The obsession with breathing:

Within the Black Belt Test Guide e-Book, I've included a number of video clips attempting to help students understand the role of breathing in the Uechi system. Unlike some methods where there is an obsession on "when" to breathe, I teach breathing as something that must be practiced at "all" times, with number and types of breaths varying, but never stopping.

Forced heavy breathing is certainly an option and although I don't subscribe to it, some people may find it best for the way they perform kata and drills. In my estimation, no breathing method will compensate for an unfit body. Too often seniors argue over things that only focuses attention on the mundane and insignificant areas of what we are supposed to be teaching. Faulting the Uechi-ryu majority because they don't breath the way others do is silly, especially since fit athletes spend so little time worry how they breathe during intense physical exertion. (Watch Joe Pomfret clip as he "walks the walk". I don't hear a single "heavy" breath as he punches, kicks or grapples. Hmmm. It seems as though some are obsessing about how we can provide the unfit karate student with a magic pill. . . breathe a certain way and you will be superior to those "other" Uechi heretics, who dare to breathe another way.

Since Uechi-ryu comes from Fuzhou, China, I thought this first clip of another version of a Fuzhou Sanchin might be in order. (Taken by Simon Lailey) Of course I also have this same teacher performing other kata where he is exhaling during a thrust. Perhaps Sanchin is, as I've been preaching for many years, a drill/set that "breaks" with the conventional and teaches the student to breathe where normally the student "locks" up and holds his breath, but in action, the student trained in the Fuzhou Sanchin method, breathes naturally and continually. Of course, this all takes some "thinking out of the box", which is difficult. Often it is easier to just follow the crowd and not have to think or be different.

The second clip was also taken in Fuzhou China, of a very strong, well conditioned martial art athlete. Note no "heavy" breathing. . . just well conditioned athletic movements. Perhaps we should focus a bit more on what is really important and not simply look to ridicule people who dare to be different.

Don't be intimidated by people who follow a different path. Think for yourself and most importantly. . . Don't sell your Uechi-ryu short!

George E. Mattson


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