“Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
It is critical that we understand our body’s reactions to an attack. There are many mental and physical functions which occur at the subconscious level. While our bodies will respond in ways that we may not be able to control initially, with training we can anticipate and mitigate unhelpful responses and successfully respond to a lethal threat.
Tactical breathing was discovered by many ancient cultures and is incorporated in various forms in many martial arts and meditation systems. As practiced by modern police and military, it allows you to rapidly regain control of you body during critical situations.
Body functions, such as heart rate, body temperature, breathing, blinking, and digesting are controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In most situations, you are unaware of the workings of the ANS because it functions in an involuntary, reflexive manner. There are two responses you do have control over – breathing and blinking. We can use breathing as a bridge back from mindless panicked “fight or fight” to put ourselves in an optimal condition to fight.