Last week I was working with a high-level rugby player. During our work I realised that there was much that Rugby can learn from the fight sports, and vice-versa. In particular my studies of breathing patterns in fighting have a direct correlation for Rugby, and this player had not been made aware of breathing patterns prior to our discussion.
I use the study and application of my opponent’s breathing to give me a massive advantage during fighting. I use it to let me know when it is safe for me to attack and to know when he is about to attack me. In Rugby the distances between the players mean that they cannot quite utilise the complete approach that I use – however there are several direct applications for Rugby.
Go for a walk. As you walk, notice which step you breathe out on. If you are right handed it will be usually your right foot going forward. I’ve tested this on 100’s of people and as a generalisation the majority of people step forward with their dominant side whilst breathing out. There are loads of reasons why they do this, and for this blog post the important thing is that they are breathing out as their dominant foot is moving forward.
Conversely, this means that they breathe in when their non-dominant side is going forward. This is the key for the application of breathing for Rugby – it is possible to know someone’s breathing patterns by which step they place forward.
I attack during fighting when my opponent has started to breathe out. Actually, I attack several breath patterns before then, and that’s my little secret. But for the purposes of this blog post take it that when an opponent is breathing out they are committed to that breath and then need to breathe in again in order to react to your attack. By attacking as they are breathing out you are giving yourself a time advantage over their reaction.
In Rugby you need to be as effective as possible when tackling. It would be great if you can tackle on the opposing player’s ‘off’ breath, meaning they are shocked and less able to respond. They will go down heavier, be more likely to be winded, and therefore less likely to re-engage that flow of play.
It is my suggestion to time your tackle for best effect just as the right foot is landing. This means that the breath is almost all the way out. Hitting them with a tackle now means they need to breathe in again, in order to expel the air as they react. Yet the impact stops them breathing, and if you tackle them with application to their lower stomach, the last little bit of air may be forced out of their lungs also, winding them. This also helps to induce the ‘freeze’ element of the stress response (freeze, flight, fight, fear, and feint).
So, with the majority of people being right handed, a good rule of thumb is to time your Rugby tackle to the moment the right foot hits the ground for best effect.
Of course, this example is only the ‘bare bones’ of the application of the study of breathing on Rugby. I am also developing several models of the application of breathing within Rugby, including the timing of drives in a scrum for example.
I wonder how many applications of breathing you can identify for use in other sports as well?