Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

Please take a look at my bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Please take a look at my Notable Quotes

Hey, Attention on Deck!

Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!


When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:


I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn


Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung

WARNING, CAVEAT AND NOTE

The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.


Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.



“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated. - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources (this applies to this and other blogs by me as well; if you follow the idea's, advice or information you are on your own, don't come crying to me, it is all on you do do the work to make sure it works for you!)



“You should prepare yourself to dedicate at least five or six years to your training and practice to understand the philosophy and physiokinetics of martial arts and karate so that you can understand the true spirit of everything and dedicate your mind, body and spirit to the discipline of the art.” - cejames (note: you are on your own, make sure you get expert hands-on guidance in all things martial and self-defense)



“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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Kisoku [気息] - Breathing - more...

Note: This is an old posting that I am currently re-writing. When done, this post will be updated so come back again to read a newer version!

The characters/ideograms mean "breathing; breath." The first character means, "spirit; mind; air; atmosphere; mood," the second character means, "breath; respiration; son; interest (on money)."

First, lets establish some fundamentals about breathing be it for health or for martial arts. Breathing is a constant. There are no pauses, stops or interruptions. Breathing must remain fluid regardless of inhalation, exhalation and the transition between the two. If you stop breathing at any time then your not breathing correctly.

Second, breathing is always done, in this method, from down deep in the diaphragm. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is the only true fundamental that is the cornerstone of all breathing methods.

Third, breathing in this instance and from my knowledge, learning and understanding always inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth. This type of breathing is always controlled as best as possible dependent on things like stress and adrenaline - naming but two.

These are what I consider the fundamentals of breathing and the connection to health for me comes through Chi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan practices with emphasis on the Dragon's Gate methods. As for my karate, it is also the basis of how I practice, train and apply karate or any aspect of self-protection.

The following are some additional postings I have done over the years on the art of breathing.

Breathing

This one is so important I can not emphasis it enough. I want to say emphatically that learning proper breathing is critical to life and your training.

First, your breathing connects everything within your body from circulations to organ function. The volume and rhythm of your breathing has far reaching effects. Watch your volume, duration and speed of breathing for it has effects such as digestion, circulation, nervous and excretory functions and many of the systems in your body.

Slow Breathing Effects: Slow breathing slows down your metabolism which includes the heart rate, which effects the blood circulation, and your body temperature tends to become slightly lower. It also produces a more peaceful state of mind allowing for clear thinking. It provides for better perception and allows us to connect to the Tao.

Deeper Breathing Effects: Deep and rhythmic breathing creates a better and more active metabolism, harmony between the organs and different systems of the body and it stabilizes your body temperature. You have a more stable emotional ability, greater confidence, and maintain a steady thought process.

Longer Breathing Effects: It creates better coordination. You have and maintain a peaceful feeling. You have more endurance, patience, and quietness with far less emotional excitement or instability.

What this means is one should try to make their natural breathing pattern slower, deeper, longer, and rhythmic. Your mental, physical, and spiritual development parallel your eating and breathing so making appropriate adjustments will provide a good deal of benefit both health and martial.

Consuming to much sugar, etc tends to make you breathe faster and shallower and shorter in duration. The effects are catastrophic to your health and practice. You end up with a faster metabolism resulting in such things as accelerated heart rate that goes on from there. You are more anxious, unstable, become frustrated and often develop fear. Your perception suffers, you lose confidence, lack courage, lose memory and vision is impaired (sound familiar?). You become impatient, irritable, shorter temper, have less endurance, and the list continues.

You already have started the physical fitness part to all this so I won't go into that here. You have two additional factors to incorporate into your training and that is proper diet and breathing - slow, deep, long, and rhythmic.

The benefits are endless and may bring you a longer, happier, and healthier life. It will connect you to the universe or the Tao. Study this well!

The Importance of Breathing

"Breathing is not just the physiological process of inhaling and exhaling. It is the conscious ordering of the breath so that it blends smoothly with the movement of the body and the flow of the spirit." - Onuma Hideharu with Dan and Jackie DeProspero

As my ongoing research reveals to me I am finding that the one and most important technique I can teach a karate-ka is the art of proper breathing. As I have known and continue to discover one must master the proper breathing method if they intend to survive any type of combative, life threatening, situation.

