Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dude, Take a Breath- The Tactical Oxygenation Blog

I give private instruction on precision rifles, ARs and pistols and I am often asked about my thoughts on breathing.  I tell the student that I think it is a good thing to do and I encourage its continuation.

They want details, though, and maybe you do too. So for everyone’s enlightenment, here we go with Blog Sarge’s theory on “Tactical Oxygenation.”

I break breathing down into two forms for shooting. There is Precision Breathing and there is Combat Breathing. Which one to use is based upon the type of shooting you are doing.

Precision Breathing is for the times when you are going for, well, the utmost precision. This is controlled, deliberate, deep breathing. For this, think of Yoga or any relaxation exercise with breath control.  Break a breath into components. On the inhale your belly and chest expand with incoming air to the maximum extent comfortable. On the exhale the reverse occurs and there is a feeling of relaxation. The exhale typically occurs almost immediately upon completion of the inhale; there is usually not much, if any, of a pause. Once you are comfortably exhaled, there is a natural pause before the next inhale. (Notice I said “comfortably exhaled”, not completely exhaled. There is no need to force more air out than your body wants to release. Forcing more exhale leads to tensing.) With practice, we can extend the comfortable pause before the inhale. For precision shooting, I live in this natural pause. My world is entirely inside it, I live for it. During the pauses, my senses focus, my sights settle, my heart rate slows and my muscles are loose and poised. If I do not get the shot off during a comfortable pause, the cycle starts again, and I pick back up where I left off.  With practice, the shot will almost go by itself when your mind registers that all is as it should be.

Contrast that with Combat Breathing. This will be, by necessity, a faster type of breath. Do not let yourself hyper-ventilate, but concentrate on controlling your breath into a steady rhythm of moderately deep inhales and exhales. Living in, and getting the shot off during, the natural pause becomes less important to me here. Rather, when I need to shoot in combat breathing, I need to shoot RIGHT NOW. So, I simply pause wherever I am in the cycle, press the trigger and then resume the cycle. If you see a shot developing and have time, do a quick in and out and get the shot off during a the abbreviated natural pause.

Beyond being important for controlling the shot itself, proper breathing yields more control of yourself and the situation. The importance of good breathing cannot be over-emphasized. It relaxes the body and mind, provides fuel for the body and helps you to remain focused, centered and in control.


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