Taido Info & Directory Links

not only taido links – useful links

Taido Information

World Taido Federation Homepage

Being official, it continues to suffer from lack of meaningful content.

American Taido – National Organization Homepage

News and info on training and events in the US.

As we recently re-established an official Taido presence, this site is still new, but over time it will grow to include a complete dojo directory, info on licensed instructors, official tournaments and seminars, and other information that US-based students will find helpful.

Manjigeri’s page

There’s no English content, but random clicking will avail you of tons of videos of various techniques and hokei. With some lucky surfing, you can treat yourself to the soothing sounds of Mr. Manji’s kiai as well as the infamous Taido song. This is one of the oldest Taido pages on the ‘net and a direct inspiration for Taido/Blog.

YouTube

There’s a good number of Taido videos on YouTube, so make sure you check them out.

Dojo Websites

Yokohama Dojo

This is Negishi’s dojo where I practiced and taught Taido from 2003 to 2006. There isn’t any English content, but there are lots of photo updates on the blog. The people in Yokohama will always be a part of some of my greatest Taido memories.

Taido Associations and Dojo Directories

Australia

Denmark

England

Finland

France

Japan

The Netherlands

Portugal

Sweden

United States

Training and Health Links

“The Stretching FAQ”

Brad Appleton has done all the digging and research for you. Here is the information you should digest regarding improving your flexibility. Any instructor without a base level of education with regards to training methods is negligent at the very least. If you do not understand the information that Appleton has compiled here, you have no business giving anyone instruction in sports conditioning.

GMB Fitness

This is a shameless plug for my own company’s products – because they kick serious ass. We do a variety of things, but the ones that should most interest Taido folks are our stretching and gymnastic strength training courses. My team and I coach thousands of athletes, law enforcement officers, martial artists, and regular people all over the world, so if you need help with your training, get in touch. We can help you perform the way you wish you could.

Stretching for Taido

I believe that attribute training is just as important as skill training. Most Taido practices are about developing skills – and this is probably the most efficient use of class time – but poor attributes (strength, mobility, endurance, and flexibility) will limit your performance of those skills.

If you want to get more out of your Taido training, you should really work on developing your physical attributes outside of practice. One of the most basic ways to do this is by improving your flexibility. It’s relatively easy for anyone to accomplish this in their spare time at home. And it can make a huge difference in your Taido performance because it makes every movement easier.

I’ve written pretty extensively on why we need to stretch and how to do it. I even took some sexy video in my bedroom to illustrate my recommendations. Check out the articles below to find out how you can make your existing skills more effective and effortless.

Stretching Articles

Other Stretching Resources

Of course, I didn’t just come up with all of this stuff on my own. I had to study and research. Through the years, I’ve worked with a few different stretching programs and learned from them all. Here are the fundamental materials I suggest checking out if you want to learn more about developing flexibility for Taido.

One Piece of the Puzzle

Obviously, stretching isn’t the only thing you can do to improve your techniques. Physical therapy, strength training, conditioning, joint mobility exercise, and fat loss can make a big difference too (hell, even try hypnosis if it helps). Stretching is just one of many training methods that can work synergistically to improve your abilities in Taido.

Remember, Taido is made up of taiki (attributes), doko (skills), and seigyo (tactics). All three are necessary. Improving your taiki makes your doko easier and gives you more freedom in seigyo. Improving one of the three naturally increases the overall synergistic effect of practice.

Stretching is only one aspect of a complete Taido education, but it’s an important one. Use these tools to improve your Taido.

How Old Should a Black Belt Be?

taido is athletic, and you can only expect performance of certain movements in students who are relatively young. i certainly feel that we should continue to encourage young taidoka to reach the goal of black belt. eventually, we are going to have to hand them the reigns all together. i know i can’t keep performing at my level forever, so i want to make sure that there is someone ready to step up and keep creating new taido after i’m too old to eat anything but oatmeal.

Taido is athletic, and you can only expect performance of certain movements in students who are relatively young. I certainly feel that we should continue to encourage young Taidoka to reach the goal of black belt. Eventually, we are going to have to hand them the reigns all together. I know I can’t keep performing at my level forever, so I want to make sure that there is someone ready to step up and keep creating new Taido after I’m too old to eat anything but oatmeal.

