Choi Kwang Do – Do No Harm



Choi Kwang Do was born in March of 1987 from the mind of Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi. The Korean native and long-time practitioner of TaeKwonDo, through his own studies of physiology and bio-mechanics developed a his own style of martial art.

His focus was to nurture all of the benefits of practising martial arts, while mitigating any damage sustained or delivered through practice.


In the late 80’s martial arts were everywhere.  Steven Seagal, Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and of course the mighty Chuck Norris were some of the biggest action stars of the time. Audiences were thrilled with the flashy moves, the hero taking on overwhelming odds and triumphing with their martial prowess.  The Karate Kid movies were a box office hit, and showcased the philosophical and ethical side of the warrior code.


Martial arts schools were booming.  Wing Chun, TaeKwonDo, Ninjitsu, Aikido, and everything in between was springing up everywhere.  Point fighting tournaments were gaining popularity, and kick-boxing was on its way to becoming a legitimate sport. Adults and children alike were signing up to learn the deadliest and most secret techniques.

Of course, the arguments were always made about which style is superior, which style is for “sport” and which is for “combat”.  “Who would win in a real fight? Steven Seagal or Van Damme?”


And then in the early 90’s, the birth of the UFC, K-1, and Pride Fighting Championship  changed everything.  Not only was were viewers shown that there was no superior style, they were shown the true brutality of martial arts.  True combat rarely looks anything like the movies.  It is brutal, grinding, and often times quite ugly.   Many a student became disillusioned by the fact that not only were some of the techniques they learned inefficient, some were outright ineffective.


As the wave of traditional martial arts peaked, giving way to hybrid styles known as mixed martial arts, many a school may have closed its doors.  While some would say mma is the most effective training for  self defence, there is something to be said for the character building and structure of the traditional dojo.


Since its inception, Choi Kwang Do’s philosophy has been that of non-violence and non-competition.  The school principles are:

  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Gentleness
  • Perseverance
  • Self-Control
  • Unbreakable Spirit

In these current times, knowing what we do of the long term effects of brain trauma and concussive impacts, Choi Kwang Do seems a very reasonable alternative to other martial arts.   Choi Kwang Do has flourished despite the growth of MMA because they do not claim to be the most vicious and  effective fighting style, quite the opposite.  CKD has grown because of its founder Grandmaster Choi and his vision. It is a vision I interpret as, Cultivate the Self, but Do No Harm.


Choi Kwang Do – A Comparison


Choi Kwang Do is a non-contact martial arts style developed by Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi in the mid 80’s. The style emphasizes health and personal development through mental and physical practice. CKD practitioners advance through learning something similar to the katas of Karate.


Observing the katas, or patterns as they’re called in Choi Kwang Do one cannot help but notice its’ uniqueness.  There are is of course the large footprint of TaeKwonDo, but there are hints of Karate, and Western Boxing as well.

It appears practitioners perform a sequence of movements; say a punch -block- punch- kick combination then mirror the sequence in the opposite stance, thereby working both sides of the body equally. Each belt level corresponds to a designated pattern. Patterns appear to be performed in both orthodox and southpaw stances, and then the practitioner rotates 90 degrees and repeats the sequence on both sides.  The practitioner continues to rotate at 90 degrees until they return to the original position.


Quite different than TaeKwonDo, or Karate styles the patterns of Choi Kwang Do  seem to be fairly stationary. There is little forward or lateral movement present in the patterns, and much less emphasis on footwork than other styles.


The hand fighting techniques seem more similar to Boxing, and there are many slips and parries featured in the patterns of Choi Kwang Do.  Hooks, uppercuts, crosses all make appearances in the patterns.  The style seems to incorporate quite a bit of circular momentum into the hand fighting .The practitioners all appear very loose with their punches, as opposed to the rigid snapping straight punches of Karate or TaeKwonDo.

There is some subtle bobbing and weaving in the movements of the style that lead me to believe Grandmaster Choi has at least studied some boxing.


The kicks of CKD are quite similar to TaeKwonDo, not surprisingly, as the founder has an extensive history in Taekwondo. Front snap kicks, turning side kicks, flying kicks, and roundhouses are all woven into most of the patterns of CKD.  The kicking dexterity seems fairly close to TKD practitioners, albeit there is very little of the bouncing in and out movement seen with TaeKwonDo fighters.  And quite unlike TKD, Choi Kwang Do has introduced some seemingly proficient boxing movements into the style.



Similar to other traditional martial arts, in classes students will line up in formation and practice individual strikes or other movements in repetition.  Students also strive to adhere to a code of conduct on and off the mat.

Much like other styles, there is a belt system in CKD.  There are eighteen belts from white belt to black belt the system, with 9th degree black belt being the highest rank.


Unlike most other traditional martial arts, Choi Kwang Do does not appear to have a curriculum on grappling of any kind. I have seen no evidence of any throws, takedowns, joint locks, escapes, or responses to wrestling of any kind. Unlike most styles, CKD is a non-contact martial art, so there is an absence of any sparring or even non resisting two person drills.


