The Kiai – The Power of Loud Shout in the Martial Arts

The Kiai and its Usage in the Martial Arts

During some movements in the martial arts, we also practice a loud shout or yell. This yell comes from the lower area of the belly or hara. We usually practice this shout directly after or before an attack.

You will also make use of the kiai during class and in basic movements such as Stances. In the beginning, it is often difficult to kiai. Why? Because you are being heard. Many people have trouble with speaking out.

When students are asked to do a kiai for the first time, they usually begin with a small yelp. This sounds even funnier than a kiai, which is what they were afraid of in the first place. Once students get used to the discomfort, they have no problem with performing a kiai on command. Many of us live through life in the background going unnoticed by society. This may be okay for some people, but for most, it creates a shield that keeps them from enhancing their future or career. Outside of this realm of life, there are three main reasons for doing a kiai during combat:

1: A kiai is used to receive a sudden surge of power by speeding up the adrenaline flow.

A kiai gives us energy, power and belief. This is why you hear people scream just before they are going to do something brave, heroic, courageous or even stupid. A warrior jumps off of a rock in an ambush and you hear him shout. A war Hero yells as he runs into battle. A martial artist throws a kick in self-defense training and he kiai’s. A top executive jumps off a ten-story building and he screams. I suggest your kiai’s be used for one of the first three examples. A kiai is a sort of body drug that will numb the pain and increase our ability.

2: To break the concentration of your opponent.

Can you imagine the reaction of someone who just received a perfect kiai to the face, totally by surprise? This breaks your opponents concentration and allows you some time to react. However, imagine your opponent coming up and you yelp like a puppy. This may only be effective in reducing a threat if he starts laughing so hard he falls over.

Remember congruency is key – if you want fire, your kiai has to be on fire. Just like being in a business meeting and you have something to say, if what you have to say is hot, then you need to share that emotion and continue with the same burning desire as you give your speech. If what you have to say is soft and subtle like a soft breeze, then you have to blow in like the wind and give a speech that leaves the audience feeling refreshed.

3: A kiai, is a natural air shield

Have you ever been punched in the stomach? How about falling on your back only to knock the air right out of you? You end up standing or lying there wondering if you’re ever going to breathe again. Either way, you are almost totally hopeless, because you can’t breathe. So how can we protect ourselves against this? Well, we can use a little homeopathy. By breathing before the fall, you will keep yourself from losing your breath. So a kiai is not only important when attacking, but also when being attacked. It doesn’t matter if the situation is combat related or a heated discussion in the office. Your reactions will be in reaction to your surrounding environment.

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