Self Defense and the law… Why do CKD defense drills emphasize 3-5 counter attacks?

One of the drills that we do in Choi Kwang Do is a counter attacking drill, where your partner throws a punch or a kick and you are meant to block and counter attack with 3-5 counter attacks, depending on how many attacks you think are needed.  The counter attacks are meant to be thrown fast and hard after the block to catch your opponent by surprise and hopefully either knock them down or create an opening. In our classes we practice this counter attack but keep a little more distance between you and your opponent to ensure the safety of our partner and that they don’t get hit. To avoid us getting our distancing wrong, we regularly use shields to practice our punching and kicking in combinations to avoid negative training . Fairly regularly you see students going over this number of counter attacks, especially in the kids classes.  When you tell them its meant to be 3-5 counter attacks they usually ask why?  Which is a good question.

One of the things I LOVE about Choi Kwang Do is how much thought Grandmaster  Choi continually puts into developing the art.  Even the little details which you think he may have only have done for convenience, or because he just likes something, usually have a very well thought out and in-depth reason behind doing so.  I once asked him why the CKD doboks (uniforms) we wear are three different colours and why he chose them.  I fully expected an answer along the lines of, because he liked the look of the colours, but he actually had an in-depth explanation for each one that would fill a blog post itself.

With that in mind, Grandmaster Choi has always said with these particular defence drills that we throw 3-5 techniques, which if done properly should be enough to get yourself out of trouble.  I started to think why is this a good idea.  Why not carry on with 6,7,8,9 or more techniques?

After a lot of thinking about why he might use such a small number it occurred to me that there are two good reasons for keeping the counter attack number low when your training.  We practice over and over in class in the hope that if we are ever unfortunate enough to get attacked our training will be hardwired in, and will take over while we deal with the effects of adrenaline in our system.  So how we train is how we will hopefully act unconsciously.

The first good reason I came up with to keep the counter attacks low is that in Choi Kwang Do we are looking to defend ourselves.  The best form of defence is to get out of the situation.  If I am attacked and I manage to very quickly hit back with a flurry of 3-5 good shots I should be able to make enough of a gap to find an exit from the fight.  By knocking the person back, or down they should be a little distance from me and so would give me the option at this point to run away.  There is no shame in that.  Leaving a fight is a sensible option especially if there is a big size discrepancy.  So keeping the counter attack numbers low allows you to counter attack effectively and then make a decision to either escape, or IF needed carry on fighting.

The second reason keeping the number of punches and kicks low came to me fairly recently.  It’s always something I’ve been aware of but hadn’t considered it in the context of how we practice our defence drills.  If you throw lots of punches and kicks at a person and continue to do so, at some point you cross the line from self-defence to actually assaulting the other person.  The law in the UK says we can use reasonable force to defend ourselves.  If someone attacked us, 3-5 punches and kicks thrown back at them you can justify as reasonable self-defence.  While i’m not saying you couldn’t throw more techniques and still class it as self-defence, the more you attack, the more in control you become of the fight, the more the line blurs from self defence to your behavior being seen as overly aggressive in the eyes of the law.  The longer you attack the more at risk you are of crossing that line from self defence to assault.

If you are unlucky enough to be attacked when you are out and about you have no idea who is around to witness your attack or if anyone would be there to corroborate your story.  If there are no witnesses and you are standing there unscathed and your opponent is bloody and bruised with tens of bruises from multiple impacts you might find yourself in the unfair situation of being the one jailed for assault, adding insult to injury.  If its your word against theirs with no witnesses you might be the one in trouble.  A fight you may not have started could end up with you losing your liberty and the person who started the issue walking free.  That would be a nightmare situation, so by practicing a little restraint you could ensure that you defend yourself safely and walk away without having a legal issue hanging over your head.

To sign off this blog post I just want to add that if you are ever unfortunate enough to get attacked and have to defend yourself and the police get involved my advice is always the same.  If the police are involved, no matter how much in the right you are and how much you want to be helpful it is in your BEST INTEREST to speak to a lawyer FIRST.  It might seem like it will make the issue take longer to resolve but all it takes is you to say something wrong in the heat of the moment and you could put your liberty at risk.  It is definitely in your best interest to do so no matter whether you think it makes you look guilty or not.