In my opinion, Choi Kwang Do exists somewhere in the realm between the traditional Karate or TaeKwonDo schools and TaeBo workouts.  And this to me is not a bad place to be. With over 350 schools across the globe, it is obvious CKD is just what many people are looking for.


The Benefits of Choi Kwang Do

In its essence martial arts has always existed in duality. Developing strength of spirit, and strength of body. Some would say Martial Arts is simply training the body to do move the brain tells it to.  So the brain is what requires the most training. When to strike, when to block, when to move, and when to use force and and when to refrain. The philosophical teachings are the pillars of the noble warrior, a goal that all martial arts strive to instil upon their students.  Mastering the body is not enough, one must master the mind as well.  We find this philosophy throughout all Eastern martial art styles, and with good reason.

A standard must be held high, for without it we are simply training fighters with no code.


The Choi Kwang Do principles are as follows:

  • Humility (Gyum-soan)
  • Honesty (Jung-jik)
  • Gentleness (On-yu)
  • Perseverance (In-nae)
  • Self-Control (Guk-kee)
  • Unbreakable Spirit (Bool-gool)1


Choi Kwang Do is very interesting in the regard that it makes no claims on its’ superiority in terms of self defence. It seems to be mainly built around health and personal development.  Their doctrine shies away from the aggressive, and instead tends towards compassion, humanity, and acceptance.


Martial Arts training provides endless benefits.  As a student of combat sports, I revel in the chance to test my mental and physical toughness at each class and sparring.  Competition and general rough housing are in my nature.  However, as a martial artist, the overall goal is still development of oneself not merely the domination of your opponent.


Not all people have the desire to compete or spar, but they still strive towards that same goal:  Achieving the flow state where all movements flow forth without thought, and the mind and body act as one.


Touching upon these moments; whether practising forms, hitting the bag, or sparring is in fact art of movement. In this system one does not necessarily need to test out the techniques on a person, sometimes the development is internal.


The Choi Kwang Do program seems to be a place that an entire family can actively participate without fear of injury or being measured against another person.  Running, weightlifting, jazzercise; these things are just not as exciting as throwing punches and kicks.  Purely aerobic exercise simply cannot engage the mind in the same manner as martial arts.


Choi Kwang Do has schools around the world, helping people of all walks of life get in shape and further themselves as human beings.  Sports like basketball, soccer, rugby, they will get a person in shape, true.  However, most sports do not give you a workout like this while encouraging you to be a better member of society.

On Choi Kwang Do

Kwang Jo Choi, the father of Choi Kwang Do, was born in 1942 in Daegu City, Korea.  He began training in Kwonbeop,a form of Korean Karate, at the age of 12. Kwang Jo began studying TaeKwonDo during his time in the Korean military, which had just adopted the style as its official self defence system.


TaeKwonDo itself  was developed out of the synthesizing of martial arts from Korea, Japan, and China.  Taekkyeon and Gwonbeop were already centuries old, indigenous martial arts to Korea. Various martial arts schools, or kwans, already existed teaching their own unique styles. Elements of karate and kung fu were adapted to the styles, which were then unified under one banner.   General Choi Hong Hi coined the name TaeKwonDo.


After his military service, Kwang Jo sought out General Choi and began training in the newly named TaeKwonDo.  He became a chief instructor for the International TaeKwonDo Federation, teaching and demonstrating across Korea and Southeast Asia.

Kwang Jo moved to North America for medical treatment of injuries sustained while training in 1970. During this time it appears he began a personal study of biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology to better understand his injuries and treatment. During this time Kwang Jo began to develop Choi Kwang Do, or the “way of Choi Kwang”.


Choi Kwang Do bills itself as a “non-contact, non-competitive, and non-fighting system centered on physical, emotional, and social development.”  Unlike TaeKwonDo, there is no sparring or tournaments, the focus is on forms and techniques with less emphasis on combat applications.

In the age of Youtube, the internet is full of style vs style fights, sanctioned and unsanctioned. Not so with CKD. The videos affiliated with the art feature various forms, bag and target striking, stretching, and synchronized demonstrations.  The cardio benefits seem obvious; high volume punches, kicks, and blocks at a brisk pace.  The demonstrations of striking techniques on bags and focus mitts seem more fluid and graceful. The style itself brings to mind the leg dexterity of TaeKwonDo with much better punching techniques.

The belt system consists of 18 belts from white to first degree black belt.  9th degree black belt is the highest rank held by Grandmaster Choi.


Choi Kwang Do has become an international martial art within a relatively small period of time. It now boast over 350 schools in 20 countries!  In the age of Mixed Martial Arts and cage fighting, some will find it quite refreshing to study a style that does not center itself around “proving itself” or sport competition. Choi Kwang Do seems to be a style that the average person, regardless of age or physical limitations can practice in a safe, family friendly environment.  Not everyone wants to fight, some people just enjoy the beauty of movement.


