Topic 3 - Breathing

Controlling one's breath is something a beginning archer can practice from day one, as it will greatly help both concentration and confidence. Later on - when a new student begins loosing arrows - this practice of regular breathing will also yield more power in the drawing of the bow, a faster arrow, and a more consistent result of hitting the target.

In this introductory lesson on breathing, the important thing to remember is that breathing control can start at the same time as we prepare our stance. Breathing should be regular and slow, and come from the diaphram. Diaphramatic breathing is commonly used in disciplines like yoga and when playing wind instruments like saxophone or trumpet. The principle difference between diaphramatic breathing, and what could otherwise be called 'chest-breathing' or shallow breathing, is the conscious effort to expand one's belly to allow the lungs to fill more deeply. Most people benefit from this style of breathing in that they call slow their breathing rate, as well as causing less physical disturbance to the muscles of the upper body. Since shallow breathing means expanding the upper rib cage in order to fill the lungs, one's shoulders and overall musculature can be altered during each breath, affecting aiming accuracy.

These deep diaphramatic breatheJohn Pierece, 2008s should continue as we prepare our stance, and until the time we prepare to draw bow. Then, at the very moment we begin to draw the bowstring back, our breath should be timed to begin one final deep breath. (Final in this case means that it will be our last breath before loosing the arrow.) In time with the slow backdraw of the bowstring, the archer should slowly pull in air, filling his or her lungs by the time of reaching full draw. Ideally, when an archer has reached full draw, he or she will have lungs which are full of air, and will not need to continue breathing in. Full draw in Korean Traditional Archery can last anywhere from a few seconds to as much as 10 or more seconds before release. I will not go into any detail here about what the archer is doing during this time to aim the bow. That will be discussed later on, under the topic of aiming. However, the breathing during this time period is very important, and can heavily affect the upcoming success or failure.

From my experience studying Korean Traditional Archery, there are several different philosophies about the breath during this time period of full draw. Some archers suggest simply holding one's breath until the arrow has been loosed. This method implies a deliberate closing off of the airways, or bottling up of the air inside one's lungs. This allows the upper body's muscles the opportunity to leverage their power against air-filled lungs, much in the same way a bodybuilder uses his or her breath during training. Another approach to the breathing at full draw recommends very slowly exhaling through the nose during the period of full draw. Using this method, an archer should still have a great deal of air in his or her lungs by the time of release. The purpose of slowly exhaling - in my understanding - is simply to help avoid the sensation of being completely 'bottled up' that can result from using the previously mentioned technique. And yet another master I have spoken to about breathing has suggested that the archer neither inhale nor exhale, yet keep his or her airway open. This method, while seeming similar to the first approach, is most natural in that the archer will experience little or no disruption or change in the upper body muscles when reaching full draw, and also not run the risk of exhaling all of his or her air prematurely.