Diaphragmatic Breathing – An Introduction

On Monday night I held a seminar on an introduction to Diaphragmatic Breathing and discovering your diaphragm. I didn’t get to video the seminar so I thought I would create a blog about the subject.

What is the diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a huge, dome-shaped involuntary muscle at the bottom of the rib cage.


When we breathe, this dome-shaped muscle contracts and flattens downward allowing a reduced pressure in the upper body so that air may enter the lungs and provide tension across the top of the abdominal area. As we breathe in, we should see the stomach, lower ribs and back expand slightly as the dome contracts and compresses the abdominal space. As we breathe out, both the chest and the stomach return to their original position.

When many of us breathe ‘normally’ we use a shallow breath and quite often through our mouth. This is called Thoracic breathing, inhalation by expanding the thorax, using the intercostal muscles to elevate the ribs. As we breathe in, the chest and shoulders rise and the stomach may contract inwards. This may look good in the mirror but is not a good breathing pattern. This type of breathing triggers our nervous systems fight or flight response and as a result, not only do we panic breathe, but the heart rate rises quickly and we tire and lose the ability to think clearly as we revert to using our reptilian brain.

When you deep breathe your diaphragm contracts and stimulates the vagus nerve, which sends a message to the brain telling us to relax. So many benefits come from deep breathing including:
• Helps lower blood pressure
• Helps lower blood sugar
• Releases serotonin, which not only makes you feel good, but can reduce cravings for processed carbohydrates and other junk food
• Increases the secretion of growth hormone and slows the aging process
• Improves mental focus and clarity by increasing blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of your brain
• Improves sleep quality

Time yourself!

Breathe normally and time yourself over a one minute period to see how many times you breathe a full cycle (in and out). The average person will most likely breathe between 10 to 15 full cycles a minute, maybe more! The following exercise will reduce your breathing cycles down to just 3 or 4 per minute! You won’t be able to do this continuously for very long at the start, but with practice you will last longer. Of course you will not breathe like this 24/7, but with practice your breaths will become slower and longer as your body starts to subconsciously use the diaphragm more and you breathe into your chest less.

Exercise 1: Discover and exercise your diaphragm!

Lay on the floor, place your right hand on your stomach and your left hand on your chest. Breathe in through your nose as if you are filling a balloon in your stomach. Of course, you are not literally breathing into your stomach! But what is happening, is as your diaphragm contracts it compresses your organs in your midsection and expands your stomach. Your chest and shoulders should remain relaxed and should not move much, if at all. Inhale for the count of 8 then hold for the count of 2. (When you hold, don’t close your throat or mouth as if you are shutting off the exit – just stop breathing as if you are in a state of suspended animation. Everything remains open and exactly the same as while you are breathing as your abs, obliques, etc will tense to try to stop your diaphragm from relaxing). Exhale slowly for the count of 8 while making a ‘sss’ sound to control the rate of exhale. At the end of your exhale hold for 2 (“Suspended animation” again, muscles tense to stop the diaphragm from trying to contract) then repeat the cycle. Repeat this exercise for five minutes. If you are unable to reach the count of 8 for the inhale or exhale, start at a lower number and work up.

Exercise 2: The 360 breath

Sitting in an upright position, make a claw with both hands and grab your sides, thumb to the back and fingers to the front. You want your hands to squeeze above your hip bone and below your ribs in that fleshy part. Lightly squeeze as you inhale. Same as exercise 1, inhale into your belly as if you are blowing up a balloon in your stomach. Not only should your fingers move outwards with the expansion of your belly, but your thumb should also move outwards as your lower ribs and lower back expand. Just inhale slowly then exhale slowly without stopping between the two. Breathe 10 full cycles like this

Exercise 3: Multitasking

Now we are going to stand up and walk around while practicing our breathing. Place a hand on your stomach and the other on your chest and slowly walk around the room as you concentrate on breathing into your belly. Just walk casually and take note of your breathing the whole time. There may be the temptation to tuck the belly in and push the chest out in an attempt to look cool, but let it all hang out! relax that chest and shoulders, just walk and breathe!

When it comes to Jiu Jitsu, the benefits should be obvious. Lower heart rate, ability to think clearly under pressure, no gasping for air, etc. Try breathing while escaping side control or mount. Or even while drilling basic passes like the toreando pass.  DO NOT gasp, grunt or moan! Breathe through the stress! Exhale as you exert energy (bridging or shooting for the underhook, for example). Sometimes you may have to take smaller breaths in through the nose and ‘sshh, sshh, shh’ out the mouth. Just keep breathing!

So there you have it, an introduction to diaphragmatic breathing.  Continue these exercises for about 10 minutes each day and feel the improvements!

BJJ is a bit… gay?


This is a very common response I get, along with “BJJ doesn’t work”. But I’m not the only one to hear these comments I’m sure!

The fact is Jiu JItsu works. Yes, you will end up in some compromising positions at times that at a glance may seem somewhat homoerotic but, believe me, when another man is trying to break your limbs or choke you unconscious, the last thing on your mind is your (or his!) sexual orientation!

