Breathing for Warriors

I went to a seminar on breathing (aka the breathing class) today. It was hosted by Osagame and run by Dr. Belisa Vranich (pictured left).

To me, some of the most interesting ideas that she touched on related to the “warriors” part of “breathing for warriors”. She often works with combat athletes on the physiological and psychological aspects of dealing with immense stress in competition through controlling breathing.

Since the audience of this class today ranged from zero martial arts experience to those that practiced jiu jitsu for 10+ years, I think Dr. Vranich adjusted to a slightly more general discussion and practice of breathing. So more than the many cool ideas she explained, the most important thing I took away is how important breathing is, and that breathing exercises have to become a daily part of my training.

Some Ideas on Breathing

She went over the basic anatomy of how we breath. From that, stemmed the discussion of using our diaphragm to get the most oxygen from every inhale: to breath with the whole body.

There are too many things to talk about here. The ideas are simple, but what makes them powerful is that most of us never think about it. We take breathing for granted. If in a tournament, I am driven to exhaustion and panic, I’ll blame poor cardio. While that’s partially true, getting control of breathing (this requires physical and mental practice) could’ve really helped make “bad cardio” less of a factor.

I will definitely write more about this subject in the future as I start practicing the various exercises she pointed me to. There is, of course, a close tie between meditation, breathing, and yoga. They help gain a better understanding of my mind and body. But at the end of the day, grappling is about kicking ass. The breathing just helps maintain focus and clean technique.

Combat Breathing

One of the cool things Dr. Vranich mentioned is “combat breathing” or “tactical breathing”. It’s a simple 4 count technique to gain control of your breathing after it speeds up due to intense activity or a stressful event.

So, in the world of grappling, it could be something you do between matches, or even in between aggressive exchanges. When I’m passing someone’s guard, I imagine that my heart rate must at times jam up against 200 rpm. And once I pass, I often get 3-10 seconds to regain my breathing and composure before going in aggressively for a submission. I don’t mean that I stall, but I think that a lot of the techniques I do from side control often require less energy than the chaotic process of passing guard.

Holding Your Breath for Time

At the start of the class, and again at the end, Dr. Vranich had us hold our breath for time. I’m sure there are many reasons for doing so, but for me it was fun because I’m competitive as hell. Surprisingly, I held my breath less than almost everyone else in the class, but I did improve a good amount after the long mediation session.

Matt (pictured left) beat almost everyone (probably to show off). I believe he was using performance enhancing drugs, but I can’t prove it yet 😉

In a way, not breathing made me more aware of how much my body needs oxygen, and how powerful this autonomic process is. It seems that gaining some control of it may pay off big in the competition.

PS: Thanks to Alma Qualli and everyone for putting this thing together.

0 thoughts on “Breathing for Warriors

  1. Dominique

    Hey Lex

    Do you think you can, touch on this subject again please. Am very interested on this subject but its so hard to find anything on the net about it. I am doing breathing exercises similar to Rickson Gracie, but more insight into this would be more than welcome.


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