In Karate, a low block (Uke):
Position: Forward stance (Zenkutsu dachi)
Preparation: Forward arm lifted with closed fist above the shoulder with back of hand facing out. Back arm lowered in front of crotch, Elbows are touching.
Execution: Lower forward arm down to 6 inches in front of forward knee. Back arm pulls and goes to back hip. Hip should turn 45 degrees.

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The Japanese name for a Karate technique:

type: block

English name: down block

level:beginner

Using the left arm: The right arm is extended in front of you so the fist is level with the solar plexus while the left arm is bent with the fist drawn up near the right ear, palm facing toward the head. At the same time, pull the right arm back into the chamber position and bring the left arm down, leading with the elbow until it's roughly parallel to your front leg while pivoting on the elbow to extend the forearm, twisting at almost the last moment so the palm is facing the knee and about ten centimeters above it, (assuming you're using zenkutsu-dachi). As you do this, move the hips, thrusting the left hip forward and the right back.

This block protects the groin, abdomen, and upper legs. The idea is to strike the arm, leg, or 2x4 that is attacking your lower region, changing it's trajectory before it impacts you. In addition to a block, it is also used widely as a part of assuming a stance. When assuming zenkutsu dachi for kihon gedan barai is almost always performed as the stance is assumed. This increases readiness since you perform a technique before you're even engaged, like swordsmen who are trained to slice the air in front of them every time they remove their blade from the scabbard, even the unsheathing of the weapon is an attack.

The above writeups do a servicable job of explaining the mechanics involved in the execution of gedan barai as one of the kihon - or one of Karate's basic techniques.

However, when they refer to this technique as a block, they emasculate it to such a degree that a lower-level student might miss out on one of the most important and effective techniques that Japanese martial arts has to offer.

The cold, hard truth is that no technique in Karate can be viewed solely as a blocking technique; everything can, and should, cause damage to your opponent. Latter-day revisitations of the theory behind Karate basics notwithstanding, every Karate technique is active, aggressive, and dangerous. It is currently in vogue to teach beginners that Karate is for peaceful purposes only, or a way of getting in touch with your softer side, or some other hogwash, but anyone who studies this martial art long enough to learn a few kata ought to understand the meaning behind the basic techniques.

Gedan barai is best interpreted as a throwing technique. The kata Heian shodan, generally taught first in most Karate schools, presents several throwing variations that employ Gedan barai. The most basic of these involves grabbing and pulling your opponent's belt with your drawing hand while you push your blocking hand (for want of a more accurate term) against your opponent's face or neck as you step behind his leg to trip him and push him to the ground. All this in the very first move of the very first kata! Other throws - hip throws and shoulder throws - can be found in the same kata all using Gedan barai.

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