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Pattern breathing


Breathing is not as simple as just unconsciously inhaling and exhaling. There are four distinct parts to breathing (inhale, hold, exhale, and hold), and the speed, depth, and duration of each part may be consciously altered to form a breathing pattern. Through practice, it is possible to train the body to unconsciously breathe in a pattern. The following are some breathing patterns.

In-out breathing

In-out breathing is a pattern in which inhales are synchronized with performing a block, and exhales are synchronized with an attack. As stated before, you have greater power when exhaling than when inhaling.

The body is hardened during exhales, so it may absorb a blow while closing range during an attack. Since blocks usually use deflections, less strength is required for blocks than for attacks. Also, inhaling expands and strengthens the chest for blocking techniques. Therefore, it is best to coordinate inhales to occur during blocks.

An attack’s primary purpose is to destroy its target but many times it must also overcome a blocking technique; therefore, maximum power is needed for attacks. Therefore, you should exhale during attacks. Since inhales occur continuously during movements, it is not necessary to plan an inhale. However, exhales may be planned, controlled, and used at the appropriate times.

The control phase is the period at the end of exhalation before the start of inhalation. Sometimes during intense concentration, such as thinking about the next chess move, we realize we are not breathing. This point always occurs after an exhale. It is the point of our optimal performance. It is also when we are at our stillest. In precision-based events, such as archery or marksmanship, athletes learn to fire the weapon during the control phase.

When sudden surprised by something, we flinch and make an instinctive quick inhale to prepare the body to operate anaerobically during any subsequent fight or flight. We freeze for a split second, like a “deer-in-the-headlights,” as the brain processes what has just occurred. In combat, it is best to attack immediately after the opponent is made to flinch before the he or she can react.


Outbreathing involves exhaling on every technique, block, and attack. Multiple techniques are executed using one exhale that continues from the first techniques until the end of the last technique.  Outbreathing allows you to quickly deliver multiple techniques and to exhale for power in all techniques.

Continuous disconnected breathing

Continuous disconnected breathing is simply inhaling and exhaling at a steady rate with no regard to whether you are blocking or attacking. This type of breathing is useful while performing patterns since it requires less energy and is relaxing. During sparring, it means there is no obvious breathing pattern that will alert an opponent to an attack. A disadvantage of this pattern of breathing is that the body is not hardened against any techniques that may slip through your defenses during exhalations.

Ibuki breathing

Ibuki breathing is a hoarse, heavy, noisy breathing pattern that involves contracting the muscles in an isometric fashion while breathing out strongly through the mouth. A noise is created by tightening the throat to provide resistance to the exhale. Many believe this resistance helps strengthen the abdominal muscles. It is used by karate stylists when they perform the sanchin pattern. Some people perform ibuki breathing silently.

Which breathing pattern is best?

Each pattern has its own advantages and disadvantages. No scientific studies have been done to confirm whether any breathing pattern has any significant effect on power or speed. Many seasoned black belts doubt the need to synchronize breathing with blocks or attacks. They feel that continuously disconnected breathing is the best way to breathe.

  • Hoopes, A. (2002). Breathing Training For Martial Artists. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 72); Generating Ki through Breathing. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 73); Stillness Training, The Basis of all Movement. Shotokan Karate Magazine. (Issue 72).
  • Sonnon, S. (2001). Oxygen Debt Does NOT Equal 'Cardio Training. Dvizheniye Journal July/August 2001. Available:

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