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.


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