The 360 is a defensive block against haymakers or hooks, and generally works well against any type of circular attack. The name – 360 – comes from the fact that we practice blocking against circular strikes on both left and right, and both high and low, thus creating a 360 degree area of defense.
Often, the move is taught when one blocks and strikes simultaneously. In other words, if I execute a 360 block with my left hand (i.e. defending someone’s right-hand haymaker or hook), I simultaneously strike with my right hand, usually with a straight strike.
That being said, there are variations of blocking and executing the counter directly after the block, rather than together.
I’d like to examine the rationale of each approach, and look at some pros and cons. Please keep in mind that this is purely in a context of self defence, rather than sparring or combat sports.
The traditional Krav Maga approach stipulates that it is quicker and more effective to block and strike simultaneously.
The short, sharp movement allows for quicker response time, which can eliminate follow-up strikes if the defender immediately follows up with continuous strikes and overwhelms the attacker. The quicker response time may work better in situations when one is caught unaware and helps turn defence into offense quickly.
The downside of this is that as this defence is often done when squared up to the opponent, it’s hard to generate hip rotation, and often the strike is not a very powerful one – hence the emphasis on multiple follow-up strikes immediately. This is particularly effective when considering dealing with weapons.
However, I find that the main issue with this approach is that it does not account for the movement and reaction of the attacker.
Often when practising this, the training partners stand in front of each and throw circular strikes while the other person blocks and counters together. However, in a more dynamic situation the attacker’s head is likely to be moving, especially if he/she is throwing a big haymaker with commitment, which is considerably more realistic. When this happens, the head tends to be lower and to the opposite side of the strike, i.e. if I strike with my right, my head will be down and to the left.
What does this mean? I’ve often seen people block and counter simultaneously against real, heavy attacks only to have the counter slip right past the head as the head wasn’t where they expected it to be! This often ends with the attacker close and in a good position to wrestle.
Alternatively, I’ve seen cases where the block was hard enough to make the attacker recoil which moved the head back and again resulted with missed strikes and confusion.
The staggered approach of blocking and then countering gives one an extra fraction of a second to track the movement of the head and deliver the counter more effectively. Also, this allows chambering the punch and rotation of the hip, resulting in greater power and greater accuracy for the counter.
The main problem though is that when dealing with a knife, this fraction of a second might give the attacker enough time thrust again, and if one over-commits to the power of the counter and still misses, it can leave one even more vulnerable.
So which one is better?
It all depends on the situation and the person. What are some of the factors to consider?
1. What target are you going for?
If you are going for a soft, primary target like the eyes or throat, then you can probably do enough damage without the hip rotation and it’s better to go for the quick, simultaneous block and counter.
However, if you are instinctively going for what is most natural for most people – a closed fist directed at the attacker’s head - then a staggered approach will allow you to maximise accuracy and power.
2. How much time do you have?
If you can see a situation escalating and have enough time to position yourself in where you can hit with power, then stagger it and land a hard shot.
If you are caught completely unaware or are out of a position, simultaneous may be more effective.
3. Trap or destroy?
If you are trying to trap a weapon-holding arm, such as knife, then a simultaneous approach allows you to move forward quickly and trap. This allows you to control the arm and stop the ‘sewing machine’ strikes, however it also means you need to move IN on a knife, and while it’s all fun and games with training knives, I’ve never seen anyone game enough to do this with real weapons.
However, if your block is offensive enough and causes sufficient trauma to the weapon-holding arm, then a hard block followed by a powerful straight may be enough. But if you miscalculate you can be in a world of hurt as the attacker continues the sewing machine action or if the knife hand, now uncontrolled, bounces in an unexpected angle off the block.
4. Natural attributes
Some people are naturally more inclined towards one or the other because of natural attributes, past experience, etc.
As per usual (repeating theme in my essays?) my approach is not to be locked into one way of doing things. While we must have a base to work from, which could be either, one approach may suit you better. I encourage you to experiment with these variations (as with any technique you are taught) and find what works for you!
Stay safe, stay tuned.