How To Breathe In A Fight



If you have ever been in a real violent incident, you will have experienced just how physically demanding even the shortest altercation can be.

But why?

In truth, it is because a real self-defence situation is an anaerobic activity.

It is a sprint where you hold nothing back.

This is an issue that few martial artists ever realise.

In class, it is too easy to train the technical while ignoring the ‘pace’ of a real encounter.

It can be described as a ‘sprinter’ training as if there were going to run a marathon.

And this is a core reason that so many martial artists find that their skills erode when dealing with real violence.

It is not because they aren’t technically able to land techniques, it is that they have prepared for a tempo that does not exist.

In this article, I will explain the importance of breathing in a street self-defence situation, and more importantly how you can make sure you won’t run out of gas.


Let’s do this.


Coming Up For Air

There are 3 tempos to a street fight.

It starts with the pre-conflict ‘tempo’.

It is here that you will see a lot of posturing and bravado, usually an exchange of verbals and a lot of ‘tensing up’.

The second ‘tempo’ is the first fight.

This is the sprint; it is where two (OR MORE) people throw everything at each other (including the kitchen sink if one is to hand).

This tempo lasts until one has dispatched the other or you enter the ‘third fight’.

The third fight is when the sprint has occurred, but no victor has occurred.

It is at this time that lactic acid is filling the muscles and it is like coming up for air after diving in a swimming pool.

Suddenly the fight is now aerobic.

And this is worse if you are being attacked by a group.

Because there are more of them, each attacker expends far less energy than you do.

So if you make it to the third fight, then you will be vastly more fatigued than them.

But there is a solution.

You need to learn how to breathe.


How To Breathe In A Street Fight

Have you ever been to swimming lessons?

If you have, then you will know that you are taught to swim front crawl with your face in the water and then turn your head when you need to breathe.

This technique makes the body more streamlined and allows you to be a faster swimmer.

When fighting you need to think how you are going to breathe, just like the swimmer does.

Don’t worry it is amazingly simple.

If you go to a boxing club, you will hear a sound coming out of the boxer’s mouth each time they punch.

It is a sharp exhale of air in a controlled fashion. It almost sounds like a snake hissing.

The idea is simple, exhale on strikes and inhale afterwards.

Now, this is not going to make you feel as if you haven’t been fighting but it will help you to last.

And if the fight hits the ‘third stage’ this will give you some much-needed energy.


How To Train Your Breathing

Of course, boxers were not born with this ability; they trained it.

And all this requires you to do is the same as the boxers do, exhale sharply after each strike.

Now, this is not a huge exhale of all your air; it is a controlled and sharp expulsion of air, a hiss.

Now give it a try.

Throw a strike in your shadow boxing and start throwing combinations.

Then once your final strike has landed, inhale immediately.

This is almost rhythmic in nature.

You can do this on the pads, punch bags at the gym or home and of course in the shadow.

Yes, it sounds and feels weird at first but trust me there is method in the madness.

Once you start to do this you will soon find your fitness in training seems to be ‘higher’.

And you will start to learn that fitness is a reservoir that can be depleted rather than just an unlimited tank, which it is not.

But above all else, it will help you to survive.



Adrenaline is a potent substance, and through its use, the human body can do amazing things.

But the fact is simple; our muscles need oxygenated blood to work, and when our ‘muscles’ are filled with waste, and we can no longer break that down, fatigue sets in faster than Usain Bolt can sprint.

The only way to help reduce fatigue in a real-life violent attack is to learn how to breathe in a fight.

This method has helped me countless times, and I know that it will work for you.

To finish off, I will add this.

Fatigue is the greatest opponent you will ever face, and no amount of correct breathing will save you if you are unfit.

If you are training to protect your life, fitness will always be your greatest friend.

But controlled breathing is the fuel for your fitness.

Work on both and you will see the results.


Thanks for reading.