Grandmaster Choi is approaching 70, and is still able to execute full splits, as well as powerful punches and kicks. That alone should be evidence of the efficacy of Choi Kwang Do.




Special Training Day

Sunday 18 th July 2004 saw a Special Training Day with Choi Kwang Do Master Pereira, 6 th Dan, hosted by the Sutton Choi Kwang Do school in Surrey / border South London . Master Pereira who works directly under Dojunim Kwang Choi, 9 th Dan at the CKD Headquarters in Georgia presented a 4 hour session open to all belt ranks for children, adults and a special training session for Black Belt Instructors, Assistant Instructors and future school owners.

Master P. was a 4 th degree black belt under TKD Grandmaster Rhee Ki Ha when he and other senior Instructors founded the UKTF (UK Tae Kwon Do Federation) which invited several Grandmasters to England during 1987 and 1988. Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi outshone everyone when he presented his new system and concept called Choi Kwang Do.

Since that time, Master Pereira has been training with Dojunim in Atlanta and has since been promoted to 6 th Dan. He is currently the Chief Instructor at the CKD Headquarters in Georgia , USA which currently has 52 Instructors and a student membership of over 400. Master Pereira’s experience is vast and the people he is associated with list like a “who’s who” in martial arts circles (as described on the Wade Green location USA website – see there).

A training session was held at Sutton Choi Kwang Do School on Sunday 18 July. Over 150 students turned up for this special training session, 50 of them were black belt level. Sutton also welcome guest TKD Master Ewan Briscoe who expressed his interest in CKD. Master Briscoe is known for many of his achievements including being 9 times UK TKD champion. Master Baron, who changed over from the Kung Fu system to CKD in 2002 was also present.

The atmosphere on this beautiful Sunday was electric and students were mesmerized by the amount of 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Dan black belts present in the school. The children amazed their parents who stood by with smiling faces. Master Pereira explained the difference between the various martial arts systems and why Choi Kwang Do is dubbed the “health martial art”. This was further evident by Mrs. Tuvey who at the age of 71 (!) is a black belt and in excellent form – she stood up in the hall to a roaring applause by all attendees. Master Pereira has a way to give everyone such a “feel-good-factor” that training was just pure fun as opposed to being grueling hard. This is not to say that the effort displayed was diminished in anyway – on the contrary – Master P.’s influence made everyone perform in such a way that it almost looked easy – even when it was the senior Black Belts turn to do their sparring.

The Master class was scheduled to be between 1:30 and 5:30 pm when we had to vacate the hall. However the atmosphere was still so vibrant that most people still stayed on and followed him to the open fields adjacent to the hall where he continued his teaching. The CKD website Guestbooks were flooded with positive comments about this very enjoyable and informative training session. Master Pereira is a true ambassador of CKD. He also traveled with Master Baron to Greece on July 21 to conduct a training seminar at Mr. Nick Bilas’ school in Athens. Mr. Bilas and his instructors are planning to open many schools in metropolitan Athens . They are already making plans to visit England in order to train with the Senior Instructors.

Master Pereira is a true reflection of our exceptional Founder (Dojunim) who at 62 years of age still continues to stun the martial arts world with his incredible martial arts skill. Dojunim has continued to, research with experts in the fields of neuro-muscular physiology, anatomy and biomechanics in order to stay on the cutting edge of the CKD martial arts revolution. All this latest information will be included in Dojunim’s upcoming CKD book, due to be released soon. We would like to thank everyone: parents, students and all the instructors who participated in these important events.

Master Class Training

Sutton Choi Kwang Do school in Surrey recently hosted a 4-hour training session with Choi Kwang Do Master Pereira (6 th dan).

Master P works directly under Dojunim Kwang Choi (9 th dan) at the CKD Headquarters in Georgia . The session was open to all, with a special training session for instructors and future school owners.

Master P. was a 4 th degree under Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster Rhee Ki Ha when he and other senior instructors founded the UK Tae Kwon Do Federation. They invented several grandmasters to England during 1987 and 1988 but Kwang Jo Choi outshone everyone with his new system – Choi Kwang Do. Since that time, Master Pereira has trained with Dojunim, who promoted himself to 6 th dan. He is chief instructor at the CKD Headquarters, which has 52 instructors and a student membership of over 400.

One hundred and fifty students attended the Sutton session, 50 of whom were black belts. Sutton also welcomed guest TKD Master Ewan Briscoe, a 9-times UK champion. Master Baron, who changed over from Kung Fo in 2002, was also present.

Master P explained why Choi Kwang Do is dubbed the ‘health martial art’. Seventy-one-year-old student Mrs. Tuvey attested to this, amidst applause from all attendees.

