How to Breathe to Prepare Yourself for a Fight?

by Vladimir Vasiliev
When an untrained person perceives danger, his heart rate and blood pressure go up, while the breathing gets disrupted – he usually holds his breath for a short time. As a result of stress, there is tension and restriction of movement so full breathing becomes impossible. Thus, the heart is working harder, the blood flows to the muscles, while there is not enough oxygen supply.

In Systema, breath preparation is fairly simple – at the first sign of stress – begin to breathe and accelerate your breathing in accordance with your heart rate. Breathe in though the nose and out though the mouth.
Taking air in though the nose is very important. We can easily see how a full inhale though the nose is a sign of relaxation, while inhaling through the mouth tenses up the upper breathing muscles.

Proper breathing helps to maintain the body in the straight and balanced position; it provides stability and allows one to strike with just enough power, this way, you are not hitting emotionally or out of fear. Moreover, it promotes conscious and calm condition psychologically. Proper breathing precedes the stress reaction and prevents it from developing. Since this type of breathing is conscious, it prevails over the unwanted unconscious reactions.

As you accelerate your breathing, you gain muscle tone and readiness to move without the stress. It allows you to reach the state of readiness to fight comparable to your attacker very quickly in a controlled way, to catch up instantly to his level of readiness but without any of damaging side effects to your health.

The surge of adrenalin under stress may enable you to react quickly, even without the breathing, but there is a big difference. You would be prone to injury and strain to all your body systems, and you will never gain true power and control.

Proper breathing begins to control your fear and then removes it all together. The end result of this practice is your body’s readiness to move effectively without straining and injuries, and clear understanding of the situation.


Regardless of the experience level, many of the Systema practitioners do the so-called ‘extra movements’ in anticipation of contact. While preparing to receive contact from the partner, we try to relax our body and do visible wave-like movements through the arms shoulders and chest loosening up the body. These preliminary movements are extra – not needed. In fact, they lead to loss of precision and limit the ability to react, because once you initiate this wave of movement you will have to carry it through fully and that will interfere with your freedom of movement, accuracy and power.

So what can we do to avoid this? It is fairly simple. At the initial stage of training, at the sight of threat – inhale. This will stabilize your body and your psychological state. Then as contact is being made – react on your exhale.

Once you master that and your training progresses, you become calmer – then it will not matter to you if contact happens on your inhale or exhale. You will react efficiently to your partner regardless of what stage of the breathing cycle you happen to be at. To control your extra movements, you may also get visual feedback by watching yourself in the mirror or recording yourself on tape.

A good teacher observing you may also be helpful. I also highly recommend watching Mikhail Ryabko and noticing his calmness and seeming lack of movements yet at the same time, his immense power and control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *