Saturday, June 11, 2011

A budo story about the importance of breath

The following story was one of Sensei Nishiyama (and mine) favorite stories and he told it to us at least every 4,5 months, usually when the focus of training was on breath and timing.

An old sword master had to choose a successor between his 2 top students.

He decided to test them, and the test would be how many times they can cut a falling water drop.

They had a week to prepare, and they both train very hard, all day.

The first student practiced over and over, actually cutting a falling water drop.

The second student did not touch the sword; he practiced “cutting” the falling water drop with his breath and imagination.

Guess who won the test…you are right! At the day of the test the student who practiced cutting with the breath won and became the successor.

On the one hand we say that breath initiates the technique, and on the other breath catches the opponent’s rhythm and reaction is by breath, so reaction and action are one.

It is not as simple as that since breath is at top of the pyramid, and to get to the level that we can initiate and control all aspects of technique with breath and intention, there are lots of skills that have to be acquired.

The breath has to match and control internal muscle action and external body action and technique, it has to initiate action as chain reaction from the ground up, using optimal stance and posture and all parts of kinetic chain are linked. It has to use the right amount of motion and muscle action in the right time, from start to kime.

And only when all those skills are digested we can talk about breath reaction, which means, by passing the brain, not over analyzing and judging, which cause over information, than doubt, hesitation, unstable emotion.

Only when we allow breath reaction we can see the information that is available before the opponent even moves, we can catch his intention, allowing the natural breath reflex to work for us will also heightened our sensitivity, and ultimately bring us to level of “not knowing – yet knowing”. Seeing the opponent action is too late.

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