If you cannot control your breathing, life will not fair well for you. When you consider how many bodily functions are regulated through breathing one can never emphasize its importance enough. It keeps the mind calm and focused, regulates core body temperature, and supplies much-needed oxygen to the body. Its importance to self-defense is no different and its relevance can be seen in every class or seminar.
Breathing begins by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Here are a few simple examples of how this is applied: when walking or running, take a step and inhale through your nose, then take a second step and exhale through your mouth. You can keep repeating this cycle or increase to 10/20/30 steps inhaling and 10/20/30 steps exhaling. The number is not that important, the focus is on connecting the breath and movement.
The same idea can also be applied to exercises like push-ups, squats or leg raises. For downward movements you inhale; upward movements you exhale or vice-versa. Once again, you can keep this cycle or increase it. I have seen students that can complete 20 push-ups inhaling and 20 exhalings with less than one year of training. The concept is to be aware and in control of your breathing, no matter what you’re doing.
The ultimate application comes when breathing is incorporated with the drills and movements in a martial art context. Inhaling as the attack happens and exhaling inputting the person down. Exhaling as a punch lands, inhaling as the punch goes. Obviously, it is a little more complicated but the idea is what I am presenting.
Another important component of breathing is the rate of breath. Your body takes many cues from your breathing rate. If breathing speeds up the body becomes more alert, while a slow breathing rate makes you calm. As a situation changes so must your breathing, if you’re interested in getting the most out of your abilities. It is like an engine of a car, if you want the most out of the engine you must be in the right gear. However, the right gear changes as the road or situation does. Similarly, a situation (road) will dictate the proper breathing (gear) rate. Your training must be diverse enough to allow this to happen. The reality is that a common day for most people may involve many different breathing rates. No one is right or wrong until you know the situation. The same is true for martial arts.