As I’ve outlined in various books
and articles, the Breath Mastery Scale:
One characteristic that some people
misunderstand regards this final qualifier:
conditions requiring effort may override the
natural "bellows" breathing of the
expansion/compression of the torso. For
instance, if performing a bodyweight squat from
flat foot squat to standing with arms extended
upwards, one (typically) does not require any
effort. Breathing passively bellows out with
compression into the squat, and "sucks" back in
However, if one adds resistance, such as two
heavy Clubbells™ in Shoulder Park, then one
may require an active exhalation on the effort
of standing, which in turn may create a passive
inhalation on squatting. In other words, during
normal activities requiring no effort you may
exhibit a normal breathing protocol, though in
times of crisis or challenge the effort protocol
may override the normal protocol.
there is a critical load which surpasses one's
ability to maintain Discipline (active
exhalation on effort). At the point where
you begin to Force your breath (hold it) in
order to move an extremely heavy weight, the
training value begins a rapid drop off. In
CST, we focus upon the development of at minimum
If in real
life, an event demands that one downshifts to
Force, it happens as a matter of course, without
training. Discipline aids one in need to
apply Force, but not the reverse.
Practicing Force can lead to Discipline, but
never to Flow or Mastery. The direct route
to Flow and Mastery is through Discipline first
and at minimum.
General versus Selective Tension
Even when people begin to internalize this
distinction (typically at about 3 months of
training) they still lack the ability to use
proportional force to accomplish the task.
This may be caused by general (or "high")
tension strength training, as training in such a
method to the exclusion of
strength training may neurologically program
your muscle software to turn either
rather than act as the
that you need for real-world activities outside
of the bubble of the gym.
This fact manifests itself most obviously in
martial arts. If you maximally tense with each
technique attempt your tension screams loudly at
your opponent, telegraphing your every move. You
also lose mobility, sensitivity to your
opponent’s responses, and drain energy like a
I see this quite often in Clubbell® newbies who
come at the practice with all their thunder in
each repetition, as if the goal were to move
even the lightest Clubbell® as forcefully as
humanly possible. Fortunately, this is one of
the most beneficial aspects of learning the art
of the Clubbell®: It teaches you to focus
upon the entire movement rather than merely the
concentric action phase. It also teaches you how
to use “just enough” force to carry the
Clubbell® through each of the various phases of
Oh, you will require maximal tension throughout
the movement, but unlike the strict
loose-tight-loose protocol of linear lifts,
Clubbell® training teaches you
how-loose and how-tight at any point in time
throughout the exercise.
This is a critical feature of CST that transfers
to all other activities.
Organize your training schedule and cycles so
that you neurologically program your muscle
software to operate from relaxation to maximal
tension to relaxation… and all of the
options in between.
This sensitivity to force proportionality
transfers most obviously to martial arts.
Tension and velocity rest at two opposite ends
of the spectrum; so do force and sensitivity.
To be able to FEEL how much force is necessary
to accomplish a task and to be able to apply
that force ‘under the radar’ of your opponent’s
sensitivity is the key to masterful fighting.
I use this technique, featured in Intu-Flow™, to
teach people how to modulate the intensity of
exhalation upon effort (as well as to experience
the passive inhalation in controlled settings).
It relates to three of the four types of breath
volume in our lungs:
If you’re alive then Residual
Breath is not an issue, so I will address, in
the following order: Normal, Complementary and
In martial arts these relate directly to tissue,
muscle and organ strikes, respectively. The more
that one locks down the core, exhaling through
the strike, the deeper the penetration of the
impact. With each of the 3 volumes of air
expelled the body becomes increasingly more
stabilized, and thus the power generation from
the ground (if linear) or core (if circular)
carries through the skeletal system.
The problem for most people in martial arts is
that they come from a general, or "high",
tension technique background. As a result, their
technique is always sullied by too much tension,
and tension too generalized throughout the body.
It’s like trying to play a DVD on an LP
turntable. I'm sure everyone involved in martial
arts has experienced this befuddled knot of
muscles too tense and energy too greatly
expended, that accomplishes tremendously little.
You need Selective Tension software for your
muscles so that your nervous system can
associate with the sophistication of your
NOTE: I should also state that this relation
changes with expertise, since with continued
skill refinement one uses a normal breath with
even the deepest techniques. In other words, as
skill increases, effort decreases. However,
Trinity Breathing serves as a very useful
exercise for teaching the entire spectrum of
The Trinity Squat
The incredibly powerful exercise is featured as
the focal point of Intu-Flow™. The
Trinity Squat involves
standing with both arms in upper frame. Your
rear arm moves across the body, led by the
Step 1: Normal Breath
Normal Breath means no effort involved. The
action of moving your arm by twisting your core
compresses to cause an exhale, and expands to
cause an inhale, both of which are passive.
To help keep this from becoming a meaningless
movement, keep your palm perpendicular to the
ground at all times and focus on projecting and
withdrawing the elbow rather than the hand. Lift
the elbow no higher than parallel with the
ground. Exhale on the projection passively;
inhale on the withdrawal passively.
Step 2: Complementary Breath
Repeat as Step 1, but at the end of the elbow
projection begin to project the palm farther,
though not to elbow lockout. You will
additionally feel your rear knee dip inward and
your rear heel lift up as you shift more of your
weight onto your front foot.
With this second “push” exhale deeper actively,
but not entirely, not maximally. Feel your
intercostals ‘squeeze’ as your torsion causes an
extra volume of air to be expelled.
As you relax your core and withdraw your palm,
two inhales occur: the relaxation of the core
(or complementary), and then the normal breath.
Step 3: Supplementary Breath
Repeat as Step 2, but at the end of the palm
projection rotate your elbow and lightly extend
your arm to lockout with a fist at the end. You
will additionally feel your rear knee dip
slightly more and your rear heel turn over and
outward as you extend and rotate your core
maximally at a 90 degree angle to the direction
that you originally faced.
This time exhale maximally, deep and
diaphragmatically. Lock down your core entirely.
On this final step you will experience your
shoulder action most greatly, both on the
projection and the withdrawal. It rolls forward
to project the elbow, then palm, then the
rotating fist. It rolls backward to pull the
rotating fist, palm, & elbow.
As you relax your core and withdraw your palm,
three inhales occur: a relaxation of the maximal
contraction of the core, an additional breath in
between (complementary), and then the normal
breath from twisting back into beginning frame.
These descriptions could become very detailed
and complex. However, I only gave the overview
so that you could experience the exercise
immediately. For a deeper appreciation of the
nuances reference Intu-Flow™.
This is an excellent exercise to include in your
daily morning practice: 3 reps in each of the 3
steps. Doing so will go to great lengths towards
helping you sophisticate your breath mastery – and as a result increase your
tension/force sensitivity and proportional force