Breathing is probably the single most important aspect of the martial arts. We can all learn the basic techniques whether, blocking, kicking and striking, but each rely upon our breath to execute properly.

Central to this idea is what breathing does. It is a cleansing within, getting rid of old and bringing in new. It is reinvigorating and relaxing.

I will discuss five methods which are quite beneficial for all martial artists.

For practice, everyone should use the nose, both inhaling and exhaling.

Attention Breathing is focusing your awareness on the natural rhythm of your breath.

Expand the abdomen gradually by lightly pushing out and down as the oxygen fills the lower lung cavity. Focus the mind on expanding the abdominal area. Don’t be overanxious and forcefully protrude the abdominal wall. Instead, try to achieve a gentle and smooth expansion in time with the inhalation.

When the abdomen is full, exhale through the nose and pull the abdomen gently back into the body, compressing the lungs from the bottom.

With each inhalation the abdomen expands; with each exhalation the abdomen contracts.

Reverse Abdominal Breathing is more difficult than Abdominal Breathing simply because it reverses the natural flow of the breath. Reverse Abdominal Breathing is a breathing method best suited for those who study the martial arts since it concentrates focus on the centre during exhalation.

Inhale through the nose. Slowly draw the abdomen in and up. The upper chest will naturally expand as oxygen fills your lungs.

As you inhale, contract the muscles of your perineum. The perineum is the area between the anus and the lower edge of the pubis at the front of the pelvis. Again, don’t be overanxious and forcefully squeeze the abdomen. Instead, focus on keeping a smooth and relaxed motion.

When the lungs are full, exhale through the nose, release, and push the abdomen out and down.

The Nose Pant is a great exercise for charging yourself up with energy. Imagine something in your nose that needs to be blown out by sharply puffing out through the nostrils. Immediately follow by a sharp intake of air through the nose. Abdominal Nose Panting consists of contracting the abdomen as you puff out.

Reverse Abdominal Nose Panting expands the abdomen on the puff out. After completing a session of Nose Panting, always follow with a couple of deep slow breaths to calm the body down.

The Complete Breath is another breathing exercise. Regular practice expands lung capacity, slows down unconscious breathing and makes it smoother and more regular. The Complete Breath maximizes oxygen intake and enables oxygen-rich blood to flow to the extremities.

Begin this exercise from a lying-down posture so maximum concentration can be achieved.

Inhale through the nose. Expand the lower abdomen, pushing out and down, same as Abdominal Breathing. Once the abdomen is full, continue inhaling and expand the chest, filling the upper lungs. Raise the collarbone and shoulders as you continue inhaling. Fill the throat and the nose.

Hold the breath in. After a count of 10, exhale through the nose. Contract the lower abdomen pushing in and up. Continue to exhale by squeezing the air from the lungs and chest.

Lower the collarbone and shoulders. Blow the air from your throat and nose. Empty it all out.

Hold the breath out for a count of 10. On the next inhalation don’t gasp for air. Calmly and smoothly inhale just as before.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at toddhardymla@gmail.com.