But then I hear stuff about four year old black belts and junior high school students making 3dan at some American martial arts schools, and I think “No!!!!! That can’t be right. They’re way too young to be that good. There’s no way they can understand what it means to be a black belt.” But of course, that’s the problem – black belt doesn’t “mean” anything – not objectively.

It isn’t really about meaning though. The black belt is an award, given from teacher to student for meeting certain requirements and achieving a certain level of proficiency in an art. Those certain requirements and levels of proficiency are at the teacher’s discretion. Students have to trust their teachers to use that discretion wisely – in a way that benefits the students.

On the Karate Underground Forums, we’ve had a lot of discussions about what age a student should be in order to obtain a black belt ranking. We also had some discussion over the age requirements for higher degrees. It’s interesting to note a certain consistency here: there is a “tradition” of a year per degree number between levels. This gives support to the two most common markers of sixteen for shodan and thirty for 5dan. At a year per, that matches perfectly: eighteen for 2dan, twenty-one for 3dan, twenty-five for 4dan. These are minimums, kind of.

I remember replying to the initial post about minimum ages, almost without thinking: “sixteen years old.” Only after hitting the “submit” button, I realized that I had not even been that old when I reached shodan.

I wrote that, to me, a black belt is someone who is going to be teaching – even if not immediately. Someone under, say high school age isn’t going to have attained the psychological development to understand the interpersonal relations involved in teaching others. Younger students can be assistant instructors (I was from the time I was twelve), but they are not going to able to feasibly lead large classes or organize a lesson without supervision. Looking at it now, I can see that most of my arguments on that thread were inspired by specific difficulties I had as a young black belt in my dojo.

Other forum members posted various ages. Some suggested that children should not even be allowed to practice martial arts. There was an opinion that fighting ability should be a requisite for black belt, so any black belt should be able to win a fight against any lower belt. Since a child wouldn’t likely be able to defeat an older, larger student, that child should not be allowed to become a black belt. Some folks said that age should not be a factor – if an infant could perform the required techniques with proper form, then nobody had the right to say that infant was any less of a black belt than an older student.

That viewpoint really resonated with me, for obvious reasons. Not the infant part, but the age-as-non-issue part. To a point. I hate to think about what would happen to a twelve year old kid who goes to his first day of junior high school and tells people that he is a third degree black belt. At my school, that kid would have been used as the ball in a game of smear the queer. All the technically-accurate punches and kicks in the world would not do anything to stop the junior varsity basketball team from having their way with any runt who had the audacity to claim such a credential.

Perhaps the designation of black belt may require some level of “maturity.” This was also suggested on the forums, and the flames poured in: “Who has the right to decide when a student is ‘mature’? There are many immature adult black belts,” etc. And then we had a lot of debate about what was meant by maturity. To make a long story short, there was no consensus on much of anything. Come to think of it, there never really seems to be much consensus issues of any significant weight. Maybe that’s what makes it stimulating. Anyway…

As a schoolteacher, I work with lots of children from the ages of about three to fifteen. Let me inform you definitively that there are many differences between children of various ages, and also between physically mature children and adults. Some of my junior high school students are bigger than I am, but there is no question that they are children. They have underdeveloped interpersonal awareness, i.e. they are still selfish. Their cognition struggles with complicated relationships, ie they understand cause and effect, but they still believe that correlation is the same as causation.

Besides physical size, there are other types of maturity to consider. Though they aren’t easy to pin down with a casual analysis, there is more to it than designating someone as either a child or an adult. I can see my students moving through levels of cognitive ability, physical coordination and strength, spacial awareness, interpersonal awareness, and responsibility. Though I couldn’t tell you a specific age at which these characteristics are sure to be fully developed, they all seem to be approaching adult-level by about the end of junior high. There’s still plenty they don’t know, but they are almost grown up, developmentally speaking.

It’s really hard to say if age should be a factor in belt promotion. It’s easy to say that the technical requirements should stand on their own, but there is no objective technical requirement. Since everyone has different bodies and capabilities, a rigid testing curriculum is pretty impracticable. As a result, we bring in criteria like age, teaching, and “organizational contribution.” The idea is to “soften up” the requirements a bit to allow for differences between students. The problem is that these things are all so subjective – there’s really no way to say that the requirements for black belt should be any particular way or other.

Looking at things now, I can really understand a lot of what my teacher must have been thinking as I entered my third year as a brown belt. My techniques were very good, and I was more knowledgeable than most of the adult black belts, but I was small and a bit of a know-it-all too. In the end, I had just been a brown belt for too damn long. Ready or not, he had to test me, even though I was only fifteen years old.

As for now, age is certainly a non-issue in american Taido, and I prefer that to having it as a strict requirement. Perhaps some sort of flexible guideline could be developed that would acknowledge the accomplishments of children without setting up false comparisons between older and younger students. And no “junior black belt” ranks, please – that’s just patronizing in all the wrong ways.

What i’d like to see is a flexible system of mentorship wherein older black belts would assist and guide younger black belts and black belt candidates in the transition to adulthood as it pertains to Taido and dojo activities. For all outward purposes, any black belt would be considered a full black belt. Younger black belts wouldn’t be able to become instructors until they were older, but they would be given the same respect as any other black belt. And when they graduate high school, they are considered adults, no questions asked. At this point, all mentoring-type “assistance”, no matter how well-meaning would have to cease.

I don’t know how I would outline such a system, because I think it should operate on a pretty much case-by-case basis, as should initial consideration for promotion to shodan. However, I think it would be workable if the dojo instructors supported it. I like the idea of having young people acknowledged as subject experts after practicing for a sufficient amount of time, but I also hope to save them some of the frustration I had when I was that age, while at the same time protecting the integrity of our art by ensuring that all instructors are highly qualified.

What do you think? How can we be fair to young students without weakening the value of the black belt?

Warming Up For Taido

A while back, I ran a poll about warm up methods and promised a follow-up article. You are now reading the follow-up article.

I think most people are vaguely aware of the importance of warming up prior to engaging in demanding physical activities. Properly warming up prepares the body to operate beyond its usual ranges – and pushing beyond our comfort zones is necessary in order to improve our skills. Taido being an especially dynamic (and sometimes gymnastic) martial art, we need to make sure that our bodies are ready to handle our jumps, twists, and slides.

I’m not going to worry too much about convincing you of the importance of warming up, because I think it’s pretty obvious. Most Taido practices include some sort of warm-up, and almost anything is certainly better than nothing. However, I want to discus various methods for warming up and give some suggestions for warm-ups specifically geared for Taido students.

Begin with the End in Mind

Before I start listing my recommendations, I want to take a second to outline what I believe a warm-up routine should accomplish. Without having a clear goal, it’s difficult to be sure that we have achieved it. Unfortunately, I get the idea that many students don’t know exactly what they should be getting out of a warm-up. I say this because, in the few moments after the group warm-up in most classes I watch, students tend to stand around instead of continuing to prepare. You can never be too prepared.

So what is achieved by a good warm-up? In essence, the result of a good warm-up is that the body and mind are ready for action. The muscles are warm, loose, and fueled. The joints are lubricated and mobile throughout their ranges of motion. The nervous system is aroused and tuned. The mind is clear and present.

I can think of several indicators of body/mind action-readiness: an elevated pulse (but not “pounding”); full, deep breath (not panting or gasping); just beginning to sweat; no pain/stiffness in joints or muscles; not thinking about work; colors appear bright, sounds are crisp and sharp. There are of course lots of other ways to tell that you are warmed-up, but these are the basic sensations of training preparedness.

I won’t get into the neurophysiology of warming up because it’s not really relevant here. Suffice it to say for now that the above guides address all of the important requirements for activating our best performances. Nutrition, rest, conditioning, and overall health also play a role, but these factors are beyond the scope of what we can hope to compensate for in a warm-up session.

Common Warm-up Errors

I want to start out by mentioning a few bad habits that tend to show up in warm-ups for martial arts practices. These points are not a critique of any particular routine, but cover various warm-ups I’ve seen in various dojo, printed in books and magazines, or posted online. Most of these routines are not necessarily bad, but they tend to be lacking in one aspect or another. Here are a few common mistakes as they come off the top of my head:

Excessive Static Stretching

This is the biggie. Most martial arts warm-ups I’ve witnessed include static stretches. As the name implies, static stretches are any stretching exercises in which the body is held in one position for a period of time. An example of a static stretch routine would be the standard “sit down on the floor and touch your toes,” etc. we have traditionally done in American Taido.

These kinds of stretches are not bad in and of themselves, but they are contraindicated for warming up. For one thing, our muscles cannot stretch to their maximum until they are totally warm (and until the central nervous system is fully activated – the explanation of this can be really complicated, but just take my word for it for now). In many warm-up routines, stretches are preceded by only a few minutes of jogging and calisthenics – this is not nearly enough time to prepare the muscles for static stretching.

For another thing, studies show that static stretches temporarily reduce the elasticity of the muscles. This is a bad thing because, when we kick and move, we need our muscles to gradually slow as they reach the ends of their ranges. Otherwise, we risk pulling muscles and tearing ligature. Several studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of strains and sprains for athletes who performed static stretches in their warm-ups.

In the past, it was believed that any stretching was better than none, but now we have evidence suggesting that what stretches we do and when we do them has an impact on our health and performance. Though our warm-up static stretching is a tradition, it is potentially dangerous. Let’s please drop them from our warm-ups.

So when should we do static stretches? At the end of our practice, when our muscles are as warm and loose as they are ever going to be, and after we have finished moving them quickly at extreme ranges.

Not Enough Dynamic Stretching

Even though static stretches are best reserved for cool-down, we should include some stretching in our warm-ups. Specifically, we should do more dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretches are stretches in which the muscles being stretched are in continuous motion. Examples are swing kicks, body twists, arm swings, and other movements that quickly stretch and release the muscles.

Dynamic stretching is a perfect match to the dynamic movements required for kicking, jumping, twisting, turning, etc. That are part of Taido techniques. It makes good sense to prepare the body for action by simulating the action you plan to perform. Performing dynamic stretching prior to a Taido practice is akin to slowly turning up the heat on a pot in which you cook a live lobster.

When performing dynamic stretches as part of a a warm-up, it’s important to keep things gentle and relaxed. Don’t start out swinging with full speed and power. Gradually build up to maximal relaxed range of motion over several sets of a few repetitions. This slowly relaxes the muscles and helps to “tune” the nerves that control the muscles’ contraction and relaxation.

By replacing the standard static stretches with dynamic stretches, we can expect to improve our flexibility and reduce injuries like pulled muscles.

Doing Too Much

Sometimes, instructors get the idea in their heads to start off classes with a tough workout to get everyone “really warmed up.” This is generally not a great idea. The purpose of a warm-up is not to make everyone tired, but to prepare them to perform at their best. Doing too much in a warm-up prepares students to be too tired to practice well.

There are several ways to do too much in a warm-up, but the two most popular are to include a lot of strength exercises or endurance work in a warm-up. I’ve even seen instructors subject their students to long sets of fast techniques as a warm-up and call it “cardio.” There are two reasons why this kind of stuff does more harm than good.

One reason is that we learn only what we practice. I learned as a child that half-assed practice made me very good at doing half-assed techniques. By the same token, practicing when we are already tired teaches to perform techniques as if we were tired. When our bodies are fatigued, we can’t move at full speed or power. Fatigue also causes the nervous system to be less efficient, which reduces our reaction time, balance, and overall coordination/agility.

The other reason not to wear yourself out in a warm-up is that different types of practice (for example, strength, endurance, and technical) require different types of muscle recruitment and nervous activity. In general, it’s best to do the most complicated/technical practices earlier in a workout. This is because the nervous system loses efficiency as we become fatigued. Technique/form practice requires a high degree of coordination, focus, and nervous control. As a result, we can perform this kind of practice better when we are fresh.

After technical drills, the next logical step is strength training. This requires less control from the nervous system, but still uses a lot of energy in the muscles. Typically, endurance work should be performed last, because the primary goal in such practice is to keep going – form and power are not as important.

All three types of practice work best when they follow a good warm-up. In a session that includes all three, the best sequence would move from warm-up to technical practice, strength training, and endurance training, followed by a cool-down and stretching.

In any event, the purpose of the warm-up is to prepare us for practice, not to make us too tired to practice well.

Not Enough Joint Focus

Mobility is not solely concerned with our muscles; it also requires the joints to be able to move freely. Specifically, we need to make sure that our full ranges of motion are available to us at any given time. For example, in a typical day, most Americans move their knee and hip joints through only a fraction of their possible ranges – forwards and backwards. However, Taido’s movements require knee and hip movements through all three planes.

In order to adequately prepare our joints for Taido movements, we should try to move each joint through it’s entire range of motion. This loosens up the joint a bit and also helps to lubricate the joint capsule by redistributing the synovial fluid more evenly. This increases mobility and decreases joint pain – both very good things.

