Breathing control in Karate

 Breath Control and ‘Kiai’

Breath-control has been described as being ‘zen itself in its physiological aspect’. Even

before schools of Zen existed the relation of breath-control to awareness was a major

preoccupation of Indian ‘yoga’ and chinese ‘taoism’.

One’s rhythm of breathing is, after all, affected by either the physical or mental state that

one is in. When exhausted after training, one breathes heavily; when excited, one breathes

quickly; when one laughs, the emphasis is on the outbreath; when one cries, or is afraid, the

emphasis is on the inbreath. But also it can work the other way: one can affect the mental and

physical condition by controlling one’s rhythm of breathing.

The use of ‘kiai’ (or a shout) in Karate is one aspect of a wide application of breathcontrol.his confidence will tendstable – this point is certainly important to karate.simply by breathing! – is to exercise the advanced martial art of ‘kiai-jutsu’. This

In order to shout one must breathe out. The obvious point is that sharp exhalation tends

to contract the muscles, and particularly the abdominal muscles the use of which is essential for

any really solid technique. Another point is that by emphasizing the out-breath (by the same

token as that by which one emphasizes the out-breath while laughing) one tends to increase one’s

confidence, and if this is communicated with the ‘kiai’ to your opponent

to be correspondingly undermined. A further point is that one’s vision is clearer (look at a page

of print and breathe out sharply) and reactions quicker during exhalation. It follows from all these

points, not only that one should breathe out at the moment of attack, but also that the moment

of attack should come when your opponent has just emptied his lungs and can therefore only

breathe in.

Don’t imagine that a loud shout is necessarily a strong ‘kiai’. It must be full of aggression

and come from the stomach. Breathing into the stomach rather than (or as well as) into the chest

is in fact a rule common to all the oriental disciplines, spiritual or otherwise, that are concerned

with breath-control. Breathing in this way does increase lung capacity, but in addition contributes

a sense of well-being perhaps physically connected with the resultant lowering of the centre of

gravity. One feels more

Breathing into your stomach must become a habit and then your ‘kiai’ will be spontaneous

and effective even when not necessarily loud. To begin with, however, you must simply

remember to shout loudly from the bottom of your belly when you perform a technique. In due

course, you will perhaps master ‘kiai’ in its real sense, and will then often be able to overcome

an opponent without fighting at all! To be able to convey so much confidence and will-power

as to do this –

might be said to be the perfect finished form to which all the martial arts aspire.