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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 1999 7:59 pm 
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Mike

It is difficult to address you specific need without watching your sanchin first hand. However you are not alone among kyu ranks in having difficulty with the Uechi-style breathing. It is perhaps the most difficult way of breathing of any martial arts system to learn, but once learned it is one of the best ways to breathe and yet stay protected. I will make a few comments and suggestions and then ask you to think about it and give me some specific feedback.

There are a few basic principles to remember to do the type of breathing that should occupy most of your time in Uechi ryu. I actually incorportate other breathing styles in specific areas of the system, but that's outside the realm of this discussion. Let's just say that the word "usual" applies here, and that there are exceptions. So with that in mind, here it goes.

1) Do not breathe during techniques. One disengages the breathing from the physical movements because a) it makes it harder for your opponent to take advantage of you if he/she doesn't know your breathing cycle, and b) disengaging the breathing from the techniques can allow you to do lightning-fast flurries.

2) Spend most of your time in a "breath holding" mode. In this mode, you must not have too little or too much air in your lungs. You should have the lung volume at a relaxed, natural level.

3) Breathe when you need a breath, preferably between techniques. In sanchin kata, you may elect to breath at a regular interval to add a meditative (mantra) element to the form.

4) A breath constitutes a very RAPID exhale and inhale. It is NOT an inhale and then exhale.

5) Exhale through the mouth; inhale through the nose. Ideally you use your tongue on the roof of your mouth as a kind of one-way valve. It opens when you exhale and shuts (with a slight noise during sanchin) when you inhale so that you must breathe in through the nose. Make sure that your mouth and nose do NOT restrict air movement during this rapid breath.

6) Make your breath movement from as low an area in your abdomen as possible. You should NOT breathe with your chest or shoulders. Ideally you can keep the muscles over your solar plexus firm and have all externally-observable breath movement happen from around the navel. That type of abdominal control is advanced and TAKES PRACTICE!!!

Play with these principles for a while and then get back with specific questions. Good luck!

Bill

[This message has been edited by Bill Glasheen (edited 01-15-99).]

[This message has been edited by Bill Glasheen (edited 01-18-99).]


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 1999 5:45 am 
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Location: Merced, CA, USA
After my recent Sankyu test, I was told by the senior test board member that I was working too hard at breathing. My own sensei has tried to explain the concept of natural breathing (while still in a hard Sanchin stance), but the concept seems to be just beyond my grasp. Perhaps someone else's slant on the subject might give me the insight needed to understand what I'm being told? Thanks.

Mike Siegel
Brown's Martial Arts
Merced Kenyukai
Merced, CA


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 1999 8:32 pm 
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Mike

Sometimes an analogy helps.

Often I have difficulty explaining how this breathing can work. I use an animal example to point out how it can work very well indeed. Dolphins and whales are mammals - like humans - with lungs. As in sanchin breathing, they must spend the majority of their time in a breath holding mode. When they need a breath, they come up to the surface, blow out the bad air, and take in some good air. Obviously they do this quite well as they apply this breathing method for a lifetime.

Try it yourself. Get into a swimming pool and practice keeping your head just below water. Whenever you need a breath just poke your head up, blow out, and inhale. Maybe you won't get the mouth and nose thing down right away, but you can at least establish the rhythm. Do it until you can breathe like this indefinitely. Once you have practiced this until it is easy to do, you are part of the way there to doing the sanchin kata breathing. You also have practiced a very effective drown-proofing technique.

Perhaps we should have adopted a fourth animal, no?

Bill


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 1999 1:35 am 
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Location: N. Andover, Ma. USA
With Glasheen Sensei's statement ~ "Ideally you use your tongue on the roof of your mouth as a kind of one-way valve. It opens when you exhale and shuts (with a slight noise during sanchin) when you inhale so that you must breathe in through the nose."

With the tongue on the roof of the pallette you are also connecting the Governing and Conception Vessels (Meridians) the main energy paths according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 1999 2:03 am 
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Hello Bill Sensei, Evan-san and Mike-san,

Just my two cents on breathing...

