To block a strike or to dodge it all together, that is the question. It’s quite the good one at that. There is no clear-cut answer. It all depends on the situation you find yourself in, whether in a competition or in a real-world application. As you climb the ranks, you’ll come to learn by sheer experience when to do what.
The biggest advantage of dodging is that you take no damage whatsoever. It can also throw your opponent for a bit. They expect their strike to connect, so they prepare themselves for having their body stop with the contact. When they miss, they are usually off balance a little bit and normally in a bad position to defend. The hardest part with dodging is training yourself to think that your opponent missing by an inch is just as safe as missing by a yard. There’s a number of ways to dodge: ducking, side stepping, spinning, backing up. Your instructor can teach you which method to use in certain situations, but it takes actually putting it to use in sparring to become accustom to it.
Blocking’s biggest advantage is it keeps you close to your opponent. Many good counters, most based around throws and other grappling methods, come from blocking. Of course, there is technique with blocking that is overlooked a lot. An improper block can do just as much damage as fully taking the strike, or more. Broken limbs have been the result of a poorly executed block. Each style has their own system of blocks, from the power blocks of karate, to the slap blocks of kung fu, to the triangle blocks of muay thai. Like I said, a block can keep you close to your opponent, and ready to strike back before they can recover from the block.
I want to pick on MMA fighters for a moment here. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen an event on TV, but I’ve seen some poor blocking and dodging with many of the fighters. One of the easiest things they can fix is to dodge head kicks, especially wrestlers or jiu-jitsu fighters. When that legs swings around, all they have to do is duck a little bit, then they are left with an open back they can attack via a takedown and set up a rear naked choke. Also, a lot of fighters block by merely putting their hands in front of their face like boxers. It works in boxing because of the style and the size of the gloves. It is terrible in MMA because all one is doing is blocking your own eyesight. There is so much more to be attacked in MMA that you need to be ready to use an arsenal of blocks to set up a counter-offense. Granted, I have a 0-3 amateur record, I can assure you that no one has landed a solid strike against me. I would like to get back into it one day, but I need to address my weakness on the ground and somehow get over amateur level fights to open up the rules a bit in my favor.