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Focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This involves breathing in deeply through the nose, allowing the belly to expand, and then exhaling slowly through the mouth.

Today we are going to cover the topic of how to breathe properly for Martial Arts. We all know how to breathe, right? We even do it without thinking. And that is the core of the problem. We don't even know that we are doing it wrong! In this article, we will explain in detail how proper breathing is essential when it comes to Martial Arts.

Martial Arts Breathing

In Martial Arts, there is a very specific way how to breathe to generate more power. That way of breathing is helping us to recover throughout the round as well. Even and controlled breathing will result in more power and endurance. It will also result in more confidence and calmness.

Try to imagine that you are in a fight. You are still not engaged, just moving around the ring with your opponent. Your breathing rhythm is steady, everything is normal. But when you engage with your opponent everything changes. You aren't concentrating on your breathing anymore. That is the problem. You start to lose control of your body, just because you lost control of your breath.

Your biggest problem is holding your breath

It is kind of tough to regulate your breathing in a fight because you are in the middle of an attack. For example, you are in the fight, you throw three punches and you have to roll under your opponent's counter. You won't be breathing between the punches. Yet, you can't catch your breath while rolling underneath. Right?

The thing is - you inhale when you have the time for it. And often you don't feel like you have time for anything, at least not for breathing. But the thing is if you hold your breath while throwing punches - you will exhaust yourself real fast. Holding your breath through the punches will reduce their power. 

Exhaling on strikes

The point is to exhale on strikes. In Martial Arts, you need to exhale with every one of the punches you make. That will help you to produce more power no matter how many punches we are talking about. It could be two or it could be ten, you need to exhale every single time. Doing so will also improve your cardiovascular system and its endurance. Simply put - you will have more strength and your breath will last longer.

Next time you go to the gym, pay attention to other people while they work out. You will hear them hissing and making noises while punching or doing the heavy lifting. That "Shh" sound you hear is them exhaling. In Martial Arts we also use that sound, so we can hear ourselves as we exhale to make sure we do it right. If you don't like that particular noise, make some other, but the point is that you can hear yourself and make exhaling every time a habit.

As we mentioned already, it doesn't matter how many punches you throw. You just need to exhale every time you do it. Don't worry that much about inhaling, your body will inhale naturally. On the other hand, it won't exhale naturally. You have to train it to do so. The key is to be persistent and practice your breathing all the time. You can do that at the gym, at Martial Arts classes or even when you are at home.

You are afraid of running out of breath

The thing is that people are concerned that they will run out of breath when it comes to a sparring match. But that is one reason more why you should practice your breathing when training or when in a fight. Proper breathing will relax your muscles and get them more oxygen. If you don't breathe properly the level of carbon dioxide in your muscles will become high. Your energy will go low because of too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen.

To test this theory, go for a swim. Try to keep your head underwater as long as you can without breathing. After at least 20-30 seconds you will start to panic and your brain will send you signals that it needs oxygen. The same thing is happening in Martial Arts when you hold your breath for too long.

Find a way to relax your breathing.

The more you practice your breathing the more you will be aware of it and its benefits. Get into patterns and rhythm and you will see that your body will be grateful for that. Your moves will be lighter and you will have more energy, strength, and power. Get used to exhale and inhale with every defense and offense move. Try to catch your breath when you escape an opponent's punch. Try to breathe in while you are waiting for your opponents' move. Just find your rhythm and flow and - breathe as naturally as you can. The most important thing is that your breathing needs to be even and relaxed. There is no point in being stuck in the middle and holding your breath. You can't just inhale or exhale, you need to find a balance.

There is a situation that happens very often especially when you are a beginner - you are not able to realize your opponents' every move. You are about to hit him and to exhale while throwing a punch - but at that moment he might move. He is about to attack and you and you were about to exhale but you hold your breath, waiting for him to attack. That is a common mistake. You need to know to let it go. Learn to let your breath keep going even if the situation unpredictably changes.

Karate Breathing

Inhaling is not the problem

To be clear, inhalation is not the main problem here. Holding your breath instead of exhaling is much worse. If you forget to exhale, your body won't be able to inhale and that is how you run out of breath. You need to keep breathing while both attacking and defending yourself. Your opponent is thought to read your every move. He will know that you want to attack even before you do so. That is the opportunity for him to attack you before you get a chance to attack him. That is exactly what brings you to the situation where you hold your breath longer.

Stopping your breathing is equal to stopping your rhythm. Without regular breathing and rhythm, your defense will be weak and you won't be able to attack. Find a way to let that breath go and find your rhythm again. Keep in mind the importance of exhaling and inhaling all the time.

To improve your breathing imagine all the possible scenarios while practicing. Imagine that your opponent is getting away or him attacking you when you are about to attack him. Learning how to continuously breathe under all circumstances is essential. The most common situation where you forget to exhale is when you are about to attack and that attack doesn't happen. Learn how to let it go, re-catch it, restart and adapt to a new situation. 

Try not to be so busy thinking about your offense all the time. Yes, your offense is very important and you should keep it in mind, but you must not forget how to breathe. Do not be bothered, especially if you are a beginner, that your opponent knows your every move. Sometimes you won't be aware of what is happening but that is perfectly normal. Don't be too hard on yourself.

It is hard to control the situation but it is not impossible. It comes with persistence, training, and practice. Don't spend too much time worrying about that stuff. It is natural that in the beginning, you will struggle with all these things. We all were, but that doesn't mean that there is room for frustration. Don't waste all your hard work. Just learn that breathing and rhythm are the most important things. Everything else, like speed, power and endurance will come in time. 

Differences between Martial Arts and regular training

In Martial Arts, it is not like walking or going for a run. There are a lot of differences and disruptions that you need to deal with. You have to maintain your flow. Pay more attention to details, try to breathe evenly. Find time to reset and exhale every time you notice that you are holding your breath for too long. That will help you to build up your confidence, strength, power.

Consciously thinking about slowing your breathing is a way to go. Your brain and your body need that oxygen. You should never forget that. There is no point in just exhaling and inhaling in Martial Arts. Everything has to be measured and regulated. Slow down your breathing, inhale and exhale completely. Find what is best for your body. It is crucial to control your body and your mind. Controlling your breath will control your panic and anxiety and you will be thinking more clearly.


To summarize everything, breathing is the core of Martial Arts. Without proper breathing, everything else is wasted. To maintain regular breath flow you will need a lot of practice. But remember - once you get a habit out of it - the sky is the limit!