Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast. This motto is credited to Navy Seal team, for those who don’t know the Seals are a branch of the US Military, known most recently for the role they played in Iraq and Afghanistan. Movement under moonlight, off-paper assignments, and brutal efficiency are the trademarks of Seal warriors in modern time.
I’ve been thinking about this concept more having just finished reading Extreme Ownership (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin). It was a concept they discussed at length, particularly in relation to urban combat when the enemy has blended into buildings and behind corners. I’ve always been interested in combat, likely why I eventually found fighting, I think it’s the immediate and brutal feedback loop that I appreciate so much. You have an opportunity to pick your beliefs and tactics and find out almost instantaneously if you made the correct decision.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is another beautiful example and less final example. A ground fighting art, BJJ, was designed to help smaller opponents dominate bigger ones in both self-defense and sports situations. It involves a series of pinning holds, similar to wrestling with joint manipulations and oxygen/ blood flow restricting chokes. My objective is to control your body with my own in a way that gives you no option except submission.
The sport works on a hierarchy of positions, each progression provides me with more attacking options and you with fewer until the only option is to submit or damage.
I wholeheartedly believe it is the most effective system of self-defense in the world and everyone should spend time on the mat learning the art. The decisions you make and philosophies you subscribe too are probed, attacked and either stand fast or become overrun. What is important within this system is a smooth transition between the positions and attack, seamlessly applying pressure and relieving it. The trademark of an inexperienced grappler is the jerky, disruptive floundering – think live sports with a bad internet connection – “he has the ball….penalty for bl…that’s all folks” you get the idea. They rush the decisions, completely botch the movements and as a result, end up in defensive positions.
Life is really no different and I was reminded of it last week in a mildly painful way – which is usually the best way to learn a lesson. I was heading out of the city and knew I would be stuck in some degree of traffic purgatory, in an attempt to make the trip bearable I headed to a local coffee shop to grab something for the road. While waiting for my order I checked my email, waiting in the inbox was an unexpected “disaster”. Worried that I needed to handle it immediately before getting in the car I hastily squeezed a lid onto the cup and took off down the street hammering out a response on my phone.
Fast forward fifteen seconds…
I don’t notice the pile of branches a landscaping company had piled up, half tripped, regain my balance only to have my entire cup of scalding hot java wash over me like a mini-tidal wave, my phone goes tumbling to the pavement – thank you KB for forcing me to put a case on it – and I am now standing in the middle of the sidewalk covered in coffee searching for my cell phone and looking by all accounts like a proper jack ass. All because I started rushing up the self-created mountain. Painful lesson learned, I didn’t address the email, because I had to stop back at the house and change, I didn’t get a coffee for my torturous drive because it was lying on the pavement, and I didn’t get to my appointment in time because I wasted 5 minutes on this debacle, which meant the session started late and with a sour taste. Several hours of my day were affected by the one rushed decision.
As inconvenient as all of this was the real concern is the speed of decision making, the way my brain went from slow and smooth to a runaway car in mere moments. If my decision making slows down I thoughtful but the lid on my cup, which means it’s less likely to spill, my head is up on the walk and I avoid the branches. my phone stays in my pocket and my clothes remain dry and clean.
The control we exhibit over our mind is what’s important, our physical actions are a by-product of out internal state so I challenge you to take a more critical examination of what is happing inside and how your body is reacting before thoughts run rampant and poor decisions follow. When the uncomfortable notification comes in what happens to your breath? What about your posture? Heart Rate? General anxiety levels? We are constantly being pressured to react, to play defense and respond immediately, when what we really need to do is slow down, move smoothly.
Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.