Knee, ankle, and hip injuries are epidemic in the martial arts; almost everyone who practices a martial art for any number of years tends to develop them. Performing motions that may help to prevent these injuries as part of our regular warm-ups should be the rule rather than the exception.

Going Through the Motions

One drawback of using a set routine for warm-ups is that it’s really boring. People memorize a set of movements and do them half-assed without paying the least attention to what they are doing.

Warming up is not only for getting your body ready, but a chance to prepare the mind. Focus on each body part as you move it around and be on the lookout for any pains or stiffness which may indicate an injury you need to take account of during your practice session. This is also a good time to remind yourself of your training goals for the session (hint: if you don’t have a goal each session, you are murdering your potential for improvement – even if your goal is simply to memorize a new routine or make it through class without wheezing, you will see more results if you have a clear goal for each practice).

Don’t waste time by warming up the body while leaving your mind someplace else. Since the mind controls the body, you owe it to yourself to bring your brain into your warm-up routine by at least being deliberate and conscious of what your body is doing.

Prescriptions For Taido Warm-Ups

Now that I’ve written about a few problems and explained possible solutions, I’ll recap my thoughts on the ingredients for a quality warm-up.

  • Engage the Brain
  • Engage the Nervous System
  • Engage the Breath
  • Engage the Muscles
  • Engage the Joints

If you’ve done all these things, you should feel aware, loose, and happy – not tired, stiff, or anxious. Even better than the pleasurable and positive feeling of being well warmed-up, all of your body-systems will be ready to perform at their optimum levels, and you’ll be able to push yourself to improve.

A Little About Breathing

rather than simply pointing out flaws, i’ve always been of the opinion that we should present better alternatives. i feel that the exercises i will outline below can lead students to develop a better method of breathing for taido. i find that these exercises lead to a very natural way of breathing while moving that is highly adaptable to taido technique (adaptation being one of the five tenets of taido’s philosophy). because i want to encourage others to experiment with these exercises (and because providing evidence that the current theory is inadequate is tedious), i will first present my “better alternative” before attempting to nitpick shukumine sensei’s method in a later article.

There are many ways to breathe. I feel that the exercises I will outline below can lead students to develop a better method of breathing for Taido. They lead to a very natural way of breathing while moving that is highly adaptable to Taido technique (adaptation being one of the five tenets of Taido’s philosophy). Because I want to encourage others to experiment with these exercises, I will first present my alternative method before attempting to write an analysis of other breathing methods.

I totally believe that experimentation with various methods leads to far greater mastery than blind acceptance of any established method. So please try the exercises below several times over the course of a couple of weeks. If, after giving them a shot, you can’t figure out how they may be applicable to your Taido practice, feel free to drop me a line.

Now let’s work on developing some better breath skills…

You need to understand one fundamental that contrasts with the manner in which most people normally breathe. Basically, I am going to ask you to exhale actively and inhale passively. Usually when we think about our breath (which is rare for most folks), we begin by taking a deep inhalation into our chests and then letting it fall to exhale. This requires a good bit of energy if you think about it (which is why we don’t naturally breath that way) and doesn’t really incorporate the lower half of the lungs (the larger half) or the diaphragm.

First thing’s first: you have got to start breathing lower into your abdomen before we can do very much else. If you ever notice your breathing when you are very relaxed or after you just wake up on a saturday morning, you will see that you breathe most naturally by expanding (actively, though unconsciously)and contracting (passively) the belly. This brings air deep into the bottom of the lungs and allows more oxygen to be absorbed into your blood. This equals greater efficiency.

Why do we kiai in Taido? The kiai is to remind us to tighten the body, especially the abdomen, and focus our air out in a powerful burst when we strike. Since most strikes include a general bodily contraction, the kiai (exhale) here makes good sense, as we will see later. Anyway, using kiai teaches us to breathe with our bellies when we are doing athletic movements that require our bodies’ optimal output.

Understanding this, we can now “reverse” the emphasis of the breath by focusing on the exhale. In all of the exercises below (except the first one), you will concentrate on removing the air form your lungs by putting pressure (either mechanical or muscular) on your lower abdomen. Inhalation will take place as a natural consequence of the release of this pressure.