I hope this article gives you some food for thought.  If your interested in Choi Kwang Do classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at for more information on our Choi Kwang Do classes that are great for teaching you self defence, self-confidence and also keeping you fit and healthy no matter your age.  We offer 2 FREE lessons to all who sign up via the web site.

If you don’t live in my area and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please visit where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.


What is the point of Patterns in Choi Kwang Do

Patterns.  Some students like them, some find them a chore.  I just wanted to write a quick blog post about why performing patterns, or Katas as they are known in some other martial arts, is an important aspect of your martial art training.  For those of you who don’t know anything about martial arts training, patterns are where a student has to perform a memorized sequence of movements as part of their syllabus to advance to the next belt level.

First is the self-defence aspect.  In Choi Kwang Do the patterns are all created with self-defence in mind.  All Choi Kwang Do patterns apart from one, start with a blocking technique and follow that up instantly with a counter attack.  The very first Choi Kwang Do pattern is incredibly simple, you block high to deflect a punch coming to your face, leaning away to create distance, and then switching your body weight forward, punching off of the opposite hand to the one you blocked with.  All blocks are generally proceeded with either a punch off the opposite hand, which allows for a quicker counter attack, or its followed by a kick from the front leg.  A front leg kicking technique is quicker and harder to block, especially if practiced low.  It’s also within range of the attacker.  A kick off of the rear isn’t performed as an initial counter attack as it is slower and therefore easier to see.  If you are close enough to block it also means that you are too close to counter with a rear leg kick unless the opponent is significantly bigger than you.

Secondly patterns help you further develop your techniques and improve fluidity of movement and combinations.  We all get bored with practicing the same technique over and over again, yet the best way to improve is constant practice.  The techniques learned earlier in the syllabus are put into the later patterns so that the student gets to practice them over and over in a different way to make it more interesting.  Patterns also teach you how to string together varying combinations of techniques.  This can help you in a self-defence situation as you are less likely to have to think what punch/kick should I do next if you have practiced various combinations over and over throughout your training.  That’s not to say you will use every technique in a certain pattern in the right way if you have to defend yourself, it just gives you a good base to work from.

The third important aspect of performing patterns is that they are a great way to keep your body and mind fit and healthy. The patterns are designed to get progressively more difficult as you progress.  There is a good reason for this.  The body and mind adapt to the stresses that you put on them.  What you initially find difficult after a while becomes easy and you no longer get any gains in fitness.  By making it more difficult, changing techniques to more difficult ones, and  making the combinations harder, your body is constantly challenged.  The patterns also get harder to remember, especially from 2nd degree black belt and above.  The old saying is if you don’t use it you lose it and that is just as applicable to your memory.  By having to learn harder and more complex patterns, Choi Kwang Do ensures that you keep your mind and memory healthy also.  Patterns can also be tailored to improve different aspects of your fitness.  If you want to build up leg strength and balance, perform the pattern at a slow speed, especially when kicking.  Practicing a pattern over and over at a decent speed is a great aerobic workout.  If you push it as fast as you can then the pattern can be an effective an aerobic workout, and if you want to perform it in a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) style then you can alternate the speed by doing one or two patterns full speed then taking the intensity down a notch for a few repetitions and keep alternating.

I hope this article gives you some food for thought.  If your interested in Choi Kwang Do classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at for more information on our Choi Kwang Do classes that are great for teaching you self defence, self confidence and also keeping you fit and healthy no matter your age.  We offer 2 FREE lessons to all who sign up via the web site.

If you don’t live in my area and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please visit where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.

Improving children’s performance and self confidence with a few simple words!

If I want one of the children in my classes to hit harder or put more effort I’ve found I can improve their efforts significantly with just a few words.  I’ve not tried this on adults yet as they generally don’t need it but I’m pretty sure the psychology would transfer to them too.

Say for instance I have a five year old who isn’t hitting as hard as I know they can,  I ask them to pretend they are a ten year old, teenager or even batman and say if you were as strong as them how would you Punch, or kick? 

Every time I do this I see them think and it results in a fantastic strike with lots of power or a big improvement in performance. I have one young student who is just brilliant and every lesson I ask him now how old he is when he walks into my class. Each time he now answers Fifteen years old, and does brilliantly all lesson.  He is only five.

So by getting them to imagine the are stronger they manage to perform better. Just another example of how powerful or minds can be.

Feel free to try it with your kids next time they find something difficult or need more effort. Ask them how they would do something if they were….  Then ask them to show you.


