How Breathing Affects Your Jiu Jitsu Game
Breathing is a simple action. So simple in fact, that most people don’t take breathing seriously during jiu jitsu. It’s true that most of the time, you won’t notice your lungs filling up with air unless you think about it, or unless you’re tired, angry, or scared.
Odd breathing can be a sign that you’re out of shape, but it can also be a sign that you’ve been psychologically rattled. Not only do you look visibly disoriented to your sparring partner–your body will also struggle to maintain high energy levels as you huff and puff, completely wasting your energy.
DON’T WASTE ENERGY
To avoid wasting energy and breath, make sure that each breath and movement you make work together to achieve a purpose, such as getting out of half guard, or taking the back. Your breathing serves as a way of pacing yourself during a sparring bout, and although few realize it, it’s as good of a defense as stage 1. This is because slow, focused breathing helps you calm down and think clearly, which allows you to come up with ways to free yourself from someone’s mount or defend against a submission.
If you’re breathing becomes wild, it means that more than likely, you’re not paying attention to anything that you’re supposed to be doing, such as making sure to keep a well-balanced posture (back straight and head up or head low on your opponent’s chest depending on the situation).
This scattered breathing will tire you out, and the second you begin to get tired, your grip starts to loosen and your weight on your opponent will start to slacken. It’s easy to give in once you’ve literally breathed yourself into a corner and have to fight just to get your opponent back into half guard so you can catch your breath.
FOCUS YOUR BREATHING
Because breathing is one of the cornerstones of self-defense, you should initially try to focus on proper breathing and maintaining your balance before you get brave enough to attempt a submission.
Remember, there’s no such thing as bottled lightning, and even talented students will eventually trip themselves up if they’re always “going for things”. Jiu jitsu is based on immobilizing parts of your opponent for a reason–it’s a game of chess. You can’t just attack and hope that your wild scrambling will turn the tide in your favor. You have to be patient and calculating with the situation you’ve been given, and work your way to a better position with small, crucial steps, all of which center around breath, balance, and position.
So if you’re breathing is uneven, expect it to be a long bout, because you’ll be struggling for breath due to being rolled on, mounted, and eventually submitted.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
It’s not a good place to be initially, but it is the perfect moment to practice staying calm in an otherwise dangerous situation. Take the time to appreciate that your sparring partners aren’t actually trying to hurt you, and use the safe space of the mat to mentally prepare yourself to remain calm and breathe lightly even when someone is crushing you with their weight.
One day, you might find yourself having to defend yourself against someone, and by then, you’ll have already overcome the hardest part: your own panic.