With three weekends off in the upcoming months (Seminar, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) it seems like a good time to throw a blog post at helpful hints for individual training.
I heard the saying slow is smooth and smooth is fast about ten years ago when I started working on Krav Maga for self-defense training. While it applies to many things, it is particularly important in Krav Maga’s focus on free-flowing combinations.
Do you know another martial that focuses on combinations and flow? Haidong Gumdo comes to mind. With Kibon Jasewabegi at the beginning of every class we have many combinations: Jwa-Oo Begi, Sam-Dan Begi, Bichgwanja Begi, Geom Gye Dog Lib Pal Sung Se, Sa Dan Begi, and Jochunse are combination techniques that we perform multiple times every class.
So, with all these combinations to train up, how does one apply slow is smooth and smooth is fast to Haidong Gumdo?
Step One: Break It Down
Before I can do anything correctly, I have to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to do! So I break out the manuals, review the videos, and do the homework to be sure that I have a very clear technical idea of the material I want to master. Start from the ground up. What is the footwork? What is the hand position? When I put the two together, what is the big idea that this material wants to accomplish?
This is the time to ask up the ranks for explanation of something that is not well understood. It is better to overcome a few road blocks before a lot of physical training than it is to dig a deep rut in muscle memory that I will have to re-work later.
I cannot repeat this enough: Go slowly enough to be smooth. Smooth means control, precision, and one technique following after the other. If you can’t slow down enough to perform the material you are working on smoothly, then you need to break it up into its component bits and work them up slow and smoothly until they are fast.
Step Two: Slow Enough to Flow
Once I have a mental grasp on the technique that I want to train, it is time to apply it physically. I perform the material quite slowly? How slowly? That depends on what I’m working on, and how familiar I am with the components of any given technique or form. The general rule is to perform the material slowly enough to do it smoothly. There should be no pauses, hiccups, or glitches in the technique. If I am very familiar with the pieces then I may be able to start at a moderate speed, but it doesn’t matter if Tai Chi practitioners are slowly dancing laps around me in the park and snickering at me for being lethargic, the smooth pace is the correct one.
Step Three: Go with the Flow
Once I have a technique technically correct and smooth, the one thing I must not do is speed up. More specifically, I must not push to go any faster than the limit I already have: be smooth and accurate.
The good news is that the human brain and body are some of the most sophisticated thinking machines in all the universe. Every time we perform a function our brain performs a marginal upgrade to the ‘circuitry’ that carries out that function. That means that even though I focus on performing something smoothly I will be able to flow at a slightly faster pace with each repetition. I do not have to think about it, or push towards it. My brain is built for creative laziness. It wants to perform things as efficiently as possible so that it has more resources for Ye Olde Biological Imperatives of food, shelter, and whether or not a saber-toothed tiger is going to jump out of the bushes and play Darwin tag with me or other members of my tribe.
So pure biology means that repetitions will make me more efficient. Slow down enough to get it smoothly and right. Continue until smooth and correct becomes smooth, fast, and correct.
Repeat as needed.
Enjoy your training this winter season!