I love slow fencing and I think it is an essential part of training. It will help you develop strategic and tactical awareness, develop flow, and overcome your reactionary qualities and replace them with more effective responses. However, slow alone does not prepare you for combat. True martial combat exists without self-imposed limitations on speed.
An attack can come surprisingly fast and the forces at work when you parry, move or deflect are substantially different as speeds increase. If you want to become a martial practitioner who is capable of conducting techniques in truly applied environments you must make at-speed training a part of your development.
Beyond using slower speeds to help build tactical awareness, we also slow speeds down to create safety. Safety is essential to long-term healthy practice. So how do we increase speed without having to add excessive amounts of protective gear?
I remember the workshop Luis Preto delivered at Academie Duello where he offered some very pertinent ideas to building training programs for at-speed work. I’ll share those here:
Train solo techniques at full power
Make sure that while you train precision and flow that you also practice your techniques at full power. This doesn’t mean that all of your practice should be at this speed but you must program yourself to have stability at higher speeds by acting at them and you also won’t really understand what it takes to harness more powerful motions without doing them.
Practice reactions out of measure
If you don’t want to place yourself in the path of a fast strike that you may not be able to parry, place yourself out of distance from your training partner. Now you can have them conduct their attack at full speed and you can practice performing the responding action in the right moment.
Increase speed within a controlled context
Take a single drill and scale the speed of that drill up from 1 (glacial) to 5 (maximum speed with quality). Be sure to stay within the limits of your motor skills, and/or gear up a lot more. This type of drilling can help reveal actions that are physically impossible to conduct in full speed combat because the timing of them is imbalanced. It’s important to note that any action that is done in response to your opponent is always going to be late because there is a delay in the time it takes to first identify and then respond to their action.
This type of drilling also gives you a consistent environment to begin bringing up the speed of your motor skills in building block actions.
Enjoy your training, and be safe!