Let me begin by reminding some of you of the effects we encounter in combat.

Loss of motor skills
Auditory loss
Peripheral vision and depth perception loss
Reaction time loss

This may not be the complete list yet it will suffice so you get the picture. It has been discovered that the most important tool a combatant can learn is the ability to control the heart rate. A mind free from as much anxiety and fear will result in increased combat effectiveness. This can be accomplished in training.

Training increases confidence and will lower the effects experienced in combat provided it is the correct type of training. Supo-tsu karate does not provide this type of training. Karate-jutsu may provide it if done correctly.

When creating a combat training regimen or syllabus keep in mind that the techniques must be such that they ensure the practitioner will survive. The technique must be of the kind that requires the least amount of both physical and mental energy. The technique must be applicable in any situation and any environment. Last, the technique must require a minimum of reaction time and it must be simple and easy in its application.

If the technique does not meet these requirements then most students will not practice it. One must practice the techniques so they become natural and instinctive. The techniques must have that quality so when students practice using performance imagery it must show its real life application to be effective.

What this means in a nutshell and with out going into a lengthy discussion/explanation all this builds confidence which results in reduced heart rates which results in the retention of those skills listed at the beginning or as much as humanly possible.

Yet, this may not be enough once a person encounters a situation that is life-threatening and may result in death to one or both of the combatants.

When you encounter such situations you may notice the very first effect is sudden quick and shallow breathing. This is maybe the first symptom along with eyes widening, pulse quickening, blood pressure rising, palms sweating, and so on.

The quickest way to get a handle on those symptoms, which result in the above list, is to perform proper breathing techniques.

In a previous post I provided crises breathing techniques. It has become my primary teaching method to those who start fighting art training. Proper breathing techniques to take control of those mental, physical, and psychological manifestations that occur due to combat stress.

Make breathing your primary initial teaching technique as it will make the difference when the tread meets the road in combat. Use breathing drills to force the heart rate to slowdown. Add in performance imagery to prepare for the unknown and you have a solid initial training combination for combat.

Any time you feel any of the symptoms described previously in daily life, or in practice, remind yourself to do the crises breathing techniques to slow the heart and regulate the breathing; everything else will naturally follow.

Make proper breathing you fist lesson and continue it through out one's training, for life!

Zazen Breathing

In traditional teachings, which may encompass martial, proper breathing is essential and is taught as a fundamental factor of concentration. Air contains energy and life force from the universe which we inhale through our lungs and then permeates every cell in our bodies. It is therefore important to know how to breathe deeply. We normally breathe fifteen to twenty times a minute.

This breathing is superficial, as we use only one-sixth of our lung capacity. Deep, full breathing, however, does not take place at the level of the lungs, but rather emanates lower in the tanden, an area of the body located two inches below the navel. With practice, one can learn to slowly breathe five to six deep, calm breaths per minute. This is the deep breathing used during zazen. The exhalation should be longer than the inhalation while exerting a gentle pressure downward on the intestines, followed by an automatic breathing in.

Through the practice of zazen, this type of breathing gradually becomes a regular, basic habit, especially during sleep. Breathing in occurs automatically and unconsciously, so it is important to be cognizant that we are inhaling universal life force and energy from the air. This awareness and mindset can actually change and charge the air molecules more intensely, giving them a different quality. The life energy of the universe contained in the air is then transformed into human energy.

Breathing out deeply does not happen automatically, a conscious effort (meditation) must be made to exhale slowly and deeply. This deep breathing pushes the energy from the lungs (where it is normally expelled) down to the hara, or energy center. In Karate, we initiate kumite attacks while exhaling, thus compressing the muscles internally and thereby producing kime and kiai.

As used air is exhaled through the mouth, we also push the air-sourced energy down into the tanden where life forces originate and flow. The tan den then distributes this energy and life force to all parts of the body. It is also capable of storing up a good supply of energy (ki) from the universe and releasing it at will with instantaneous physical power (kime). The more we practice and are receptive to this concept of breathing the universal life force, the more our energy grows.

Although zazen means "no mind, no thinking, no thought," it is first necessary to concentrate and meditate (deep thought) on our breathing exercises until they become automatic. Once our deep breathing becomes automatic with no thought or intention, we are then ready to reach the level of zazen, an art in itself and a state of being that takes many years to achieve.