I must admit when I first seen grappling I thought along the same lines. I had a background in Karate, Kickboxing and Kali/Arnis and never had an interest in grappling. Being a professional musician I have seen my share of ‘street fights’ in pubs over the years. Most of those fights ended up on the ground with some dude on top of another dude and swinging wildly, sometimes hitting his target and other times punching the floor. Rarely did a fight remain standing.

I would see these fights happening while singing some ‘Chisel’ and think “oh man, what would I do if I was on the bottom and that dude was swinging at me like that!?” I had no answers playing in my head! Nothing! Until I started training Jiu Jitsu… I no longer think like I used to! I am a hundred times more confident that given a similar situation I can control the outcome.

Once I put those initial thoughts aside and went to my first class the realism and effective nature of the art became apparent and all I could see on the mats was combat. Two people trying to dismember each other! See, you need to realise that when you ‘tap’ to a submission you are saying “ok, you got me.. I would be dead (or broken arm etc) if you kept going any further”. Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport and extremely effective self defense. Jiu jitsu is more than just ‘fighting off your back’.

I think what it all comes down to is this; If you think Jiu Jitsu doesn’t work, you obviously haven’t trained any grappling and are ignorant to the facts. If you think Jiu Jitsu is ‘gay’ let me put things into perspective:

Look at some other sports… Football, for example. League, Union, take your pick. How is it that sweaty men hugging each others hips as they stick their head between two guys legs to pack a scrum isn’t any less ‘gay’ than Jiu Jitsu? Boxing, when fighters clinch to tie up their opponent and break their momentum. Are they not ‘hugging’ each other?

Things that are gay:
Being attracted to some members of your sex.

Things that aren’t gay:
All other things.

Each to their own! But if we ever go head to head in a fight I’ll be the one whispering sweet nothings in your ear as I choke you unconscious 😛


Meeting Rickson


So I recently had the absolute pleasure of meeting and learning from the man himself, Rickson Gracie!

Fellow team mate Brent and I traveled the four and a half hour drive to Redfern, Sydney on August 26. The seminar was by far the largest I have been to, with well over 100 people in attendance.

We arrived a little early, enough time to meet up with an old team mate and grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence to get changed and begin learning!


I also had the chance to touch base with other enthusiasts I have met over the years, which was great because living in the bush, I don’t get to see these awesome people very often!

Rickson taught a lot of invisible jiu jitsu, importance of hip movement, self defense aspects and its importance and a lot more over the three hours! I partnered with some great guys from Ribeiro Canberra (Thanks Renato!) and learned some excellent principles to add to my game!

After the seminar came the lining up, buying merchandise and getting the all important photo and autograph from the man himself! A great day spent with awesome people and learning experience I’ll never forget!


Why did I start Jiu Jitsu?

It is winter of June 2012, a year after my father passed away. I had not been dealing with his death very well at all. I was 41 years old at the time and while sitting on the couch one Sunday night I suffered sever Vertigo which led to a panic attack and shortly after, Ventricular fibrillation. I spent a week in the stroke and heart attack ward of a hospital until my heart went back into rhythm and another week in the rehabilitation ward before being released. I still suffered vertigo for the following few months and was taking a handful of medication every day to keep my heart in rhythm and my blood thinned.

Approximately five months after my visit to hospital I was invited to go to a friends house to watch the UFC every Pay Per View event. I had a martial arts background from my younger years, training kickboxing, karate and kali, but had been inactive since my mid 20’s. After watching UFC and seeing some Jiu Jitsu used in the fights I developed an interest and decided to start training at the local PCYC under a pro MMA fighter who had moved here just a few years before.

I was hesitant to go to training at first because of a few things I guess… My age! Being almost 42 I felt I was too old to train with younger, fitter guys. My fitness! I was 116kg (255 pounds) and terribly unfit. My confidence! Although I was a professional musician and played to audiences every week, I was not a people person and struggled to make friends or even talk to people! But I pushed myself to go, mainly because I was scared of what happened to me those months prior and felt I needed it.

At first I wanted to do Jiu Jitsu for the fitness and to regain my balance (I was still feeling short bouts of vertigo every day) but in a short amount of time I developed a real passion for the art. It is so much more complex than any other martial art I have ever seen or trained. In the beginning I was overweight and really struggled to move! I felt like a beached whale splashing around frantically trying to get back in the ocean! But the nature of the art was intoxicating and I had to learn more. The Jiu Jitsu bug had bitten!

When a new gym opened in my town about eight months later, all the members I trained with at the local PCYC moved over to keep training in a new location and new instructor. I stepped up my training to four and five days per week where I developed my skills much faster. One year later I was promoted to blue belt, in December 2014.

Skip forward to now, 2017, I am a purple belt and running my own gym. We don’t have black belts within 150km of my town (otherwise I would be training with them!) so when our other gym closed in July 2016 I had a decision to make.. either train in my living room at home with a couple of fellow students or take a responsibility and open a gym! More to come on that subject…

So if you have even been in a bad spot in life with your health, whether it is physical or mental, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. My path was Jiu Jitsu. I would recommend BJJ to everybody regardless of age, fitness level, size, etc for improving both you physical flexibility and fitness as well as your mental health. The time you spend on the mats is a release from those stressful thoughts. You will be so engrossed in the art of Jiu Jitsu there will be nothing else on your mind for that entire time! It will change your life like no other martial art out there. Try it 🙂