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Breathing Styles in Demon Slayer

Set in the Taisho period of Japan, Muzan reigns on in the Demon Slayer universe. The Demon Slayer Corps have been trying to end their rampage for the last 100 years. The show’s Japanese translation “Kimetsu No Yaiba” literally translates to Demon Slaying Blade, depicting how important swordsmanship is in the story. Naturally, all demon slayers are trained to find their own true fighting technique, and thus, Kokyu Hyo was created. Today, after decades of evolution, different forms of these “Breathing Styles” is the main weapon they use to combat demons. It makes use of an esoteric breathing technique known as Total Concentration Breathing.

DISCLAIMER: This article contains too many spoilers and only proceed if you’ve read the manga.

There are many different styles and forms that different Hashira and demon slayers use:

  1. Sun Breathing – The main thing to remember, all of the other breathing styles stem from the Breath of the Sun which was the first breathing style ever invented. With a total of 12 forms and almost 13 branches, it was first created and used by the Sun Breather, Yoriichi Tsugikuni, who *almost* ended the wrath of the first demon, Muzan Kibutsuji and his demons a thousand years ago. Right now, Tanjiro, who also happens to be linked to Yoriichi due to the Hanafuda earrings, is the only user of the Hinokami Kagura technique. He is yet to unplug its full force, and for the time being, he uses it in combination with Water Breathing to strengthen his stamina.
  2. Moon Breathing – Breath of the Moon is a style developed by Michikatsu Tsugikuni (Kokushibo, the Upper Moon 1) that is derived from Breath of the Sun. He also happened to be the brother of Yoriichi. After a very close showdown with Yoriichi, he spends years perfecting his breathing technique that he still uses instead of using his Blood Demon Art. He has created 14 forms of this Moon Breathing technique.
  3. Stone Breathing – In the current period where the manga starts, the Breath of Stone has 5 forms and is one of the 6 fundamental branches derived from the Breath of the Sun. Right now, the blind Stone Hashira, Gyomei Himejima is the only known user. He is often proclaimed to be the strongest Hashira in the entire Demon Slayer Corps, becoming Hashira in just 2 months. If you have read the manga, you already know just how powerful he is, in the Infinity Castle arc as he easily fights against Kokushibo and then subsequently against Muzan until his leg is slashed off by him in the Sunrise Countdown arc.
  4. Wind Breathing – Currently used by the Wind Hashira, Sanemi Shinazugawa, this has 9 forms and 2 branches of its own: Breath of the Mist and Breath of the Beast. The Breath of the Wind uses gales and tornadoes as its most offensive techniques. Kokushibo has even said that Sanemi’s powers reminded him of the first Wind Hashira during the Sengoku Era, which happens to be the golden age of Hashiras. Sanemi has immense capability to annihilate dozens of demons comparable to Lower Rank demons, and even against the Upper-Rank One, side-by-side with Gyomei, as shown in the Infinity Castle Arc. According to Kokushibo, Sanemi’s physical abilities and techniques have reached their peak.
  5. Mist Breathing – Tokito Muichiro is the youngest Hashira to ever exist and descendant of the Tsugikuni twins, (yes, descendent to Upper Moon 1!) Like Gyomei, he also acclaimed the status after only 2 months of training. This technique has 6 forms and the 7th form, Obscuring Clouds, was developed by Tokito literally during his fight with Kokushibo. Right now, it is the strongest form as it disorients, defends, and attacks with an envelope of mist and in the blink of an eye.
  6. Beast Breathing – The meant-to-be-annoying boar-headed and yet, surprisingly handsome Inosuke Hashibira invents this technique by himself during his trainee days in the mountains. That is how gifted he is. He is the only demon Slayer to dual wield his Nichirin katanas and by the last arc, he is actually head-on with the Upper Moon 2, Doma, the killer of his mother. While he was able to master Total Concentration Breathing on his own without any training, mah man cannot be bothered to remember the names of his teammates. Right now, it has 10 “fangs” all developed by Insouke himself.
  7. Thunder Breathing – Another main breathing style directly developed from Breath of the Sun, Zenitsu Agatsuma is the current user of this technique that mimics the swiftness of lightning. Trained by his teacher and sort-of-grandfather, Jigoro Kuwajima, Zenitsu was able to master only one out of the 6 forms and create 3 variations of it. Zenitsu comes off as a weak, low self-esteem guy who wants to avoid fighting demons at any cost, but it is revealed soon that when he fights, he is asleep! This actually works out great for him because in the Infinity Castle Arc, he actually ends up creating the 7th form of the Breath of Thunder.
  8. Sound Breathing – This is a technique derived from the Breath of Thunder. It imitates disorientating loudness and replicates it via the user’s movements. It utilizes explosives against massive amounts of damage while simultaneously making extremely fast movements that bear resemblance to the speed of sound, according to the perception of the user. Tengen Uzui is the only known Sound Hashira, who uses his superhuman sense of hearing called the Musical Score to read the movements of his opponents and deconstruct them into sound by analyzing their rhythm. This is exactly how he finally gives the fatal blow to Gyutaro, the Upper Moon 6, and gains a vast advantage. This technique can only be used with a specific set of weaponry, two huge nunchucks- like Nichirin Cleavers. It has 5 forms and such immense is their offensive capability that before Tengen, no one ever came close to scratching Daki and Gyuutaro, let alone defeat.
