Beginners in a lot of Eastern striking arts are taught to deal with an incoming strike by blocking and then counterstriking. (Not just Eastern, fencing has the right-of-way rule, but it has it for a damn good reason.)
After they have practiced this, many (but not all, unfortunately) instructors show that the block and strike don't have to be sequential. They can be delivered at the same time. Gosh! Wow!
It seems like an amazing insight. Even fewer take the next logical step that the defense and attack should be inherent in the same move.
That progression isn't what I was hammering on. The problem is more insidious. The issue isn't about the response at all, but the original 'attack' because it wasn't an attack at all. It was a feed.
A feed is when you give your uke/partner/student something that looks like an attack but is designed so that they get practice working the technique. It is an attack designed to be defeated, to give practice at block and then strike or simultaneous block-and-strike.
But it is not an attack. It is a feed. It just occurred to me that it might not be obvious to everyone else. Training in this way, even sparring starts to be composed of feeds. Not good feeds, the person doesn't want to lose, after all, but not attacks either. Attacks are designed to hurt and damage and overwhelm. Offensive moves in sparring, as often as not, are designed to deceive, disconcert or 'score'... which are very different things.
An attack designed to injure, hurt and subdue you mentally and physically is completely different than a feed. It is delivered at a different range with a different intent, often at different targets. It is not a game, with the halfhearted commitment that makes for such great contests of skill and timing.
When it is an assault, you add the element of surprise and it becomes a flurry of damage with no thought of defense. As different from an attack as an attack is from a feed.
A feed, you can block and then strike. Simultaneous also requires a feed. If it was not a feed, the threat would be doing two or three things just like you.
More background: You can cover and strike against an attack. But covering is shielding and in some sense, a good sense, blind. You don't have to see the attack, choose an option and then cover. By being blind, the cover becomes part of your attack and protects against the most common counter-attacks.
If you try to make it respond separately to each attack (the concept of simultaneous block and strike) you will fail. No one is fast enough to deal three separate blocks and three separate counterstrikes as a response to a three-punch boxer's combination. Even if there was no thought time on the defensive end (and there is damn near none on the offensive end, that's why you drill combos so hard). To do so you would have to be physically (nerve and muscle) at least twice as fast as your opponent. Since you are reacting, you would have to be even faster.
So people practice on feeds. But some forget or maybe they never knew, that feeds are not attacks.