Does the X Block Work? Fact or Fiction?

The Cross Block / X-Block is a common defense in many styles.

Carl Cestari wrote “The Fallacy and the Myth“:

It’s always amusing when “know it alls” dismiss certain methods out of hand as being useless or “unworkable”. One “victim” of this line of thinking is the “cross arm” or “X” block (for lack of a better term). We often hear phrases like the “myth of the X block”. Usually this catchy “hook” leads on to a diatribe condemning this technique in the strongest terms. Those who “know better” decry the “obvious” faults in this basic method and are more than anxious to point out the disastrous consequences awaiting anyone foolish enough to use it. Let’s take another look at this: For our example we’ll use the “standard” overhead X block against an overhand “ice pick” grip attack with a knife. Now many “experts” will demonstrate how this “defense” can be “countered”. How the “defender” leaves himself open to any number of devastating “follow-ups”. One of the most commonly cited methods is the “ripping” slash that will severely cut the wrists of the defender. The attacker hammers down with his blade, the defender “cross arm” blocks and then the attacker rips down and back. Sounds good but is it REALISTIC? Usually this is demonstrated by having Mr. Expert set up the scenario. The overhand stab comes in – the victim blocks – Mr. Expert shows how easily he can counter the attempted “defense”. Masterful. Real world? NO! Why? Consider the elements of real world violence. The chance that either “party” involved KNOWS the ability or “training” of the other is very remote. So neither individual KNOWS before hand what the other will do, how the “victim” will react. A violent criminal attack is SWIFT, BRUTAL, and IMMEDIATE. The assailant is NOT looking for a fight, a duel, or a protracted engagement. He is counting on SPEED, SHOCK, and BRUTALITY. Think about this. If YOU were going to “off” someone, wouldn’t you do it in the MOST expedient manner? It would be ONE violent, powerful and swift attack. ADD to this RAGE, HATE, INTENT, and the DESIRE to commit mayhem and it should become obvious that the real world attack is NOT a “chess” game of move and “counter” move. If the assailant wants to “do” you he will attempt to accomplish this with ONE fully committed ASSAULT. To mediate one’s attack in the real world is to invite failure! NO one is going to “half-step” in this regard. The almost instinctive maneuver of the cross block is a SURVIVAL reaction. It is a convulsive gross motor skill designed to SAVE your life NOW. It is a brutal “attack” against the assault, NOT a passive “catching” of the attack. The ruthless swift and brutal nature of the assault is designed to SHOCK and FREEZE the “victim”. The assailant is NOT thinking two moves down the road, HE IS THINKING NOW!
The victim who REACTS in kind, with a swift brutal and committed “defense” will gain a MOMENTARY advantage by this REACTION ATTACK.
SIMPLE PHYSICS: A body in motion tends to remain in motion. The assault was “intended” to succeed. The “failure” of this immediate assault will FORCE the assailant to make a CONSCIOUS decision after the initial “failure” of the attack! The “Oh SH!T” principle. Plan “A” failed, NOW WHAT. Certainly there may be a “counter” move or an attempted “follow up”, BUT IT WILL NOT BE SEAMLESS! Only in the “training” environment do such seamless combinations of maneuvers “work”. And usually only when one party KNOWS what the expected “response” will be. Real life ain’t like that! Let’s say I’m walking down the street and Joey Bag-a-donuts decides to ram a hunting knife into my neck or chest, well he doesn’t KNOW me from a can of beans, right? Does anyone believe that he will mediate his attack to the extent that he is considering MY response to his assault and then plans follow-up counters to my reaction? C’mon on. That makes NO SENSE. Unless he’s Kreskin, he has NO way of knowing what will happen after his initial attack. He’s NOT hedging his bets. He IS looking for the first strike/swift KILL. The X “block” works for the purpose it was intended for. It CAN SAVE YOUR ASS! It must of course be chained to an immediate and violent attack, but as an “opening” gambit it serves its function well. Also consider the contingencies of the real world. Many highly touted “defenses” include maneuvers that MAY very well be IMPOSSIBLE to pull off due to any number of unforeseen circumstances. I could put an individual in any number of scenarios that would all but eliminate ANY reaction other than the one we are discussing. Charlie Nelson would often demonstrate a technique effectively only to have the bruised ego of the “know it all” respond with……”Ok, let me see you do that AGAIN”. Charlie would respond……….”It only has to WORK ONCE”. And that’s really the bottom line…….It ONLY HAS TO WORK ONCE!


Against knifes

Big stick combat wrote:

… In Dagger Disarms part 1 they show only two blocks that “should never” be done in the real world. Note that they show only one photo for each and do not show or are aware of the follow through of these techniques they say not to do. The X-block in Jujutsu is a soft block, it does not hold the arm there but merely receives the arm and then moves it to the side as the force is coming down. You see, in the Filipino martial arts, the X block has got a bad rap, probably even worse than that of the maligned judo chop. I think the Dan Inosanto Filipino Martial Arts book helped to bury the X block. The average Filipino martial artist can show you a dozen counters to the X block, especially when used against a knife.Years ago in the Philippines I met Perry Gamsby, an Australian who had moved to the PI. He was telling me how on his first day on the job as a security guard, he ended up chasing a thief through the market. The thief suddenly whirled, drew a large knife, and thrust it up toward Perry’s stomach.
“I blocked the knife with an X block,” Perry told me with a laugh. “The one they tell you never works.”
Now one possibility is that the story isn’t true, but I believe it. But how do we explain the fact that an X block, which isn’t supposed to work, did in fact stop a knife attack?
I think the reason may be that when we train we are fencing. When I have the training knife, I am light on my feet. I may feint, withdraw, then leap back in to “cut” your extended arm. As trained fighters we are both doing this sort of strategy. We are cagey, tactical, mobile, elusive.
How many people say the knife can’t be countered bare-handed? I certainly advise against it, because we’ve all seen how poorly real counter-knife scenarios go down in training. Yet we also know that there are people who have survived knife attacks bare-handed, so it can be done. Maybe the reason for the seeming contradiction is the difference between dueling in training and intent-to-kill on the streets.But what happens when I see someone brutally attacking my mother and there is a knife in my hand? Tactics, feinting, double thrusts, evasion, etc., all go out the window. I am not thinking of counter moves. I now have what Amo Guro Blackgrave refers to as “intent.” The person in this frame of mind (enraged kill) is stronger, but also, his moves are more committed, and although they are more likely to be fatal, they may also be easier to counter.

Counters to the Cross Block

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