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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Value of Slow

Most of us know the idea "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" right?   Martial artists and shooters say it as a mantra - it's one of the first major concepts I was taught, back in the day. I bet you've heard it too, in your own practice.

A few years ago I attended a Dan Anderson seminar and one topic we covered was disarms.

The disarms he taught were done very slowly.  They worked 100% by pure technique, not muscle or speed.  Not only that, when my partner did it to me - and I was working with a kid - and I did my best to resist, he was still able to get the disarm without the help of muscle or speed.

Even at slow speed, with proper technique, it worked like a charm.  Not only that - usually, when working disarms, they typically have some element of pain involved, and after a while, your hands get torn up.   That seminar was an exception; I barely got a single bruise and my hands and wrists didn't hurt at all!

It got me thinking about the nature of slow training.  That is, proper technique should work slowly, if it's proper technique.  It doesn't mean that speed and strength play no part - many core blocks we teach need to have speed as a force multiplier in order to work properly (specifically, one-handed blocks that aren't supported in any way). 

Speed and strength certainly play a part in the martial arts, and is something that we train, of course.  However, over time, our ability to have speed and strength work for us going to diminish as we age. Heck, I started martial arts in early middle age, so I never had strength and speed as an advantage.

We are left with proper technique to sustain us and to make it work.

This is how old masters -and I have GM Rodel Dagooc and Guro Dan Inosanto specifically in mind - are able to still kick your butt.  It's not how strong they are, or really, how fast they are.  It's proper technique, and a lifetime of practice.

I try to incorporate moving slow into my martial arts practice every now and then, to make sure my technique is sound and to pay attention to all the little details.

If it fails when I'm doing it slow, then I need to re-examine the technique. Maybe I didn't understand it properly, or maybe I need to change the angle to make it work for me (that's not uncommon), or maybe I fell into a bad habit that was covered up by going fast and my partners have been too compliant.

If I can't do it slow, I can't do it fast.

I challenge you to try it, too, and see what you learn.

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