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Old 12-06-2006, 03:16 PM   #1
seank
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Controlling your respiration

Hi All,
I'm currently training for next grading and am finding myself having some difficulty with more advanced techniques with respect to respiration.

I've been told lots of different things about breathing in when uke attacks and breathing out when projecting them away, or conversely breathing out throughout the whole technique,or variations on both themes.

However, I usually only draw 3-4 breaths a minute during normal activity (sometimes as little as 2 breaths) and find that the rapidity of techniques required for gradings throws my natural breathing pattern right out the window.

If in the nage(tori) role I receive techniques at my usual breathing space I'm told that I'm going too slowly, but if I receive techniques faster it really upsets my balance.

Has anyone else experienced this, and/or does anyone know of an effective way of getting around this problem?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-06-2006, 03:40 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Controlling your respiration

IMHO, learning to synchronize (not control) breathing with the technique is very important and frustrating initially, but worth the diligence.

"Let" yourself breath in as your enter, and "let" yourself breath out as you execute.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-06-2006, 08:23 PM   #3
Larry John
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Sean,

Our dojo teaches us to breath in through the nose and out through the mouth using the belly muscles. We enhance relaxation and smoothness by doing each full cycle of a weapons kata in a single exhalation--you can do the same with each engagement with a partner/opponent.

Give it a try!

Larry
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Old 12-06-2006, 09:35 PM   #4
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Controlling your respiration

In my view, breathing is an automatic body function that works fine if you don't try to meddle with it too much. There seems to be some use in spending a little while teaching yourself to exhale or inhale at a certain time when performing certain movement, or not to hold the breath inappropriately. However, for the most part, I don't agree with exercise breathing dogmatists that insist one must breathe in a certain way when doing this or that.

When you exercise intensely, you need to just get out of the way and let your body breathe the way it needs to to get oxygen in your system. Not doing so can be dangerous. Too much dogma and trying to consciously meddle with your autonomic functions at the wrong time could make you pass out. In general, the chances are that if you are extremely winded you are doing something somewhat dangerous, the execution of which should probably consume more of your attention than breathing exercises at that moment... things like not getting punched in the face or not breaking your neck during a fall come to mind.

You could also hurt your back, believe it or not. Holding the breath and compressing the contents of the abdomen is a vital part of maintaining lower back stability during extreme strain, especially lifting heavy objects. This compression makes the lower back substantially stiffer than anything that can be managed by the muscles surrounding the spine alone. It's called the valsalva manuever by exercise physiologists. For the most part, it happens automatically when you need it... unless someone has strictly trained you to do something odd like exhale or suck in your abdomen at that time. I have no studies to prove it, but I suspect hitting the ground during a traditional hard fall also activates it to protect the spine. Hopefully the stimulus and automatic response are so strong that no one has injured their back because someone told them they must always breathe out when hitting the mat.
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Old 12-07-2006, 10:44 AM   #5
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Controlling your respiration

At the risk of letting this become another ukemi related thread, I would suggest that a controlled exhalation during a fall, (break, back, or otherwise) would provide the exact spine-supporting pressure you describe, without the pressure acting on unwanted parts of the body, like the head. In other words, impact triggers exhalation from a compressed abdomen, creating pressure, but beyond a critical limit it is released before popping the ear drums, or instilling pretty sparkles before the eyes.

Too much exhale, or too soon, and you approach the zone where you get the wind knocked out of you. The lung is partially collapsed, because not enough air is present to support it's structure.

Then consider the completion of ukemi, you are standing, facing opponent, and only now you are exhaling, when you should be ready to inhale.

Practicing or just experimenting with breathing before warmups, and during (especially if you do roll-backs from a seated position, and progress to a half kneel, and then fully standing) is good daily practice.

Generally I agree with Kevin, it should be natural. Obsessing over the where's and when's will make you aerially retentive, , and that's no good for flow. Just play with it, and allow your skill at breathing catch up at it's own pace to the rest of your training.

michael.
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Old 12-07-2006, 11:08 AM   #6
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Part II (because the editor cut my time off)
I find it worth it as Lynn describes.

Consider it from an uke standpoint as well. Whether you emit some form of Kiai when you strike, or not, (I don't, as I know jack about kiaijutsu) but we are at least taught to exhale from a compressed abdomen when striking, or something to that effect
(italicized because I am no authority). After the initial attack if our balance is sincerely taken, most normal people would gasp out of reflex, or inhale suddenly, in preparation for enacting whatever force the rest of our reflexes dictate. You might find it natural to continue the inhalation while you have the chance, and then an exhalation through the fall, or at the appropriate critical juncture.

