Many years ago, I studied percussion
under a world-renowned teacher. One of the most important
things I learned was to practise slowly – as
slowly as I could possibly go. In his words, “If
you can’t play
it right when you play slowly, how can you expect to
play anything other than rubbish when you play fast?”
He proved to me that it was much harder to do proper
technique slowly, and when I finally mastered a technique,
I was amazed to learn I could play it fast. In
fact, he believed the quality of your musical technique
was inversely proportional to the speed at which you
I came to see that his philosophy can be
applied to anything we try to learn, including karate.
Good and slow is better than sloppy and fast. And once
you understand this, you will realize that good and
slow naturally leads to good and fast.
The advantage of going slowly is that it allows you
to concentrate on
how all the little details – breathing, balance, rooting of stances,
rotation of hips, posture and relaxation, etc. – all
work together as part of a technique. It gives you
time to focus on each part of a move, bringing them
all together at just the right moment.
If you slow yourself down (and this requires
a conscious effort), you will find that technique will
improve and you will relax. And then you will start
to speed up naturally. In fact, the more relaxed you
are, the faster you will be; but forcing yourself to
go quickly too soon can be counterproductive.
Speed comes from having a relaxed mind and body. You
are less likely to be relaxed if you are thinking, “I need to go faster.” As
you try to go faster, you will likely tense up and
fight against yourself through the movement, slowing
Think instead, “How can I be more
Slowing down is the best way to learn to
eliminate everything that can hinder speed, to relax
and use only the muscle and body movement necessary
for a specific technique. Constant repetition in this
manner will eventually lead to flowing, supple technique.
It will become internalized, part of your muscle memory.
In other words, you will begin to do the technique
correctly, without having to think about it.
Practising slowly is also a very good way to improve
your mental focus. When you start training this way,
you will become aware
of all the nuances of the technique, which will demand
your deepest concentration. By focusing and correcting
all the details, at the same time as you are aware
of the overall flow, your technique will improve by
leaps and bounds.
So try practicing as slowly as you can
when you have the opportunity. You will be surprised
how fast you can improve by going slow.
—Chris Moran is a member of the Jennings School
of Karate, in Bradford, Ont. This article originally
appeared in the March/April 2009 issue
of the JSK Journal