Master P. inspired everyone to perform well and when the session came to a formal end, many students followed him out side the training hall, where he continued his teaching! Afterwards, the CKD’s on-line guest books were flooded with positive comments about the session.

Master P travelled to Greece with Master Baron to conduct a training seminar at Nick Bilas’s school in Athens . Nick hopes to open several schools in metropolitan Athens and he’s making plans to visit England to train with the senior instructors.

Ralph Allison: A Personal Journey

TKD-KMA: Pil-Sung, Mr. Allison! I understand that you have quiet a history of training CKD. How did you originally discover CKD?

Ralph Allison: I had a secretary working for me when I started my own company as a self employed person 13 years ago – she had a boyfriend who was a Black Belt and trained under J.P. Koo in the Richmond Choi Kwang Do School (the school has now ceased to exist). So I became curious since I practised Judo (my older brother was actually a country champion in my native Germany) and traditional Karate. I went along to the class and like the style instantly.

TKD-KMA: What rank are you, Sir?

Ralph Allison: I am currently a 2nd Degree Black Belt Green Tag – I presume I might be a higher rank after 12 years of training but I had to change schools 4 times through circumstances.

TKD-KMA: Before becoming a school owner you were training with Mr. Vince Cassar at Raynes Park CKD. What were the other schools that you have trained at?

Ralph Allison: Apart for the aforementioned Mr. Cassar who is a friend and helped greatly with my Sutton CKD website, I also trained with Gideon Hajioff travelling to his North London school at Old Street for approximately 4 years after J.P. Koo’s discontinuation of the Richmond School. I found nowhere in South London I could train at (it’s quite different now of course!) and I have also trained with Mr. Brophy making it 4 schools in all that I attended.

TKD-KMA: During that time you must have witnessed a number of changes as CKD has evolved. What is it you like most about CKD that has kept you training?

Ralph Allison: It is difficult to choose what I like best about CKD since there are quite a few reasons: With the traditional martial arts I had constant inflammation of tendon sheath because of the lock-out movements. My hobby is playing the guitar and keyboards so I thought “I’ll have to cancel one or the other” since the strain on the tendons doing both was just too great…but…with Choi Kwang Do NO PROBLEM! CKD is actually more powerful while at the same time gentle on the ligaments and tendons in one’s arms and legs. I believe Granmaster Choi has truly created something very unique and I’m surprised there are still people training the old “traditional” styles. Then again CKD is the fastest growing martial art in the world today so perhaps people are realising – slowly, but surely, just how good CKD is!

TKD-KMA: Do you have a favourite CKD technique? If so, which?

Ralph Allison: For some strange reason the palm strike is a very powerful technique of mine. Some people may not be 100% comfortable with it but for me it comes naturally. I can also pretty much adjust the power as I did once in a “real” situation when I did not want to break the person’s ribs but just wanted to “warn him off” in order for him to refrain from a full attack on myself.

TKD-KMA: Did it work?

Ralph Allison: Yes! Although he was much taller than myself I moved him several metres adjusting the technique in order not to break but to send him into a corner from which he did not return (no real “harm” was done and both of us could go home with no facial injuries received). Perhaps he will not pick on somebody smaller than himself next time!

TKD-KMA: You’ve recently opened your school in Sutton. Is running a CKD school what you had expected?

Ralph Allison: It is certainly work and not a “holiday”, that’s for sure! One has to run around and do a lot of advertising, liaise with the sports club/venue, telephone, do some “PR”, write letters to enquiring possible students, and generally get organised just as in any business – but I am used to that from my own company. There is a lot of work “behind the scenes” going on. It’s not just like stepping into class, do 1 and a half hours and that’s it. Not at all! There is much more to it. I for myself do not want to come across as too bossy yet at the same time realise that martial arts requires a certain amount of discipline. It is good being able to help others, giving something very important to the student that he or she can use in a real situation on the street. At the same time I realise from my experience with my own company that everybody is an individual. For me it is important that people are happy to come to class – after all if they are not they will not return. So trying to find out what their requirements are in order for them to progress at a nice pace is one of those things I am doing in my class.

TDK-KMA: I suspect that the experience of running your own company has been a bonus in running the CKD School. Considering this, what advice would you give to Chief Instructors considering school ownership?

Ralph Allison: One has to be realistic – nobody starts a school with a large amount of students. There is a lot of advertising involved but then again “word of mouth” from happy students is worth more than expensive advertising.

TDK-KMA: How did your opening night go on August 15th?

Ralph Allison: It was great! It’s really good (especially on the first night) when visiting students come around. It enhances the atmosphere for the new students who get one free class initially.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those visiting students who attended my first class on Thursday 15th August. It was 13 in all – this time a lucky number! They all came to me after class congratulating me. Pil-Sung to you all – well done! There are some real nice people in the CKD movement.

TDK-KMA: Glad to hear it went well! We hope that you have continued success with the Sutton school. Pil-Sung!

