I've said in earlier posts that higher-level martial arts don't use blocking. Those comments created a few ripples of discontent among my readers. It was pointed out correctly that at the technique-level Xingyi (and many other arts) use a type of punch which cuts across the opponent's strike in such a way that the opponent's power is defused and your punch strikes first.

At the technique-level circular movements are often used to simultaneously re-direct and strike. These moves are in a sense blocks even if they are also strikes.

But when I was ten years old and started learning Springy-Legs, Tantui (Northern Shaolin), I had to develop solid stances. A good way to test six harmonies power in each stance is to see if the student can keep their arm up while you take a swing at them. Beginning students should pass through a blocking-techniques stage of practice. Good blocking skills can help with integration, structure and relaxation.

I went to a middle school (age 11-13) where kids wore razor-blades on chains around their necks. It was a sweet time. The Latino gangs were the most dangerous, but I was on the inside of that by the middle of my second year. Some of the taller black kids were under a lot of pressure to prove themselves OJviolently and they started the most fights.

At the end of the P.E. (Physical Education) period we went into the locker room to change out of our P.E. uniforms and back into our street clothes. The locker aisles were exquisitely dangerous, we all learned to change in under 20 seconds. But the time alotted for changing was more like 10 minutes so about 50 of us would cram into this space with the lockers to our backs and the doors to freedom in front of us for 9 minutes and 40 seconds.

This wide hallway had a red line that split the room in half. O.J. Simpson went to my Middle-School and his first-place time in Track was on the top of the board in this very hallway. On one half of the hallway were the doors to freedom and a gym teacher, on the other half all of us, crammed together. We were all wearing backpacks which served as a little bit of spine protection. The taller black kids would practice punching everyone else. If you kicked or punched back, the possibility of major escalation was high. The best strategy was to block the punches.
I did not advertise my Shaolin training, however those blocking skills proved to be pretty handy, and earned me some "respect."
Blocking skills should be discarded if you want to develop higher level, non-defensive, skills. Still they have a place.