The importance of breathing in combat

Breathing is a fundamental task during any type of struggle and it can make the difference between prevailing and losing. Good management of the respiration is the signature of the expert fighter.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

The first rule is that every action that we perform (attack, defense, movement, etc.) should be assigned and synchronized with the correct phase of:

  • Inhalation
  • Exhalation

A note by Master Kongling – Although it may appear a simple process, the bigger part of the beginners, do not implement breathing correctly. In the live moment of exercise or combat, they completely forget to breathe: they remain in apnea (unconsciously thinking that it is a less important action, that it would slow down them, etc.), the consequence is that they remain without energies in a matter of seconds.

The infinite possibilities of modulation of the breath

Breathing can have a myriad of variants and each of them has a different effect (positive or negative, depending on the context).

Breathng can be:

Combat applications of breathing

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu, we use breathing for a variety of purposes (read Breathing exercises) but in specific terms of fighting, it could be used to:

In a few words, to say it in traditional Kung Fu terms: to manage our Qi (read The use of Qi in the 6DKF’s meaning).

How to start to take control over breathing

As we have seen, the applications are many but before deepening them one by one, we have to impose our respiratory system some “preparatory” mechanics.

Here are the first 3 steps:

  1. Inhale and exhale at the same time – We need to train ourselves to inhale and exhale at the same time, with nose and mouth (naturally, effortlessly, slowly or fast at our wish)
  2. Sync movements and breathing – We must learn to synchronize the more effective breathing phase with the movements of opening / closing that our body performs (eg. we inhale while loading a kick, we exhale throwing it, see The secrets of a perfect front kick)
  3. Sync speed and breathing – We must become able to connect the speed of our movements to the one of our breathing; once we acquired a certain familiarity we will become able to do the opposite (to impose the pace of our controlled breathing to our movements)

A note by Master Kongling – These are “basics” but in martial arts, when we use this word, we do not refer to something “easy” or “for beginners”, instead to something that is fundamental. This to say that it is not easy at all to follow this path, it is something that will come, gradually, with the time.

How to reach the 3 goals

In order to achieve an effective combat breathing capability, it is simply necessary to be aware of how we inhale and exhale:

  • Each session of practice, each exercise is a training opportunity for our breathing; in the beginning, we should not perform specific exercises related to combat breathing, this risk to damage the quality of our preparation (too many things to think about)
  • The first goal should be to avoid the biggest errors (perform movements in apnea, without coordination, etc.); we must take these three ideas as a direction of our training, experimenting with the effects of different breathing methods (eg. performing the fundamental technical exercises, read Basic 6 Dragons Kung Fu Exercises)
  • The only type of breathing control practices that are good even for a beginner, are those related to meditation (read A meditation mini-guide: how to start)

A note by Master Kongling – One day, if we will have perseverance, we will obtain those results without even being aware of it, as it happens for all the skills that we truly have acquired.

Final notes

A few conclusive thoughts:

  • To become capable to breathe simultaneously with nose and mouth is not easy; the best way to learn to do it is to work on a low-intensity mouth breathing to gradually add it a small intervention of the nose
  • To breathe with nose and mouth in sync is not a constant of our breathing methods, it is simply a possibility to manage a bigger amount of oxygen but it teaches us to dose it
  • It is not secondary to stress that, during combat, when we are at close distance (read Ideal distance from the opponent during a fight),¬†the upper and lower dental arches must touch (especially if we are undergoing an attack on the jaw, a throw, etc.), no matter how we are breathing (this does not preclude the possibility to implement the mouth, as in the photo, a small opening is more than enough)

In the next articles of this series, we will deepen the bond between speed, power, Qi and respiration.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What is the most complex task while trying to control your breathing?

Author: Master Kongling

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