By Richard Trafford.
It’s a problem! Needing to learn a new skill set, we take our time and make sure we get it right. Steady as she goes you might say. Of course the more complex the skill to be learned, the more steadily we take it.
But what if the skill we are trying to understand and practice is not dry-stone walling but self-defence related!? There are no better reasons to use tempo and speed than when we perform the skills required to avoid a push or block a punch! Also a slow strike in return is somewhat pointless! So taking our time becomes counter productive within the world of the martial arts.
Often as instructors we need to encourage or push you into going faster, for tempo is the essence of combat. Any situation that requires your combat expertise will start very quickly and be over very quickly!
So the sooner we start practicing the moves and our forms as quickly as possible the better.
Part of the problem, I think, is that students often don’t wish to make mistakes so they perform their moves too carefully, which is ultimately too slow!
Tempo is like the melody in a song, while techniques are the words to this song. Now we would like students to be in perfect tune and know all the words of course! But this takes time, so try and pick up the tune first, for the tune is the thing that drives our learning and improves our martial arts. Spending time perfecting the words will only take you so far, and eventually will bore you and may make the practice futile when the technique is required for real. But the melody will get you dancing!
Combat is never (nor should be!) a perfect experience, so the golden rule is; ‘do something’ – even if that something is running for it! Trying to get the technique right in that moment will do you no favours.
So learn to move quickly, enjoy moving quickly, sometimes you may feel your instructors are pushing you to go faster too soon, while you want to slow down and get it ‘right’. But we know the life of the technique is in tempo, so really…its always better if we have to tell you to slow down!!