Breathing is definitely one of the most difficult things to teach - I try to explain to my students that even though you have the audible sound at the exhalation, it should still be a "natural" breath so that there is no exertion. One thing that we do to work on this is during the sanchin check - we press a finger or a fist into the abdomen and have the student try to push the fist or finger out with their abdominal muscles - both on the inhale and the exhale.

To learn the proper muscles to use during the exhale (which seems to be more difficult) I tell them that the muscles are the same ones that they use when coughing - if they press their fingers in just above the navel and cough - they will feel the same type of muscle contraction that we are trying to get them to feel during exhalation.

Another thing we do during sanchin check is stand behind the student and lightly grab the student's outer waist - telling them to feel the breath where we are touching their waist - seems to work pretty well to have the student focus on the press of the instructor's fingers.

We sometimes discuss the breath as more cyclic - kind of like the breath-holding mode that you speak of Bill Sensei - but we explain it like this:

You never want to completely "empty" your breath - inhale to expand the lungs (from the abdomen, not the chest) at the very beginning of any exercise, or right after or during the bow. From there you exhale a little breath off the top, and inhale from the bottom, causing an "inner circle" of breath - some students are completely lost by this description - others can relate very well to the visual picture.

One more exercise we do for learning breath is after the situp section of supplementary exercises. I have the students lay flat on the floor, relax completely, and place their hands over their navel trying to make it rise and fall as they inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. After a few breaths I have them place their hands on their upper chest to make sure that it is not rising and falling with the breaths.

Just a couple things to try. Keep working at it - but not too hard!


------------------
Peace,
Lori


[This message has been edited by Lori (edited 01-18-99).]


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 1999 7:39 am 
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Location: Flagstaff, AZ
Howdy Folks -

As a long tme student and fan of Bill-Sensei, I have only one thing to add. I believe that one of our primary purposes in Sanchin practice is to separate breathing from activity. By this I mean breathing exactly when I want to, not when my motions (or even emotions) demand that I do so. Exhaling while striking is a weapon, one that can extend available power (i.e. Kiai) while introducing additional vulnerabilities. It must be used carefully, and be under total conscious control. As with all karate practice, I believe that the ideal is greater body control. Breathing, as both a voluntary and involuntary action, becomes a major focus of this type of control. Generally, I sell my students on the idea that they should control (and decide) when they choose to breathe. Separation of motion and breathing is paramount to this type of control, and I only insist on it within Sanchin. Beyond this kata, I ask students to "hide" their breathing from others except when they are "punctuating" some portion of their interpretation of the kata.

Enough - that's more than I say in my usual month. Hope this adds a different side to the discussion.

Chris Long
Way out in Arizona


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 1999 3:47 pm 
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Location: Merced, CA, USA
Thanks for all the replys and advice, folks.

I don't think I've seen anything here that I haven't been told before, so at least I know that I've been struggling in the right direction.

It appears that I do understand what to do; it's actually more a case of bringing my breathing around to catch up with what the rest of me is doing - I'm 42 years old, have only been studying for a short time, and trying to move over 300 pounds around in a series of hard katas is going to leave me fighting for air.

The hypoxic breathing (don't breathe) that is called for is apparently the incorrect breathing, according to general sports physiology; while I understand the martial requirement for such "hidden breathing", it is extremely difficult when one is sucking wind just to get through the katas. I will continue to pursue it, however.

Thanks again...


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 1999 7:59 pm 
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Location: Richmond, VA --- Louisville, KY
Mike

In the end we personalize the message. That's why I first commented that it would be ideal to work directly with you. Good karate instructors and masters often make exceptions and suggest crutches or compensatory mechanisms to make the clothes fit the person (and not the other way around).

From you comments, I sense you are on the right path - from many perspectives. Check back in any time for more validation and perspective. Good luck with both your karate and health.

Bill


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 1999 9:45 pm 
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Mike

Being "short of breath" has many different meanings in many different situations. An observant outsider emphasized to me that - given your specific physical condition - there could indeed be more than what meets the eye.