  9. Flame Breathing – Breath of Flames is one of the 6 primary breathing styles derived from the Breath of the Sun. With 9 forms and one branch, the Love Breathing, Kyojuro Rengoku trained himself to master the Flame Breathing by learning from a guidebook! It is very evident that he comes from a family of flame-breathing demon slayers as his father was also one. The key is to visualize the manipulation of flames. He is widely acknowledged as one of the strongest and kindest Hashira to ever exist. He successfully avenged the death of the 9 Demon Slayers that died to the Flute Demon by himself and later managed to singlehandedly defeat Lower Rank Two and One. He was the only Flame Hashira until his fatal death by Upper Moon 3 in the Mugen Train arc.
  10. Love Breathing – Another Hashira, Mitsuri Kanroji, personally developed this style from the Flame Breathing technique to suit her unique muscle density better. In simple words, this is a breathing style that is based on the emotion of love. Very few can use this technique as it requires a specific body composition and a special tool like a whip-style katana. It grants Mitsuri inhuman strength without making her physically bulky, to deliver fast and powerful blows while moving with incredible flexibility and agility. She developed 6 forms to make it deadlier, with 5 known techniques. She plays a big part in the fights against 2 Upper-Rank Fours, Hantengu and later, Nakime. She, along with her teammates, goes up against the Demon King himself and she manages to stay alive with the help of her intuition alone when she could no longer fight until she finally meets her fateful death with her lover, Serpent Hashira, Obanai Iguro-  *sobs*.
  11. Water Breathing – This is another direct derivation of the Sun Breathing technique and has 11 forms with 3 branches: Breath of the Flower, Breath of the Serpent, Breath of Insects. One of the earliest Hashira introduced in Demon Slayer, Giyu Tomioka is one of the many Water Breathers in the series along with Sakonji Urokodaki, Murata, Sabito, Makomo, Tanjiro, and Aoi Kanzaki. It is one of the most flexible styles of breathing as it allows users to combine it in conjunction with other breathing styles. Giyu uses all 3 branches along with his Water Breathing, which makes him one of the most formidable opponents that the demons could ever have. He actually invented the 11th form, Dead Calm, and fans have been lucky enough to see all of its forms through Tanjiro as he uses them all to build towards his family’s Hinokami Kagura style. Upper Moon 3, Akaza even offers to transform him into a demon because of his supreme swordsmanship. Giyu and Tanjiro go on to play a pivotal role in the final battle against Muzan ultimately defeating him, with the help of this technique.
  12. Flower Breathing – This technique, a branch of the Water Breathing, focuses on the agility of the user and also enhances their vision at the same time, albeit at the possible cost of their eyesight. It mimics the flora and imitates and manipulates them in the user’s movements. The late Kanae Kocho was the Flower Hashira and her adopted sister, Kanao Tsuyuri also uses this technique. It has a total of 7 forms, the 7th being the absolute strongest raising the user’s kinetic vision to its maximum potential while making the user’s perception of the world in slow motion. Kanae was said to have made up for her weak body strength by using a uniquely designed Nichirin sword that helped her mix her poisons which essentially helped in quickly fatally poisoning her opponents. Several years prior to the beginning of the series, Kanae is said to have passed away after holding her own till sunrise in the battle against Upper-Rank 2, Doma.
  13. Insect Breathing – A derivative of the Water & Flower Breathing, Shinobu Kocho uses Insect Breathing- she is the current Insect Hashira. Through this technique, she is able to replicate the quick movement of insects and strike lethal stings with her notoriously thin katana that ends in a needle tip. She mostly uses the fatal Wisteria poison, along with 4 forms of the technique to inflict mortal wounds on her demon opponents. After being pulled into the Infinity Castle along with the rest of the Demon Slayer Corps, Shinobu goes up against Doma, Kanae’s killer. With her vast knowledge in poison, she knew exactly what to mix and how much to use to bring him down. Unfortunately, she meets the same fate as her sister but her poison-filled body is devoured by Doma which finally weakens him to the extent that he is successfully killed by Inosuke and Kanao. *sobs again*
  14. Serpent Breathing – Used by the Serpent Hashira, Iguro, it uses a very unique kind of sword that can bend and twist in the slithering way snakes do; he uses the Indonesian Kris Sword to help enhance his abilities. It has 5 forms. The unique feature of this ability is, the attacks are not direct- they constantly meander until striking anywhere. Obanai is shown to be extremely resilient, imitating a snake, as he goes up against the Demon King along with his teammates in the finale and is the first one to stand up even though his eyes were clawed out. Even though Obanai loses his life at the end of the battle, he was undoubtedly one of the biggest contributors in subduing the Demon King (Chapter 188 will bring you to tears~).

These techniques are used in combination with Nichirin blades. They are precise and focused, and help the practitioner maximize their lung capacity as well as the amount of oxygen they intake. It also helps them control the poison they have in their blood during fights and hastens the pace of blood clots. This is actually a very crucial element while fighting against these immortal threats.

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