

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

As is so often the case, I feel the motion needs to be looked at in context i.e. what comes before and after. Motions labelled as “cross-blocks” are strangles, shoulder-locks, wrist-locks, grip strips, holds and hits, etc. Not all “cross-blocks” can or should be applied in the same way when looked at in the context of the kata in which they are found. There’s not doubt that across the board the motion has multiple functions though.

This old article of mine includes some locking applications for the “cross-block”: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/basics-bunkai-part-4

This video shows a strangling application of the “lower cross-block” from Pinan / Heian Yodan.

This video shows a stripping application of the “upper cross-block” from Pinan / Heian Godan.

This video shows a locking application of the “lower cross-block” following the jump in Pinan / Heian Godan.

There are loads of other examples too, but I hope this little selection is useful.

All the best,


MrWintersho's picture

Yuyi-uke can stand for all, what is written above, I agree. In my opinion one of main purpose is the use to sweep attacking limbs to get into a better position, to the back or side of our opponent. That`s is the way, I teach it in my Dojo. I fully agree to Iain saying, that context and the techniques before and after the yuyi-uke is important to get certain imagination of use, although it can be used as a stand-alone technique as well. For me, like gedan-barai and kakiwake-uke the x-"block" is one of the most underestimated technique in shotokan.

All the best



karate10's picture

I agree....In Kyokushin, we have a technique Kosa Uke or simply Uchi Uke /Gendan barai and techniques such as we mention can be very vital in several situation not only defense.

Stevenson's picture

I have a slightly different take on this block. In Kris Wilders book "The Way of Kata" he talks about the Roman Legionaries approach to using the sheild and spear in the wider context of Kata Saifa in which the X-block appears. I started using the X-block (shield) and front kick (spear) in kumute with this strategy and found it very effective, especially against taller, faster and generally more skilled opponents.

I do use it as an effective way to block a kick, but you have to be aware that you open up the top part of your body, so you have to ricochet off the kick with an attack of your own, or a follow up block which is used to push against whatever your opponent follows up with - usually a strike of some kind. You can further use the open hand to trap an arm and pull it toward you, as in the kata, in order to unbalance your opponent for a follow up strike.

As with all things, there are some advantages and disadvantages with this strategy:


- It is extremely simple and easy to learn, and very effective because it creates a shield through which it is very difficult to penetrate with a punch or kick.

- It can block just about any kind of attack at a certain range, with a huge range of error.

- It can (and should) be very aggressive as the pushing and pulling motion really unsettles your opponent creating lots of openings for your own attack.

- Even if your opponent grabs your arms, you are set in a way (a strong forward stance) that you can either resist, pull him off balance, let him pull your kick into him, or roll your arms into a dominant position.

- It's great for less advanced students, because it is so simple to learn and effective, it can really help with confidence.

- Very effective against taller opponents.


- It's very tiring, particularly as it is most effective when combined with follow up front kicks.

- It's most effective at kicking range, and thus doubtful as a strategy for self-defense unless combined with other techniques. I only consider it for use against much bigger opponents personally.

- You can get 'stuck' on it and...

- ...that can make you vulnerable if your opponent changes strategy.

- It's not particularly effective against smaller opponents, except for using it to smother a kick and ricocheting from it.

It's a nice thing to have in the armoury, and I personally find it useful and effective in dojo kumite, but I am not sure as a strategy for self-defense it is necessarily the first thing you should reach for. But who knows?

DaveB's picture

Stevenson wrote:

I do use it as an effective way to block a kick, but you have to be aware that you open up the top part of your body,

I would take this one step further and suggest that kata sequences that imply using this as a low block follow immediately with a high defence that immobilises the opponent (hiean godan is the most straight forward example). The kata is actually showing us a strategy. We present a large and obvious opening in order to make the next attack extremely predictable and so easier to turn to our advantage.

It is examples like this that make me feel that sometimes a block really is just a block. The value of kata is not in the techniques but in what we learn from the sequence.

Tau's picture

I hate the x-block... yet despite my attempt at removing it from my club's syllabus (that I wrote) I find myself unable to as it is actually quite useful, as long it's not used static. What do I mean by this? Well, consider the way that Iain encourages us to think about stances - "stance" is a poor word to describe the purpose as it implies non-movement. Instead most stances should be seen as snapshots of movement. So too with the x-block.

- Consider Iain's interpretation of the x-block (high and low) in Heian Godan. I personally don't do the finger breaking part as I find it too fiddly and specific, but I do use the movement and various options that are presented at the conclusion of the movement. Specifically the hikite with elbow control into whatever technique comes to mind

- Chokes. Need I type more?

- On another thread someone mentioned Flipino Martial Arts and Hubud Lubud. Hubud Lubud is a fantasic drill that offers many options. I have been using it in class for years. I now do Eskrima regularly and have had my eyes opened to this drill.

So there you go. I hate x-block... but it can be very useful. "X-transition" maybe?

Stevenson's picture


Ah - were you the fellow I discussed this with at I think it was Kris Wilder's seminar (or was it Ian's) out in Oxford?

Hubud Lubud - that looks a lot like Chi Sau or Kakie sticky hands drill we do. I agree these sensitivity drills are the absolute bomb. Nothing teaches you how to move and position yourself in relation to an opponent at close range better than these drills IMO. Sensei Taira Masaji's drills are almost all based on those concepts.

My take on X-blocks is definitely not static - your analogy with stances is a good one. The advantage I find with it is that until your are within range - especially from taller opponents is that it creates a large shield through which it is difficult to penetrate with a long jab or kick as it brings your elbows in, is a large area and is very strong. However it maybe that my understanding of the block is not strictly classical. The way this sort of block is often done (the way I am using it) in karate is by bring the forearms together with the palms facing out to create a shield. It works for some, but it doesn't work for me - I don't have the flexibility. Moobs too big.

Then, not dissimlar to Iain's videos, if it is used to block an arm or press it away, I usually follow up with a grab of some sort to drag the arm downa and cover, either into a lock or more usually to open up for follow up punches at close range.

I remember you worrying that the X-block is susceptible to being grabbed and then your arms are pinned together and can be brought down leaving you vulnerable with no arm free to protect yourself. This is a valid concern if the block is static, but I have been using the block the way I have for a few years and it's never happened, largely because I am using the block in thrusting in and out motion which makes it very difficult to grab and also because I am using it in the context of someone whose mindset is to punch or kick from long range.

I think, over-use any technique and you create the possibility that an opponenet will stretegize to find a way round it, so I try not stick to it, but I do find that students once they learn the technique feel very comfortable behind it and can get 'stuck' on it.

Tau's picture

Stevenson wrote:

Ah - were you the fellow I discussed this with at I think it was Kris Wilder's seminar (or was it Ian's) out in Oxford?

I was at the Kris Wilder seminar in Grove, near Swindon so I guess that I am indeed that chap. So it seems we agree. Yes, the opening of targets and easily pinned arms are why I hate x-blocks, although largely due to how they're generally taught.

Harry Mord
Harry Mord's picture

This is my partial take on it (assume a "left hand on the bottom, right hand on top" lower "X-block"). The enemy has grabbed you by your upper body (shirt front, shoulders, around the neck or similar) and is trying to knee you - with either knee. Your left hand drops down to block the knee  (you don't need much strength to do this - just getting a hand to the knee will take most of the impetus out of it) while your right hand punches over the top, either downwards into his lower belly, into his groin or onto the front of his thigh.