Breathing Tips for Perfect Shooting

June 05, 2012 by Konstantin Komarov  


translated by Dmitry Trufanov


There is a key factor in Systema shooting, which has to do with breathing. Shooting in real situations and therefore in Systema training is done mostly on the move. Thus you cannot apply breath holds as recommended by many other schools of shooting. When actively moving about, the body’s oxygen demand is high and breath holding would lead to excessive excitation of one’s psyche and muscle tone. Therefore, breathing on the move should circulate freely and continuously.

Hence the need for the correct type of breathing, which does not affect the shoulder level even at a very high work load. This means that inhalation and exhalation should be done mostly with the diaphragm and abdomen, rather than chest and shoulders. Let’s use a simple drill to check if your breathing is a good fit for shooting on the move.

Take 10 pebbles and throw them into a tree trunk from a distance of about 15 ft (4-5 m). Do not spend more than 15 seconds for the 10 throws. Complete 3 series of 10 throws each and calculate your average success rate (total number of hits divided by the number of series). Then complete 25 squats while holding your breath, then as you start recovery, immediately do 10 throws in less than 15 seconds. Remember your result.

Then do the same after 25 pushups while holding your breath, then after 25 leg raises, also with breath holding. Calculate your new average success rate and compare it with the previous result achieved with normal breathing.

Note that the number of Systema core exercises (squats, pushups and leg raises) can be less or more depending on your physical abilities.

If the new result is lower by 30% (i.e. by 3 hits per series) or more, then you most likely have adopted a counterproductive type of breathing not suitable for shooting on the move. This means that during intensive breathing you engage your shoulders, neck and many other muscles that are not needed for the task.  This in turn brings excessive tension to the body and psyche.

So, how does one develop correct breathing? It’s very simple! Practice Systema breathing exercises gradually and regularly. Once in a while ask someone experienced to observe your breathing and provide feedback. 

If you are a confident shooter and have access to a range, try doing this exercise with a pistol. You will need an upper-body target at a distance of about 25 ft. (8 m) and 5 bullets per series. Facing the target, shoot from the chest level while holding the pistol in one hand. While shooting, keep walking on the spot. The sequence and result calculation is the same as with the pebble drill described above, but a 20% reduction in hit rate is now considered significant.

Give it a try. Monitor and correct yourself. Let us know how it worked for you. Best of luck!

Enjoy the essential breath program for persons of any age, any fitness level and any profession who wish to get more proficient, stronger and healthier.

Konstantin Komarov

- Major in the Special Service Police Force
- Russian Military Reconnaissance
- PhD in combat Psychology
- Professional Bodyguard for Moscow's Elite
- One of the master instructors at Systema Camp