The supposed conundrum that people face in their Aikido training is that if they train too slow, will they be prepared to be able to handle realistic attacks? There is a lot of truth to the idea that how you practice is how you will respond when you really have to. I frankly spend a lot of time with my solo and paired training at a very, very slow speed. I am deeply concerned with how I am moving. I am using muscle contractions, momentum, tendon & myofacia spiraling, etc…? I deeply concerned with where I am sourcing the orgins of my movements. I find that I need to work at a slow speed with careful intent to create proper movement. The next part is the continuous repetition of those proper movements so that I am not having to expend as much conscious energy as when I am learning to create proper movement patterns. I find that the more intense focus I spend on becoming aware of how I am moving, I find that I become better adept at understanding the nature of the movements of my attackers. I believe that this process is very important in order to allow all of these things to take place without conscious thought at realistic speeds. I will then increase the speed of my practice to the point where I am introducing bad elements such as tension, momentum, disconnections in my body, etc. I then back down the speed and then will practice at various speeds at differing times.
I find that I am frequently slowing down the practice of my students so that they can begin to develop some awareness of the mistakes that they are making. I let them know that his process is like a worm hole. As soon as you become aware of something that you are doing wrong, you then become aware of the next bunch of mistakes. It can be easy to get discouraged in this process if you are unable to recognize that this is a positive process in order to make meaningful improvements in your techniques. It is important to genuinely leave your ego at the door when you enter the dojo so that you become less interested in how good you are in your Aikido, and more intersested in finding areas that sorely need improvement. Speed is your ability to execute your techniques will naturally increase if you can approach your training in that systematic manner. Your movements will become more efficient, smooth and effective, which leads to increases in speed in a manner that does not add errors to your execution of your techniques.
I would like us to test ourselves by seeing how slow we can move, while making our techniques still work. I would like us to see how many areas that need improvement that we can discover in the process. Then speed up the practice to the point of real failures. Take mental notes to see what begins to fail and why. This is a useful process to make lasting improvements in our Aikido.
Practice with purposeful intent at a speed that you are really aware of what is going on!
Marc Abrams Sensei