Zazen (or Mokuso) is a recuperative and peace-of-mind posture assumed both before and after fighting arts training or contests. Zazen is usually performed in a sitting (seiza) position while maintaining a thought-free mind, yet totally aware of external influences. The level of the mind should not be that of a waking dream. That philosophy is opposed both to Mushin (no mind, detached mind, free mind) and to Zazen in which one responds to any attack instantly and naturally. Zazen is viewed as thought without thought, thinking without thinking, (hishiryo satori) a division or higher level of thought without thinking which modern psychologists refer to as consciousness.

Zazen is not a form of meditation or mental exercise. Rather, it is the return to what is regarded as the normal human condition; a state of mind free from the pressures and demands of daily life, and any goals or desire for gain. The wish to reach any goal by performing Zazen will prevent one from achieving it.

In the seiza posture, one relaxes by breathing calmly while attempting to maintain an empty (thought free) mind. The three components of Zazen (posture, breathing and mental attitude) should be peaceful, stable and natural. The posture and breathing are easier to learn, and their physical benefits can be immediately felt. However, the proper mental attitude, which is of primary importance, is difficult to comprehend and attain. One must practice positive Ki to even attempt Zazen. The pure state of Zazen is freedom of mind or peace of mind. It is through the practice of Zazen that the Samurai arrived at the perfection of their art. This is why Zazen is called the religion of the Samurai.

Crises Breathing - more...

In my previous posting on the value of breathing in a crisis I covered how important it is to move into a deep rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing mode to calm the body and mind so you can "handle" the crises in a calmer fashion. There is only two additional additions to that technique I would add and that is the addition of a four count and that you practice it frequently to make it automatic.

The four count comes from the technique taught by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Simply do a four count as you breathe through the nose, hold it for a four count, breath out through the mouth for a four count, hold that for a four count and then repeat. Col. Grossman suggested you do it three times and I believe if you practice in repetitively that will be the end result or something close to it.

How would I practice this technique? First, I have practiced this type of breathing, much like most karate-ka, for years only I have not used the four count part.

I practice the breathing method as I practice. In particular I use it at the beginning and end of the kata. When I am in what I call the "yoi" position just before I take a kamae to begin I use the breathing method to focus my center, bring my heart rate down, and to create a mental focus. I can feel my shoulders settle down and the tension leave my body and mind. I now have added the four count to that process.

I also practice it just prior to kumite. It is especially good to practice before you spar with someone completely new be it a student or another karate-ka. I also practice the breathing technique while in mokuso at the beginning of class.

Of course we must also practice when appropriate so we can make use of it outside the dojo. I do that as I walk from my office to lunch or on a break. I also take a few moments every hour of the work day to get away from my desk. I take those five minutes, along with the morning and afternoon breaks, to practice breathing and karate.

If I feel anxiety or anger start to creep up on me I do the breathing. If something about my work creates the same I do the breathing.

As does Lt.Col. Grossman and others he quotes in his books it is important to practice repetitively and under stressful situations so when, hopefully never, you are confronted in a possible life and death situation on the street you can automatically start the breathing technique to remain at a level that will allow you to respond instinctively.

Thanks to Lt.Col. Grossman and friends for the education and for providing additional data to young warriors that breathing in life properly really works. If I had one thing to teach to our youth today it would be this type of breathing method so they could understand and rein in the anger and emotions that they will encounter in the stresses of life.

This posting was inspired by my reading of:

On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen, ISBN: 978-0-9649205-2-1

Crises Breathing: More ...

This is a post with notes to remember in regards to crises breathing or combative breathing.

Crises breathing should be used before, during, and after a stressful encounter. It quickly calms and prepares you so you may function at your best.

When you first encounter some stressful situation immediately perform the four count crises breathing technique. This will help you to control your heart rate so the effects of the stress is lessened.

While you are working through the stressful situation you should remember to keep your breathing slow, steady, deep, and rhythmic. This will help you to maintain control of the heart rate even when the situation may try to induce you to forget and fall prey to its effects.

When the stressful situation is done and gone you must bring the memory back so you may understand all that transpired and this may cause the effects to rise again thus you must perform the breathing technique again. This helps you to control its post effects which can be as debilitating as the actual stressful situation you encountered. You do not want the memory to be triggered at the most inopportune time creating another post stressful situation when none actually exists.

