And, unfortunately for us, it requires several layers of explanation and then a fair amount of hands-on experience to get what we’re up to.
The two things you need to make injury the most likely outcome are accuracy and correctness. You need to strike a part of the body that can actually be broken (and gives good results when that happens) — but you also need to strike it hard enough and with enough follow-through to actually break it.
If you miss, nothing happens. If you hit it but not hard enough to break it, nothing happens. The problem is that accuracy and correctness cannot be learned with speed in the mix.
Trying to learn accuracy and correctness at speed in hands-on violence is as effective as learning to shoot by working on your speed draw and then emptying the magazine as fast as you can at the target. The results will be terrible. And those terrible results will convince you that you need more practice — at speed. This is not a sustainable path to mastery.
It would be far better to start slow, get used to pointing the thing downrange, firing a single shot and making adjustments based on where that shot went. In essence, being aware of your mistakes so you can fix them.
And so it is with hands-on violence.
Go fast and you make so many mistakes you can’t possibly be aware of them all. Most of the time you’ll miss. The rest of the time you won’t be striking hard enough — not enough of your mass crashing through — to cause that injury you absolutely need. Train fast and you’re training for haphazard chaos.
What you really want is to go slow enough to get everything exactly right. One square inch of you through one square inch of him. Your mass driving it three feet through him, trying to make the tool come out the other side. Displacing him and ending up standing where he was. You want to be acutely, embarrassingly aware of every mistake you make — missing the target, using an improperly configured tool (like a loose fist), losing your balance. You want these errors to pop up one at a time so you can register the error and adjust to correct it, training your brain to do exactly what you want, the way you want it, when you need to do it at speed later.
For training purposes, there are three limiting factors on how fast you can go:
- You get everything you want exactly right
If you miss, slow down. If your mass wasn’t involved, slow down. If the joint break, throw, etc., didn’t work the way you intended, slow down. Adjust the rate to make your practice perfect.
- You are always in balance
When you’re in balance you control where your mass goes — you can swing it like a sledgehammer. When you’re off balance, it’s no longer in your fists. Work at the rate where your balance is constant and absolute.
- Your partner can give you clean, clear reactions
You want to train with useful sight pictures for success — every injury changes the shape of the human machine into a new configuration of targets and balance. Learning these shapes (reactions) allows you to use injury tactically, as well as increasing your rhythm and timing by learning to predict when and where different targets will appear. If you go faster than your partner’s ability to give clean reactions — if you make them afraid of what you’re doing — they’ll ball up and/or put a lot of useless noise into your learning. On the street, people have perfect reactions. On the mats, uninjured, it’s less so. Work at the rate where your partner can execute perfect reactions for you.
As long as all three of these remain true, you can work however fast you want. But if one or more are violated the answer is “slow down".
Even with perfect targeting/movement and the balance of an Olympic gymnast your rate will be governed by how good your reaction partner is. An expert working with a beginner can only go as fast as the beginner’s reactions allow. A beginner working with an expert will be limited by their lack of skill and balance challenges.
The goal in training is to work slowly to increase both partners’ abilities in these three areas, gradually adding in speed as the skill-sets allow. Working at speed — successfully — can be achieved faster than most people would believe, but only if you take the slow road to mastery.
Real violence is indeed done at full speed — you need to do it as hard and as fast as you can — but your success will depend on how you trained for that moment. And for our purposes slow is perfect…
…and perfect is nonfunctional.
TFT Master Instructor
PS: Our year-end half-off live training class special ends tomorrow. These classes are where you quickly (in just 2 days) and easily learn to apply the principles of “Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast". But you must act now.
Here’s where you can find all the details about these one-of-a-kind sessions.