I want to stress to all how important it is to receive good health care while undergoing an exercise regime. This is especially important as we advance in age and extend beyond the boundaries of normal (whatever that is) physiologic specifications. I was perhaps TOO SUBTLE in my last post. It's very important that you and your doctor have a good understanding of your cardiovascular status. Once he/she gives you the green light, work within your limits.

And more importantly, ENJOY YOURSELF!

Bill


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 1999 4:54 am 
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I'd like to throw this out for feedback. I understand the rationale for classical Uechi-Ryu Sanchin breathing. I, in fact, practice it (most of the time.)
I read from Evan Sensei in an earlier posting, that he practices the Sanchin as a qigong and as such, I assume uses a Taoist breathing pattern rather than classical Uechi breathing.
I see Sanchin as a multidimensional phenomenon which can lend itself as a vehicle for any number of avenues of research and consequently I too often train Sanchin as a qigong and work to cultivate energy pathways out to the fingertips. My Wing Chun Sifu, Randy Williams likens this practice to driving a car over a grassy or dirt road - the more you do it, the clearer the tracks (meridians.)
As a devotee of lifting heavy weights every chance I get, I also appreciate the power generated or at least augmented by holding the breath during a given phase of the arc of the lift. Additionally it increases intra-abdominal pressure which acts as a natural lifting belt to help stabilize the spine and when combined with the correct Sanchin posture serves as a component of iron shirt to "seal" the internal workings.
Here's the rub. When I trained in a boxing gym I was taught to exhale (through the nose) on the application of each discrete technique (it wasn't exactly explained that way!) If you observe champion boxers you'll notice that this is exactly what they do so it's not simply a learning strategy that has transitional value for a newcomer to the art.
This apparent contradiction is puzzling to me - anyone have any thoughts?
Good training,
David

[This message has been edited by David Elkins (edited 01-21-99).]


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 1999 2:25 pm 
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Hello all,

Another technique in practicing Sanchin breathing as well as movement is placing a bamboo pole on the hara, or just below the navel, of two students. One uke does the Sanchin thrust/step combinations with particular emphasis of dropping the breath to the hara, breathing through the pole/pushing with the breath before you take a step -- similar to what Lori described in using a fist or fingers on the abdominal muscles.

I've also laid down on the floor and placed a rock or good-sized stone on my one-point and practiced my inhale/exhale as I breathed to and through the stone. Some students have had some success with this technique, too.

Jackie O


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 1999 3:22 pm 
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David

In addition to my Uechi training, I spent years doing Seikichi Toguchi's brand of Goju Ryu. The goju sanchin takes an entirely different approach to breathing. This different approach then transitions into the other classical forms.

First of all you must understand that there is goju ryu and then there is goju ryu. I never did the vein-popping displays that you see among some stylists. One is not supposed to make sound for sound's sake. The goal of goju sanchin is to use dynamic tension in conjunction with restricted breathing (using the throat and the nostrils as restrictors) to provide resistance to movement. This type of training makes sense when you don't have a modern gym down the street. Once you go to the advanced kata, you remove the internal muscular tension and open up the throat and nostrils.

The "common" breathing pattern in goju classical kata is to inhale with blocks and to exhale with strikes and thrusts. It makes sense when you consider that a startle reflex makes you inhale suddenly; you are merely going with what is natural. Exhaling then is the other half of the motion, and it "feels" natural to do with a strike.

In the weight room we exhale with the extention of a weight to keep the intrathoracic pressure from getting too high. We use our throat or nose like the weight on the top of a pressure cooker. Doing this consistently ensures that you don't spend an excessive amount of time in extremes of pressure. Having SOME kind of restriction - as you say - makes it easier to keep a solid midsection which can help protect the spine and employ efficient body mechanics.

But when you go from the high resistence of pushing a weight or throwing a body to the lower resistence of extending the arm out quickly, doing this in conjunction with an exhale becomes more of an equivocal proposition. It's EASIER to contract everything (including the diaphram which translates to an exhale) when you thrust out. But it doesn't necessarily mean you gain that much. If it didn't matter one way or another, we would just be "laissez faire" about it and most Uechika would also exhale with the strikes. But some feel that you are uniquely vulnerable at the end of an exhale. If so, then your breath-linked thrust is a message to your opponent.