Practice the technique at every opportunity so that it becomes a conditional reflex or instinctual. Your body will just breathe properly when stressful situations of any level arise. This works for fear and anger. You control the body and mind so you control fear and anger's effects by your breathing technique.

If you control your breathing you control your emotions and the effects they cause. Control your body; don't let your body control you.

First Line of Defense:

What is your first line of defense in a crisis? Does your first line of defense have the appropriate training and conditioning?

In any crisis situation your first line of defense can make the difference in overcoming or succumbing. This is that weapon, what ever it may be, that will be the very first thing to come to your aid in a crisis situation.

My first line of defense is breathing. I know some of you when reading the first two paragraphs started thinking about some favorite and heavily practiced technique. Stop and think about this a minute. No technique will help you survive a crisis unless it is preceded by a calm mind and lots of practice.

If the crisis were a financial issue with you and your family then keeping a level head and clear mind will assist in overcoming this crisis. This goes for just about anything. Yet, you might say, "What the h#%& does breathing have to do with it?" It has everything to do with it.

Most crisis situations create both a mental and physical reaction within a person. The mind can cause the body to lock up and a tight body with tension can cause other physical responses that cause the mind to freeze up or become fogged. The one thing that has been proven to alleviate such reactions is proper breathing methods.

Ok, so we have answered the question as to what your first line of defense is, or mine anyway, so now we go to the next level which is geared toward karate training. What is your physical first line of defense?

In my case it is my hands. Stop laughing so hard as I know that karate today translates to empty hands. I can even bring that further by saying my fore fist or tate-ken (vertical fist of Isshinryu) is my first line of defense.

Although I train to use a variety of techniques in kumite I know that, for me, if self-defense on the streets becomes a necessity then my first line of defense is my fists. This is why I train a little more developing them vs all other physical weapons of karate. The fore knuckles (seiken), the hammer fist (tettsui), the back fist (uraken), the palm heel (teisho) (yea I know that isn't exactly the fist), the knife hand (shuto), the ridge hand (haito), and the thumb area of the tate-ken. I am confident that in a combat, hand-to-hand, situation that those areas will be my first line of defense.

Proper Breathing:

"Proper breathing is of utmost importance whether one trains in fighting arts, the performing arts, or athletics. Its value can be seen most clearly in a fighting arts struggle where the ramifications of improper breathing can cost a fighter the match." - Seikichi Toguchi

I remember watching the Cirque du Soleil a few years back and noticed almost immediately that the performers breathed from the lower diaphragm area at all times. I watched it through out the performance and especially when the fighting art performers were on stage. Everyone, to the last person, did deep and steady breathing from that lower area of the body sometimes called the hara or tanden.

When practitioners first enter the dojo they sit seiza and do mokuso where they empty the mind of everything and focus on proper breathing. This helps the karate-ka to create the appropriate mind set so they may focus solely on training with out any outside distractions. It also provides time to start the training of proper breathing.

Proper breathing is a vital component of energy management. Breathing in is yin or soft which is that mode of preparation toward breathing out which is yang or hard. Techniques are executed on the yang breathe.

Another benefit of proper breathing is what I refer to as muscle and breath control. This type of breathing increases one's ability to handle pain, illness, and/or injury.

When we breathe properly in karate-do/jutsu we supplement that breathing method with ibuki, which is found in the practice of sanchin. It is a yang form of breathing, or strong, usually signified by the strong and audible breathing one does in the kata.

Proper breathing has a calming effect on the mind and body. When one controls their breathing into a long, slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing form it has the ability to allow for reducing stress and anxiety, helps to overcome fear or to redirect the fear to a positive outlet, and is especially helpful in violent combative situations.

Proper breathing is learned quickly yet it takes a good deal of repetitive practice over many years to master it. It should be practiced in every facet of the day as well as in karate training.

Proper breathing is another form of exercise and one that should be started and learned before anything else in karate-jutsu. It should become instinctual and automatic in every thing you do. When you first feel that tension and stress your mind should instinctually cause you to start proper deep slow breathing. This is critical in every facet of training as well as life.

