012) Week of November 16, 2008: Breathing

Nine out of ten people believe that breathing is important to life.  The tenth person is in the process of dying, so that person’s opinion doesn’t matter!  Breathing is an act that is often times taken for granted, rarely explored, or consciously modified.  The process of breathing is an important component in the effective utilization of any martial arts.  I place a strong emphasis on proper breathing in the practice ofAikido in this dojo.  Almost every class, children or adult class, begins with a breathing exercise.

Learning how to breathe properly is a good starting point.  Many people inhale while contracting their diaphragm upward.  In essence, this process lessens the capacity of air in which you can take into your lungs.  The first thing that a person can do to improve on their breathing pattern is to allow yourdiaphragm to expand downwards as you inhale.  When you exhale, allow your diaphragm to relax upwards into your chest.

The next step, is to begin to focus in on not allowing your center point to rise when you inhale.  Feeling your diaphragm expand downwards should help his focus.  A reasonable goal to start with is to feel as if your skin has inflated, while your center remains stable.  When you exhale, feel as though you are breathing out through the soles of your feet.  There should be an increased sense of “heaviness” in your body.

When people are surprised, they typically inhale while drawing their diaphragms upward.  This starts a process in which their bodies become flooded with adrenaline.  I teach students to exhale when an attack begins.  This process helps to prevent the person from being flooded by adrenaline.  The person can respond to an attack in a focused, connected manner, increasing the likelihood of a more successful outcome.

When executing Aikido techniques, I emphasize the importance of breathing out when finishing a technique.  Exhaling is closely linked to sending energy out of your body and into the body of the attacker.  This timing between the execution of technique and exhaling can significantly increase the effectiveness of a technique.

At higher levels, syncing your breathing pattern with the attacker’s breathing pattern and modifying the attacker’s breathing pattern through this syncing can result in surprising effects upon an attacker.

This blog is just a simple teaser on this subject.  I would simply ask students to focus in on how and when they breath during class this week so that we can use this as a starting point in exploring this very deep and complex area.

Marc Abrams Sensei

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