The Power of Self-Control

After all these years of martial arts it is only now that I realize the true importance of self-control. It is an invaluable tool for students and teachers alike and something that sets the martial artist apart from the ordinary “weekend-street-fighter”.

I encounter a few “real” situations where self-control helped me to create an outcome on the street, which I was not ashamed of (I will describe a couple of those situations I encountered later on).

Our Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi stresses the importance of this by mentioning the terminology “self-control/self-discipline” twice in the “Tenets of Choi Kwang Do” and in “The Pledge”. “The Tenets” which we cite at the beginning of class go:

Tenets of Choi Kwang Do: Courtesy – Integrity – Perseverance – Self Control – Indomitable Spirit

Ralph Allison showing Palm Strike Technique

Self-discipline – another word for self-control – is cited in “The Pledge” as follows:
My Pledge:
To set positive goals and strive to achieve them.
To apply self-discipline to further my personal development.
To stand for justice and honour my word.
To promote friendly relationships amongst all people.
To use what I learned in class in a constructive manner.

On the street one could go in hard and fast as a response to and attack – or as an alternative I found (as I did on several occasions) – one could asses the situation very quickly – analyze it and respond accordingly : using only the bare “necessary” force required. An experienced martial artist with many years of study behind him/her could do this.

Let me give you a “real” example describing an incident in the street. When a friend and I went to a party I told him after a while that I thought we should leave as I could see/feel that something was “brewing up”. He did not believe me and was oblivious to the change of atmosphere that was occurring. After a while he agreed and he and I started walking towards the road. I saw people coming out of the house but I chose to ignore it – which was mistaken thinking as I had to find out (this goes against my own teachings to be always aware of one’s surroundings).

Ralph Allison display of blocking a wepon attack All of a sudden my friend was pulled down from behind onto the floor and kicked by this real tall guy. I immediately performed a palm strike on him (my favourite technique) with only about 70% of my usual strength (on purpose!). He then returned performing a head-butt, which I avoided, followed by a punch to my face, which I avoided also. Instead of countering with another strike I simply flung my finger onto his nose very quickly shouting at the same time “Stop”. Now this could have easily been a punch onto his face and he knew it! He stepped back in amazement not quite knowing what to make of this when I went into my Choi Kwang Do right-front stance. He just carefully retreated.
One cannot expect this kind of self-control from somebody who just started in martial arts and I would rather advise new students to defend themselves with whatever technique they know. Even an experienced martial artist has to “think twice” before being so generous to his opponent. I would also like to point out that this is my personal opinion and that every situation is very different. But in the above example it was the right thing to do as I can explain if I continue with the above story.

After the attacker retreated I helped my friend to get onto his feet and we walked away seeing that quite a fight broke out amongst many of the partygoers. We later found out that by the time we left the scene some people got arrested (if we had stayed and I had been further involved in the fighting I do not know what mess there would have been afterwards – it’s hard to prove one’s innocence nowadays). Also because I did not fully retaliate the party-organizers were satisfied in the knowledge that we did nothing wrong and that these guys simply wanted to fight for the sake of it.

On another occasion I was sitting down with a couple of female friends when some drunk emptied the rest of his pint onto my head without provocation on my side (in fact I didn’t even know the guy). I got up and before I could say anything he flung his fist towards my face. As he was drunk this was extremely easy to block for me. I simply gave him a hard push instead of countering, smiling at him and advising him to think carefully before doing anything else. A couple of his mates stopped him and that was it. “Self-discipline” (or self-control) held me back again. A full retaliation would have made the situation worse (and a mess of him) – probably ruining my friends evening at the same time.

Self control is also useful on a smaller level: If I am not in a particularly good mood I believe I should not let my students have a bad class because of it. I have to overcome this and “empty my cup” beforehand as Grandmaster Choi puts it. Students can apply this too: If they do not feel like they want to attend class because they are not in the mood or because there is a favourite TV programme during class-times they will have to ask themselves: Is the TV programme going to help me gain inner strength, give me more self-assurance on the street, make me a more confident person etc. Surely not – so it’s a case of mustering self-discipline again in order to go training!

Ralph Allison’s warm up kick
The above does not cover all aspects of self-control and I could probably write a book about it – the subject is quite vast.

I believe we are all students of life and for my part I certainly think self-control/self-discipline can help us improve ourselves on a personal level as well as the quality of our martial arts training.

In my opinion everyone who studies any form of martial arts has certain responsibilities. Self-control is the tool that makes not only our bodies but also our minds stronger – and a more valuable and responsible citizen in the process too.

“Pil Sung” (translated from the Korean: Certain Victory)

Health in Martial Arts (Part 2) by Ralph Allison

In the last issue we learned how your body responds to your martial arts training and the kinds of herbal and non-herbal remedies you can use to keep your body healthy now and in the future.