Some Preliminaries

preliminary exercise #1

Standing or sitting with good posture (feeling as if your head is filled with helium – spine long and head high. Posture is super-important for your techniques and health. I suggest you spend some time paying close attention to this), fully expand your chest, though not to the point of discomfort. Breathe deeply into the bottom of the lungs by expanding the abdomen (thereby pulling the diaphragm downward). By doing this, air is sucked through the entirety of the lung, from top to bottom. In other words, you are breathing with the entire lung instead of just the top portion of it. If you don’t continually fill and empty the lower lung, it stagnates with stale air that offers no benefit. This is inefficient and could potentially allow greater chances of various infections.

So that is step one. Breathing into the belly. Now the next part is a little more difficult to get the hang of. I want you to reverse your breath. What I mean is this: instead of expanding the belly outward and then letting it fall, I want you to suck the belly in, forcing all the air out of your lungs. Then relax the abdomen and let the vacuum pressure pull air in passively.

preliminary exercise #2

Standing or sitting with good posture, try to squeeze your abdominal muscles as tightly as possible. Feel as if you are going to press your belly button into your spine. Hold this for a few seconds and then relax. When you hold the contraction in your abs, take care not to close the epiglottis (the skin flap in your throat that “caps” the lungs). You want to relax your throat and let your stomach do all the work.

Contract again, and really try to hold a tight tension in your gut. Contract a little tighter and exhale, trying to remove as much air from your lungs as possible. After a few seconds, relax again and let the lungs naturally fill up as the abdomen drops, taking the diaphragm with it. Do this several times and try to feel as if your entire breath is working as a result of your contraction and relaxation of your stomach.

This is actually one hell of an excellent ab workout, if you haven’t already noticed. The interesting thing is that you are working an entirely different set of abdominal muscles here – you inner abdominals (the technical name of which I can’t seem to remember off-hand). These muscles are seldom exercised in most peoples’ daily lives, so they get weak. Our culture is obsessed with the appearance of the outer abdominal muscles (everyone wants the six-pack), but as important as these muscles are, they aren’t nearly as vital as the ones below (behind?) them.

When I teach this in classes, some people have trouble feeling as if they are getting a full inhalation by simply relaxing and releasing the abdominals after contraction. I’ve been doing some thinking about this, and the best explanation is can think of this that these inner abdominals aren’t yet strong enough to contract fully yet. If you can’t contract tightly, there won’t be enough pressure to fill the lungs adequately. This has nothing to do with your overall fitness, it’s just that some folks don’t really develop these muscles enough in their day-to-day experience. The good news is that by practicing this breathing technique, you can strengthen the inner abs to the point that a full contraction and subsequent release is possible.

preliminary exercise #3

If you have trouble experiencing this sitting or standing, I would suggest trying to practice lying down. Relax your spine (and elevate your head a couple of inches to retain the natural curve of your neck) and bend your knees, with you feet about shoulder-width apart. You can put your hands on you stomach if it helps you be aware of your body.

When you make the contraction, tighten your abs enough to actually lift your butt off the floor. You want to feel your hips tilt up towards your head, meanwhile pressing your lower back to the floor. At the same time, you should squeeze your cheeks. Pranayama yoga (which is where this style of breathing originates) teaches that you should bring your belly button and your anus as close together as possible. Of course they don’t actually move any closer together, but the visualization may help you get the hang of this. Finally, remember not to force-hold the breath by closing the glotis, use your muscles.

I would suggest practicing this several times a day if you can. Just lie down and exhale and hold. After about five seconds, simply let your hips fall and your belly relax. If you don’t feel you’ve had an adequate inhalation, you can breathe normally once or twice before the next repetition. Do this five to ten times in a set, and then rest. If you do this a couple times a day for a couple of weeks, I believe you will notice some changes in your breathing and posture even without consciously attempting to improve them.

So that is the basic breath. Squeeze the inner abs to exhale. Relax and release to inhale.

Now let’s go over some further explorations.

exploratory exercise #1

Standing with your feet apart (about fudodachi-width) and your back straight but relaxed, I want you to allow your body to simply drop forward, bending at the waist. Provided your glottis is relaxed, you will find that this motion naturally expels much of the air from your lungs by compressing your trunk. In this case, you don’t have to contract the muscles at all – gravity is exhaling for you. Next, I want you to bend backwards (as in our warm-up calisthenics) a little beyond straight while staying very relaxed. Notice what happens. If you make an effort not to interfere with your breathing, you will find that your lungs “magically” fill up as you open upward and back.

