Thoughts on Breathing and Breath Control

Breathing and breath control must be considered in the sequence of techniques, for breathing and the oxygen exchange system of the human body is a process that determines the general condition and the functioning of the human organism. The correct method of breathing must therefore be a part of the shooters' technique.

The objective of "breath control" is to enable the shooter to hold his breath during the aiming and firing process, for long enough to fire an accurate shot (or several shots in the Rapid Fire courses or stages), without causing or feeling oxygen deficiency which would effect the shooter's ability to hold still and concentrate effectively.

In simple terms, in order to keep the pistol as immobile as possible, one must hold his/her breath for the length of time required to steady the hold and fire an accurate shot. To be effective, breath control must be applied systematically and uniformly. Proper breath control will maintain and aid concentration and help to develop the shooting rhythm.

In general, the shooter should shoot with about half a breath full of air in his lungs, in the natural – or slightly extended – "respiratory pause". During this time the respiratory musculature is not strained and is in a relaxed state. Take a few breaths, then as you exhale to the normal, natural point where you stop breathing for a few seconds before taking the next breath. This is the "respiratory pause", and it is an effortless state that can be extended by a few seconds, without feeling "short of breath" through practice.

The duration of the respiratory pause is dependent on the Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide ratio in the air remaining in the lungs. One should not hold the breath longer than 10 – 12 seconds, and if the shot cannot be fired in this time, it should be cancelled and the lungs ventilated with a few deeper breaths. This time may vary though, depending on the aerobic fitness and lung capacity of the shooter.  Hence we see the importance of proper physical conditioning! When the shooter starts to feel that he is "running out of air" the shot should be cancelled. (This – of course – is not possible in the rapid fire courses.)
Breathing can be considered from two different aspects;

a     Mechanical
Breathing is accompanied by the movement of the chest, stomach and the entire shoulder zone. causing the pistol to move up and down. Therefore the breath should be held for the time required. 
b    Physiological
Breathing is NOT solely a movement of the chest etc. It is a combination of physical and PHYSIOLOGICAL processes, closely linked your blood circulation, gas exchange, metabolism, involving the nervous system. Incorrect breathing has an adverse upon the whole organism of the shooter and thus will effect his shooting.

In simple terms; BREATH CONTROL is important because:

a.    In order to stabilise the arm, the shooter must hold his breath while firing the shot. (Breathing is accompanied by the rhythmical movement of the chest, and shoulders.)
b.    Oxygen is necessary for concentration, seeing, and effective functioning of the body. (Air provides the oxygen to the blood, and inside the lungs it absorbs carbon dioxide.)
c.    Taking a few slow, deep breaths can have a calming effect on the shooter, but over "oxygenating" is a mistake.
d.    Developing a systematic way of breathing helps in maintaining the shooting rhythm. Therefore uniformity – as in all other techniques – is an important factor in breath control.