In this issue I shall give you some very effective yet simple stretching exercises which you may find will “work wonders” over a period of time with regards to:

  1. how to achieve more flexibility without causing injury.
  2. How to cure back-problems acquired through movements made.

Again (as in the last issue) my writings have received the stamp of approval by 2 specialists in the field of sports rehabilitation; namely Dr. Gert Van Der Wait (Chiropractor) and John Sullivan (a top sports-therapist and UK Athletics level 4 performance coach).

Strengthen & Improve your back

Since your back (especially your lower back) will have to deal with a lot of moving around by performing high kicks, twisting kicks, spinning kicks etc. an “antidote” needs to be brought in to counter-balance the strain on the lower back (and shoulder region for punching) in particular.

In my martial art (C.K.D.) a Yoga-based stretch is performed before we start with our shield-drills, sparring etc. This is to help prepare your body for its workout since there is no profit in training “from cold” (i.e. not having had a warm up stretch) as pointed out in “Health in Martial Arts” (Part 1).

Some of the benefits in the following exercises will be felt immediately, others after a little while – overall a beneficial health effect will be guaranteed if you keep at it.

In (figure 1) I am demonstrating an easy yet effective stretch recommended by Dr. Gert Van Der Walt (I use it in my class stretching program also) which helps strengthening the back and muscles around it.

If you feel “after effects” from this or any other stretch described here in this article (or perhaps the next day) it will indicate that you would benefit greatly by applying these exercises regularly. However if you feel pain I would advise you get it checked out by a Chiropractor, Sports-Therapist or GP.

Try the following:

  1. Figure 1Pull up one of your knees and bring the whole leg close to your torso (you may also push the leg in a little to the centre to increase the stretch).
  2. Hold for a few seconds then let go. Repeat the same with the other leg.
  3. Now take both legs and pull them up in the same fashion as you did with the single leg. Repeat these 3 exercises several times.

WARNING: As with all exercises given here it is important that they are performed very slowly and without any force whatsoever. Forcing your body will create a counter effect by producing minute muscle tears and should therefore be avoided. Take care of your body – and your body will take care of you!

Figure 2Another exercise which I find excellent is depicted in figure 2. Try the following:

  1. Lay down on your back and relax.
  2. Pull up the right leg and touch the outside of that knee with your left hand.
  3. Pull the right knee & leg over all the way to your left side as close to the floras you comfortably manage it. Then do the same with the other leg (reversing sides of course).

Figure 3Here are 2 more exercises which I find extremely useful. My wife, Svetiana Allison, is demonstrating (see figure 3) another variant of an effective back-stretch:

  1. Sit down with your knees upright.
  2. Turn to the right (looking to the rear) and either hold your right leg or right ankle (according to your flexibility) with your left hand.
  3. Do the same on the other side.

This precious exercise is also good for the spine. To further strengthen your back (see figure 4) do the following:

  1. Figure 4Lay face-down on the floor with your hands to the side.
  2. Now pull up your legs straight and keep them in the air for a few seconds.
  3. Relax and repeat a few times (if you feel uncomfortable in the slightest: stop).

This last exercise is intended for those who have sorted out their back issues by doing the first 3 exercises over a period of time. In other words: If you have had a bad back to start with then just do the first 3 and only do exercise number 4 when your back feels fine (and … to keep it fine!). Incidentally cycling, swimming or a 15-20 minutes walk will give your back a beneficial stimulation leading to healing.

Prepare for Fast Punching

As explained in “Health in Martial Arts” (Part 1): If you move your arms forcefully by tensing your muscles you acquire a build-up of TOXINS which cause stiffness over time and hinder your punching-speed. Furthermore it feels quite uncomfortable and you know something is wrong with your body. Toxins can be got rid of in various ways including by doing such exercises as given below.

Incidentally “lock-out” or semi-lock-out punches (meaning expending your arms fully to punch as opposed to keeping them unlocked as in boxing) will put quite a strain on tendons (for this reason we do not perform them in our CKD classes).

Here are a few very effective stretches, which will help you a great deal. They will make you feel better by loosening up your shoulder region and therefore improve your fast hand techniques (as used by Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi whose nickname in Korea was “Flash” due to his incredible punching speed).

Figure 5Figure 5 depicts the following:

  1. Sit down comfortably, cross-legged and with your spine erect.
  2. Outstretch your right arm with your thumb pointing downwards.
  3. Hook your left arm underneath your right arm and pull the arm gently over to your left (you should feel a pleasant stretching sensation in your right shoulder).
  4. Look the opposite way for an additional neck-stretch.
  5. Now do the same on the other side with opposite arms.

Figure 6 shows another shoulder & arm stretch:

  1. Figure 6Sit down cross-legged. Extend your right arm and place it behind your head.
  2. Rest your left arm on top of your right elbow.
  3. Do the same on the other side.

Another good exercise (not shown) is to stand upright and fully swing your arms forwards then backwards in very big circles (again: excellent for your shoulders region). After all these exercises your arms and shoulders will we “loosened up” and ready for punching!