Try this several times, slowly at first, and then at varying speeds. Think as if your midsection is an accordion or bellows. Your breathing should require no effort, instead occurring as a mechanical byproduct of your motion. Try to keep your spine elongated and your lungs fully expanded as you do this to feel the full effects.

exploratory exercise #2

Now we’re ready for the half-backroll. Same thing as before, only this time, you are actually using your abdominals to lift your legs overhead, so the feeling of “auto-breathing” should be even more pronounced.

Sit with your knees bent and roll backwards, careful not to put any stress on your neck. When your feet reach the floor, stop. Then roll back to the original position. If you relax, you will notice the air being expelled as you compress your abdomen by folding your legs overhead. When you release this compression, you will inhale.

When you roll back forward, try not to rock forward from your shoulders to your hips, but rather to relax the spine while using your back muscles to shift the hips forward. You should feel as if each vertebra touches the floor in turn until you are lying flat. As you relax into this supine position, your lungs should mechanically fill with air as the back straightens. Sit up and try again.

exploratory exercise #3

When you have mastered the backward portion of the exercise, you can add a second out/in to the exercise. You do this by rolling forward (to a position akin to a a hamstring stretch) instead of lying down. Doing this requires using the abs, so again, you can really feel how the mechanism operates. So the way this works is that, from sitting with your legs straight out, you: lay back (inhale), pull your legs over your head (exhale), roll your legs back to the front (inhale), bring the upper body with them and allow it to collapse as far forward as your flexibility allows (exhale). Repeat.

exploratory exercise #4

After you get comfortable with this, you can try the same exercise with front rolls. Tighten into a ball and exhale. Roll and then open into a squat or standing and inhale. All of your front and back rolls and flips are obvious contenders for practice along these lines.

exploratory exercise #5

When you are starting to feel sensitive to your breath and want to feel something a little freaky, revisit the standing version. Same as before, drop forward and let gravity passively empty your lungs. This time, instead of leaning straight back, I want you to roll back across either side (like half a trunk rotation) until you are leaning back. If you are really in tune with your breath and totally relaxed, you will be able to feel one lung filling before the other one. This is because the side to which you are rolling is compressed, but the other side expands. When you reach the fully-back position, both sides will be expanded.

Drop forward again, and this time roll up the other side. Practice this several times, alternating sides. Then reverse the direction: after exhaling forward, lean straight back and breath in. Then roll down one side and feel the air expel from first one lung, then the other. Lean back and inhale, and do the opposite side. By this point, if you are able to “feel the magic,” you should be pretty excited.

And now…

Though I won’t go into them here, there are also plenty of Tantric practices that work on this same principle. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about it personally, but I have heard that sexual stamina and pleasure can both be greatly enhanced by integrating breathing with, uh… Motion. Feel free to explore this aspect of Taido with your partner.

Aside from the mysterious lesson number 23 of Master Chun’s “chinanju” (see Remo Williams for more), there are plenty of Taido techniques that can benefit from this kind of practice. In fact, the more you look into it, i’m confident that you will find an expansion/contraction (or even out/in/out) chain in every technique you can think of. Furthermore, you will almost always find that punches and kicks connect with the target on a contraction (hello kiai).

Exploratory Exercises Ad Infinitum

Ebigeri is a pretty easy place to see a contraction, expansion, contraction. Shajo/manji and mawashi geri are obvious examples in which one side is compressed differently from the other, which relates to the final exercise I outlined above. Of course, our techniques are a lot more complicated than the exercises presented here, so it’s going to be tough to try and make it through a jissen match without having to breathe actively, but if you practice integrating your breath and motion, you will find your endurance and energy increasing (see Tantra, above) without a doubt.

Now here’s where you can really try this concept out in Taido to get started: seimei no hokei. Anyone remember the correct breathing for that? I doubt it OK, so maybe you do – if so, congrats). Who cares? Practice seimei no hokei and note the points at which your body tries to breathe for you. Now for the black belts, do the same with tentai no hokei – tentai is a killer, endurance-wise, but using the tengi do do some of the work for you can really help out.

You have to breathe all the time to stay alive, so it follows that practice breathing will improve your quality of life. Feeling healthy? Good. Now go have a beer.