Tag Archives: Kata And Cancer

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.

A Kata Rx – Shibumi

1 Dec


A close acquaintance, I’ll call him “Dean” (after Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty), has asked me to do something.

Dean recently learned that he has (stage 3C) cancer. He underwent an eight hour abdominal surgery and now faces chemotherapy starting in about a month.

Dean has asked me to create a kata that will help him heal from surgery and build himself up to withstand the dilatory effects of the chemotherapy. Most importantly, he has asked that the kata not only address his changing physical needs, but also takes into account his changing psychological needs.

In effect, Dean has asked for a kata prescription.

To be sure, many kata have physical and psychological healing properties. However, the concept of “Take one Seienchin for strength and two Suparunpei for depression” simply will not work under Dean’s circumstances. To my knowledge, such a task of devising a kata for the specific needs of one individual has not previously been undertaking in karate-do. This project is the culmination of my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (Salvation From Within Oneself Through Kata).

Dean has provided the parameters for this assignment and I have added one of my own.

Dean has requested:

  • The kata be specifically created for his individual physical and psychological health needs;
  • While it will be created by me drawing upon my karate-do and kobudo experience, Dean will actively contribute ideas during the creative process;
  • The movements, breathing and concepts must be easy to learn by a person with no karate-do experience;
  • The kata must be usable by not only Dean, but also his caregiver;
  • Dean must be able to perform the kata in a limited space, in any environment, and at anytime;
  • The kata must be flexible so as to allow Dean to adjust for his oft-changing physical and psychological needs;
  • To this, I added the following requirement (not important to Dean) – while the main purpose of the kata is Dean’s physical/ psychological (spiritual) health, like any kata, it must have martial efficacy (else it would not qualify as a “kata”).

Hubris does not compel me to share this prescriptive concept of kata with you. Rather, I hope it awakens in you the idea to use your karate-do skills to develop a kata for the curative help of a person in physical or psychological need. As in Dean’s case, these efforts should be in conjunction with his physician.

The name of the prescriptive kata for Dean shall be

Shibumi” meaning “Understated elegance.”

Posts related to Shibumi shall be submitted in a new category of the same name. Again, though shared with you, these posts are directed towards Dean and his battle with cancer.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

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

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. Here is a convenient link a promotional video about the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

** If you experience any difficulty in purchasing online using the above links, please contact me via a “comment” on this blog & I will e-mail you instructions on how to purchase a Sanchin product using a check or money order ***

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

You may enjoy the Goshin-Do Karate-Do blog using the following link: WWW.DeFeliceRyu.Com

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

%d bloggers like this: