Author Topic: Why so many KIAIs?  (Read 2290 times)

Offline Mitch Powell

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Why so many KIAIs?
« on: October 15, 2003, 02:33:28 PM »
Why do some schools teach their students to kiai on every move in a kata? Kiai, Kiai, Kiai, over and over-every time the student makes a move out comes the noise. At times, I think the students are concentrating more on making the noise than the movements.

The act of a true kiai takes energy and focus. If one were to truly focus intense power into every move, they would fall down from exhaustion after the third or fourth move.

If the kiai were a true kiai, it wouldn't be so bad, but what I hear is a lot of yelling. Yelling is not a kiai. When the yelling gets real loud it becomes screaming. Screaming really loud is not a kiai either, no matter how loud you scream.

To make matters worst, I watched the students of one particular school (yes, the same one) actually close their eyes when they executed a kiai, while they screamed extremely loud.

Kiai's are designed to help focus power into strikes that are used as killing blows or blows designed to caused great bodily harm. At times, they are used as noise to cause a distraction, but certainly not on every move of every form.

Although, I have pointed fingers at this one school again, they are far from the only ones. This has been going on for a long time. If you are one of those who teaches or has been taught to kiai on every move or every other move, help me understand why?
« Last Edit: October 15, 2003, 02:33:51 PM by Mitch Powell »
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Offline Chief Instructor

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Re:Why so many KIAIs?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2003, 03:24:24 PM »
I think another purpose of the kiai is to scare opponents. So they'll think the person is either crazy or really knows his stuff. Thus the opponent wants to get out of harm's way and flees.

I personally find it funny when folks kiai on EVERY single move. I guess their philosophy is to get opponents to laugh so hard that they are incapacitated. Either that or the opponent's ears hurt so much that they quickly give up. (Hope my humor doesn't offend anybody but it has been a long and loud day.)
Sigung Andrew Evans, KSDI #888
Hokkien Martial Arts, Topeka, KS
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Offline Gints Klimanis

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Re:Why so many KIAIs?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2003, 04:45:01 PM »
I agree with Mitch's sentiment on kiai.  Thank you for starting
this topic.  There is definitely a difference
between a fully-engaged kiai and a yelp.  I've visited several
schools in the San Francisco bay area and have heard the yelping.  
I, too, would like to learn about the true purpose of the kiai.  

To answer the question directly, I've been taught to kiai on every
punch and make a Tsss sound on every other move.  My instructor
consistently kiai's on straightforward punches and on Arts punch
combinations, and Tssss's on everything else.  I don't ever
recall hearing him instruct us to inhale on particular techniques.

When we execute dances/kata, we are expected to kiai only on the straight
forward punches and Tsss everything else.  I've asked my instructor,
Master Rich Lewis, about the usage of the kiai.  He is a good
data point because he is 65 and grew up training martial arts
in Hawaii. He learned from a fellow named Harry Kilanua starting in
~1945, whom was a student of Joe Emperado.  When Rich moved to the US mainland,
he joined Sam Brown in San Jose, CA in ~1958.  Rich's opinions about
the kiai are basically that "you put every ounce of strength into
what you do."  He expects a kiai with full lung discharge.
(BTW, dates are not exact.  I've added approximate numbers with dates
from Rich's memories.)  He said that all of his teachers spoke highly
of the kiai, so clearly, to people that were proficient in the art,
it had a purpose.  Rich is a traditionalist and has stated that he
has not changed any part of his Art since he started to teach it.
His kiai is not a yelp, but a rather low-pitched short roar.  

What I write below is common knowledge, but I like writing, so here
it goes.

The full lung discharge has a purpose.  The exhalation of air
empties the body cavity of compressible air, leaving internal
organs tightly packed as a ball of incompressible fluid.  The
contraction of the abdominal muscles cements the upper body
to the lower body by reducing the pliability of the waist.
It's like increasing the damping on a shock absorber.

The vocalization has a purpose.  In addition to distraction,
some books (for example, Marc Tedeshi's _Hapkido_ which includes
a chapter interviews with several Hapkido Masters) lists
teachers talking about vibrating the molars to control Chi flow.  
One goes so far as to say the vibration initiates the excretion
of adrenaline.  Psychological preparation is quite significant
in athletic performance even though modern sports culture
has not developed a method to develop "getting psyched up."
Perhaps the kiai is overlooked in this regard.  I do have to
admit that once I fought a fellow with a different-sounding
kiai.  I was really worried that he was nuts.  So, the kiai
had an effect on me.  

As a teaching tool, the kiai serves to prevent a student from
holding his breath on particular moves.  If you are yelling, you
are exhaling and thus not inhaling or holding your breath.
Some Shotokan karate books list kata divided into movements
alternating on inhale and exhale.  However, some students
have taken a short cut by using largely a throat maneuver to
deliver the vocalization.  I think some teachers prescribe overuse
because many students compete in forms competitions.  Apparently,
a form will not score well without a lot of kiais. In defense
of teaching a kiai on every move, if a kiai is an integral part
of every strike, single strikes will also include a kiai.  Thus,
in a real world situation, the kiai will be used because it is
throughly trained. So, perhaps it is actually practical to
kiai on every move.  Perhaps our bias against frequent kiai's
simply has to do with the noise issue.  My Kenpo school has
two yelpers.  One is an instructor that was a black belt
in TKD before he started with us as a teen.  The other just
make a lot of noise.  Perhaps there would be more if they
didn't follow my example of near silence.  My voice is
somewhat weak for my size, so my kiai's are quite wimpy.

In other disciplines, the kiai is non-existent.  Western boxing
generally ignores vocalizations other than Tsss sounds in which
air is exhaled through the teeth or mouthpiece.  I've studied Muay
Thai, Eskrima and Pentjak Silat in parallel with Kenpo.  
None of those disciplines
mentioned a kiai-type vocalization.  On many Muay Thai boxing
knockout tapes,  opponents are dropped without a vocalization.  
So, top Thai fighters (Asian) are not using the kiai.  However,
football and many tennis players seem to make a lot of noise.
Quite a few female tennis players have prominent kiais. Perhaps
the yelping school in question has a high kiai energy because
females are pyhsically-capable of delivering more audible energy.

Any thoughts?



"We do not condone the use of a toilet seat as a deadly weapon"
Go Shin Jutsu Kenpo, 3rd Degree Black Belt Prof. Richard Lewis
Bono JKD/Kajukenbo, Prof. John Bono, San Jose, CA
Baltic Dog, Dog Brothers Martial Arts

Offline Bautista's

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Re:Why so many KIAIs?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2003, 01:19:38 AM »
My teacher once told me that the KIAI was for:
(1) added power
(2) relieving pain
(3) element of surprise

Emil Bautista
Kajukenbo black belt (1966)

Sibak Matt

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Re:Why so many KIAIs?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2003, 01:10:56 PM »
Don't forget the all-important reason for a STRONG kiai at your average tournament.....

 >:(
....to make sure the judge:
 - isn't asleep
 - isn't talking to a friend
 - isn't paying too much attention to their own students
      (I don't understand this when they let an instructor  judge their students in a division - bias)
 - isn't watching the next ring over where there's something more exciting going on.
 - etc.
 :o

I wholeheartedly agree that many are taught to use the kiai to excess and miss the entire point.  Down here, when we feel the students are losing focus, we'll take the first hour after warm up and go through proper use of the kiai, ending in a check where we test the students kiai by having them take a solid punch to the gut!     ;)
It's just that important.

Great thread!

Sibak Matt Porter
Escondido (San Diego), CA
Kajukenbo, Ohana