After 30 years of training and instructing close combat, including conducting more test phases than I can remember, it is still a major concern for me that exponents have difficulty in going tactical and controlling their aggression as well as keeping their adrenaline rushes under control and conserving their energy levels. This doesn’t only apply to entry-level exponents but it also applies to advanced exponents and instructors.
It’s almost as if in an instant, when confronted with a threat situation or under test conditions when faced with a formidable enemy party, individual exponents throw all care and caution away and extend themselves physically and psychologically to the maximum.
This is a dangerous practice that is tactically flawed and steeped in potential failure and defeat. It not only dangerously extends the individual combatants capabilities but also may underestimate the enemy and this lack of combative smarts may well seal the combatant’s fate if they are wrong in their assessment, judgment and over-extended in their initial execution.
I have assessed and evaluated countless combatants and fighters during training that tend to expend themselves from the outset and find themselves, when up against a formidable opponent or enemy party, having to deal with extreme fatigue after only a short period of action. Just focusing on their breathing alone identifies a major flaw in many occasions where you find the individual not only employs a rip shit and bust mentality but also worsens the situation by holding their breath during the execution of physical skills.
Breath control is essential to maintain peak combative readiness and increase the velocity and in turn impact and effect of offensive actions and the speed manoeuvrability and mobility of counter offensive actions. By controlled breathing and going tactical combative readiness and performance can be maintained for extended periods of time.
Breathing oxygen in via the nose and carbon dioxide out via the mouth with every physical action is a control mechanism to ensure the required physiological and psychological state of combative readiness is maintained prior to and during any actions on situation which will promote controlled, calculated and correct combative aggression is employed and maintained.
The tactically correct combatant must not only remain in a state of readiness prior to any encounter and must be able to turn on the controlled aggression to achieve the objective when required but must also be able to switch the aggression off post-encounter and return to a state of readiness or revert back to a non-tactical citizen demeanour. I encourage all my combatants to practice going tactical at all times during training and in combat by employing this essential controlled breathing principle with every movement action and reaction they may practice or employ. Although you exhale via the mouth you must ensure the expelled air is from the lungs and you are inhaling and exhaling in a full controlled deep chest performance orientated breathing cycle.
In CQB terms if a combatant does not tactically breath and holds their breath over exhaling on the physical exertion phase of any action or reaction it looks like your mouth is a balloon knot and you are about to brain fart. Not to mention how quickly and noticeably the face reddens and generally looks distorted and sun burnt.
Exponents should self-check as part of their combat conditioning to ensure they are maintaining the correct and ultimate combative status and preserving themselves in the optimum range of combative performance by tactical breathing.
This can be achieved by the buddy system or using a mirror to self check or if you can get access to the excellent siliconCOACH program with its time warp feature you can really self check and critique yourself or use the program to compare your execution to the considered subject matter experts execution shown on your projector screen or laptop screen.
While athletes can perform amazing feats of speed, power and endurance on land and in the water holding or controlling their breathing for extended periods this is not the norm in close combat. It would appear not based on scientific research but based on my over 100,000 hours as an exponent instructor and evaluating teams of thousands of fighters and combatants that the added factor of stress changes things by considerable.
The fear and risk of losing an encounter and the chance of being injured or killed seems to bring on less than desirable performance flaws and reduces combat capabilities by considerable in an instant.
This seems to apply to not only combat or competition but also to practice and testing especially when the individual is being monitored and is once again trying too hard from the outset and not going tactical employing the required elements to maintain peak readiness and optimum performance levels.
The most concerning aspect of all is the negative effective as a result of individual combatant error and a mentality that is so out of control that the combatant is not aware that they are in a state of loss of control and a with every second they are losing performance levels they require to achieve their objective and be the victor. Some serious soul-searching and personal checks are required combined with honest self-critiquing to ensure these flaws and faults are identified and corrected.
Another problem with such faults and bad habit correction is that combatants tend to employ such sound performance tactics only for limited time periods and often resort back to bad habits quickly or in practice after limited repetitions.
Maybe it’s stress-related or lack of concentration or just plain laziness or a combination of all the previous and possibly other factors such as not being psychologically and physically in control.
The reality is simple: train and practice the combative way where you presume you will be wounded, injured, fatigued, dehydrated, bogged down, load bearing and on difficult terrain and faced with any enemy bent on killing you that is bigger, faster, fitter, stronger and armed.
Bear this in mind and never underestimate the enemy or take anything for granted and you will soon develop a tactically correct mindset and employ the required means of self-preservation in regards to maintaining your optimum levels of combative readiness and performance.
Breathing is nothing mystical or magical however it is a necessity to maintain not only life automatically but also be able to switch on control, endure and switch off combative controlled aggression effectively.
There are many aspects to life where we do not need to focus on our powers of concentration or draw from our pre-trained required methods of preparation and performance such as the everyday act of walking however when you go combative it’s a requirement to switch on your combative controlled and correct aggression practices.
This applies to every aspect of going tactical in close combat from an unarmed offence assault to unarmed counter offensive assault through to armed close quarter combat and combat employments such as ground combat and recovery.
