You can go weeks without eating.
You can go days without drinking water.
But you can’t even go minutes without breathing!
Yet, most of us pay more attention to eating & drinking than our breathing!
In fact, many people pay more attention to their clothes than their breathing.
Two main reasons:
1. People are not aware of their breathing.
This is natural, because if we have to consciously make an effort to breathe, we could die the minute we forgot it. Mother Nature therefore decided our breathing pattern should be automatized. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. But it also means that we often neglect our breathing, since it’s not a conscious act.
2. People don’t know the correct way to breathe.
Okay. Let’s say you manage to snap out of your habitual breathing pattern and learn to observe your breathing. Then what? Should you breathe differently now? Is your breathing good or bad? Should you breathe through the nose? The mouth? The ears? You don’t know. So, you give up and start worrying about today’s outfit instead.
Breathing is essential to life.
And, as you know, Karate is a way of life!
To understand breathing is to understand Karate.
It’s a direct connection between your body and mind.
“In order to harmonize your soul, you must harmonize your breathing.”
– Mabuni Kenei
This phenomeon has been discovered by people since the dawn of mankind, and has given rise to a plethora of holistic breathing exercises; like Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
But no matter what esoteric “breathing method” you follow, they all operate based on the same fundamental human truth:
Breathing is your brain-body pathway.
It’s a direct connection between you and yourself.
Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the greatest Karate masters throughout history have always included breathing in their teachings.
But here’s where people get it wrong…
When most people realize the importance of breathing, they start searching for the “best” breathing method.
There is no correct way to breathe.
Sorry to burst your bubble!
- There is no single CORRECT way to breathe.
- There is no single INCORRECT way to breathe either.
- But you MUST always breathe!
If there’s ONE thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s this.
Just breathe. And keep breathing.
Holding your breath is one of the 10 most common mistakes in Karate.
That being said, there ARE different ways to breathe.
Let me finish this article by showing you four effective ways to breathe, taught to me by sensei Vinicio Antony in Brazil earlier this year.
Sensei Vinicio is a Karate genius who combines traditional Karate concepts with modern training methods. I consider him one of the greatest Karate experts I’ve ever met. That’s why he’s one of the hand-picked instructors for KNX16 (The Karate Nerd Experience 2016) in Toronto, Canada.
Check it out:
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Start by breathing 4 times deep into your lower belly, also known as “tanden” in Japanese (using a muscle called the diaphragm). Make sure you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Every inhalation and exhalation should be maximized. Feel your belly expand and contract with each breath.
2. Ribcage Breathing: Then, breathe 4 times laterally, to your sides. However, this time you expand your rib cage (instead of your belly) with every inhalation. Again, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try to really isolate this breathing from the previous belly breathing.
3. T-Spine Breathing: Next, breathe 4 times to the back. It’s difficult if you’ve never done it before, but try to really feel the tissue surrounding your thoracic spine expand with each inhalation. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, as usual. Remember to redirect the expansion of your lungs toward your t-spine (between your scapulae). This works as myofascial release for a your posterior chain.
4. Chest Breathing: Lastly, breathe 4 times using your chest. This is super easy, because most people can only breathe like this! It’s the standard breathing method when you’re stressed. Expand your chest and raise shoulders as you inhale through your nose. Then exhale, letting your chest and shoulders sink down.
You just practiced four essential ways of synchronizing inhalation & exhalation with contraction & expansion in your breathing.
Personally, I consider these breathing methods extremely effective.
It’s like a stretching program for your inside!
The next step is to integrate alternating breathing patterns with your Karate techniques.
(Your sensei can help you with that.)
Remember; the key is not HOW you breathe – but THAT you breathe.
Start by observing your breathing!
Gradually, this habit will spill over to other areas of your life, making you a more conscious human being overall, instead of always being a victim of circumstances.
It all begins with breathing…
“Inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.”
Good luck! ; -)