068) Focus on Breathing: April 2010

The last time that I wrote about breathing was in November of 2008.  I asked students to develop some awareness of how breathing feels in our bodies.  I intentionally asked students to start off in a direction opposite of what I eventually ask students to do.  I did this as an easier way to develop body awareness associated with breathing.

We will spent this next month focusing on breathing as it relates to our waza.  I would like to start off with a basic breathing pattern.   It is very important that you maintain good posture, regardless of whether you are standing or sitting in seiza.  When you breathe in, I want you to relax your upper body and allow your diaphragm to expand downwards.  You should feel as though you are expelling a lung out through your colon!  You should literally feel your sphincter muscles experience outwards pressure.  As you are breathing in, I want you to feel as though your energy is being condensed into your bones and as though a plutonium ball develops in your hara.  When you exhale, I want you to allow your diaphragm to  naturally relax upwards as you expel the air from your lungs.  I want you to feel as though your body is being inflated by helium as you are exhaling.  You should feel as though the helium is inflating your skin out from your bones.

We will test each other to help us develop our breathing skills.  If a person is in seiza, we can push down on their shoulders as they are breathing.  When the person breathes in, we should feel a sinking in feeling, along with a sense of reaching a dense core.  When the person breathes out, we should feel a lightening and rising feeling.  We can experience the same things by grabbing a person’s wrist if the person is practicing the breathing while standing.  The next level of testing, will be the resting our arms on a person’s shoulders.  As we breathe, it should focus almost like a ratchet.  Neutral when we breathe in and down-force as we breathe out.

We will focus on how we breathe and/or hold our breath when we are attacked.  This is always a surprise to people, when they realize that they hold their breath more than they realize.  They can see how this directly related to unnecessary body tension and interfered with maintaining a connection with the attacker.  As we become more cognizant of our breathing, we will begin to realize how important proper breathing is in Aikido.  I hope that we can evolve this topic area to some more sophisticated aspects such as synchronizing our breathing with the opponent in order to disrupt the person’s breathing and ability to execute an effective attack.  We will definitely explore doing suwari waza, kokyu dosa WITHOUT engaging in the ridiculous wrestling that most people engage in.

Enjoy the month, and by all means, please do not stop breathing!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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