Speed Kills – How slowing down can help improve your martial arts skills

I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a legend in the martial arts and is widely respected and regarded for his knowledge.  I am however going to say that with this particular quote he is only partly right. A kick practised 10,000 times poorly is still going to be a bad kick. So what does this have to do with slowing down and improving your martial arts skills?

If you are reading this blog you, like me, love your martial arts practice.  You throw yourself into your training with gusto and give it everything you have.  In our enthusiasm however, many of us, and I have been VERY guilty of this in the past, try to punch and kick too hard, too fast and too soon.  We can be like a bull having a red rag waved in front of it when learning a new technique or new drill, especially in Choi Kwang Do where it is VERY easy to get a technique partly correct and still get a lot of power out of it.  We throw ourselves into the technique and in doing so can miss out significantly.  And that’s where slowing down and being methodical and controlled can bring us major benefits in all aspects of our martial arts training.

Why should you slow down?. There are two very good benefits to slowing down how you practice a new technique or drill.  The first is that your nervous system has more time to learn the move correctly.  It learns the right sequence of movements and when to fire each muscle group effectively.  The better you learn the sequential movement of your techniques in Choi Kwang Do the more effective and effortless the technique will be.  By practicing your techniques slowly and methodically, at what I like to call 0.5x speed that you can get when watching a film in slow motion, you are effectively giving your brain a far better chance of learning where each part of the sequence of your movement goes.  Not only does this improve your technique, improves your power but it also means that you will learn to self correct more.  You become more aware of your body and how it feels performing a technique so that know what mistakes you have made in your technique and are able to correct it easily.

It also enhances control and precision. With techniques, by performing slowly and deliberately you are building up the muscles that have atrophied from disuse over the years or building up ones you have never had to use until you took up martial arts. This allows you to control the limb and be more precise and accurate when you come to use the technique. It also helps your balance and improves your overall strength in your body which also benefits the power with which you can throw a technique.  A great example, especially in Choi Kwang Do of where we can benefit from slowing our techniques down as much as possible is in the kicks.  Grandmaster Choi has in many training sessions with instructors pulled up different individuals in one line and have them perform the same kick.  The difference in the kicks can be huge.  I have always struggled with my kicks until fairly recently and the reason for that is that I wasn’t practicing them slowly enough.  The majority of us when it comes to kicks use momentum to get our legs up into position.  By doing so we are sacrificing a lot of control of our limbs.  Slowing the technique down while performing it in the air is one of the best ways to improve your kicks. At first you will find it difficult, more so with kicks and punches as kicks are a far greater challenge to our balance than punches.  Having to move a kicking leg slowly in a controlled manner, while pivoting and using plantar flexion in the balancing leg is VERY difficult.  Its also difficult as it is a far greater challenge for your muscles to move through the technique slowly and deliberately, but as with all things difficult it gets easier with practice and the more you work your muscles the more they adapt and grow stronger.

Slowing down also improves your ability to learn drills, and self defence concepts. Perform counter attack drills slower with your partner, look where the openings are and target them. Give yourself time to think about what counters you can use with the blocks and movements you are using and openings your partner is leaving. If you practice close range drills or knife and bat drills in your schools then practice them slowly at first, over and over until they are embedded, then after a while up the speed and intensity.  You will find you learn them far better by doing so and less likely to make a mistake while performing them under pressure later.

The best instructors know the benefits of slowing things down. The first time I had the privilege to train one on one with Grandmaster Choi, the founder of Choi Kwang Do I explained to him that I had trouble with my kicks and some patterns. He told me to slow them right down when I performed them. When I did that I visited another instructors class a few weeks later and he commented on how much better my technical ability had become.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to get the chance to train in a Gracie Ju Jitsu seminar under UFC legend Royce Gracie.  While I have no interest in changing my martial arts I thought it a great opportunity to learn something more about the art of BJJ under one of its best proponents.  While running through various drills he stopped us and told the entire class to take the intensity down a notch.  That we were trying to practice things too quickly and were making simple basic errors that we need not have been making.

When I teach new techniques, combinations on pads and new drills I almost always do 5 counts slow and deliberate first for my students to get a feel for the technique or combination before having them dial up the intensity and use full power and speed. It has been one of the best things for improving not only my students abilities, but also my own as I practice what I preach.

I hope you enjoy this article.  If you are interested in Choi Kwang Do self defence classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at http://www.CKDBristol.co.uk 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 http://choikwangdo.com/locations.html where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.

If you are already an instructor in another Martial Art and you would be interested in converting to Choi Kwang Do please go to http://choikwangdo.com/school-conversion.html or contact them by email at ckd@choikwangdo.com and let them know you found them through Master Millers blog.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.


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