Efficiency of Motion: Applications to Self-defense

by Kjell Rosenberg MD

Everyone has heard the phrase; “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”  However, that is a heavily nuanced statement and from a purely mathematical perspective cannot be true unless slow = fast.  I seriously doubt you will be able to convince anyone that slow is fast. Let’s therefore look at the nonlinear meaning of this phrase.

The concept is not meant for the advanced student.  We use this phrase to impress upon the novice the value of learning a skill correctly and efficiently.  Efficiency is the key to the optimization of speed.  In most cases, this takes slow, repeated, controlled movements.  Granted, a coordinated learner may be able to run a physical skill quickly from the start, but if watched in slow motion, the inefficiency and errors in their technique will become obvious.

An important distinction to make at this point is the end goal of the learner.  If the learner seeks to achieve a certain par score that is less that expert, the goal can often be met without an optimal skill set.  This is possible especially in coordinated or physically gifted student.  

However, if the goal is to maximize one’s own ability, learning the most correct technique and performing it efficiently is vital  As this is my goal and the end point of my education system, Condition Red Response teaches students to go through the mechanics of weapon manipulation slowly, smoothly, and efficiently.  It is through this process that “muscle memory” is developed and the student starts on the road toward gaining their own maximal speed.

The Science of Repetition: 

Each repetition performed in the same way moves the learner one step closer to achieving “muscle memory” or “automaticity.” This occurs through the remodeling of the nervous system.  It is unknown exactly how many repetitions it takes for muscle memory to develop, which is probably because it occurs in a bell curve distribution among humans.

Three things we do know:

  1.  It takes A LOT of repetitions to develop.
  2. Once acquired, the movement can be performed with increased efficiency.
  3. Skills developed to the level of “automaticity” take longer to degrade when not practiced regularly.

So if the phrase “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” offends you, think of it this way instead:

You can’t learn something smoothly or perfectly if you don’t take it slow, and you’ll never do it with maximal speed if you can’t do it smoothly.  Being smooth is the catalyst that changes slow to fast.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.




Hearne, J. (2017). Chapter 1 Inside the Defenders Head. In Straight Talk on Self Defense (pp.20-36). Iola, WI: Krause Publications.

Copyright 2019 Kjell Rosenberg

Leave a Reply