Tag Archives: Alternative Health

Shibumi – Kata Framework: Breathing

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient             link:  https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Shibumi Kata Breathing

In order to perform Shibumi Kata for optimum effect it is necessary to breath efficiently. To do so requires breathing in a natural method and in an appropriate manner.

Breathing Methodology:

At birth we breathed naturally. In a desire to breath better than nature intended, we devolved our breathing into what we perceived as more efficient.

To illustrate this point, stop reading and take a deep breath. The majority of you probably sought to ‘fill your lungs with air” by expanding your upper chest, raising your shoulders, arching your back and contracting your abdomen. Some of you may have even accomplished this deep breath by inhaling through the mouth. This method of inhalation and exhalation is unnatural, inefficient and must be corrected immediately.

The methodology of Shibumi Kata breathing is a three step process. First is the development of the natural method of inhalation and exhalation. The second step is the method of deep abdominal breathing. The third and final step is the manner of breathing.

Inhalation and exhalation:

You must now remember a very basic, but all to often forgotten, cardinal rule of breathing, to wit: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without giving a lesson in biology, the nose was specifically designed for the inhalation of oxygen and the other beneficial gases contained within our atmosphere.

To facilitate proper inhalation and exhalation, I have developed is an easy technique.

Consciously make an effort to inhale through the nose. While inhaling, close your mouth and emphatically press your tongue upwards against the roof of your mouth. By performing this maneuver, it is difficult, if not impossible, to open your mouth and breath in. Therefore, the only alternative means available for inhalation is to utilize the nose for its intended purpose. Now to complete the act of breathing, you will need to exhale. To exhale you open your mouth and allow the air to flow outward. You do not exhale through the nose. To facilitate the use of the mouth during exhalation, as you open your mouth, emphatically press the tongue downward against the bottom of your mouth. By using your tongue in this manner, you will be physically conscious of the manner in which you inhale and exhale. You may note that your exhalation now produces a somewhat audible sound. This sound is akin to a mild roar, much like the sound of ocean surf.

Continue to practice inhaling and exhaling in this manner. When the act of breathing again occurs naturally through the nose and out the mouth, you can de-emphasize the emphatic use of your tongue as described above.

Abdominal breathing:

The next step in the physical process of Shibumi Kata breathing is to efficiently fill your lungs with air. Please take careful note that I did not define this step as filling your chest with air. Filling the chest cavity with air implies the use of only the upper portion of the lungs, and does not therefore fill the lungs with air. As a direct result, there is an inefficient exchange of gases within the body. To achieve efficiency, you need to inhale and exhale through the lower abdomen.

The following simple exercise is designed to acquaint you with this concept. Lie down on your back and relax. While lying on your back, rest your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen, commonly referred to as your “belly“. This placement of the hands does not facilitate breathing, rather, your hands will provide an added sensory indication of the proper breathing method through the sense of touch.

Open your mouth, as previously described, relax your belly and allow the natural force of gravity to decompress your belly, thus expelling air through your mouth. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to lower with your belly. Now, close your mouth, pressing your tongue on its roof and inhale through the nose. As you inhale, willfully direct the air to the lower belly so as to force it to expand and rise upwards. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to rise with your belly. You will again exhale by opening your mouth, pressing your tongue downward, relaxing and decompressing your belly so as to exhale. Allow your hands to lower and decompress with your belly. The duration of exhalation should be slightly longer than the inhalation. Both processes should be completely relaxed. Continue to breathe in this manner for a period of about five minutes.

As you practice this breathing you can increase the duration of the floor exercise to about five minutes. You can also remove the hands from your belly and place them in a relaxed position at the sides of your body.

As you become accustom to this method of inhalation and exhalation, you can perform the exercise while in the standing position. Stand in a relaxed manner with your feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent. Keep your head raised and your back straight (there will be more discussion on that directive later). Place your hands at your side and begin the abdominal breathing. Again, if necessary, you may place your hands on your belly to facilitate the sense of proper breathing. At this juncture, you will begin breathing more naturally and efficiently. You can and should now incorporate this breathing methodology into your daily routine. We have all experienced points in time throughout our day where either we told ourselves, or were told by others, to “Relax and take a deep breath.” Well, my dear readers, now you know how to properly do just that!

Manner of breathing:

The next phase in the Shibumi breathing is to perform the act of inhalation and exhalation in a specific manner. In  Karate-Do we referred to the manner of breathing as either “Hard” or “Soft“. It is important to remember that the methodology of inhalation and exhalation remains the same as described above. Only the manner of breathing is altered as follows.

Soft breath is a relaxed form of breathing. The body remains relaxed as air is gently inhaled in a steady manner. Once inhalation is complete, exhalation begins. During the process of exhalation, the body remains relaxed and air is expelled softy and in a steady manner. The process then begins a new.

Hard breath is the direct opposite of soft breath. The inhalation of air is swift and crisp. Hard inhalation is, therefore, more audible than soft inhalation. During inhalation, the body remains relaxed. Once inhalation is complete, exhalation occurs in a prolonged and crisp manner. This results in an audible “roar” that sounds much like the surf in the ocean.

Hard exhalation is coupled with a state of movement known as “dynamic tension“. Dynamic tension generally means that the ALL muscles are hardened, sinew and tendons are strengthened and the abdomen is tight and hard. The process of exhalation is more prolonged than the process of inhalation.

When breathing is combined with the three states of the Shibumi strategy, we can see that:

The default (everyday state) water state involves soft inhalation & hard exhalation or hard inhalation with soft exhalation. The “hard” aspect involves dynamic tension.

The steam state involves soft inhalation with soft exhalation (and a gentle flow of the muscles).

The ice state involves hard inhalation and hard exhalation with a dynamically tensed body.

In the Shibumi Kata, the three states flow with the breath to combine with the tactics (the physical movements movements of Shibumi) to control and modify your physical and psychological state.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,



Sensei John Szmitkowski

© Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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