One of biggest assets in a real fight is to be able to move naturally. And there is no more natural bodily function then breathing.
Yet in Karate, I believe that one of the biggest problems over the years has been an over emphasis on the exhalation at the end of the technique. In fairness to other styles, I should point out that most of my experience is with Shotokan Karate so it may not apply to other styles quite so much. But if everybody is honest, I don’t think that Shotokan is completely alone with this fault.
An over-emphasis on exhalation at the end of a technique, especially if the exhilation continues after the technique is competeled will unnecessarily waste energy, create pauses between techniques (where your opponent could counter) and create stiffness and tension in the movements. Not only is this counter productive for self defence, but it not the healthiest way for the body to move either.
I would guess that a lot of this come about because many of Funakoshi’s early students where lost during the War. After the war, Funakoshi was quite old and not able to steer the teaching quite so much. Also Karate was dumbed down a lot for political and social reasons (see my 5 part video course for more info) so more emphasis was placed on the physical development.
Over the decades Shotokan Karate (and probably most other styles) has progressed and become much more fluid and relaxed (hence more effective). Some of the very senior Karate masters like Kanazawa, Kase and Abe have also studied Tai Chi (as does my Sensei) and have brought some of that knowledge back into their Karate. There are still many who do it the old way tense way, but it’s changing.
However, I think that for the majority, the details of breathing are seldom broken down in the way I’ve been taught. So I’ve put together a couple of videos to help anybody who is not quite sure of how it should be done.
Ironically, the way it performed in the more modern versions of Shotokan is quite similar to how it is done in the more modern versions of Tae Kwon Do where they use the sine-wave movement. Although Shotokan does not rise up and down like the sine-wave, both breath in during the first half of the step to get relaxation and fluidity and exhale in the second half of the technique. It is explained a bit more in the following video’s which I hope you enjoy.