By Glenn Catania
I was talking to my teacher recently about a technique I was trying to understand. I seemed to be having a problem with the footwork and he had a very simple answer for me: "You're doing it too fast to learn it." Wow, was he right. I was so worried about looking cool doing it that I wasn't giving myself a chance to enjoy and learn it. Sure, I wanted to be able to do it the way it looked, but I didn't want to take the time to learn it properly.
Speed kills: that's what the title says. Very obviously, it takes the life out of your taijutsu. When you go too fast, your body doesn't even have time to memorize what the muscles are doing. We train slower in class for two main reasons. One reason is that we don't want to hurt our training friends. The second is that it takes attention and patience to learn a movement, and that means practicing it slowly at first for the body to learn the new idea.
I remember one time walking along and picking up a stick. It felt so comfortable in my hands that I twirled it like a hanbo. That is because I have done it so many times it came naturally. Has a friend ever grabbed you and you noticed your body start to move into a technique so naturally that you almost had to catch yourself? We all train for that familiar feeling of just letting the body react to a situation in a proper way. The difficult thing is to actually let the body learn the movement so it feels natural.
I was watching two good friends train in class the other night. Besides almost killing each other and destroying the dojo, they had no idea what they were doing. There is no slight meant; it is always easier to see this when you're an observer to training. After they slowed down and had fun, they really got the hang of it. Take your time to learn the movement, and then it is possible to move faster as you progress. Remember those first days of punching? Awkward, uncomfortable... Now as it feels more natural it's much easier to stop anywhere in the movement, so even if you are going fast, you have control. Give yourself the chance to really learn the movement. Remember what we've always been taught: speed kills.