If your interested in Choi Kwang Do classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at for more information on our Choi Kwang Do classes that are great for teaching you self defence, self confidence and also keeping you fit and healthy no matter your age.  We offer 2 FREE lessons to all who sign up via the web site.

If you don’t live in my area and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please visit where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.

How your child can learn self confidence, focus and the power of positive thinking by breaking a board!

Board breaking is something I do with my children in class.  For those of you that haven’t heard of board breaking, it is where a student punches or kicks a plastic or wooden board and breaks it with their strike.  Board breaking is something that went out of fashion a while back and not a lot of Choi Kwang Do classes still use it but over the past few years I have re introduced it into my classes as a fun thing for my children to do in class and they all seem to love it.

We use plastic re breakable boards in class that are padded, and for extra safety all children have to wear padded gloves on their hands and we check their technique before they throw the punch to make sure that they perform it safely.

There is a famous saying from Bruce Lee that goes “boards don’t hit back” which can lead to people rubbishing board breaking.  They are missing the point and can be missing out on a fun exercise that can teach all students quite a few important skills, just from hitting a piece of wood or plastic.

There are four main benefits to board breaking as I see it.  It helps develop focus and concentration.  It builds self confidence.  It helps you learn how to improve your punching and kicking techniques by ensuring that you get your body mass behind any punch or kick and also follow through.  And finally it can teach you the power of positive thinking.

So how does this little piece of plastic or wood achieve this?

First, focus and concentration.  If you want to break the board, especially the plastic re breakable boards that I use then you have to be able to hit a very small area of the board accurately.  The children have to keep their eye on the target and make sure that they hit it properly in order to break the board.  They have to do this while their friends and parents might be watching so they also have to concentrate and block out other distractions.  For a few seconds they need to be totally focused on the board and breaking it, using the right technique.

Board breaking also teaches you how to improve your punching and kicking power.  To break the board you have to get the technique right, get your body mass fully behind the strike and transfer as much of that mass into your fist or foot.  Get the technique wrong and the board might not break.  It also teaches you how close you have to be to use each technique effectively.  An inch too close or too far can mean the difference in breaking the board or not as your limb needs to have a certain amount of distance to build up the velocity to break the board.  Too close and it doesn’t have enough distance and the break fails.   A touch too far out and you lose the power and it doesn’t break.  It also teaches you to make sure that you follow through on a technique, to get maximum power.  By that I mean you don’t hit the target and stop or pull away, but push your hand or foot through the target so that all of the power is put into the strike.

I’ve seen plenty of kids get an immediate self confidence boost from breaking boards.  Some kids start off thinking its not possible or its very difficult to break.  Even if they don’t break it on their first go with a little coaching you can usually get them to break it fairly quickly after that.  The look of pride on their faces on that first break is amazing to see and you see an instant boost in their confidence as they do something they thought might be difficult or impossible.  As they get better and you give them more difficult breaks with boards that they thought were impossible at first, but as soon as one student breaks the most difficult board, more and more of them start to break it soon after.

And that leads up to the most important benefit that can be gotten from breaking boards.  It teaches how important positive thinking and never giving up is.  In Choi Kwang Do, the motto is Pil Seung, which is Korean for Certain Victory.  The easiest way to translate that is that we should always do our best and never give up.  To think positive and we can achieve things that we think are difficult or impossible.  I have different coloured boards, which indicate how easy or difficult they are to break.  The hardest board designed for children is a black padded board.  Although I don’t board break in my adult classes I still have the old adult boards from years ago when I had all my students board break.  I recently had a very good example of how powerful your thoughts can be in influencing how successful or unsuccessful you are.

One of my older teenage students in his late teens, who I wont name as he would kill me for doing so, wanted to try board breaking.  He has a very strong punch and as long as he hit the black padded kids board on target and followed through should have easily broken it.  He had never broken a board before, so didn’t know how hard to hit it or what to expect, threw his punch and hit slightly too high.  From that you could see the doubt creep in.  I gave him another try, but he doubted himself now and didn’t break it on the second go. He held back and didn’t commit to the punch and failed.  He wanted another go and I told him no.  I told him if he wanted to break the black board he would have to first break the far easier white board.  What he didn’t know was that the white board was an adult one and was a bit harder to break than the one he had just failed at.  “Awww come on” he said to me, unhappy that I was making him do something much easier.  I insisted he had to break this easier board first, so he lined up, threw his punch and smashed it in one go easily.  “Now will you let me break the black board” he said.  I laughed and explained to him that the board he had smashed so easily was more difficult than the one he had failed at.  It was a great example to us both of how positive thinking, and how the way we think can have a strong influence on how successful we are.

