by: Master Cat Fitzgerald

“Breathe. Breathe,” were the soft, yet demanding, words entering my sleep.

Wait, I’m not sleeping. Why am I wet…uh oh….tell me I didn’t….

More and more clarity and confusion arose like the lights coming up in an unfamiliar room – you see more and, yet, have more questions. From the blackness the dimmer switch was being turned up with each “Breathe.”

Looking to my side, waking to the coffee breath of my safety partner as she gently urged me awake, I realized I had blacked out; gone unconscious. Moments earlier that word could have meant death. Autonomic (involuntary) vs. Somatic (voluntary) nervous systems could not be more clearly defined as when the your body, starved for air yet still twenty feet below the surface, has the battle, “Breathe! Don’t breathe!” Rescued to the surface, Liz lets me know, body and mind, by blowing across my face that it is safe to breathe and instructs me at the same time, that I must do so.

How far can a dog run into the woods? Half way; the other half, he is running out. How far can a Freediver dive? 49%, if s/he wants to live to talk about it.

Many breaths, voluntary, involuntary, unintentional, and intentional later I have been asked by a fitness magazine, “Aa an Olympic Trainer, what is the most important tip for leading a healthy lifestyle?” I run down the long check list of things I find important for clients and myself: Nutrition, resiliency, rest, strength, skillset, mindset, calmness, flexibility… hmm. Leaning back in my chair, giving concerted thought, I sigh. The answer hits as my eyes roll, shoulders shrug and hands flip palms up. Breathe.

Breathing allows all of the other things to occur. It is there when we are in competition, at rest, ramping up, recovering, and simply being. Breathing brings fuel to our body and brain, without which not much else matters. Whether Olympian, Special Forces, or fitness enthusiast, respiration is necessary. Bringing in O2 and expelling CO2, improving VO2max, working with efficiency, breath management, and conservation of energy is paramount for athleticism, but breathing is most important in our everyday lives. Not just to survive, for quantity of years, but for quality of life, too.

During times of stress we autonomically clench our upper traps (tightness in the neck area), glutes (buttocks), and our abdominals. When in an argument we find ourselves holding onto our breath (especially when holding our tongues), and when we release that hold, letting out an exasperated sigh, we feel better, more relaxed. It is a biofeedback system that we can take conscious control over. How we mentally feel creates a physiological response. By choosing a physiologic expression we can affect how we feel mentally, too. It goes both ways.

Push your belly button outward breathing deep into your stomach. Relax your shoulders. Breathe deeply and into your belly, using your lower lungs. Next time you are stressed, breathe diaphragmatically and feel a calmness wash over you.

Hear the voice saying, “Breathe. Breathe,” (as long as you are in a gaseous oxygen rich environment).


Cat Fitzgerald Sensei and Sifu

Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali, Rapid Assault Tactics, and ASSERT Empowerment and Self Defense

Cat Fitzgereald Sensei

His Martial Arts career spans 40 years and features Dan rankings in Aikido, Shotokan, and TaeKwonDo, and lifetime training in Judo, Kali, Silat, Wing Chun, Jeet Kun Do, and Muay Thai Kickboxing among others. He is a member of the Jeet Kune Do Athletics AssociationInstructor Team under Sifu Harinder Singh Sabharwal,PFS Edged Weapons Law Enforcement Instructor, and a Phase One Instructor under Sigung Paul Vunak. He began and continues his Jeet Kune Do training under Sifu Dwight Woods.

He has had the privilege of training Military, FBI, CIA, DEA, and a number of Law Enforcement and Special Ops Teams in Close Quarters Combat, Weapons, and a diverse collection of Martial Arts, which he teaches under the Neko Okami Integrated Martial Arts banner. He also trains Olympic and Professional Athletes in Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training and Muscle Resilience, helping them to increase their body’s performance potential. Fitzgerald Sensei also uses these modalities to assist pre- and post surgery patients rehabilitate their injuries, training their bodies to achieve their optimal conditioning. For more complete information about Fitzgerald Sensei, please visit his