Breathing Training for Martial Artists

by Aaron Hoopes

generic-martials-artsOne of the most important aspects of martial arts training is proper breathing. However, for practitioners of hard styles, effective breathing methods are often left to the students to figure out on their own. The central principle of breathing is of internal cleansing, getting rid of that which is old, worn out, and stale, and exchanging it for what is new, fresh, and energized. During inhalation we are bringing in fresh oxygen, nutrients, and vital energy. During exhalation we are expelling carbon dioxide and other toxins and poisons that we produce or collect in our daily lives.

There are a large number of breathing exercises. Some are simple and easy while others require years of practice. I will discuss the five I believe to be the most effective for the martial artists who are beginning to explore the potential of proper breathing. First, we will describe the two methods which are best suited for becoming aware of the body: Attention Breathing and Abdominal Breathing. We will then go on to the more advanced exercises of Reverse Abdominal Breathing and Nose Panting. Finally we will introduce The Complete Breath which is more challenging and requires increased concentration and practice.

In practicing these breathing exercises it is important to concentrate on breathing through the nose, both during inhalation and exhalation. Of course when training in the martial arts, breathing strictly through the nose is unrealistic. In fact it is physically impossible since the body's demand for oxygen increases too fast for the nose to handle the flow. However, while doing these specific exercises it is important. Think of it as a closed circuit within the body, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. If you open your mouth, you break the circuit and the energy dissipates.

Attention Breathing
It is important to realize that people breathe differently. Children tend to breathe with their abdomen, while middle-aged people breathe with their stomachs, and older people often breathe mainly with their upper chests. But the way people breathe is also affected by other factors, emotions, for instance, or ill health. Someone who is excited will breathe faster and shallower than someone who is sad. Someone who is calm will breathe slowly and deeply. Someone out of shape may be panting after a short walk or climbing some stairs.

Attention breathing, as its name implies, is about focusing your awareness on the natural rhythm of your breath, not to control it but simply to observe it as a bodily function. Your awareness is the instrument which enables you to shift from unconscious breathing to conscious, or dynamic, breathing. This shift is accomplished by concentrating on the feeling of the body as it breathes. Feel the air as it enters your nostrils. Follow it as it flows into the lungs and notice how deeply it reaches into them. Maintain your full attention and follow it back up as you exhale. Feel the used air as it is expelled from the body.

Gradually, as you become aware of the feeling of the breath it should become smoother and more relaxed. But don’t try to change your breathing during Attention Breathing. Your aim is to observe your unconscious breathing habits so you will be able to feel the difference when you actually begin dynamic breathing. If you find your mind wandering, simply catch yourself and return to the breath. Try to perform Attention Breathing for five minutes each day at the same time of day, perhaps in the morning when you wake up or at night when you are about to go to bed. As you become used to it, see if you can focus on your breath at other times throughout the day. Eventually the awareness of the breath and your breathing should become an integral part of your life.

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Correct Breathing

by Michelle Owen
Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesioligist (C.H.E.K L3)
Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach (C.H.E.K N.L.C L2)

generic_martial-arts_2Breathing is something that we do every day, at an unconscious level. For many people breathing is a very underestimated function and they are unaware of the importance of proper and correct breathing.

Let’s take look at the functions of breathing; Breathing provides oxygen for cellular metabolism and helps to maintain the acid alkaline balance in the body. Diaphragmatic breathing pumps cerebral spinal fluid to nourish and remove waste from the central nervous system.

Breathing moves life force, chi or energy throughout all parts of the body. These many important functions often become dysfunctional when people get busy, stressed or lose the optimal breathing pattern. When this happens breathing shortens and people become chest breathers rather than breathing from the diaphragm.

When you are a chest breather what happens is that all the repository muscles of the neck tend to shorten and tighten like taught wires. This can create all sorts of dysfunctions in the upper cervical area of the spine. As we breathe around 20,000 times per day, these muscles then get overworked and hypertonic (tight) when they are continually doing a job that they should not be doing. This can then cause the upper cervical spine to be pulled out of alignment creating headaches and tension in the upper back. Following this there is a domino effect of muscle imbalance that flows through the rest of the body.

Poor posture is another major influence that causes shallow and ineffective breathing patterns. Forward head posture is a extremely common dysfunction and places the body in an un-optimal position to breath deeply.

It is estimated that poor breathing plays a part in more than 75% of people visiting a doctor. Poor sleep is another factor. Quality breathing will help you achieve a better more restful sleep allowing you to wake in a more recovered state. Stress will also create shallow or chest based breathing patterns. When this happens the body can become acidic creating a catabolic state. When our bodies are in a catabolic state it does not have the ability to recover and repair.

So how should we breathe?
Breathing is the 2nd foundation principle, just behind thought and it is extremely vital to our health and vitality.

To breathe correctly we must breathe in through our nose and breathe deep into our diaphragm. This breath should not be excessive but nice and smooth, deep and flowing into the diaphragm.

As we breathe the tummy should raise. At the same time you should feel your sides and the back expand almost like an all round cylinder and the last place to move is the upper chest. The ideal pattern should be 2/3s diaphragmatic and the last 1/3 chest movement.

Breathing properly detoxifies and neutralizes the body. It brings us into an anabolic state where we can recover and repair. People, who can NOT breathe through their nose, need to look at food intolerances such as gluten and dairy. Food intolerances cause a inflammatory response and the body responds by producing more mucus, blocking up nasal passages . This is very hard on the immune system and should be addressed.

Breathing techniques go back many years with all sorts of Eastern style exercising, such as yoga’s, Tai Chi, Chi gongs. At the same time these training methods are used to quiet the mind.

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