8 Basic Blocks

When it comes to fencing, it is more important to defend yourself and stay alive than to kill your opponent. Therefore, a strong understanding of how to block an incoming attack will serve you well. In the Order of the Rose, we focus on eight (8) basic blocks and suggest that every fencer dedicate their time and energy to mastering them.

Points of safety

Any block that prevents your opponent’s blade from striking you can be considered successful. These strikes may be fast, but most only require a small redirection to send the point offline and away from you. When performing your blocks, small motions tend to be the most effective. This also makes them safer because it isn’t necessary to use our full force to defend ourselves.

  • Hacking and Slashing is NOT necessary: Regardless of what you might have seen in the movies, there is no need to hack and slash your opponent’s blade when performing a block. Timing and precision leads to safer, and more effective blocks.
  • Be Aware of Your Hilt: Most blocks are performed by moving your hilt in some way. Be aware of where your hilt is and how you might move it, especially while in close range with your opponent. A quick block can occassionally ram your hilt or quillion into your opponent or even yourself.

General Points

While there are many blocks and different styles of defense, we emphasize the following 8 Basic Blocks to provide a well-rounded approach. Each block focuses on a particular area you may need to defend, but that shouldn’t be considered a limitation. Block 1, for example, is designed to defend your legs but can be used to defend your body. Mastery is being able to perform each block proficiently and understanding how you might adapt to meet your needs.

Note: For Lefties, all directions should be reversed. A helpful tip, regardless of your dominant hand, is that Odd Blocks are performed across your body, while Even Blocks are performed away from your body.

  • Block 1: Drop the tip of your sword towards the ground, straight down. The back of your hand should face your opponent. While keeping the blade straight up and down, move the hilt of the blade to the left across your body. This defends your legs on your left side.
  • Block 2: Drop the tip of your sword towards the ground, straight down. The back of your hand should face your opponent. While keeping the blade straight up and down, move the hilt of the blade to the right across your body. This defends your legs on your right side.
  • Block 3: Move your hilt across your body to the left, your right elbow stopping slightly in front of your abdomen. Your forearm angled at 45 degrees in front of you. Your hand should be rolled over with your palm facing up. The tip of your blade should still be pointed at your opponent’s neck. This defends your body on your left side.
  • Block 4: Move your hilt across your body to the right, your right elbow extending out and away from your abdomen. Your forearm angled at 45 degrees beside you. Your hand should be rolled over with your palm facing down. The tip of your blade should still be pointed at your opponent’s neck. This defends your body on your right side.
  • Block 5: Lift your right arm up, with your elbow at shoulder level or slightly higher. The tip of the blade pointing over your opponent’s shoulder, with the edge facing up. Your hand even with your eyes, but above and to the right. The palm of your hand facing your opponent. This defends your head from above.
  • Block 6: This block revolves around your quillons or cross guards. While using Block 4, allow their blade to slide past your hilt. As it goes over your guard, twist your wrist to the right. The palm of your hand will be facing up and your quillons will have flipped over your opponent’s blade, trapping it to your right. This block traps and defends your body on your right side.
  • Block 7: Drop the top of your blade towards the ground in a sweeping motion towards your left. Your palm facing upwards and the tip of your blade pointing down and to the left. This defends your legs.
  • Block 8: Drop the top of your blade towards the ground in a sweeping motion towards your right. Your palm facing downwards and the tip of your blade pointing down and to the right. This defends your legs.

Training Ideas

Your first attempts at the blocks might feel slow and choppy, but that’s okay. The goal is to introduce each block and work towards remembering how each is performed and when you might use them. Return regularly to hone your blocks and develop muscle memory.

  • Exaggerate First, Refine Second: Exaggerate each block in sequence to familiarize yourself with the motion and technique. It is easier to identify areas of improvement with large gestures. After you feel confident with each block, refine each with slightly smaller gestures and repeat the process. Eventually you will have tight and consistent blocks, but that will happen with time.
  • Blocking Kata: Write down or decide on a sequence of 3-5 blocks. Perform each block in the chosen order. Start out slow, but try and develop fluidity and smoothness as you perform each block. As time goes on you can include other elements into your katas like attacks or footwork.
  • Called Blocks: With the instructor or a partner, have them call out one of the 8 basic blocks at random that you’ll need to perform. Execute the block as well as you can and then reset. Repeat the process and work on recognition of each block as they are called. If you’d like to take the exercise to the next level, your partner or instructor can throw a strike at the area each called block is meant to defend.

Assessment

It can’t be stressed enough how important a fencer’s ability to block is. The Art of Defense, where fencing gets its name, highlights this. Even though this may be an early lesson in your fencing journey, we want to impress on everyone that these basic blocks should not be forgotten or overlooked. As you move on to other skills and principles, review these techniques often and make it a goal to improve your blocks always.

  • Block Safety: As you block, are you able to perform each of the eight basic blocks without hacking or slashing? Do you demonstrate control and precision? Are you aware of your hilt as you move to defend incoming strikes?
  • Block Basics: Can you perform each of the eight basic blocks on command and without reminders? Do you understand how each is designed to protect you? Can you consistently use a correct block when defending yourself?
  • Block Training: Based off the lesson, where can you focus to improve your blocks? Are there exercises that you can implement in your personal training? If not, how do other fencers train their blocks and how can you implement their techniques?