How to Respond to Opponent’s Block & Counter (The Example of 2nd Tier “Response to Response” Drill)

In general, when the opponent responds to punching attack using deflection block and counter attacks with punching, they expose themselves by creating space between their blocking and counter attacking movements. To minimize the risk, the length of deflecting action (and its’ kime) should always match the attack energetically. However, no matter how fast the sequence is executed, the space cannot be eliminated entirely leaving the strategic opening in kumite.

An excessively long/strong blocking effort means both mind and body are locked (overinvested) in blocking action and deviate from the original intention of attack. The longer the delay between opponent’s block & counter, the easier for you is to switch to another technique and capitalize on available space. One has to understand that maintaining the ready mind makes you able to penetrate such space however short and small it is. Obviously, the success will strongly depend on how well synchronized are the actions of the mind, body and breathing.

The block & counter response to opponent’s attack (1 st tier) works best against the techniques reaching approximately 50% of their potential (kime). That number falls in between the responses using early timing (closer to 0% on physical side) and amashi-waza (over 50%, at times closer to 100% of kime). In deflection blocks and counters, blocking before or past the point of 50% leaves too much strategic space for the opponent, making it easier for them to adjust. Naturally, the above numbers reflect effectiveness and apply to proper execution in cases when the block energetically matches the attack. In other cases the blocking action is executed at less than 50% (too early) or past 50% of kime (too late). While the first case leaves the opponent an extra room for adjustment, the latter makes it difficult (most often impossible) to take over the interaction.

The video shows an example of response to opponent’s response drill (2nd tier). It is the basic variant of block & counter against opponent’s block & counter drill. In terms of necessary speed of adjustment, the response to block & counter falls somewhere in the middle of the full spectrum of 2nd tier category. It goes between the response to opponent’ simultaneous response (needs the “fastest” type of mind/body adjustment) and the response to the counter using distance’ stretching/change in positioning (needs the “slowest” type of adjustment).

One of the main goals of the drill is to increase your capacity for penetrating the space within opponent’s deflection block & counter response. You can see that even well executed sequence (Dave’s block & counter here is well timed) will not be successful unless the attacking (here mine) side stays “invested” in the original attack past the point of tangible interaction (in this case it is the moment when opponent’s blocking arm is sufficiently deflecting my attack). This is the exact moment for me to abandon the losing attack, switch to blocking opponent’s counter technique and launch my own counter attack (in our example ura-zuki, empi-uchi).

Failure to adjust under fast changing circumstances results from what I like to call “rigid mind”. Rigid mind stays invested in the original attack past the point of effective deflection, even though the technique has already lost its’ chance of success. Rigid mind is a serious obstacle in reacting optimally in both martial arts and other sports.


The sequences shown in the video:

  1. the attack with gyaku-zuki , no response
  2. the attack with gyaku-zuki , opponent blocking and countering
  3. the attack with gyaku-zuki, opponent blocking and countering, attacking side switches to blocking and countering the counter with ura-zuki (response to opponent’s response, example #1)
  4. the attack with gyaku-zuki, opponent blocking and countering, attacking side switches to blocking and countering the counter with empi-uchi (response to opponent’s response, example #2).

In spite of the things happening fast here, Dave still has a chance to continue blocking and force “double response to double response”.  Moreover, he can even break my rhythm and deliver his second counter attack. Such scenarios, however, require prior reaction improvement and have to be tested in more advanced variants of the drill.