I believe I've seen correlation between nage and uke's breath reactions to stimulus provided by one another. Only now I wonder if as both partners end a technique with an exhalation is that a manifestation of aiki in their interactions. Because up to that point both have been exhaling or inhaling, until harmony is realized.

michael.
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Old 12-07-2006, 12:10 PM   #7
Janet Rosen
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Re: Controlling your respiration

um....I cannot speak to weightlifting per se. But as a nurse and a student of pilates (and someone who has hurt herself by accident by NOT exhaling on a breakfall) I have to say that it is NOT holding breath that is most effective normally during lifting, moving something, but a slow exhale while engaging the abdominals.
Holding breath and straining/increasing intra-abdominal pressure as in the valsalva maneuver provokes the vasovagal response (parasympathetic nervous system) it is how you can get dizzy or accidentally pass out while having a bowel movement or hurt yourself by straining abdominal muscles (NOT the core ones usually but the more external ones) -- I can think of no situation in moving objects or in training in aikido where I'd WANT to get a vasovagal response of uncontrolled lower pulse and blood pressure.

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-07-2006, 12:13 PM   #8
Janet Rosen
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Re: Controlling your respiration

to clarify...I'm replying to Kevin and trying to differentiate the engaging of abdominals (which is highly protective) to the holding of breath (which I see no advantage to)

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-07-2006, 02:54 PM   #9
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
um....I cannot speak to weightlifting per se. But as a nurse and a student of pilates (and someone who has hurt herself by accident by NOT exhaling on a breakfall) I have to say that it is NOT holding breath that is most effective normally during lifting, moving something, but a slow exhale while engaging the abdominals.
Holding breath and straining/increasing intra-abdominal pressure as in the valsalva maneuver provokes the vasovagal response (parasympathetic nervous system) it is how you can get dizzy or accidentally pass out while having a bowel movement or hurt yourself by straining abdominal muscles (NOT the core ones usually but the more external ones) -- I can think of no situation in moving objects or in training in aikido where I'd WANT to get a vasovagal response of uncontrolled lower pulse and blood pressure.
You'd want to in a situation where you were squatting, deadlifting, pushing a weight over your head with a near-maximal load, or doing an explosive movement with heavy weight like a clean or snatch. Not doing so is a quick ticket to serious back injury. It is also a common part of many stressful sporting movements like jumping, in many instances. The increase in lower trunk stability enacted by the synergy of all the surrounding muscles counteracted by the hydraulic pressure of the abdomens contents if vastly stronger than anything that can be managed while actively breathing. It's true that the blood pressure is raised and this represents a risk to some, but if you can't handle the blood pressure spike, you simply shouldn't be doing such strenuous activity. In most cases, it only happens for an instant, and millions upon millions of people do it all the time without knowing it, and without problems. This is common knowledge among exercise physiologists, though I don't know why it would necessarily be taught to pilates students or nurses.

I think hitting the ground flat, pretty much all at once, in a traditional-style breakfall may be the same kind of situation, but I don't know for sure. One would need a lot of expensive equipment and a scientific research team to find out for sure. What I do know is that no special breathing training is required to make it happen properly during lifting. Like most breathing, it is an automatic process that works fine in the absence of interference.

Coming from another angle, every animal in the entire history of animals, including homo sapiens and all its evolutionary ancestors seem to have managed to breathe pretty well without special breath training, since it didn't even exist until the last few hundred years, or about the last microsecond of geologic time. It just doesn't make sense to me that consciously following special instructions on how to breathe would suddenly become important.
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Old 12-07-2006, 03:13 PM   #10
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Mike,

I am not disputing that breathing out during normal falls is a good idea. If it is, one should learn to do it by practicing falls enough and getting good at them, probably without having to consciously think about it. What's the best way to breathe while chopping wood with an axe? Who knows? I doubt many people have ever given it a passing thought, yet untold millions of humans have been doing it well for something like thirty thousand years.

In general, I am not that interested in what martial arts traditions teach us to do with our breath when punching, getting punched, etc... In cases like this, the valsalva may be happening without people knowing it, because it comes and goes so quickly. Even people who advocate not doing it and think they aren't themselves may be doing it anyway.

The martial arts traditions could also be completely wrong. Most of them have serious flaws when it comes to advice on conditioning and health. These traditions were largely made up by people with no inkling of the scientifically-derived knowledge we have now - knowledge based on a repeatable, controlled, measured trial-and-error process, not mysticism or belief in the authority of a tradition.

If I wanted to find out about what one 'should' be doing with the breath while punching or being punched, I'd wire up a bunch of the world's best boxers with sensors, get out the high-speed video cameras, and go to work finding out what they actually do. What people say, no matter their supposed authoritative status, is of little interest to me.
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Old 12-07-2006, 03:45 PM   #11
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
every animal in the entire history of animals, including homo sapiens and all its evolutionary ancestors seem to have managed to breathe pretty well without special breath training,
In the same vein, every animal in the history of animals, including homo sapiens, et al, have managed to defend themselves and neutralize competition pretty well without special martial training. It may also not make sense to consciously follow special instructions on how to kick someone's ass, aiki style or otherwise
Quote:
Even people who advocate not doing it and think they aren't themselves may be doing it anyway.
Perhaps what I'm not so eloquently proffering is that, those that have mastered a martial art have trained responses and habits in their breathing, and what so many people talk about is their own visual perception of this breathing, and the subsequent drive to discover it on their own. Reverse engineering by imitation. But anywho, this scientific process you always speak of intrigues me.

