Monday, 23 February 2009

Performing Kiai for all Martial Artists

There are two natural expressions of physical exertion. They are pulling a hard type of facial expression where you squint your eyes and show your teeth whilst they are grinding against each other (the type of grimace a power lifter performs when lifting a very heavy weight) and a shout of some sort. In Japanese martial arts this is called Kiai.

The kiai is a short shout which comes from the pit of the stomach as opposed to from the throat. There are some people who claim to be able to use there kiai as a fighting tool in order to physically knockout there opponents. Personally I have never felt that a kiai is able to do this and so will not dwell on the subject. But the kiai is definitely something which I feel should be performed by all martial artists for the following reasons.

For the person performing the kiai

• It is a way of releasing any stress, tension and negative feelings before and during fighting.
• Can help you place 100% focus on a technique. This is especially useful for strikers.
• Performing a kiai when receiving a blow can help block out the pain or sting from it.
• Can help you in breathing. Many people hold there breathe when fighting. By performing kiai, you exhale.

For the person receiving a kiai

• It can be off putting to hear, which can make you lose your focus and concentration.
• It can shock you and make you think your opponent is a crazy man/woman in capable of feeling pain!
• Can make you loosen up on your own strikes if the kiai is performed on you whilst you’re striking or just before you strike.

Karate fighters are all familiar with kiai as it is a part of there kata training and should also be performed during kihon (basic) training. The shout is usually performed as “Eiaa” but anything will do. The shout could be “argh”, “come on”, or even a grunt. As long as it is a natural expression of physical output it should do the job, although I can’t see many Karate instructors taking to there students shouting all sorts during training. Normally a natural shout will be a sharp short one, rather than a word or two., or even a grunt. As long as it is a natural expression of physical output it should do the job, although I can’t see many Karate instructors taking to there students shouting all sorts during training. Normally a natural shout will be a sharp short one, rather than a word or two.

I have found that the Kiai is very useful when fighting against non Karate fighters. For me, in Judo tournaments it has helped in securing throws and even when scrambling around during ground work, and has put many Muay Thai and MMA fighters off during sparring. It is something that non Karate fighters don’t expect and can be very off putting when hearing.

All martial artists should practise Kiai regardless of there style, and the best way to practise it in the beginning is against a heavy bag. Use your strongest punch and start hitting the bag with it, performing kiai every time the strike. You will notice straight away how performing kiai with a technique can help. Once you have become familiar with this start using it during sparring. Obviously performing kiai every couple of seconds will not do anything but give you a sore throat. Let it come naturally. Using it just before you strike can make your opponent lose focus as mentioned above, and is a good time to use it.

With practise Kiai will become a natural expression which will aid your fighting ability. As long as it is free flowing and naturally occurs it will do its job.


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3 comments: said...

You have 'The shout is usually performed as “Eiaa” but anything will do.' sentence repeated twice in the 5th paragraph :)

Also, real men should fight silently. Like James Bond :)

Kidding. Nice article. Keep it up :)

Anonymous said...

Kiai is a very useful tool and we are required to employ it with every striking technique during an exam. However: kiai is mainly employed when using a single technique and while it does add power and surprise to your attack it’s not very handy when combination-punching. Also: using kiai frequently is not very effective in terms of a) surprise-effect (which wears of after the first or second time) and b) conservation of breath. While it’s certainly better than holding your breath and it helps in focussing an attack I find it’s easier to sort of hiss during each punch/kick (like a boxer): it’s been a life-saver during pad-work and its a great confidence-builder. Of course the hissing serves about the same function as the yelling kiai (focus, conservation of energy) and could be construed as a sort of silent kiai, it can be very unnerving to hear someone hissing aggressively right before taking a round-kick in the ribs or tigh.

This might be somewhat unrelated but I recently re-read Vegetius (a Roman military author) and he advises to keep silent untill the main lines actually clash and then, as a rolling thunder, to employ war-cries just as combat begins to unsue. If I remember correctly he advised to scream just before striking (not during) since it can mess up your opponent’s timing and greatly unnerve him. Yelling all the time is, as you said, not very effective and can be rather laughable (it implies fear or cowardice) but employed at the exact right time and with proper intent it can win fights.

Just my two cents,


MARKS said...

ZARA - I Fully agree. I think Kiai is best performed with a single technique. The last technique of combinatin or a strong kick may be a good time for it.

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