In 2011, Rickson Gracie was invited to an unusual challenge in Japan, where he has the status of national idol. A TV show wanted to test one of his biggest strengths as a fighter: his lungs.
In fact, to Master Rickson, there is no technique more important to the jiujitsu student than the exercises performed with the lungs. He says that one of the secrets to his success in the rings was precisely the power of his diaphragm, and how he was able to manage the oxygen and his clear thinking when a big opponent was coming at him. Breathing correctly, as Rickson learned from an early age, was the only way not to lose his cool—and the fight.
Today, medicine and science prove that Rickson was right all along.
It's the case of the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Judson Brewer, a specialist from Brown University who wrote the book Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycle of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind.
Dr. Brewer studied for years the best way to deal with anxiety and panic syndrome. He realized that the recipe were not meds, pills or chemical experiments—the healthiest, most effective and most lasting response were breathing exercises.
He discovered multiple benefits in these exercises, quite similar to what Rickson always did before his fights, to lower his heart rate and calm down. Exercises that every white-belt should learn—and teach at home to anxious relatives.
According to Brewer, meditation and attention to breathing are two of the most effective practices to take care of a person's mental health and emotional control. Including his own, as, after taking up meditation, the doctor noticed improvements in his interpersonal relationships, in his work and at home with the missus.
Check out Rickson's performance in a water tank in Japan, and remember: breathing and meditation can save your health. Even underwater.