I'm sold on the legitimacy of 52 hand blocks
That's right, you heard me. I'm a believer!
Despite my initial skepticism, after watching a bunch of videos, I've reformed my opinion on the art. I honestly believe that, in the context that its meant for, 52 hand blocks is VERY legit.
For those who haven't seen it, 52 Hand Blocks looks like the drunken love child of slapboxing and kung fu that was conceived in an alley beside a breakdance battle. As its name may imply, the emphasis of 52 Hand Blocks is on defense and countering. A combination of boxing-style head movement, kung fu-esque blocking, and FMA limb destruction makes up the majority of 52's defensive arsenal. Yet what truly characterizes 52 Hand Blocks is not its techniques, but actually the rhythmic dance-like application of them.
52 Hand Blocks functions optimally in close quarters, where punches and elbow strikes reign supreme. The art does not feature any kicking, kneeing, or grappling techniques that I am aware of, so its highly specialized.
The first criticism that someone will make (myself included) would be that a 52 practitioner isn't equipped to deal with kicks or grappling. While this might be true, the art still makes sense within the context which it had been designed for -- street fighting.
Since most trained and untrained people immediately go for the head in real fights, the heavy emphasis on head movement and defense are very appropriate, especially since there are no gloves. On top of that, the elbow blocking/limb destruction techniques are made even more valuable by the lack of gloves. And perhaps most importantly, the flashy yet purposeful movements are effective psychological warfare. The average person, or even trained person, will likely be thrown off balance and made uncomfortable by this foreign dance-fighting.
Within the realm of combat sports, practitioner Light Burly has competed in the amateur boxing scene with some success.
In any case, I've reached out to Lyte Burly (the most famous teacher of the style) and asked that he teach me a bit. Lyte Burly was kind enough to offer me a few lessons when I have the time to get down to NYC. I'm really excited and I can't wait to check this out!
As an aside, I'm definitely not trying to say that 52 is THE BEST THING EVER!!11! But I seriously think that it's a legitimate martial art and exemplifies a lot of the values that Bullshido holds in such high esteem. While their techniques are weird and wonky compared to conventional boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai (much like most TMA), these guys practice with aliveness and sparring. Furthermore, they're trying to start a way for 52 practitioners to compete against one another to further the style.
In the same way that Savate started off as a semi-codified bag of street fighting tricks before becoming a recognized art/sport, 52 blocks is doing much of the same. And I think it is freaking AWESOME!