Proper breathing is also a critical part of kata training. You breathe out strongly when performing hard techniques while breathing in softly for the soft techniques. Breathe out and do sudden tensing for power and breathe in and relax to create your speed.

Ibuki breathing is that form that creates a quick bust of energy which is used during strikes and kicks. Nogare, or slow breathing, is done when moving from one position to another.

When performing a technique a strong exhalation adds to the power of the technique. When used with Kiai shout it can disrupt the mind of the opponent. When used properly along with tensioning of the body it can also reduce the shock to the body when struck.

I can not stress it hard enough or enough times to practitioners. Proper breathing is the soul of karate-do/jutsu. Learn it first, practice it in every facet of life, practice it more in karate training, and let it become instinctual. Let it become as normal to every day life for you as the heart beating in your chest.

Fear in Combat or Self-defense?

When confronted by attackers is it fear that keeps us from taking the appropriate actions? That sudden jump of adrenaline, the brain freeze, the shallow breathing and all else that comes to us from confrontation by a stranger who is, at least on appearance, determined to do something we don't want to happen to us a result of fear of physical harm or even death?

Some very good questions are asked in regards to the practice of karate-jutsu/do. Something we hopefully never have to deal with in our lives yet if we do, what kind of training is necessary to overcome this initial reaction thus allowing us to react in self-defense.

Another on-line karate-ka, "BBM", recommended a reading that, at first upon hearing the title, I initially felt may not really apply to street self-defense and the practice of "Te". I am about half way through the reading and find that in a sense it does provide some deep insight to the human psyche. Although it focuses on killing and combat the basic premise of the human situation is appropriate for all situations involving any form of confrontation and/or conflict.

I found this especially true since I could make the connection as a former Marine as well as a long term practitioner of "Te" or "Karate-do/jutsu". I was able to make connections to the type of training I received as a "Jarhead" as well as a "Karate-ka". I do recommend, even if never a veteran, reading this book with an open mind so one may associate it with more than just combative situations.

It turns out that, instinctively, we have something that may be ingrained by nature to not want to harm another of our human kind even when someone is trying very hard to harm us. As the book indicated in regards to combative vs enemy combative one is hard pressed to do harm to the other except in rare cases where the one is a sociopath to begin with (thank goodness that is such a small percent of all human kind) with an unnatural ease in doing another harm.

Sometimes when confronted by another we move into several modes that are natural in the effort to not do harm such as posturing, etc. The animal kingdom does this with their own species, i.e. lion against lion, and very seldom actually do harm. I wonder sometimes if this is why supo-tsu karate is far more prevalent vs the combative form of training (far more popular).

This could also explain why the UFC stuff on television is also very popular as a viewing sport. The book did mention that when the harm is not focused at the person or the person is not the one doing personal harm to another that our natural fascination to violence takes place. In combat whether one is face to face vs generally never actually seeing the enemy the stress is different and the reactions both physically and psychologically are different.

So, let us get back to training for self-defense. This would mean that one must overcome through repetitive training that natural instinct to do another, face to face, personal harm regardless of whether it is self-defense or of an offensive nature. As to the military, and from the analysis of the author, it appears that it takes repetitive and specific practice to act instinctively thus bypassing this natural phenomena.

This brings up another aspect that is of importance. One that many military leaders and politicians seem to overlook and that is the psychological effect on one who has to do harm against another, face to face, even when it is in "self-defense" and even when it is condoned by society as "self-defense". Apparently to overcome this natural tendency to not harm another of your kind results in some psychological damage and depending on circumstances can result in more personal harm than if one were physically hurt.

Even then, if physically hurt, by another in a combative environment can result in psychological damage. So what do we do to train for all this?

The answer is simple and yet very complex. We train first to avoid all conflict or as much as possible (I realize conflict comes in many forms that can occur in daily life). We train to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow citizens and an important part of that is to avoid situations that would bring us to that point. As Funukoshi Sensei said we strive to not strike first yet when no other choice is left to us we strike in defense of our lives and so on.

Does this make sense? Does this seem plausible? Does this make a difference in your training?

This book brings up a lot of questions and this is why I felt it important to add to my recommended reading list. Col Grossman has brought out some outstanding data that I hope someone in charge of the guys currently in combative area's of the world can provide the appropriate leadership with a result that those who serve us can come home to family, friends, and neighbors.

