Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Fast — What Does It Mean?

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“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is, to put it bluntly, a motto that doesn’t make sense. 

Convert it into the “if-then” format you might recognize from formal logic classes, and the saying means “slow is fast, if smooth”.

what is slow is smooth smooth is fast from

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” is counterintuitive. That is why this saying, often said to have started with the Navy SEALS and beloved in the martial arts and firearms communities is so widely misunderstood. It’s also why it’s so interesting.

What does the motto actually mean, though? You’re not alone if you haven’t worked it out yet. 

Please keep reading to fix that and finally get to the bottom of this saying and discover how it’s been used in popular culture. Hint: It’s less mysterious than you might think, and you’ve probably already experienced the sentiment behind the motto yourself.

Slow Is Smooth; Smooth Is Fast Origin

The motto — or the philosophy, if you prefer — “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is widely attributed to the US Navy SEALS. This elite special operations force operates in small units and always has to be ready for anything. 

It’s true that “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is an integral part of the SEALS’ modus operandi, but the motto is far older than the SEALS, which were only formally formed in 1962 started operating during the Second World War.

What do you need to know about the origins of this enigmatic saying?

What Does Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast Mean?

It’s not uncommon to hear the motto “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” in the gun community or among martial arts practitioners. Some entrepreneurs have adopted it, too. 

slow is smooth smooth is fast meaning

What does it mean, though?

“Smooth” can be defined as done correctly or using perfect form, without any hurdles.

When learning a new skill, taking the time to go through all the steps to act correctly is essential. You pay attention to each phase, careful to get it right. That covers the “slow” part of the saying.

As we have previously covered this is often a great way to think about posing in bodybuilding competitions.

As you repeat the steps — 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, a million times — you master them. You build skill. You make muscle memory. You get good. Slowly but surely, the action becomes automatic. 

Slowly but surely, the action becomes second nature, one you can perform without thinking about.

You had to be slow to get it right, but the proper steps become ingrained over time. You’ll get fast. 

You’ll be good enough that the action is smooth and fast solely because you took the time to get it right at the beginning. Your initial slowness allowed for speed over time and ensured you’d be smooth.

Historical Sayings Similar to Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast

The Navy SEALS might have been the first to use the exact words “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”, but they weren’t the first to come up with the idea. This motto’s core message is more or less written into human nature, so it’s no surprise that other sayings convey the same meaning. 

  • Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor and great military strategist, can be credited for the saying “festina lente” or “make haste slowly”. He also said, “sat celeriter fieri quidquid fiat satis bene, meaning “that which was done well was done quickly enough”. Both convey similar meanings. 
  • The standard English saying “practice makes perfect” gets at the same thing but neglects to mention that the practice has to be done right for the outcome to be perfect. 
  • Napolean said: “Dress me slowly; I am in a hurry.”

What Does Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast Mean When Navy SEALS Say It?

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” means that taking the time to master the fundamentals results in the best possible outcome. 

It’s obvious how the SEALS, who must be prepared for combat in any situation, would live by this motto. It’s equally clear why it would matter to firearms enthusiasts and martial artists. 

If you get something right every time, you’ll be able to do it quickly and well over time. One day that could save your life.

Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast Movie Quote

Vietnam war veteran and sniper Bob Lee Swagger are framed for a murder in the 1993 movie Shooter, based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact

bob lee swagger saying

Bob Lee Swagger can hear him saying the phrase “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” in the movie.

It was just one of the many memorable lines the character delivered in this conspiracy thriller. 

Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast Shirt

Have you seen “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” t-shirts for sale on Amazon or other e-commerce sites? 

These t-shirts usually aim at veterans and other gun enthusiasts, though they may appeal to martial artists or entrepreneurs. 

These shirts are meant to inspire you that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and doing it well means you’ll be able to do it quickly in time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who said ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast?

The motto “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is widely used in the Navy SEAL community. 

The character Bob Lee Swagger uttered the phrase in the 1993 movie Shooter.

What is the saying about slow is fast?

The saying is “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”, or “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. 

It means you’ll be able to execute a task masterfully in time if you repeat it correctly many times. 

Final Word

The saying “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” sounds enigmatic at first glance, but the core meaning is simpler than you think. 

By taking the time to master a skill and repeating it many times, you’ll eventually be able to do it quickly — even without thinking.

When you think about it, you have probably experienced this yourself.

Recognize it? Please share your story about a time when you were glad you took the time to get something right, to the point that it became a habit, in the comments below.

Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Fast — What Does It Mean?

Cody Yurk
Latest posts by Cody Yurk (see all)

Cody Yurk

After several near-death surgeries and a heart attack at 29, I decided to get serious about my health and went from 278lbs to 181lbs in only six months. How? I built an entire team, including a personal trainer, nutritionist, psychologist, physical therapist, and sports masseuse. Having the same team as Hollywood stars allowed me to reach my goals fast and produce insane results.

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