Preparing for Kicking

The knees and leg-tendons / muscles are the primary “tools” for your kicks. “Lock-out” or semi-lock-out kicks (see explanation for “lock-outs” in last chapter) will put a lot of strain on your knees and extra care needs to be taken therefore.

I can show you how to improve your flexibility regarding your leg tendons but concerning your knee-region I can only advise you not to kick hard in the air … the air of course does not give you resistance as a sparring shield does; so the power you produce by kicking hard into the air will “bounce back” to your body. Even though we do not do the lock-outs in CKD I always tell my students NEVER to kick and punch hard into the air … and here’s another secret: relaxed punching and kicking produces more speed.

Here are a few exercises for your leg flexibility. Do the following (figure 7):

  1. Figure 7Sit down with your left leg “tucked in” and your right leg outstretched.
  2. Bend forward towards the right foot by bending from the hip (not lower back).
  3. Do the same with the other leg. Then site with both legs outstretched and repeat exercise.

Figure 8Figure 8: You might find this one more difficult. Bend the left leg as shown and extend the right leg. Stretch towards the extended leg (do both sides).

Figure 9Figure 9: In the “Butterfly Stretch” your leg muscles should be used mainly to push your knees towards the floor (use elbows or hands lightly to support the knees). This will help to prepare for your “box-split” or “Side-Stretch” exercise (which all martial artists are familiar with – shown in figure 10).

Figure 10Finally in figure 11 keep right knee bend and extend left leg – repeat wit the other side. If you have knee problems however leave this one off your programme.

Figure 11As with everything you do: Should you feel any kind of pain when performing the above exercises then stop until you feel ready to continue. And if you have a sensitive back to start with I would recommend no bending down action at all. Rome wasn’t built in one day and “easy does it”.

Of course one cannot cover the whole spectrum in one short article. However I have explained some of the very important health and flexibility stretches and do hope I have answered some of your questions by addressing various intriguing aspects at the same time helping you to feel better in order to prepare for your martial arts training.

The Korean “Pil Sung” translates “Certain Victory” (our school motto) or: NEVER GIVE UP! Have fun with the exercises given above!

Health in Martial Arts (Part 1) by Ralph Allison

No matter what martial art you are studying – you will need to understand how your body functions in order to perform better. I myself have been practising martial arts for over 20 years (Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Karate and presently the advanced style of Choi Kwang Do or ‘CKD’ in which I hold 3 rd dan) – during that time I have found out many valuable aspects of sports training which I am willing to share with you, the reader.

Many martial artists (especially after they reach black belt) put a lot of hard work into their daily practice. However there seams to be some confusion amongst some practitioners who do not know the full facts about the health issues associated with their hard training, which will affect them now and in later life – and often they are not aware who to turn to in order to obtain the full facts. This article will therefore be most valuable to you if you respect your body now and in future since health issues are no doubt important for any serious martial arts practitioner.

Apart from my own research my article has been approved and backed up by 2 people I respect very much in the field of sports rehabilitation, namely Dr. Gert Van Der Walt (Chiropractor) and John Sullivan (a top Physiotherapist; UK Athletics level 4 performance coach).

Now, let’s have a look how your daily training affects your body in the long term and what you can do to keep it – or make it – healthier:

1) Should you train if you are not feeling 100%?

In Scandinavia the medical profession was baffled when two of their top runners died since they trained whilst having a ‘common cold’. The answer to the riddle was simple: As we all know the common cold and flu affects our muscles (that’s why we walk slower and fell muscle pain because of it). We must not forget that the heart is a muscle too and that extra strain training produces can have fatal effects. That is exactly what happened to our Scandinavian athletes. All you martial arts teachers out there: Do not push your students beyond the limit when they have a common cold!

Pain is your body’s message that we should take it easy. One of my Choi Kwang Do students asked me if he should still punch since he had some wrist pain. I told him to lightly punch without making any contact in order to rest and recover. Punching a training-shield under normal circumstances is health enhancing – your brain getting a message to build up your bone strength. However the wrist has to be positioned perfectly straight during punching and the intensity built up slowly over time. Never put any extra strain on your body whilst it is trying to recover.

2) Warm ups & cool downs – Good and bad stretching

CKD’s Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi tells his instructors to prepare our bodies with a yoga stretch before training commences. There is no profit to train ‘from cold’ – i.e. without a warm up stretch – (unless you are doing a very light work-out) – your body will perform better if your muscles and tendons have been ‘pre-warmed’ during a muscle warm up too. Do the following: Breathe in and stretch a particular body part; then exhale whilst stretching out at the same time – holding the stretch for a while (holding it for under 20 seconds will just maintain flexibility – over and beyond will increase it over time). During correct stretching your muscles and bones are being ‘washed over’ with extra blood carrying necessary nutrients and oxygen making your body more healthy, stronger and ready for advanced martial arts training.

