Martial Arts Training Drills – Part Nine

Star Blocking is a unique drill I learned while studying Kempo many years ago. Depending on what style of Kempo (also spelled Kenpo) you study, you will find a variety of ways to do Star Blocking. The drills I’ll share in this article should work well with most styles.

The name Kempo (Kenpo) is Japanese for Ch’uan Fa (Chinese for ‘Fist Law’). Kempo is similar in many ways to both Okinawan Karate and Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. You can learn more about the history of Kempo from a special series we published more than 20 years ago. Dr. William Durbin, a brother in Christ and one of the world’s leading experts on Okinawa Te, graciously shared special insights about the history of Okinawan martial arts. Dr. Durbin is Soke of Kiyojute Kempo. You can read his articles at the following locations:

GMAF Newsletters 1999-4

GMAF Newsletters 1999-5

GMAF Newsletters 1999-6

Star Blocking Drills

Star blocking includes five basic blocks:

  1. High block
  2. Middle block
  3. Low block
  4. Outside block
  5. Pressing block

Some styles of Kempo emphasize the pressing block (also known as the push-down block), while other styles don’t. You’ll notice in the video at the bottom of this article (shot almost 20 years ago) that I mention only the first four blocks. I don’t mention the fifth block, pressing block, but it’s there as you do the drills. The pressing block is what happens when you finish the fourth block (outside block) and return your hand to your hip. It’s there, but I didn’t mention it in the video. It is viewed in some styles as a ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’ movement.

Okay, let’s drill!

Static Star Blocking

Stand in yoi position .. make fists with both hands .. move the right fist to the middle hip area while raising the left fist to a high block .. leave the right fist on the hip during the following movements with the left fist .. left fist moves from high block to middle block to low block to outside block .. left fist returns to left hip, but performs a pressing block during the return .. leave the left fist on the hip during the following movements with the right fist .. the right right fist moves from right hip to high block as the left fist returns to hip .. the timing is such that the left fist arrives on the left hip at the same moment the right fist reaches its apex in the high block .. right fist then drops from high block to middle block to low block to outside block .. right fist returns to right hip, but performs a pressing block during the return .. repeat on the left side, then the right side .. that complete one set of star blocking .. do 20 sets

You can increase the leg-strengthening aspect of the exercise by moving your feet a little farther from each other with each new set .. begin with your feet shoulder-width apart (toes pointing forward) .. move your feet a few inches from each other with each set .. you should find yourself in a good horse stance by the end of the tenth set .. you will find that you need to sit into the hips deeper and deeper as you move your feet away from each other .. be sure not to bend forward .. keep your back and neck straight .. move your feet a few inches toward each other with the following ten sets so that you finish the 20th static set with your feet in a shoulder-width position .. continue to keep your back and neck straight and don’t bend forward as you change the position of your feet .. rest

You can increase the leg-strengthening aspect of the exercise more by performing five star blocking sets with each small movement of your feet away from each other .. that means you will do a total of 50 sets with your feet moving away (five full sets, moving feet away from each other ten times into deep horse stance at the end of the tenth set) .. then do a total of 50 sets as you slowly bring your feet back to shoulder-width position .. rest .. I don’t recommend doing this until you’ve done the other exercises and built up your leg, hip, and back strength

Static Double Star Blocking

Another way of practicing static star blocking is with both arms moving .. get into a slightly wider stance (modified horse stance) .. move both fists to hips .. go through one set on each side (left hand moving through all blocks, then right hand going through all blocks) .. then bring both hands above the head for a double high block .. both hands then move together into a middle block, then both hands into a low block, then both hands into an outside block .. return both hands to the hips and repeat .. double high, double middle, double low, double outside .. return to hips .. depending on your style of Kempo, you can also do an obvious double pressing/push-down block with both hands

You can move into more complicated double blocking when you feel ready. Here’s one example:

Both fists on hips .. left fist blocks high .. right fist blocks high as left fist drops to middle block .. right fist drops to middle block as left fist drops to low block .. right fist drops to low block as left fist moves to outside block .. right fist moves to outside block as left fist returns to hip .. repeat 20 times .. You can lead with either fist to make the exercise more interesting

Another way to make static star blocking more interesting and challenging is have another student stand several feet in front of you .. you can do the same drill (same fists moving) or do a mirror drill (opposite fists moving)

Moving Star Blocking

Step backward with right foot into a left back stance .. do 20 sets of star blocking from left back stance (you can also step back into a left forward stance)