So let us train hard to not come to harm or into harms way. Let us train to handle all the various effects of face to face confrontation in a manner that will bring no lasting harm to ourselves and to others. Let us be true karate-ka, to be beneficial to society, family, and to ourselves.

Is it fear that keeps us from taking the appropriate actions?

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman

Breathing and Mokuso:

Mokuso is a meditative posture where the practitioner used proper breathing methods to calm the mind and body. This should be practiced, as a novice, in a room that is not to light (semi-dark like twilight) and it must be cool and quiet.

Proper breathing in mokuso is meant to induce complete relaxation of the body. The focus you must put to this exercise allows the mind to free itself from those outside influences that would disturb mokuso.

To do this one must completely focus on the breathing. First tho one must take the appropriate sitting position. The ideal position is for the buttocks to rest on a pillow for support while the legs are in a lotus position with the feet and calves on the floor. If one can not take a full lotus position then take a leg crossed the top foot knife edge is resting in the crook of the opposite let with the little toe up near the crevice of the knee area. The hands should be resting lightly on the knees with the palms forming over the end of the knees.

Let the shoulder relax and drop completely. Keep the back as straight as possible with the head erect as if one were being pulled up at the apex of the skull towards the sky. The chin should be slightly tucked.

The eyes are three quarters closed and the eyes themselves looking slightly upward into the eye lids.

The mouth should be slightly open to allow air to be exhaled while the nose intakes air. The tip of the tongue should be placed with the point in the slight divot of the roof of the mouth so it can regulate the exhale.

You are now ready for the breathing portion of this exercise. Concentrate on the act of breathing itself. As you breathe in and out let yourself fall into a rhythm, each breath taken consciously; at first it can be counted.

When you breathe in you must take it down deeply into the diaphragm area of the body. Let it expand while tensioning the stomach band of muscles slightly. It should fill before allowing the chest to expand to its fullest. The breath should be slow, steady and constant till the upper lung cavity is full. The in breath must be through the nose while the tongue restricts the air from entering the slightly open mouth.

Hold the breath for just a moment. Slowly breathe out with emphasis, tightening the stomach band of muscles as you do so and out through the mouth letting the tongue regulate the air as it move out. Start by reducing the air in the lungs first and the diaphragm area at the very last till the very pit of the stomach about three inches below the navel is squeezed by the stomach band muscles last.
This outward breathe has a detaching effect. As the air is exhaled with slow, steady, and deliberate control you feel your shoulders drop even more with out losing the straight back, neck, and head position. You feel the muscles of your entire body relax as if they were made of a gaseous material.

As you focus on the breathing exercise you will notice that the outside world will disappear, then the world inside of you will wake up. This eliminates external stimuli. Don't be disturbed if anything comes up in your mind as you do this. Accept it with detachment and no emotion. Be a spectator and simply let it come in and leave while you focus on the breathing in and out.

The idea is to be within yourself, be in the exact moment that you are in at that moment of the breathe you are focused on. Nothing that happens that second before that exact moment matters while nothing that will come in the next moment matters, only that exact moment as you travel the path of mokuso. This is the first step to mokuso, or meditative practice. Once you master this in the cool and quiet room with no disturbances then you may be ready to actually practice it sitting seiza in the dojo before practice begins and after practice ends.

When in the dojo you will attempt to practice mokuso in seiza and find it very uncomfortable and difficult yet if you are practicing as I suggest above then as you follow the path of the empty hand you will find mokuso in the dojo getting easier and easier.

Practice, practice, practice!

Benefits of Breathing:
                                                                                    
1. Improvement in the quality of the blood due to its increased oxygenation in the lungs. This aids in the elimination of toxins from the system.

2. Increase in the digestion and assimilation of food. The digestive organ, such as the stomach, receives more oxygen, and hence operates more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more.

3. Improvement in the health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves. This is due again to the increased oxygenation and hence nourishment of the nervous system. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body.

4. Rejuvenation of the glands, especially the pituitary and pineal glands. The brain has a special affinity for oxygen, requiring three times more oxygen than does the rest of the body. This has far-reaching effects on our well being.

5. Rejuvenation of the skin. The skin becomes smoother and a reduction of facial wrinkles occurs.

6. The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massage the abdominal organs - the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. This stimulates the blood circulation in these organs.

