Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Breathing Patterns

An example of One Breathing Pattern

 With breath life begins, without breath life ends, with efficient breathing life thrives.


I had (and still have) a student 35 years ago who would not breathe performing kata. He would get redder, and redder as he performed his kata. He was so focused on rembering the movements that he would forget to breath. Constantly he was reminded to just breathe as he practiced his kata. It took years, but eventually he got it.


Any system of martial art (and any other human endeavor) has breathing at its core, but it is so fundamental that many times people don’t recognize it is there.


This is not as simple a topic as Sanchin breathing is the answer. I know great practitioners who do not use Sanchin in their practice.  There is not one answer.

And in effect you cannot increase your performance by switching back and forth between methods. That does not mean there is no value discussing them, but the discussion must be tempered with reason, as you consider what can be gained.


I can think of about 10 or so different breathing practices I have encountered over the years. In each of those practices there are great technicians using them to effect.


At the core, in connection with form practice you might consider technique sequences define inter and intra breathing practices. Using the opening of Seisan kata (Isshinryu version) as a starting point, Inter technique sequence breath can be used to control the speed of a kata. Where intar technique sequence breath can be used to control the speed of a technique series (one movement, or a sequence of movements done as one movement.


So here is a sample analysis:

1.     (Inhale), Left foot forward Left side block (exhale), (inhale), right reverse punch (exhale)

2.     Left foot forward left side block (inhale), right reverse punch (exhale)

3.     (Inhale),Left foot forward left side block, right reverse punch (exhale)

4.     (Exhale), Left foot forward left side block, right reverse punch (one continuous inhalation)
      5.     ---- (Exhale) Left foot forward left side block, right reverse punch; Right foot forward, left reverse punch; left fot forward, right reverse punch (all on one continuous inhale sequence)


This gives the basic idea. Whatever the pattern chosen, under black belt performance there is no reason to consider another choice. Instead continual improvement using the first choice is the goal.


Where there are strategic reasons to consider other breathing patterns, their use becomes a permanent shift in one’s training at that choice. Which is why those who are making those choices in their personal training , are not good choices for training beginners at this stage of their training.


Example: One system I know does not alter the breathing pattern until 3rd Dan, and then it is a change for lifetime practice. Switching from normal breathing to reverse breathing in the practice, the purpose to confuse the opponent, who are timed subconsciously to react one way on hearing an inhalation, and not expecting quite the opposite performance.


Another example of reverse breathing is found in tai chi practice, but the systems that choose to use this do not change back and forth no matter which practice they use.


Consistent practice, it can be altered, imo, but once chosen it has to become standard practice to become effective. For when you are in conditions extremis, you can’t choose, it has to be natural or you are dead.


A different aspect of breathing is that some techniques perform best with inhalation and some with exhalation. It does not have to be steady state.


A movement like the heaven and earth throw of Aikido, works better in inhalation allowing you to adhere to the opponent, when you are taking control of their center and making the technique work. That does not meat exhalation won’t work, but it works differently. This is where you have to explore the potential use of different breath patterns.


When you consider technique sequences you control what they mean for you. When done with one continuous inhalation or exhalation the series can be performed faster and faster. One of the systems I know uses this in one kata taking a long sequence of movements and performing them very fast with one contioious breathing pattern. Taking a breath in the middle of the series, would slow your technique.


The possibilities of breath are greater than what I have experienced. It is a serious topic, For with breath there is life.

1 comment:

Victor Smith said...

One tool useful for Black Belt study into breathing patterns, is a simpler form like Fukyugata Sho. The simplicity of the forms structure makes it easier to attempt different breathing patterns and seeing how they alter your performance. Then this exploration can allow one to consider new ways to choose to alter personal performance.