So if you are a parent at one of my schools, or a parent of a child at a martial arts class that practices board breaking, you may have thought, what is my child learning from this.  While it might not seem like much, when you dig a little deeper it can teach some pretty powerful life lessons that can be taken from the training hall and applied to any area of life.

I hope this article gives you some food for thought.  If your interested in Choi Kwang Do classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at for more information on our Choi Kwang Do classes that are great for teaching you self defence, self confidence and also keeping you fit and healthy no matter your age.  We offer 2 FREE lessons to all who sign up via the web site.

If you don’t live in my area and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please visit where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.

Self Defence training article from Tae Kwon Do and Korean Martial Arts Feb 2006

The following is an article I wrote on self defence and Choi Kwang Do that was featured in the February 2006 edition of Tae Kwon Do and Korean Martial Arts.  Ive also attached the original article scans as PDF’s.  I hope you enjoy reading them.

I’ve been training in Martial Arts for over 13 years, since I was a teenager. And Throughout my years of training and exposure to Martial Arts the majority of people that I have come across in the martial arts speak of how having an open mind when it comes to their chosen arts is important. How we should be able to see the positives and negatives of the techniques that we use, the training used and practicality of the techniques. Many of these people are very good martial artists who look at their specific arts, look at the weaknesses and try to find someway of fixing that weakness by bringing in sections from other arts to complete them. A lot of good martial artists have this mentality when it comes to the techniques, but are rigid and unbendable in certain beliefs when it comes to training. And this has been very evident when I discuss how I train in my Martial Art with other students from different disciplines, whether in person or on forums online.

The martial art I’ve trained in and teach has some differing ideas on how to prepare a student for self-defense. We do not perform sparring as most martial arts recognize it. We have a series of drills, with one person attacking, the other defending which allow the student to practice their defensive and counter attacking techniques. There are many reasons why in Choi Kwang-Do we don’t perform “free” sparring, but most martial artists you speak to seem to think that free sparring is the only way to learn to defend yourself.

The founder of Choi Kwang-Do, Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi, was an ITF TKD master who left the ITF and formed his own, unique art almost 19 years ago. One of the things that he did with his “new” art was to eliminate competition sparring and free sparring from the syllabus. His reasoning for this was that although free sparring had benefits, there was a more beneficial way to train for self-defense. His first reasoning was that with semi contact or light free sparring, the person attacking is repeatedly training their body to pull their punches. This performed over a long period of time can condition the body to pull a technique when in a fighting situation, and that is the last thing you want to be doing when in a self defense situation. You need to be able to hit and counter attack with power in this kind of situation. Also by pulling a technique, the possibility is there that you can cause damage to the joints and ligaments of the limb by accelerating it out fast and then using opposing force to pull the technique. This can put a lot of pressure on the joints and ligaments and if performed repeatedly over a long time, can possible lead to injury.

Full contact free sparring on the other hand isn’t going to condition you to pull your techniques. But this is not seen in CKD as the best way to practice for self defense. While full contact sparring is seen as a necessity by some as it allows a person to get a feel for taking a punch or kick, it’s easy to see that it is far more likely for a student to get injured sparring this way, even when using heavy protective gear.

If you look at free sparring and self defense psychologically, you will also see that the thought processes involved are different. Self defense should be about trying to defuse a situation from escalating, or if attacked by surprise, defend and counter attack with speed and getting out of there as soon as possible. There is an element of surprise in this and the defender is likely to be unprepared. With free sparring you have a good idea of who your partner is, maybe even had a chance to check out their strengths and weaknesses. You are prepared for that person to come in and attack you, or you’re looking to come in to attack them. I’ve also seen that when students start free sparring, they stop looking for ways out. They don’t look at how to get away from the opponent, they simply test each other back and forth looking for openings. This is fine if the attackers are the same size, but do you really want to train your smaller students to try this mentality against someone a lot bigger than them? Staying toe to toe for a long time isn’t an option in my opinion when the person is a lot bigger than you.

