Breath Control in Aikido
by Sensei Robin Wilden
(Bognor Regis, West Sussex, UK)
Breathing is something we have been doing all our lives so how can we possibly need to learn how to breathe when we practice Aikido?
The answer is simple, to get better at it and notice how it can positively impact the way we train and what we get out of the experience.
Breath control affects:
1. Whether we are tense or relaxed.
2. Our timing.
3. The effectiveness of our technique.
4. How long we can train before we need to take a rest.
5. Protecting your body better with break-falls.
Its like with anything, it takes understanding and practice to learn.
For example, you could be great at running, but if you decided to take up swimming without knowing how to breathe properly for that particular exercise, you won't last long, your muscles will ache and you will start questioning your fitness level.
Its not that you are unfit, its that you still have to learn how to co-ordinate your breath with your movement.
Exactly the same applies to your Aikido training. All it takes is just two minutes before or at the start of training, kneeling in seiza, with a straight back and shoulders down.
Breathe deeply in through the nose, hold for a moment, then breathe out.
When you inhale, try to draw the oxygen all the way down to your centre by the knot of your belt (hara) without allowing your shoulders to raise up. When exhaling, breathe out fully, imagine letting everything about you going loose and relaxed. (Other than just the energy to maintain your good posture alignment).
Just a couple of minutes of this will be sufficient for you to have left any stresses in your life outside the dojo to allow you to be relaxed, in tune, and take the most from your training experience.
How you breathe during break-falls can make small differences like stopping you getting tired or dizzy quickly. It amazes me how many people hold their breath when they roll, then let it fall out when they rise.
With practice it can make the difference between whether you can take high impact landing and protecting yourself from injury.
A short powerful exhale at the moment you hit the mat with your arm and body when taking applied technique will expand your energy internally, further help protect your body from impact and save you from injury.
To take this to the next level and help create more dynamic movements in partnered technique we should try to incorporate the yin yang philosophy into our movements.
When Uke attacks he breathes out to expand his energy. The attack will be weak if he chooses to breathe in at this time.
For Tori, the breathing pattern to start with should be breathing out when receiving/avoiding the attack, breathing in whilst breaking balance and then breathing out upon application or throw (nage).
This is just a starting point that will make you remain conscious of your breathing in your movements. Those of you looking to advance further will look to train your breathing to be opposite your training partner.
If they attack strong (yang) your first movement and breath should be an inhale and blend (yin). If the attack is weak or soft (yin), look to exhale, expand using entering (irimi) yang movement.
You are aiming to mirror Tori/Uke with the opposite breathing pattern. It works in connection with your timing to blend or absorb and redirect.
Practising your breathing technique will develop ki energy and add depth to your training, so give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Sensei Robin Wilden
Arun Aikido Club