663 posts
Location: Glasgow

I have a question about my technique. I was reading the fire breathing instructions that Pele put up and noticed this:

"It is a natural instinct for a person to lean into or step into this action. Try to break yourself of this habit as it brings you closer to the fire"

My problem is that I lean forward and then begin to aspirate and during the actual fire breath I move back away from the flame in a similar way to the pillar technique. Should I stop doing this?

I've been breathing for about a year now and never even had the sunburn style symptoms described in the article. Personally I'm happy with the technique but I wonder what other performers think about it. Am I just lucky?

Have faith in what you can do and respect for what you can't

flidflidBRONZE Member
Carpal \'Tunnel
3,136 posts
Location: Warwickshire, United Kingdom

not a direct answer, but perhaps a useful one. Never act on any advice you hear on a forum concerning safety. There's too many untrustworthy people on the internet and those who don't think before they write. If you've got a question such as this to do with a specific article, your best bet may be to contact the author directly.

Frederick the RecklessFrederick the RecklessBRONZE Member
Troupe Leader and founder, Fire and Steel
241 posts
Location: Oregon, USA

i personally step back onto my left while keeping the right foot planted. this is done in the same motion as bringing the torch to the mouth.
as for the flashburn symptoms, they WILL come. this is usually caused by the torch being close enough to the face and the blow goes wide instead of high. practice with the aperture of the mouth, tension in the throat and diaphragm and you can get different effects and shapes. the downside is that you also find out what the flashburn feels like, as you will eventually stumble upon the very actions that cause it. one way to help prevent this is to not bring the torch too close to the face, about 10 inches or so will suffice. the downside to this is it limits your bursts in size as not as much fuel gets ignited.
on an side note, here's a tip to get a spherical burst. instead of blowing, try a short, hard "P" sound. it should in practice sound like a hard puff. it should also take about 1/4 of a second to do. what this does is expels a small amount of finely atomized fuel, and the high pressure from the puff will blow through the center of it. the fuel will roll itself into a donut shape, and as it ignites, will turn spherical.
i've been breathing fire for about 4 years, and have experimented with a number of techniques. i am always trying new things to give a new look and feel to what i now consider passe' in firebreathing. let me know if you have any questions, via private message.

Frederick the Reckless,
Troupe Leader,
Fire and Steel

1 post

I agree that you should not adopt a technique because you read it on the internet. Although I will tell you what I do and why I do it with respect to forward/back.

I do not lean forward on my front leg. This may seem like it allows you to move farther back, when really it just puts you off balance and makes it harder to jump back in case you have to. You're also more likely to fall over if you're unbalanced, and lets not forget that you likely have a bottle of fuel and a lit torch falling to the ground with you, and your body between them provides a great wick (especially if you're not naked and totally shaved)

I do not move back until AFTER I have closed my mouth and stopped releasing fuel. The reason for this is that when you move your head backwards, the air has to get out of the way. When it goes around your head, it must fill in the space in front of your face and forms vortices of swirling air (eddies) around the edge of your head that all blow towards and across your face. This can bring flames, combustion byproducts, superheated gases, and fuel vapors/mist into your face. The opposite of what you're trying to achieve. Not good.

I also turn my head to the side (while keeping my chin up) and wipe my face in the same motion while I'm moving away. This puts the eddy on the side of my head and away from any orifices that are directly connected to my lungs.

If you don't understand, try to find a photo or video of a sphere (or any non-airfoil object) in a wind tunnel with smoke injected. You'll see the air spiral behind it and back into it. Whitewater kayakers use eddies in rivers formed by water flowing around boulders to stop and take a break as they actually flow up-stream.

I also do not breathe with the wind at my back even though the internets often tell me to. For two reasons, first a "natural" form of the "eddy" around your face, as well as the fact that wind most often rapidly reverses directions 180 degrees instead of the more rare rapid change in directions of 90 degrees or some other angle. And we all know that it would be a bad thing(tm) to have the wind in your face. I always breathe cross-wise to the wind. And when I say wind, I mean gentle direction of movement of the air. I do not breath at all in "wind".

All of that is why I do not lean into it, and why I do not move my head back until after I stop releasing fuel.

Sustains (pillar technique) is different and I often move while still expelling fuel, although the same principles of air movement apply. Its complex but I will say I move as slowly as possible and with totally different motion.

I would rather get a radiant heat "sunburn" than blow dangerous things into my face because I moved my head.

Thats what I do. I've been lucky so far. Your mileage may vary.

PelePeleBRONZE Member
the henna lady
6,193 posts
Location: WNY, USA

I simply meant that with alot of beginners, it really is natural reaction to lean/step it. It puts you closer to flame/aspiration and like Lars said, tends to make a person a bit off balance.

Frederick, the "p" sound ones are often called "puffs" because they are not as large as many others but are often done in rapid fire succession and in combination with other stunts.

I often move while aspirating, for additional effect.

Stepping back and wiping your face is purely relative to where you are and what you are doing. For example, when I drop to my knees while aspirating up, all I can do is turn my head while the air clears. Practice (non-lit) is a good way to figure out where you need to go with each variation.

A note about Lars' statement on wind.

"the fact that wind most often rapidly reverses directions 180 degrees instead of the more rare rapid change in directions of 90 degrees or some other angle."

This is actually not a fact. It is highly dependent on where you are. We are very close to the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes here and as such, the wind will shift at smaller angles rather than 180. However, in the nearby mountains, it is more likely to do a 180. But at a series of shows I did last year, the wind didn't change direction so much as kick up, swirl around and then die down. It is extremely geographically dependent and as such, there is no fail safe.

Breathe well smile
EDITED_BY: Pele (1208873099)

Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

1 post

Looking for someone willing to record themselves performing fire breathing for a movie. Please email me at fleeksfg@ail.com I you are interested

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