Step backward with left foot into a right back stance .. do 20 sets of star blocking from right back stance (you can also step back into a right forward stance)

Step backward with right foot into a left back stance and perform star blocking with left hand .. step backward with left foot into a right back stance and perform star blocking with right hand .. that completes one backward set .. continue the backward movements and perform star blocking left and right .. 20 sets

Step forward with left foot into a left forward stance and perform star blocking with left hand .. step forward with right foot into a right forward stance and perform star blocking with right hand .. that completes one forward set .. continue the forward movements and perform star blocking left and right .. 20 sets

Perform ten sets of backward star blocking, followed by ten sets of forward star blocking .. continue to do the backward/forward star blocking sets ten times

Moving Double Star Blocking

Another way of practicing moving star blocking is with both arms moving .. move backwards two times going through one set on each side (left hand moving through all blocks, then right hand going through all blocks) .. move backwards eight times with the double star blocking .. bring both hands above the head for a double high block .. both hands then move together into a middle block, then both hands into a low block, then both hands into an outside block .. return both hands to the hips, step backward and repeat .. double high, double middle, double low, double outside .. return to hips .. depending on your style of Kempo, you can also do an obvious double pressing/push-down block with both hands .. after completing a total of ten backward sets, move forward for a total of ten forward steps of double star blocking

Another way to make moving star blocking more interesting and challenging is to have another student stand several feet in front of you .. they step forward as you step backward .. your timing for each movement needs to be identical so that you both move as one unit .. you can do the same drill (same fists moving) or do a mirror drill (opposite fists moving)

Partner Star Blocking (Static)

You and your partner face each other and distance yourselves so that punches will not reach the other person .. both of you place your fists on your hips .. your partner will strike first .. begin this drill slowly until you get used to the timing of punching/blocking

Your partner punches toward your head with right fist .. you block with left rising high block .. your partner punches toward your chest with left fist .. you block with left descending middle block .. your partner punches toward your stomach with right fist .. you block with left descending low block .. your partner punches toward your chest with left fist .. you block with left outside block (your block will be on the outside of his or her arm) .. your partner punches toward your stomach with right fist .. you block with left pressing block, then return fist to hip as your partner returns his or her fists to hips .. repeat drill five times, then switch so your partner gets to practice blocking with left arm

Your partner punches toward your head with left fist .. you block with right rising high block .. your partner punches toward your chest with right fist .. you block with right descending middle block .. your partner punches toward your stomach with left fist .. you block with right descending low block .. your partner punches toward your chest with right fist .. you block with right outside block (your block will be on the outside of his or her arm) .. your partner punches toward your stomach with left fist .. you block with right pressing block, then return fist to hip as your partner returns his or her fists to hips .. repeat drill five times, then switch so your partner gets to practice blocking with right arm

Once you and your partner are comfortable with this drill, slowly speed up your punches and blocks .. the purpose of a partner drill is to help your partner improve, not to prove that you are better

Partner Star Blocking (Moving)

These and other partner drills can be done while moving. Again, the purpose is to help each other improve. As you practice these moving drills and increase the speed, the drills will take on the appearance of a real attack/self defense. You can perform these drills with star blocks that are done with the same arm or with alternating arms. You can use the same arm (left or right) moving blocks from the examples above, so this particular example shows how to do star blocking with alternating arms.

Find the proper distance with your partner so that no one is accidentally punched .. your partner steps into a right forward stance and punches toward your head with his or her right fist .. you step backward into a left back stance and perform a high block with your left hand .. your partner steps into a left forward stance and punches toward your chest with their left fist .. you step backward into a right back stance and perform a middle block with your right hand .. your partner steps into a right forward stance and punches toward your stomach with their right fist .. you step backward into a left back stance and perform a left low block .. your partner steps into a left forward stance and punches toward your chest with their left fist .. you step backward into a right back stance and perform a right outside block followed quickly by a left reverse punch toward your partner .. that demonstrates the end of the set and the self-defense nature of the exercise .. if you have enough room, repeat that set a couple of times .. if you don’t have the room, then you become the attacker and your partner becomes the defender

Use your imagination with partner blocking. It’s fun to develop new partner drills even as you deepen friendship with fellow students.

Video

Reference materials

Yon Ch’uan Martial Arts Black Belt Study Guide

Mastering Kempo, Dr. William Durbin

Next Time

We will move to striking drills in the next part of our special series.

Enjoy!

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