Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba literally translates to “Demon Slayer: Demon-Slaying Blade” – which indicates how integral swordsmanship is to the plot. A blade and a hilt make up most interactions in the anime. Demon Slayer is set during the Taisho Period in Japan when it was littered with Demons. The existence of demons that prey on humans does not create a harmonious balance between the two.
Read about the strongest demon slayers in Demon Slayer here!
1) What are Breathing Style Techniques?
Breath Style Techniques are swordsmanship techniques that are taught and practised within the Demon Slayer Corps. It helps them develop their strength and capacity to fight an equal or possibly superior match with a demon. These are used along with Nichirin Blades with a few exceptions.
Breath Style Techniques are specific and concentrated breathing patterns which allow the practitioner to increase their lung capacity and the amount of oxygen in their blood. This helps them reach a high point of mental concentration and increase their physical abilities to match that of a Demon’s. These techniques are quite helpful in slowing down poison within the system and clotting wounds faster – even those from severe injuries.
2) Origins and Types
All current Breath Styles practised by the Demon Slayer Corps are derived from the Breath of the Sun, which was the first Breath Style to be created.
(I) Breath of the Sun
The Breath of the Sun is an ancient and yet-to-be-seen swordsmanship style that was used by the first Demon Slayer. The Breath of the Sun users are claimed to be extinct but the style did branch into Breath of Flames, Breath of Water, Breath of Wind, Breath of Stone and Breath of Thunder. It served as a foundation for the other Breath Styles that further branched into more.
(II) Breath of Flames
Breath of Flames is one of the five foundational Breath Styles derived from the Breath of the Sun. It has 9 forms – each being deadlier than the previous. A known user of this style is Kyojuro Rengoku of the Hashiras.
Breath of Flames branched into a personal Breath Style created by Mitsuri Kanorji, a Hashira, called the Breath of Love. The form consists of 6 styles that are sword-slashing based.
(III) Breath of Water
Breath of Water is another foundational style that was primarily used by Sakonji Urokodaki. The form originally consisted of 10 styles with Urokodaki’s disciple Giyu Tomioka creating the 11th Style for it later on. This style is also used by Tanjiro as he was under Urokodaki’s tutelage.
Breath of the Flower Style is derived from the Breath of Water. It can be estimated as per the manga, that it consists of 7 forms. This style was practised by Kanae Kochi and is currently used by Kanao Tsuyuri.
Breath of the Serpent is the second branch under the Breath of Water. It is used by Obanai Iguro and focuses on the flexibility of the sword – twisting and bending the sword as a snake does. The total number of forms within this style is not known but it does go on till the fifth form.
Breath of Insects is the final branch of Breath of Water (technically from Breath of Flower) and is practised by Shinobu Kocho – a Hashira. This was created by Shinobu to compensate for her lack of physical strength – therefore, the form focuses on inflicting multiple wounds on their opponent and poisoning them with lethal Wisteria-based poisons. As of now, 4 attacks are known within the form.
(IV) Breath of Wind
Breath of Wind is derived from the Breath of the Sun. It further branched into three styles. The Breath of Wind makes use of an enhanced sense of touch. There are seven known styles to it and these are being used by Sanemi Shinazugawa – a Hashira.
Breath of the Mist is derived from Breath of Wind and is put to use by Muichiro Tokito – a Hashira. The style originally consisted of 6 forms with Muichiro creating its 7th form during his fight against an Upper Moon Demon.
Breath of the Beast – another derivation of Breath of Wind is practised by Inosuke Hashibira. It enhances the sense of touch while using different techniques. The form has 10 styles with an extra technique created by Inosuke himself.
(V) Breath of Thunder
Breath of the Thunder or the Breath of the Lightning is one of the five foundational styles under Breath of Sun. Its primary user is known to be Jigoro Kuwajima who trained Zenitsu Agatsuma. The form consists of 6 styles originally but *spoiler alert for anime fans* a seventh style was created by Zenitsu in his battle against an Upper Moon Six.
Breath of the Sound is derived from Breath of Thunder. This is unique to Tengen Uzui, a Hashira, who uses it to read opponents movements and analyse them like sound through their rhythmic movements – allowing him to strike with dramatic effect.
(VI) Breath of Stone
Breath of Stone is the final foundational branch under Breath of Sun. The known user of Breath of Stone is Gyomei Himejima, the most powerful Hashira. The form has 4 styles.
(VII) Dance of the Fire God
Dance of the Fire God is a breath style practised and passed on within the Kamado family – father to son. Although the origins of it are unknown it is hypothesized to be under the Breath of the Sun. The form has 12 segments that are performed from sunrise to sunset. Notable users of this style are Tanjiro Kamado and his father, Tanjuro.
Spoiler: There also consists a Breath of the Moon with unknown origins. This Breath Style is practised by an Upper Moon Demon, Kokushibo and consists of 16 different techniques.
4) Disparity among Demon Slayers
There is a considerable disparity between the slayers – as noted by their ranks. The vast difference in abilities between the normal demon slayers and the elite known as the Hashiras (Pillars) is quite evident. What creates this vast difference is the Hashiras ability to master the Full Focus Breathing or the Total Concentration Breathing at all times.
What is Total Concentration Breathing you ask? Breath Style Users enter a state where they inhale maximum amounts of oxygen through specific breathing patterns which allow them to access the utmost capacity of their physical and mental strengths. Usually, this state is entered by normal slayers to settle a fight – for a final attack. But that is where the difference in training and capacities is stark clear. The Hashiras or the Pillars constantly maintain this state at all times – including while asleep.
Tanjiro’s fight against Rui and its after-effects revealed the intense training it would take to remain in such a state constantly. Tanjiro claimed he could not stay in that state for more than 10 minutes. Therefore, with this, one can trace the difference in the capabilities of a Hashira and a normal Slayer. Kanao has seemed to master the Total Concentration technique as it is said that she can cause a specially crafted gourd to explode just by blowing into it. Whereas Tanjiro struggled immensely to the last of his consciousness to defeat Rui – who was ultimately put to rest by Giyu Tomioka – a Hashira.
Demon Slayers don’t up and begin swinging swords – hoping one would deal the fatal blow – they train to push their boundaries and expand the potential humans are capable of. They use special blades called Nichirin Blades that are formed from a unique ore that absorbs sunlight – one of the few weaknesses demons possess. Each Nichirin blade changes colour as it is drawn by the owner – unlocking certain unique properties along with it.
With such unique properties, Demon Slayers must train to expand their potential and utilise it to fight on par with a demon. One of the foundational techniques to sword fighting in the anime is Breath Style Techniques – causing a disparity in power even among the slayers. The breath style techniques are quite ancient but keep evolving as the years go by. The circumstances and creativity of the slayers’ open doors for more techniques.