Whether it’s Muay Thai or any other martial art, most beginners are taught to emphasize defense and survival skills. It makes sense, as when you are just starting out it’s more important to be able to stay in the fight until you can get away or help arrives than to “win the fight” which becomes the mindset with more skill and experience.
However, defensive techniques aren’t all the same, and some are more difficult than others in different ways. They can be divided a variety of ways but the two basic categories are blocking and evading.
Blocking: Any technique where you’re putting something between the opponent and the target, usually something hard and durable like a shin or forearm. The advantage of blocks is that they are usually subtle movements that require less speed and reflexes than evading. Beginners usually learn blocks first before they learn evading techniques. The disadvantage is that it’s difficult to attack and block at the same time, so if the opponent can keep the pressure on and keep you blocking they can build momentum. Also, seasoned opponents will still do damage even if their strikes are blocked – even a shin or forearm can only take so much punishment.
Evading: Evading is usually taught a little further down the line after a beginner has learned the fundamentals of blocking. Evading has several advantages over blocks. First, making an opponent miss with their strikes will tire them out more quickly. Second, if you can evade well then you’ll sustain much less damage overall. The disadvantage is that evading oftern has a much higher “cost of failure” than blocking. If you’re slow to block and only partially shield yourself, you’ll still reduce the damage done. If you try to evade and fail, you’re more likely to take the full force of the blow. Evading techniques must be done quickly and with excellent timing.
There are always exceptions to the rules and in some cases blocking or evading may be the best way to defend against a given technique whether you are a beginner or not. It is important to always come back to the basics and then work on what style suits you best later on.
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