michael.
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Old 12-07-2006, 05:05 PM   #12
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Mike Logan wrote:
In the same vein, every animal in the history of animals, including homo sapiens, et al, have managed to defend themselves and neutralize competition pretty well without special martial training. It may also not make sense to consciously follow special instructions on how to kick someone's ass, aiki style or otherwise.
Nice try, but fighting is not an autonomic body function, nor encoded in instinct to any appreciable extent in humans. It has to be learned somehow, either through personal trial and error or learning from someone else's trial and error. At least some martial arts do involve trial and error in terms of having tested which fighting skills work, but are any of them really a trial and error system that tests how to breathe better? Breathing advice among martial arts teachers runs a random gamut from none at all to a bunch of highly specific, confusing stuff like whatever was told to our original querant. More importantly, I'll bet everyone who is really good of whatever style or training method pretty much breathes the same when they are actually fighting.
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Old 12-08-2006, 04:34 AM   #13
grondahl
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
Nice try, but fighting is not an autonomic body function, nor encoded in instinct to any appreciable extent in humans.
If this is true, how come most people (trained or untrained in MA) seems to fight the same when their stresslevels peak?
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Old 12-08-2006, 08:37 AM   #14
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote:
If this is true, how come most people (trained or untrained in MA) seems to fight the same when their stresslevels peak?
I didn't know they did. If so, it might be an argument for a human fighting instinct, but it certainly doesn't make it autonomic. Autonomic functions are governed by a specific part of the central nervous system, and are not usually subject to conscious control at all. An activity like fighting is extremely complicated and involves interpreting sensory data, making decisions, initiating movements, etc... It's like comparing digestion and playing basketball.

Breathing itself is mostly involuntary, yet also has the possibility of limited conscious control. Incidentally, so does regulation of heart rate and localized skin temperature, although no one seems to be interested in the purported martial benefits of beating one's heart in a certain way or keeping one's elbow skin at room temperature.
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Old 12-08-2006, 09:07 AM   #15
Keith R Lee
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Sean Kelleher wrote:

However, I usually only draw 3-4 breaths a minute during normal activity (sometimes as little as 2 breaths) and find that the rapidity of techniques required for gradings throws my natural breathing pattern right out the window.
You breathe once every 20 seconds? Sometimes once every 30 seconds? Not sitting and concentrating on your breathing but going about "normal" activity. Walking, working, etc? Are you sure about that?

With that aside, it just sounds like you might be gassing out. Just do more cardiovascular exercise. Run a few miles, bike a few miles, etc. Just get your body used to longer periods of intense activity and your breathing will adapt. For activities that focus on "explosive" movements, like martial arts, you might want to include suicides, stadiums, interval training, etc.

Keith Lee
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Old 12-08-2006, 09:28 AM   #16
DonMagee
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
I didn't know they did. If so, it might be an argument for a human fighting instinct, but it certainly doesn't make it autonomic. Autonomic functions are governed by a specific part of the central nervous system, and are not usually subject to conscious control at all. An activity like fighting is extremely complicated and involves interpreting sensory data, making decisions, initiating movements, etc... It's like comparing digestion and playing basketball.

Breathing itself is mostly involuntary, yet also has the possibility of limited conscious control. Incidentally, so does regulation of heart rate and localized skin temperature, although no one seems to be interested in the purported martial benefits of beating one's heart in a certain way or keeping one's elbow skin at room temperature.
Everyone untrained person I've ever met has fought the same basic way once they were overwhelmed. Their hands reach out in front of them grasping, then turn away from blows, and they either run or close the distance grabbing and pulling (which turns into ground fighting). Proper structure is a trained thing (we all know that). Keeping that structure and not falling back on basic instincts takes a lot of work at high stress levels.

That said, I've never focused much on my breathing. I know I exhale when I strike, and I exhale when I fall. I breathe shallow when I have weight on me. And I typically breathe though my nose until I'm gassing.

I say if you are worried about breathing, get running. Building cardio (as it was said above) solves most breathing issues.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 12-09-2006, 12:02 AM   #17
stelios
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Have you ever wached a baby breathe? You can clearly notice the belly inflating and deflating, a normal natural process. If a baby can do it without instructions so can we.
Just breathe normally, do not hold back your breath trrying to find the correct moment to inhale or exhale. Let it happen spontaneously, normally, naturally. The body is very good in doing it on its own whenever it needs to! Relax!
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Old 12-10-2006, 02:49 PM   #18
seank
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Re: Controlling your respiration

Quote:
Keith Lee wrote:
You breathe once every 20 seconds? Sometimes once every 30 seconds? Not sitting and concentrating on your breathing but going about "normal" activity. Walking, working, etc? Are you sure about that?
Pretty sure yeah

It depends on the activity... that's my normal resting respiration rate... When I was training cardio full time I had a myocardial oxygen uptake (MV02) take up of nearly 40 ml kg/min, with a very large lung capacity. Its not as high now but my breathing rate has remained more or less the same during rest/light activity. It certainly steps up under vigorous exercise though.
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