Take a Breath
We have heard that term at one point or another. Whether it was due to being angry or stressed we are told to take a breath. Breathing sustains life. If we are able to control our breath we are more likely to control the things that happen in life. We will be able to think clearly and handle those stressful situations better.
Proper breathing, like everything else, needs to be worked on and practiced. If you watch a baby sleep, when they breathe most of that happens in the diaphragm. As we age most of us breathe more into the chest and forget about the diaphragm. This is why when we get tired and winded from physical exertion most tend to end up breathing very rapidly and shallowly making it hard to catch our breath and reset. The other thing that we tend to do is hold our breath when we exert ourselves during physical activity. How can this be reversed?
There are certain exercises we can perform to help get us back to breathing into our diaphragms. One way to do this is to start by inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three. Focus on the belly. Be sure you are expanding it as much as possible. Once this is comfortable, extend it to a five count in and five count out. Build to a seven count, ten count and beyond.
Another exercise is box breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, this exercise can reduce stress and improve your mood as well as help other ailments. This is a technique where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat this process 4 times per session.
If you are already at a point where you are winded from exercising, try this. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 3 to 5, hold your breath for a count of 3 to 5, then force all of the air out through your mouth. Repeat this a few times and you will see that your breathing will start to regulate and get back to normal.
While training, there are certain ways to be sure that you are breathing and keep yourself from getting too winded. One is letting out a ki-ai as you apply technique. A ki-ai is a breathed out shout that is performed when executing a martial arts technique or movement. It has also been called a spirit yell or can be a loud, audible and forceful exhalation of breath. Another is forcing the air out through your teeth. This will give you an audible cue as you train, and forcing the air out of your body will make you take a breath in.
The breathing process, particularly through the use of ki-ai, can be looked at as inhaling for the set-up of a defense and then exhaling for the exertion of defending yourself. So for example, take Munetsuki Kotegaeshi. When your partner begins his/her attack inhale deeply. As you parry the attack and tenkan off the line, exhale. As your partner’s energy is being redirected and the technique is being set up, inhale. As the technique is applied, exhale. As you roll your partner to set up the pin, inhale and as you apply the pin exhale. Ki-ai literally translates from Japanese as energy harmony, so you are harmonizing or blending your breath with the movement of your body. Train your breathing as you would any other part of your body. The more you work at it, the better it will get and the longer you will be able to train.