‘Rocking’ backwards and forwards during stretching can cause muscle-tears and counter effect flexibility in the long term – refrain from doing this. Forced stretching and ‘partner stretching’ can have similar effect causing tendon damage and slow down your flexibility rather than enhancing it.

3) What happens during your martial arts training?

CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE – a light but continuous exercise to improve circulation and fitness – will help your body to prepare itself for the harder part of training; starting a class – after stretching – by doing Patens (known as ‘Katas’ in Karate and as ‘Hyung’ in our Korean martial art Choi Kwang Do) at slow to medium speed. The ENDORPHINES produced by the body during slightly harder exercise will give you the ‘feel good’ factors with TOXINS being sweated out as waste product during exercise and thereby purifying the body greatly and promoting health.

Correct punching and kicking on shields will give the brain the message to build up your bone tissue (as explained earlier). However ‘lock out’ and ‘semi lock out’ punching and kicking (as in some traditional styles) will put strain on your ligaments and tendons and can produce microscopic tears in your muscles. Therefore it is ill advised to put tension in any punching or kicking. In the art of Choi Kwang Do or ‘CKD’ as it is commonly known I show my students that the lightness of our movements (as demonstrated by our Grandmaster) is not just health enhancing – it also produces more punching and kicking speed by not restricting the muscles through tension which acts like a brake on the speed-effect.

LACTIC ACID is a by-product during harder exercise. One feels fatigue in the muscles and eventually pain and stiffness occurs. Lactic acid is built up during hard exercise due to an insufficient amount of oxygen being supplied to the muscle. It can be got rid of in various ways: through drinking plenty of water and a ‘cool down’ exercise afterwards (moving in a ‘Tai Chi fashion’) very slowly; performing very slow arm and leg exercises (these can be punches and kicks) to flush out lactic acid from your body; sports massage is a helper too – it should not be ignored by any serious martial artist.

4) Sports massage

Why do professional athletes get regular sports massages? ‘Loosening’ up muscles through massage (especially over the neck, shoulder and lower back area) will prevent ‘hard muscles’ through external stretching and getting a good circulation through such body parts. Hard muscles do not perform as well as loose muscles – that’s a fact.

You may think that you do not need any sports massage until you actually had one and realised how it helped your training and well being. In addition you should get your spine checked from time to time – even if you do not do any sports at all there may be a weakness in your spinal area you are not fully aware of. It is important to refrain from always kicking from your ‘favourite leg’ (i.e. with right handed people the right leg) because it can put an imbalance on your hip-joint and (after a while) can go lop-sided. This however can be corrected by a Chiropractor. Sports massage helps breaking down those ‘scar tissues’ as well as re-aligning muscle fibres. It also helps with circulation and aids in flushing out waste products like Lactic Acid.

5) Rest and train

Plenty of rest, sleep and drinking water (‘flushing out the system’) are the simplest and most inexpensive ways to recuperate. Red ‘Tiger Balm’ (slightly stingy on the skin) rubbed around the knees and any other muscle or tendon area which cause you problems will help greatly (not in the affected area is swollen due to injury – a cold pack should be applied in that case). ‘Arnica’ (30 strength) is a homeopathic medicine which is meant to heal internal bruising. Homeopathic medicines are totally safe as they are natural tissue salts (non chemicals). Vitamin E-400 has a similar effect but is not quite as powerful as Arnica. No matter if you are a martial artist or not; if you are over the age of 40 you should use ‘Cod Liver Oil’ daily maintaining ligaments enhancing a good immune system too.

Ibuprofen cream used externally is very good too but in my experience not quite as powerful as `Tiger Balm`. Ipuproven tablets do help with muscle and tendon problems but should be taken with the utmost care (and only when absolutely necessary) since (like aspirin) it may affect your stomach lining.

If you do a lot of running to increase your stamina refrain from using “shock absorbing” foot-wear. Studies have confirmed that this kind of shock-absorbing limits the natural feedback and lower leg and foot injuries are more prone to injury than otherwise.

Use the ‘R-I-C-E’ principle for any injuries; rest-ice-compression-elevation and (I repeat) NEVER put any heat on the injured part as this will increase the swelling.

6) Final conclusion

Martial arts teachers have a duty to know about health issues. Training students brings not only moral but also health responsibilities.

All a student can ask of you is to keep as well informed about such issues as possible. No one can ever be fully informed – even medical practitioners have to update their learning at all times.

However any martial arts teacher should have a minimum of knowledge with regards to health issues and be qualified in first aid as a standard of course.

Our Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi will address some of these issues in further detail with his new book to be published in 2004 with regards to health tips, advice on training and a much deeper insight into health issues than what a short article such as this can provide.

I should be glad if I have answered a few of your questions with regards to your own and your martial arts students’ health and encouraged you to delve deeper into the subject.

“Pil Sung” is our CKD school motto and is translated “Certain Victory”.