With every breath you take
It is ever so much more than just saying “The Manner of Breathing is Either Hard of Soft”.
When I was a beginner there was no special attention paid to the manner we took a breath in our karate. I suppose the easiest words were we used Natural Breathing in performing our basics and kata. I have no better way to describe those days.
Then at yellow belt, I was part of the Yellow Belt Demonstration team performing Kata Seiunchin. Lewis Sensei drilled us intensely to perform the kata using a mixture of intense hard breathing with slow powerful movements and lighter natural breathing with quicker movements in the form. So intense was that training, I have only done it that way ever since, never receiving other instruction.
When I trained with Charles Murray I know he did it differently, but he told me to keep to the way I was originally shown, and I always did. For Sanchin, the last empty hand kata I was shown in Isshinryu, I learned it with intense breathing and movement throughout. I am not sure perhaps it was called Sanchin breathing.
Then on my own for decades, I just kept to the way I was trained, with special terms added.
Along the way I read Mas Oyama’s books, where he referred to Ibuki breathing and thought that described closely the breathing in Seiunchin kata. So I could have adopted that name for my own use, but did not teach it. At that time in the early 1980s I was yet to realize that there was a difference between what was done for karate on Okinawa, and something slightly different for karate in Japan.
1979 I began my study of Yang Tai Chi Chaun, and spent the next two years completing study of the form and the sword form. At the same time I was teaching Isshinryu and continuing my practice. Along with the Tai Chi form, there were many subsidiary practices that were part of the study. The form was practiced slowly and a major component of slowing down was breathing. I had to learn to time each movement to a specific breath. There is much more involved than these few words, but that is for another time.
I was not interested in Tai Chi for self defense, as I had Isshinryu, and my instructor was not pushing the Tai Chi application studies, probably as he was far deeper into his own Kung Fu studies. So what we concentration was the correct form practice. That covers a lot on it’s own.\
As time progressed my breathing with my Tai Chi started me becoming more aware of my breathing with my karate.. I began to understand that breathing occurred on an inter technique basis and an intra technique basis.
Not to make things too difficult here are some simple definitions:
Inter technique – this occurs as a technique is executed, Such as expelling air when striking.
Intra technique – this occurs as you move between techniques. Such as inhalation when stepping between strikes.
Now with that out of the way when you begin to understand those distinctions, eventually you realize that a technique is variable, and when to inhale and when to exhale can be done in different patterns.
For example, let us use a movement section from Seisan kata (also found in any advanced Okinawan kata too).
The section begins with a left step for ward as you execute a left outside block,
Followed by a right strike, a left strike, a right front kick and another right strike.
You should be comfortable with that sequence.
1. The section begins with a left step for ward as you execute a left outside block (as you inhale), Followed by a right strike (as you exhale), (then you might inhale) a left strike, (again exhaling) , (Another inhalation) a right front kick (with exhalation) and (yes, another inhale) another right strike.(completed when exhaling.
Now you could do it that way, but probably you don’t
There can be many different breathing and striking patterns.
What I consider most efficient is that you address the entire sequence as a single technique.
2 A different answer might be this.
The section begins with a left step for ward ( you inhale as you step as you execute a left outside block, Followed by a right strike, a left strike, a right front kick and another right strike (all on one continuous exhalation).
The single continuous exhalation allows smoother continuous execution of the section as almost a single technique, Multiple strikes, one after another and another, to overload the opponents ability to defend against all of them. One at least likely to penetrate their defenses.
Of course there are other possibilities, but I am only explain the underlying principle after all.
This is not kyu study, where basic constancy is the goal. Rather Dan study into application potential.
While any kata can be used for this study, I find it particularly useful to use a most basic one, our version of Fyugata Sho (Kata Sho) for these initial black belt studies.
You can define a movement of as many different moves readily, and explore the relationship to breathing more readily. Then taking the results of your study, you can then choose to explore the results you prefer with any of your other kata.
Moving always towards any opponent (even me) never knowing where you are, Maximum Unpredictability.
There is ever so much more for another time, this is enough to remember and think on.