In Aikido practice we often guide beginners to slow down. We say that speed will come but it must follow developing good form.
Speed too early in one’s training can impede development of form. It may also give a false sense of effectiveness as it adds energy to make a technique “work”. Practically, speed often makes learning form harder as movements get sloppy.
Speed without good form impedes effective training.
Off The Mat
Taking this idea off the mat, speed without skill can be equally ill advised.
Think about times when you have tried to do something fast and it didn’t go well. This is particularly likely when what you were trying to do fast was not something you were all that good at.
There have been many times in life when I have prioritized going or reacting fast. Often in hindsight or even during the act I could tell the quality of what I was doing was suffering. The result of quickness was far less satisfying than I had hoped or intended.
Speed can be valuable. Whether it be physical speed in sport or mental speed in business and academics, it can help you thrive, grow, and succeed. But it has to be paired with good skill. Skills develop from practice.
Practicing a Process for Learning and Growing
Aikido provides an opportunity to develop mental and physical quickness with an emphasis on building a foundation of form first. We slow down when learning something new. We take our time and try to practice it diligently.
Good form starts with moving your body into the right position as an attack manifests. Ideally, you are moving just enough — no extra steps or arm movements and only what is minimally required to get into an optimum position. Once in a good position, we blend with the attack and redirect it to our advantage without loss of compassion and understanding for the attacker.
Our form strives to be efficent, decisive and not telegraphed.
As our form evolves we can then begin to explore the pace of our movement.
Ultimately the combination of form, timing, and speed leads to cultivating the type of power we strive for in our Aikido technique.
Slowing Down to Develop Skill
Aikido provides a unique opportunity to physically and mentally practice how to slow down. It is not as easy to do as it may seem. The benefits of doing so are notable.
Slowing down allows us to intensely study something new that involves interacting with others. It gives us time to learn to assess the people people we interact with — their intentions and needs. It gives us time to make our actions deliberate, thoughtful and more precise.