Judo breathing:

Breathing is the absolutely vital human function, however, technically speaking, in Judo breathing has just an auxiliary function as all physical activity in a short (up to ten minutes) fight performed in anaerobic mode. When you can’t stop breathing you should control it to make sure that it’s not interfering with your actions and, at least, not creating vulnerabilities.

The basic physiological rule under technique of combat breathing is very simple: when you on the phase of air inhale your muscles are relaxed and you can’t perform concentrated physical effort.

This fact is used in Karate and Karate-like striking techniques when they executed with a short shout (usually articulated as “ki-ya” as reference to “ki”-energy, even in full form “ki-ya” is too long of a word to be used). This shout creates the state of exhale that facilitates maximized physical concentration (one of physiological implementations of the “ki”-energy). Even more often used in striking, similar technique can be used in grappling as well.

Even Judo (and any other combat sport and self-defense) is anaerobic activity, everyone can see as in the real fight judokas heavily breathing, “grasping for air”. This happen because our body striving to replenish used internal (anaerobic) energy resources as soon as possible by using aerobic processes, even effect of it will be visible much later. This native physiological reaction creates distraction in your body dynamics that can cost you fight. Special Judo breathing techniques (based on Zen breathing) have been developed to reduce effects of such heavy breathing.

The basic breathing cycle rule applies to both – you and your opponent / adversary. Better understanding and control of the side-effects and dynamics of breathing induced relaxation-concentration cycle and ability to control and use its external manifestations giving you very significant advantage ether in a sport fight or in self-defense encounter.

While in Judo breathing can be a very broad and far reaching topic, we can shortly summarize its risk and opportunity as it relevant for Judo, combat sports, martial arts, and self-defense:


  • Progressive loss of efficiency during inhale phase with maximum vulnerability at its top
  • Loss of concentration during inhale phase


  • Maximum efficiency during exhale phase with culmination at its end
  • Using breathing cycle rhythm for movement timing and synchronization

Last point (breathing cycle rhythm & movement timing and synchronization) is worth book of its own. In Judo breathing is embedded deeply in every technique, but it has especially bold manifestation in strikes (everybody knows about it) and foot swipes (often forgotten).

When your opponent has firm contact with the ground to swipe his foot is a difficult proposition. However, it’s what often seen – foot swipe became just kick in a leg or static grab (depends on specific technique attempt). To do it right (and to take control over fight) you need to control not only your breathing, but your opponent too. Looks weird: how you can control your opponent breathing? As inhale phase not allow physical concentration, you can make your opponent to stay in exhale phase and shallow breath a bit longer then he’s comfortable by… making him to care you weight. As you applying pressure on him he doesn’t have an opportunity to take deep inhale. As you’ll reduce your pressure he’ll instinctively try to take deep (deeper) breath, he was deprived off. And this is your window of opportunity for effective attack.

(If, instead of taking deep breath, your opponent will reply to your reduced pressure by counterattack on the top of his exhale, than you met someone who is a true master. Don’t loose an opportunity to learn from him.)  

As the conclusion, the rules of combat breathing can be distillated to asimple do-and-don’s list:


  • Breath shallow
  • Attack when you at the end of exhale
  • When inhaling, double your defense vigilance
  • Use breathing cycle for technical synchronization


  • Don’t expose your breathing cycle
  • Don’t break grip when in inhale phase
  • Don’t change grip when in inhale phase
  • Don’t talk in a fight

This list is not all-inclusive, but following those basic rules will set you on the path of effective breathing.

Judo breathing: risks & opportunities and do & don’ts,

href="http://www.zen-deshimaru.com/EN/sangha/deshimaru/q-r/1507.htm" target="_new">Zen breathing in Judo


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