Also, psychologically, your attacker in a self defense situation is unlikely to expect you to counter attack them. A lot of the people I have seen get into fights tend to pick on the people that they see as weak and easy pickings. So for you to be able to block and counter the attacker with a good strike or kick can have a strong psychological effect, giving you more time to get away. When you are sparring you don’t get this effect as the ego kicks in and your both fighting to win, knowing its about to occur.

As I said, sparring isn’t without its benefits. You get to work on foot movement. It can sharpen your reflexes. It’s also very good for finding openings and looking to counter strike. But all of those can also be developed in other ways using different drills, as Choi Kwang-Do uses. Instead of free sparring we have one person in the role of attacker, one in the role of defender. To begin with we have the attacker constantly attacking with different punches, kicks and strikes while the defender blocks. This gets the defender practicing defending against a large range of technique and working on their footwork and angling. Then the drills have the attacker throw a technique and the defender blocking and coming straight in with the counter attack, bringing in the element of surprise and getting 2-3 hits before the attacker has had a chance to react giving the defender enough time to get away.

Another trend I’ve noticed over the years is a growing number of people who think that a Martial Art needs a hell of a lot of groundwork to make it effective. Common things I keep hearing is 80-90% of all fights go to the ground. Firstly, of all of the situations I’ve had where I’ve had to fight, none of them have gone to the ground. And a lot of the fights I’ve seen in town on a night out I would say about 50% of them have gone to ground as someone as been pushed or knocked over. Now that is just my experience, but it does seem to go against what a lot of other Martial Artists are saying.

Personally, I do believe that EVERY martial artist needs to learn a little groundwork. They need to be prepared for the situation where someone has managed to knock you down, or you have gone down due to environmental factors and your opponent has used that to their advantage. I feel that knowing 3-4 simple ways of getting a person (from different positions) off of you is of great benefit. Take the most common ways that someone attacking you would get on top and try to hit you, and learn how to get out of that. Also learn how to get yourself up off of the floor in a way that doesn’t expose you to danger (i.e. NEVER get onto your hands and knees, leaving yourself exposed and your head and ribs undefended).

But you don’t need extensive knowledge. You’re not likely to have a well trained martial artist on top of you attacking you. My experience of those in the martial arts is that we only use what we know when provoked. And if you get into a situation where there might be trouble you’re a lot more likely to be able to talk yourself out with a fellow martial artist. So knowing a few good simple ways that are easy to remember and use under pressure is VERY beneficial. Anything else is great to know, but not essential.

I don’t intend for this article to knock down others opinions, or say that other Martial Artists are wrong in believing that one way or another is more beneficial. But I’m hoping that it gives some of you something different to think about.

Click on the links below for the original published article.

trainingarticlep1 trainingarticlep2and3

I hope you enjoyed the article.  If you are interested in Choi Kwang Do and would like to try some free lessons in the Bristol or Wiltshire area then please go to to find out our current locations and schedule and to sign up for free lessons.

If you live elsewhere and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please go to the main Choi Kwang Do web site at


Welcome to the Choi Kwang Do West of England Blog – covering self defence and training tips for CKD classes in Bristol, Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon

A word from Master Instructor Dale Miller

First I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  In it I hope to publish training tips, reproduce past articles that I have had published in national Martial Arts magazines and also to give a more in depth explanation about why we train the way we do in Choi Kwang Do than is possible to put on the web site.

Now I know there are plenty of resources online to teach you about self defence and martial arts, so why bother reading this?  Well, I have been training in the Martial Art of Choi Kwang Do since December 1991, so at the time of writing I have been doing this martial art for 23 years.  I’ve taught hundreds of students throughout the UK, have been invited many times to teach in different seminars over the UK and have taught Choi Kwang Do students from many different countries from around the world.  I am one of the highest ranking Choi Kwang Do instructors in the UK and around the world and have had the privilege to train with all of the best Choi Kwang Do instructors over the years.  I have lots of experience to pass on and hopefully you will enjoy reading some of it.

If you come across this blog and haven’t ever studied Choi Kwang Do and are interested in learning a martial art, learning self defence, or simply being healthier by training in the safest martial art I have yet experienced then please go to my web site . From there you can find out about my classes and also sign up for free lessons.

If you are not based in the Bristol/Wiltshire area and are interested in what Choi Kwang Do has to offer than I encourage you to go to the main Choi Kwang Do web site at and find your nearest location.

Pil Seung

Dale Miller