How do Tai Chi and Kung Fu Masters view
the importance of the Lungs?
Breathing is the movement and symbol of life.
Your first breath was the beginning of your life. Your last breath will be the end of your life. Our entire lives are series of inhalations and exhalations. We can go without food or water for far longer than air. No one can survive longer than a few minutes without breathing.
Our goal is to keep breathing as long as possible. There are many martial arts techniques that attack the throat, nose, and mouth. Protecting these targets is vitally important. In a fight, or battle, if you become severely winded, you cannot defend yourself. Controlling your breath while performing vigorous martial arts is one of the secrets masters acquire through practice.
Practice your Breathing in Tai Chi and Kung Fu Therefore, when practicing, it is important to practice your breath control. First and foremost this means not holding your breath. Sometimes people hold their breath without even realizing
it. Other times people hold their breath because they are nervous, or afraid. When people are afraid they cannot sink their Qi, and their diaphragm muscle becomes tense. Then, they have a hard time breathing deep and fully filling their lungs.
With practice it is possible to learn to coordinate your breathing with your body movements. For example, inhaling when the chest is expanding and exhaling when the chest is shrinking. Practicing Qigong is helpful for this. The Muscle Tendon Changing Qigong is particularly good because it has many diverse movements that are clearly coordinated with the breath. Since these exercises were, in fact, designed to prepare people for martial arts it is not surprising that they help to coordinate your breathing patterns and movements. Tai Chi Chuan is also an excellent way to learn to control, and coordinate your breathing.
Evolve Your Breathing Method Naturally
At first, you’ll be breathing naturally and somewhat randomly. Later sometimes your
breaths will coordinate naturally. Gradually, you’ll start to feel your breathing and movements coordinate. Then you will be able to do a long movement with a long inhalation or exhalation, and have the breath begin at the beginning of the movement, and last the entire length of the movement, and finish as the movement finishes. Having a longer practice session really helps by giving your body and mind time to relax and tune into one another.
When you have made progress in working with your breath you’ll begin to feel like your movements are breathing you like a bellows. Your body movements open and close the body creating your inhalation and exhalation. Later, it
will start to feel like your breaths are creating and driving the movements. Both of these feel wonderful and after a while it will seem like they both happen together.
Another important part of breath control is breath recovery. This means after you do a huge Northern Shaolin form and are catching your breath how long does it take you to calm your breathing and prepare for your next form? The goal after you finish a form is recover your breath quickly and perform it again. This develops breath control and concentration. When you finish a form, review your performance in your mind, visualize the next repetition, and what you are going to improve next time.
Talking between forms totally destroys your development of breath control and detracts from your focus and concentration.
Practicing breath control and staying calm while sparring is a vital and important part of your training as a martial artist. Keep your mind centered and calm and your breathing will stay calm. Focus on exhaling as you punch and especially as you
kick. If you exhale you’ll inhale soon!!