Everyone who has ever heard the saying “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and pays a little attention to the shooting world knows that for some reason that saying takes a lot of heat from nay-sayers. A lot of people don’t like the saying, mostly because they don’t approve of the message that it communicates. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of misconception about what this saying means and I want to set the record straight. Hopefully you can use the true meaning of this saying on your journey down the road to being a great shooter.
From what I’ve seen, most of the people that hold a negative opinion of the idiom are examining those six words like a math problem, and that is not the right way to look at it. From my perspective, and the one from which I believe the original author intended his maxim to be viewed, we see that the saying is meant to explain how to bridge the gap between slow and fast. This is not rambling, but rather a whimsical, witty bit of truth.
To know the truth, you must know what is being said. Wordplay is not as cut and dry as math. It is clever and savvy. It seems that most people who despise this saying are using the transitive property to equate slow to fast. Remember, these are not numbers, but I’ll get back to that.
What is also lost is the purpose of this saying. I cannot see what the author would be trying to achieve by equating slow and fast shooting. From that point of view it is blatantly obvious that the meaning of the words are false, because then the saying really means nothing, and is nonsensical rambling. The reason that this saying became so popular, to the point that everyone reading this knows what I’m talking about and has an opinion on the matter, means that maybe we’ve just lost the truth to it and need to find it again.
This lost truth is the key to learning any skill. Whether or not this saying holds true depends on two things. First, that you are employing the correct and most efficient technique for whatever it is that you are doing. Second, that you do not sacrifice performance for speed. If your accuracy remains the same and you use the same technique for a draw, perhaps the only way to get faster is to move your hands faster. Once you know the three major steps of the draw stroke you can start practicing. When first learning the draw you start the three steps in order and do them nice and slow. Choppy at first, but correct. As the implicit memory of performing good draw technique is built you get faster, but not before all the choppy-ness, stopping your hands at the grip, or the step-by-step in your head goes away. You will get smooth and make the movement in a continuous smooth fashion. Therein lies the truth of the saying.
Any new skill that you are trying to learn should first be practiced slowly because performing an action too fast and sacrificing technique will only limit the upper bounds of your performance and slow the development of the proper subconscious skill. Even worse, it might lead to forming an incorrect implicit memory. Slowly, your mind learns to perform that action right without deviating from proper technique. Then and only then, will you be able to perform the action faster without your technique or performance suffering. You can reach for your smoke-wagon and slap the trigger as fast as you can if you want, but without mastering a technique, you won’t be able to shoot fast and reliably produce accurate hits.
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is comprised of two separate and distinct statements. Truly fast, repeatable actions must be smooth, but you cannot perform a smooth action fast if you cannot first perform a slow action smoothly. Describing slow as smooth and describing fast as smooth doesn’t mean that those two words are synonymous, whether you are starting out shooting slowly or a reigning IPSC champion, performing that action smoothly will always lead to the best score possible. It is a truth that I hope all can appreciate and use in their own life to find success.