Whether you study Karate, Kung Fu, or that rare martial art from Faroutistan, speed is vitally important to the martial arts. If you are going to be successful in freestyle, you must be faster than your opponent. Even in the doing of your forms, speed gives a certain efficiency that is necessary to the successful martial artist.
That said, there is another side to speed, a side which embraces the entire martial arts and is the mark of your progress over the decades. This is a side which relates to the speed of the art you are practicing, and the speed of what is happening inside your head and in your life. I am talking about the speed at which you do your art.
The beginner is blown out by the fun of the martial arts, and he races breakneck through his forms. He spends hours tweaking his form, studying the angles of his limb so as to maximize speed of launch. Usually, this process takes about three years, but it can take longer, or lesser, depending on the individual and the art he is studying.
Remember what I remarked about spending hours going over your form? This is the start of the intermediate student, this is where he first starts to learn that the art is more than just exuberance and gotcha, but a real live window into the soul and potentials of humanity that were hitherto undreamed of. This is the start of growing awareness, and this is where the student first starts slowing himself down and starts looking at what he is actually doing.
This intermediate stage is practiced by all of the hard artists, they spend hours doing their forms and studying how to be efficient in motion, and it eventually slows down to a study of Tai Chi Chuan. Whether the student engages in actual Tai Chi, or just slows his forms down so he can best examine, analyze and correct them, is moot. What is important is that the student is looking, not just doing mindlessly and blindly.
Awareness you see is an oddity. One can become aware through the simple act of looking. Thus, looking is free, and awareness is free, and it is the point to all life.
Without awareness there would be no life. Or, one could say that life is according to the degree of awareness that the looker develops. Thus, the value of the martial arts, as they proceed slower and slower and thus create more and more opportunity for looking, is incalculable.
That all said, I do not wish you to curtail your studies of speed until you, personally, have reached a point which is satisfactory and obvious to you. Live, go fast, exuberate luxuriously, for you should give full throttle to all stages of learning to fight, even and not matter if you are studying a rare martial art. One should not sacrifice youth to old age.