Think about aimed combat shooting and how important breathing is as well as employing other required tactically correct principles to ensure the highest levels of accuracy are achieved.
Finally there are other individual components besides breathing that are important to maintaining combative readiness as well as protecting performance levels. These include having an affinity with the ground to maintain balance and reduce the need to constantly fix your eyes on the ground.
Your toes and balls of your feet must act as senses and be in unison with your stance posture guard vision hearing sense of smell situational awareness mind set plan target alignment etc.
When you have all your physical and psychological components of combative controlled aggression working in unison then and only then against a formidable enemy can you expect to achieve your objective by means of being as combative correct as humanly possible. After all nothing is guaranteed in unarmed combat where you have lost the element of surprise and are up against a formidable enemy.
When an encounter doesn’t end in the indoctrinated desired first three seconds you will need every ounce of combative conditioning correctness readiness and maintaining off optimum performance levels to endure the encounter and be the victor.
Remember the CQB saying of the six Ps: “Planning, preparation and practice to avoid piss poor performance,” and apply this to ensuring you go technical and combative not all in and all on rip shit and bust from the outset and find yourself exhausted, hyperventilating and with no means of recovery or achieving victory.
Believe me aggression levels when not controlled and maintained will see the individual combatant lose the ability to effectively perform the required physical skills at the required levels to achieve their objectives.
Military close combat employs not only tactics, principles and skills but also importantly dirty tricks that require a lot less physical capabilities than the more competitive or fighting arts type techniques but you must remember to employ dirty tricks you must still be able to maintain position, cover ground, protect yourself and set up your employment of the dirty tricks as well as whether the storm of your formidable enemy if you can’t quickly and quietly achieve your objective.
This requires a technically correct combative state of mind and body working as a well-trained and executed cohesive unit. In training the practice will seem robotic and you should train the combative way you intend to operate in combat but will find through training and practice at the components they will become automated to some degree through muscle memory and switching on your controlled aggression. While switching on your controlled aggression function is a definite action when honed the components will work in unison as if you are on autopilot.
Through robotic repetitive practice the components when switched on in an actions on encounter will no longer be made up of physical and psychological individual components but will be a controlled single performance enhancing aspect for every action or reaction required. This is not only born out of employing pre-trained combative tactically correct practices correctly executed but also dictated by the situation and threat.
One of the worst outcomes of rushing in and exerting maximum energy levels from the outset is that if your over confident all in and all on from the outset option lets you down because you underestimated your enemy you now have to dig deep and add recovery to your dire situation.
It never fails to concern me how combatants and fighters chose to go tactical when they are fatigued over from the outset.
Under test conditions some of the best employments of skills are when the individual exponents have little physical capabilities left open to them and it’s a case of out skilling the enemy party or being defeated.
If only they had chosen to go tactical from the outset the encounter may well have been over in an instant or they would have the maintained physical capabilities to continue for a prolonged phase of combative performance if required.
Put it into perspective you don’t focus on breathing for general life support but you should from the outset in close combat.
You must, with every offensive and counter offensive movement, manoeuvre or strike or kick expel air to aid in powering the action maintaining your performance levels and focus.
Think of it in terms of push-ups, expel on the upward or physically more difficult phase and inhale on the down ward or recovery phase. Inhale on the stand by phase with unarmed combative skills and exhale on the execution phase.
Inhale before controlled combative footwork and exhale as you advance, retreat or evade.
This will ensure your lungs are assisting not restricting your performance and that your airway is never shut down and as a result you don’t have to go into a catch up breathing mode that only makes your breathing faster and your performance fade rapidly.
The tactical breathing can be used in regards to the degree of force, speed, impact, velocity or power required to effectively fuel the required task. For stalking inch by inch you would not require as greater controlled breathing level as in delivering a full power strike or kick. In a stalking an enemy sentry you would want to keep your breathing as covert as possible and for aimed combat shooting you would want very controlled breathing.
Never exhale all your breath as this can cause panic catch up breathing that can reduce performance and cause a slowing in your movement and actions.
The great thing about tactical breathing apart from improving performance and increasing sustained combative duration is that it assists in controlling the affects of adrenalin and reducing such adverse effects as tunnel vision, audio exclusion, and physically freezing.
I can measure and record the effects of not tactically breathing by using siliconCOACH to record the exponents every action and I have an electronic device to measure the force delivered by the exponent. I have seen exponents lose 60% plus of their performance when they unknowingly hold their breath during extreme combative skills execution.
There is also the need to in combative or combat sports protect the jaw from being broken and having ones mouth wide open is not the recommended if you get struck in the face. The air can effectively be expelled if the teeth are clenched as long as the lips are not sealed like a balloon knot. The teeth when clenched are not a tight fixed sealed unit.
For combat sports the brain pad gum shield or mouth guard allows breathing through vents while keeping your teeth clenched and is a great safety aid for such training or competition.
Finally you need to practice and employ tactical breathing not just think or talk about it if you want to be the best combatant you can be.
Article published with permission from: Fight Times Magazine
Copyright 2008 – Fight Times Magazine
Article published with permission from: Fight Times Magazine