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Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

I’m a slow learner. So I’m writing this primarily for me because I have to keep reminding myself of lessons I learn and forget.

Professor Jerry taught us the weak side armbar from back control. A technique I was shown once, like… 6 years ago. I practiced it slow a couple times and felt like I had it. The next time, with a cooperative training partner, I went fast and skipped a step or two but nailed the armbar. You know that feeling, I got this. He gave me that look that you hope no professor gives you. With a big smile, he said, “that was terrible.” He was right.

It made for a teachable moment. We can learn from our mistakes or those of other. I think almost everyone prefers to learn from others. Let me clarify and broadcast what I learned.

Jerry put it like this. Your body is like a dog. It doesn’t learn a trick on the first time. You have to train it over and over again to do the right thing at the right time. When I got all excited with this new technique and tried to rush through it, bypassing some steps, to get to the glorious part… the armbar, I was doing myself a disservice.

It made me recall a teaching from legendary coach John Wooden. “It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” With this particular technique the big thing is the submission. The details are what will allow me to get there when a training partner is resisting. Skipping the details during drilling almost guarantees future failure. The lesson, go slow and practice the details. Then, practice until each step is smooth.

I am left thinking about a Navy seal saying, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” I will train slow and get every detail. I will practice until it is smooth. That way when it is time to execute the technique it will be so smooth it looks fast.

Coach Wooden also used to say, “A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” Writing this took me through step three. Sending it into the world, I am now letting that moment of embarrassment go. Step four complete.

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