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Learn Faster by Slowing Down with Tim Larkin

Tim Larkin is a self-defense coach and former military intelligence officer with over 25 years of professional experience. In 2011 he was named Self Defense Instructor of the Year and inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame.

In his military career as an intelligence officer, Larkin was part of a beta group that redesigned how Special Operations personnel trained for close combat. He has 25 years of experience training people in 52 countries on how to deal with imminent violence using his unique Target Focus Training (TFT) system.

"The mistakes you make as you’re slowly deliberately doing training are gold because that’s where the learning is taking place."


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  • Whenever Tim was learning about specific and high-stakes topics in the military, the teaching was calm and slow, and accuracy was more important than speed.
  • Book mentioned: The Talent Code
  • If you try to add speed and velocity before you have mastered the foundational skills, you will be self-critical e.g. “I’m not doing it right.”
  • Starting with slow deliberate training leads to fast skill execution later.
  • Counter-terrorism units use this slow learning concept, named “crawl walk run”. Crawl: foundational phase, Walk: increase velocity, Run: full speed.
  • “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, fast is deadly.”
  • You can apply a slow learning methodology to any skill set.


  • The mistakes you make as you’re slowly deliberately doing training is gold because that’s where the learning is taking place.
  • You should be happy about mistakes because it means your body is saying “I didn’t get what I wanted, let’s make an adjustment”.
  • You’re learning at a rate where you can make those decisions, rather than trying to go too fast and not understanding when you’re making mistakes.
  • Embrace the frustration while you are learning.
  • Clean the slate, set your ego aside and learn as if you’ve never done the task before.


  • People think they have to jump right to full speed execution of everything.
  • When you talk to experts, you will find they have learned through some version of slow deliberate training.
  • A skilled violinist in New York said his teachers gave the instruction that if they could walk by and figure out what piece was being played, the students were practicing too fast.
  • We have to regulate ourselves—even if you’re doing something slowly, you’re probably going 40% too fast. Dial it back and make your skill execution almost comical.
  • Tim’s colleague learning complicated Broadway dance moves involved breaking it down into smaller steps and learning the foundational skills part by part.
  • Rather than thinking you have to do a high volume of high-speed work, think about the quality of your work.
  • Mental training can be just as effective as physical training.


  • Break your task down into chunks and practice each part slowly and accurately.
  • Don’t add velocity until you have the foundations down.
  • If you try to move forward but find your accuracy is slipping, drop back to slow execution and refocus on accuracy.
  • Using slow practice is a universal principle that can be applied to anything you are learning.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us (@jimkwik and @TFTTimLakrin) and tell us the physical skill you will apply the slow learning method to. We’ll repost some of our favorites!

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