One of the trademarks of Uechi ryu is the development of simultaneous contraction and relaxation in the body. We spend lots of time keeping the forearms, fingers, and toes firm while relaxing other muscles in the thigh and upper arms. Years of training allows one to create some amazing contrasts in the body. If it were EASY, probably more could do it. It is not easy. However the fact that we NEED to spend more time with these contrasting muscular contraction patterns - because we emphasize the shoken and sokusen - makes it EASIER for us to entertain a sophisticated, stealth breathing pattern as a possibility. And once the technique hits the target and the "high resistence" phase of the motion begins, we do not need to apply as much pressure because we are hitting with a smaller surface area. An exhale at this point might be considered "overengineering" the force.

So if we have freed our breath from the shackles of movement (in many but not all circumstances) then the movement can take on a different, faster nature than it would if it were one with the lungs and diaphram. Suddenly we have opened the door to rapid-fire attacks with unpredicatable timing. Neat!

Hope this helps.

Bill

[This message has been edited by Bill Glasheen (edited 01-22-99).]


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 1999 8:01 pm 
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Hi Bill, yes your post helps a lot - thanks. Your discussion of "equivocal propositions" helped me to reflect on the fact that very little of anything is black or white - a constant struggle to observe. The relative advantages in power of coordination of the breathing cycle reminded me of Sifu Augustine Fong's comment when questioned about the potential power lost in the classic Wing Chun punch..."If I can kill you by running you over with a VW, why do I need to run you over with a truck?"
I remembered when I woke up this morning one reason the advice was given in the boxing gym - so that you would keep your mouth shut and lessen the potential to have your jaw broken! Perhaps a combat application of Sanchin breathing, using the same cycle but exhaling through the nose as well as inhaling? Seems like the same respiratory mechanism would work.
Jackie - My first Uechi dojo was big on using bowling pins for body conditioning but another application was to hold the pin with both hands - small side against the solar plexus and walk through Sanchin. Its a helpful drill to cultivate that sense of focusing in different body parts that Bill Sensei was talking about above. In addition it assures that you're not breathing from the "top."
Good training,
David


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 1999 8:39 pm 
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David

Don't forget that you have a mouthpiece in boxing! Not so on the street. It may be easier to keep the teeth clenched and still exhale through the mouth when the mouthpiece is gone.

Bill


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 Post subject: Breath Control?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 1999 1:01 am 
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How many times have we seen students at all levels turn beet red and have difficulty completing their katas with uniform power , especially under the stress of dan testing ! The Uechi method of breathing can be a double edged sword , especially when it seeks to assert itself involuntarily, due to training , under the jolt of the chemical cocktail !

According to Siddle , today's scientists have begun to dispel the ancient martial arts philosophies of the relationship between breathing and combat performance when exposed to survival stress !

" Hyperventilation is a stress response which induces immediate changes in the body . Symptoms associated with hyperventilation are impairments in memory , concentration and diminished discriminative or perceptual abilities .All these functions are critical to survival awareness and reaction time "

In many real life confrontations , people just stop breathing , their lungs go on fire and they collapse , even as trained martial artists ! As sensei Rose points out , try yourself out against a redman suit drills and see how fast you sink !

We simply must free our breathing as we train without even a hint of restriction ! I have had cases of people dying for lack of oxygen acting upon pre-existing medical conditions while hyperventilating under the stress of a serious auto accidents ! The Uechi method may exacerbate underlying latent problems , especially in older people locked in a stress event , i.e., dan test !

I train and teach my students to follow the Uechi method only in Sanchin ! The remainder of the forms , bunkais , sparring , bag work etc. , use a natural breathing cycle { breathe as you must} , even as I thrust ! I have not noticed, in my case anyway , any slowed efficiency in power generation or speed of combinations ! The difference , if any , is too minute to really matter in my opinion !

Look at the top boxers throw blinding fast combinations while exhaling , they do not restrict their breath ; to do so is folly !

Van Canna


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