Monday, August 30, 2010

Breath Integration And Martial Movement

Last week I was working with one of the young Dojo Rats, going over some forms.
As I watched and made suggestions, I tried to see what he was missing but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then, as I read this passage from Robert W. Smith's "Hsing-I, Chinese Mind-Body Boxing" It dawned on me- he lacked proper breath integration.
Robert W. Smith quoting Master Sung Shih-Jung (page 99):

"The Taoists have sedentary breathing exercises. In Hsing-i, hand and foot actions are coordinated with the breathing. Every actions follows a discipline, so we never get confused; that is, the movements are coordinated with the breathing so that boxing becomes like sedentary work. You should pay great attention to the breathing. Back and Forth, up and down, the air moves in a cycle with full regulation of breathing. In sedentary work, we try to settle down from action, but in boxing we move from inaction to action. Both of them reach the same goal: full calmness, full regulation of breathing, and full coordination of the body."

Sung is referring to the meditative regulation of seated or standing breathing as practiced (in this case) by Taoists. Sung states:

"(Hsing-i) is a martial art because its functions show how to fight another person. As a Taoist exercise, it is used to prolong life."

The chart at the top gives a pretty good example of the Yin and Yang of breathing and how it applies to shooting a firearm. In that case, the breath is briefly held to fire an accurate shot. If we tweak the chart a bit, the Yang or outward expression of power would coordinate with the exhale. There would be no holding of the breath in martial expression.
The beauty of Sung's quote on breathing is that the same technique used to damage an opponent is the same technique that can prolong ones life.
-- My advice to my young training partner was to exaggerate his breathing in very deep inhales and exhales, along with large martial movements. In time, these will become more subtle yet more efficient.


Zacky Chan said...

From the very beginning of my training I was told breath was important, but still forget everynight I practice. Surely it's something to remind yourself of every single time you step on the mat ... or the rat!

Charlie Wildish said...

Correct breath is so often emphasised in many (if not all) martial arts, yet like Zacky says, still forgoten.
I think you have to treat breath as being as much a part of a technique as what you do with your arms and legs.
Easier said than done :)

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