7. The lungs become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.

8. Deep, slow, yoga breathing reduces the work load for the heart. The result is a more efficient, stronger heart that operates better and lasts longer. It also means reduced blood pressure and less heart disease.
The yoga breathing exercises reduce the work load on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So, the heart doesn't have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in the circulation, thus resting the heart a little.

9. Deep, slow breathing assists in weight control. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands. In other words, yoga tends to produce the ideal weight for you.

10. Relaxation of the mind and body. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles. These two factors cause a reflex relaxation of the mind, since the mind and body are very interdependent. In addition, oxygenation of the brain tends to normalize brain function, reducing excessive anxiety levels.

The breathing exercises cause an increase in the elasticity of the lungs and rib cage. This creates an increased breathing capacity all day, not just during the actual exercise period. This means all the above benefits also occur all day.

Number ten is very important to the fighting artist in self-defense. When confronted by an adversary the body will immediately start to exhibit symptoms of panic in a faster pulse and shallow quick breathes. The hands will start to get cold, the shoulder muscles will start to tense up, and you may feel heart palpitations.

When confronted with such situations immediately start to perform deep breathing techniques to slow your breathing and to supply adequate amount of oxygen to your system. This results in the reflex to the body systems to reduce heart rate and relax the muscles. Additional reflex relaxation are of the mind.
Additional oxygen tends to normalize brain function and reduces anxiety levels.

Couple this with proper training through years of practice will result in a calm mind, relaxed body, and your systems will function as necessary so your cleared mind though Zanshin and Mushin will allow for proper reaction in self-defense situations. With out a proper breathing method the body would lock up, the muscles would become sluggish, and the mind will shut down resulting in delayed reactions allowing for the attacker to overcome and defeat you.

The karateka should coordinate breathing with their techniques. Breathing enhances the karateka's ability to relax and concentrate maximum power in their techniques. The karateka should not breathe in a uniform manner; breathing should change with the situation. Proper inhaling fills the lungs completely. Proper exhaling leaves the lungs about 40 percent full -- exhaling completely makes the body limp, leaving the karateka vulnerable to even a weak attack.

The central principle of breathing is of internal cleansing, getting rid of that which is old, worn out, and stale, and exchanging it for what is new, fresh, and energized. During inhalation we are bringing in fresh oxygen, nutrients, and vital energy. During exhalation we are expelling carbon dioxide and other toxins and poisons that we produce or collect in our daily lives.

Proper breathing starts with inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Why do we breathe in and out in this manner? Research has found that the paranasal sinuses, those cavities in the frontal section of the skull that are connected to the nasal passage, produce nitric oxide (NO) which in turn becomes part of the gas intake in nasally derived air.

What does this mean? Well, for health advocates this is important since NO acts to help sterilize the sinuses as well as the nasal air passageways. Thus, NO is part of the body’s immune defense system. Just as important, however, especially for athletes such as fighting artists, NO when taken in with the breath helps relax and open the air passages that branch out like an upside down tree. Thus, more air can get to all parts of the lung (the bronchial tree) so more oxygen can to be absorbed in the alveoli.
Maintain proper breathing techniques when practicing fighting arts to avoid injury—breathing out during the contraction portion of any stretching movement, and breathing in during the extension portion of any stretching movement.

"Breath" or "Qi" is an integral part of sequence practice. By breathing deeply to the lower abdomen we can change our stamina and delay or avoid the onset of breathlessness. This is often phrased as "sink the chi to the Dan Tian." As an example, let your breath "come up" (fill your lungs) when you are rising from a lower posture to a higher one. From a higher posture to a lower one, "sink the breath" (let out air, keep the pelvis tucked). When generating explosive force, focus the breath by explosively exhaling (keep at least 40% in reserve) and allowing the contracting muscles to add to your other focused strength. "Strength" in fighting arts is different from the strength in weight lifting.


Karate is a rigorous activity. Students of karate must do constant exercises and stretching routines to limber up and strengthen the muscles of the body. Deep-breathing exercises are also useful because exhalation and sudden shouts accompany the directed blows, particularly the final or so-called killing blows. Such breathing and cries help the rhythm of the karate attack, focus more force in each blow or block, and psychologically invigorate a person while disconcerting the opponent.

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