Saturday, 27 June 2009

Tai Chi Breathing

One of my tai chi teacher friends had a student who was very diligent in his practice (let's call him 'Bob'). When asked whether he was happy with the move he had learned, Bob would say the same thing...

"It's ok, but I will get it right when I learn the breathing."

He went to a seminar with Chen Xiaowang and asked "How can I breathe correctly?"

Master Chen said "Breathe in."

Bob breathed in.

Then Master Chen asked him to breathe out. Bob breathed out earnestly.

"Breathe in," Master Chen said.

Certain that he was on the verge of some great discovery, Bob breathed in again.

"Breathe out," said Master Chen.

As Bob exhaled, a smiling Master Chen said "You've got it." and returned to the rest of the lesson.

Some FAQ's about breathing

How to breathe?

Breathe from the stomach, like singers do. If your chest is being expanded and contracted, you are breathing wrong. As you breathe in, your stomach should expand, and as you breathe out, the stomach should return. There should be no excessive effort to the breathing, and there should be no point where the breath is held.

When to breathe

If you are practicing your form, you should breathe out when you are releasing energy - even if your movements are slow. Inhaling should be done when you gather energy for a strike. The speed of breath should indicate the speed of the movement. So an understanding of the self defense aspects of your movements is key to getting the breathing right. As most moves have more than one practical application, you can choose which point to exhale and inhale.

What if I forget where I am with breathing?

Believe it or not, this is a very common mistake amongst beginners - especially when they are concentrating hard. My advice is... If in doubt, breathe out.

What about reverse breathing?

This is not something I can teach you without one-to-one direct tuition. My advice is to seek out someone who can train you properly. Also, understand that reverse breathing, while excellent for training, can cause damage if you keep doing it outside the training room.

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