Take the 2-minute tour ×
Martial Arts Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students and teachers of all martial arts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm doing a Tai Chi class and am pretty much a novice at it, so I also youtube'd around and read a lot. I'm now confused about breathing.

My class teacher (old guy, but aren't they all?) says for the first movement (lifting the arms, then lowering them again), that I should breathe out when lifting my arms, breathe in when lowering. His reasoning: when you lift your arms, you're releasing energy and that works best when you breathe out.

A video series I found (also an old guy) said the exact opposite: when lifting, breathe in, when lowering, breathe out.

I've read this post on the stack about breathing in different martial arts, and the answer says it depends on the martial art.

I also found this "classics" text:

BREATH

To Gather the Ch'i

If the ch'i is dispersed, then it is not stored and is easy to scatter. Let the ch'i penetrate the spine and the inhalation and exhalation be smooth and unimpeded throughout the entire body. The inhalation closes and gathers, the exhalation opens and discharges. Because the inhalation can naturally raise and also uproot the opponent, the exhalation can naturally sink down and also fa-chin [discharge energy] him. This is by means of the I, not the li mobilizing the ch'i.

This seems to be saying: inhale when lowering arms, exhale when raising them.

Now I'm trying to do tai chi, and I'd like to do the breathing correctly. Does anyone have a definitive answer? Or is it "feel what feels best"?

share|improve this question

5 Answers 5

If you're ever unsure, a rule of thumb is to inhale at the start of a complex movement and exhale at the end. Think of breathing in as pulling back on a bow and breathing out as releasing. Which is, coincidentally, how you shoot a bow.

share|improve this answer

In my experience with qigong, the inhalation is done on the gathering (yin) phase of the movement, and the exhalation is done on the expressing (yang) phase of the movement. I understand that Cheng Man Ching taught the opposite of this.

share|improve this answer

In general, you should be inhaling when raising the arms and exhaling when lowering them. This is taken from the 18 Lohan set which is where the 8 Pieces of Brocade was taken from.

When inhaling when raising the arms, you are gathering the chi, when exhaling while lowering, you are sinking the chi to the build the root in the stance, then you have a solid foundation for the first movement.

Inhaling is used to collect the chi and gather it in the posture, then the exhalation releases the chi for the strike, block, ward off or other actual martial techniques used in fighting. It's important to remember that Tai chi is not a health system at it's core, but an extemely effective and powerful martial art. All of the health styles that are so popular today are all derived from the original martial sets, of which the Yang style is probably the most popular.

The book "Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan" by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming is an excellent book to get that will further guide you in this area should you really wish to pursue it further. Even if you only want to use it for health purposes, his books take you step by step through every move, the breathing, stepping, martial applications, fighting moves and theory, strikes and far more. All the best.

share|improve this answer

It's often hard to get a good sense of what to do, in a practical sense, from classical tai chi texts. Their flowery language, extensive use of metaphor, references to connotations we aren't familiar with, and use of the obfuscatory term "chi" all contribute to this.

The rule of thumb for fighting is to usually exhale when striking or making an explosive movement. Similarly, a pulling or drawing-in motion is generally accompanied by breathing in. (Sometimes these two rules conflict (such as in a judo throw's tsukuri or "entering" phase), in which cases these general guidelines must be broken.) Which of these rules apply to this particular movement depends on the combat application.

However, in the context of the Yang tai chi form, I suspect there is a right answer to this question. Unfortunately I'm not familiar with the form. In checking whether your tai chi instructor is getting this move right, I recommend looking for this specific movement, not for general rules.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the info; in the form, the breathing actually continues with everything, so it should start correctly to be right until the end.. It kinda matters with what you start :-) –  Tominator Nov 13 '13 at 12:30
    
@Tominator Fair enough. There is a fair degree of "in this class we do it this way" in any forms practice, however. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 13 '13 at 13:11

If you have confidence in your teacher's abilities, then do as they say. They might be teaching something different than what you think they are teaching at that time. Of course, you could always ask them why. They are there for that. A student's curiosity is (generally) a good thing. Besides, we learn best by understanding what we are trying to achieve.

If, on the other hand, you do not trust you teacher: What the hell are you doing taking their class???

share|improve this answer
    
Well, it's lesson 4 at the moment :p I'm still deciding who to trust... –  Tominator Nov 13 '13 at 8:18
    
@Tominator: I would strongly suggest you asked the teacher for the why. Depending on how and what his answer is, it should give you an indication. –  Sardathrion Nov 13 '13 at 9:03

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.