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I’ve gotta confess to loving the Karate Kid movies… cheesy as they were. Somewhere in all the cobra-kai silliness and over-acting, Mr. Miyagi actually had a lot of good things to say.

The last couple of weeks in class we’ve been working on a technique in which the breathing is key to performing the technique correctly.

  • First a Big Exhale
  • Then a second; Exhale the last bits of air from the lungs, completely voiding the lungs
  • Finally a giant inhale, sucking all the air out of the room
  • A second big exhale as your partner goes flying backwards

Now, admittedly, there are some things going on there with the hands, arms, and hips… it’s not simply my garlic-breath that sends uke flying backwards. Without the proper breathing technique; however, the technique is mushy as best. It might work, but it will be weak and heartless. When the breathing is right, it super-charges the movements. The air is forced from the lungs, causing the body to tighten and draw in on itself, then as nage takes that giant inhale, the body expands and rises, right at the moment it is needed to send uke backwards, off balance, and into the mat.

“Don’t forget to breathe; very important.”

It reminds me of the combat breathing techniques taught to cops and soldiers in order to bring their body under control during times of stress. I’m not going to go into detail trying to explain it here, but the short version is that controlling one’s breathing, making breathing a conscious, planned effort rather than some thoughtless function of the autonomic nervous system, can have a marked effect on one’s performance and they way one’s body reacts. It made me think back to all the different things I’ve done in life where someone told me to “concentrate on your breathing.” Shooting. High-altitude mountaineering. Running. Soccer. Weight lifting. Stressing out.

Concentrate on your breathing. Don’t forget to breathe. It turns out, it IS very important.

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