really interesting article Dan, and nice presentation with the video etc etc.
for the most part I agree with you,
heres my short view to consider -
1. karate blocks don't work for real, because
a. many systems work them in kihon fasion only and try to apply them in the same manner against karate attacks only
b. when doing so they do not work them in a realistic range, often to far out
c. often the tempo is 'set', so when off tempo application is required the blocks fail
d. often a natural, hands in front kamete is not used, hence the block is to reactionary and slow
e. often a required level of conditioning is not present, hence peoples issues with blocking
2. why blocks do work -
a. use a functional kamate, hands in front and not to low
b. use a flinch response, putting 'fixed form' to one side
c. use a cover hand when not grabbing/pulling (hikite), or a simultaneous counter with the block
In simplistic terms I see 'uke', in realtion to the hands in three ways -
1. Hard, direct, damaging blocking (we use double bone method in the main)
2. soft, deflection based methods (we use single bone, palms, forearms in the main)
3. combinations of 1 and 2
Hard blocking MUST come first (IMO), it is the least skilled, and when a situation is not 'perfect' (ie your off balance, have fear going on, didn't see it, or was surprised) it is what will save you when under real pressure from commited non karate like attacks, but they do lead on to the softer method, and then both, when appropiate.
I have used Jodan Uke (against a high round punch) and gedan Uke (against a round rib shot) in real life and found them very effective.
Of course that is just the 'blocking' aspect of Uke (to recieve), all core karate techniques have multiple uses, inc locking, striking etc etc.
And yes, Tai Sabaki has a major part in all Uke methods, it is often shown again in Kihon but rarely shows itself in sparring - this is due to the nature of sparring a skilled opponent, no time to get the footwork, body change going on as it needs to, in the main anyhow.