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Creidiki's picture
Kiai in Kata (and Heian Shodan bunkai)

Kiai happens in very specific places in katas, so they should have very specific meaning. But what?

Could they be part of attack on senses? Overwhelming vision, smell and touch by aggressive "face rubbing" is one technique of breaking of a hold and gaining distance in grabbling. When all you receive too much stimulus from all you senses at the same time you brain tends to shut down. Myybe Kiai is part of that attack?

On that note, I recently watched nice introductory video on Aikido, do you see the resemblance of Uge Nagashi Irimi to the movement around first kiai in Heian Shodan?

-Step towards grab/punch and deflect it to the side = age uke <Kiai>

- Execute elbow lock to the attacking hand = gedan barai/taisabaki

-Finish takedown and control = oi zuki


ky0han's picture


Kiais being in very specific places in kata is a modern thing. All the kata were standardized once they were used for kata competition, making them comparable or to better define errors. So when you forget a kiai, the kata is wrong leading to a disqualification or at least a drop in the points that were scored.

Back in the old days the screams were made when the person doing the kata felt so. Funakoshi gave screaming points in some of the kata in Karate Do Kyohan, but those were his and others had other.

Besides, I read somewhere that the scream is just a part of a broader concept called KIAI not the kiai itself.

So I think they don't have a special meaning in relation to the movement where one screams in a kata.

However, due to the fact, that screaming out loud is'nt normal everyday behavior you can stun and surprise an opponent for a second. That can lead to a little advantage that should be exploited immediately. Does'nt work though when already screaming insults at eachother. cool

Hope that helps.

Regards Holger

PASmith's picture

By way of coincidence, last night at TKD we were doing our patterns with the intention of each move being as crisp and powerful as a single movement. Rather than, what many people do, start strong and then fading towards the end. It got to the point where each move almost had a little involuntary kiai slip out with it. Just as a result of the concentration and effort I was putting in. And it struck me then that defined kiai (kihap in TKD) points was a bit odd. Some moves just tended to elicit a kihap.

shoshinkanuk's picture

Our kata is practiced in an 'old' way, we do not have Kiai in our kata - unless you want to use one.

In fact we don't really kiai in the external sense, you can but it's not part of the Ryu really.

some considerations about Kiai is what are you doing it for, and when -

1. before technique execution to set up, distract or assist delivery 2. when recieving technique to assist mental strength and try to gain the advantage

Just some off the cuff thoughts on the subject.

Sandy's picture

As a thought - perhaps the Kiai's come from Kyushu jitsu, the art of using pressure points, which includes using different sounds to enhance techniques, along with different stances etc. Song T. Park has written on the subject - "Kiai Jitsu Fighting Method, The Power of Inner Kiai", or Professor George Dillman has written extensively on the subject. I have tried single techniques with and without sound and when I use the right sound in the right way, the potency of techniques have been increased greatly. Don't ask me how it works - I just know that it worked for me! Obviously, there should be sounds all the way through the katas if this were the case, but perhaps it is all part of the hidden moves in katas that were left out when the arts began to be taught more widely.

I would also agree that sound plays a big part in distraction and delivery and I would suggest it also helps to ensure the breath is not held in, just as when we do a workout in the gym - the breath is let out when the body does the work. Interesting  thought about the competitions - that wouldn't surprise me at all!

ky0han's picture

Hi Sandy,

I have mixed feelings when it comes to people like Dillman. I don't buy into his no-touch knock-outs, kiai knock-outs, and the increasing of technique effectiveness based on sound and color.

I think nobody can knock me out with a mere sceam or stare me down into unconsciousness.

No offense is intended, thats just my personal view.

Regards Holger

Edit: Here is a link where Harada Sensei is explaining his views on the concept of kiai. http://www.karatedoshotokai.com/viewArticle.php?article=11

Sandy's picture

Hi Holger,

No, I'm not sure I believe in no-touch or sound knock-outs either, but I have had success with different stances and different noises making my techniques more effective - whether it works because it focuses my intention or makes me more confident, I don't know! (I have experimented doing the techniques with the same strength and it still works) I also know that if you hit the right points in the correct way, they are astonishingly effective, and you don't have to hit them hard, either. This is what I take out of Geroge Dillman's stuff.

Thanks for the link - the concept of 'showing kiai', spirit and thus confidence rings true - maybe that's exactly what Kiai is all about - confidence!

Respect,  Sandy

ky0han's picture

Hi Sandy,

the different results with different stances is a natural thing due to the different posibilities of putting the bodyweight behind a technique or aligning the body into the correct structure for generating power. Hitting the right spots can indeed have some usefull results, but can you pull that of with a non complying "victim" in the actual chaos of an altercation? What if it is winter and the opponent is wearing a jacket and a scarf? Are you able to hit LU5, ST9 or whatever points else with the same effects?

I think that this subject is often tought in an out of context manner. That knowledge is important but in a form additional information in terms of getting better results, when there is the chance to use it. Without knowing how to hit hard and how to prepare a clear shot that kind of knowledge is useless.

Regards Holger

Sandy's picture

Agreed! Without a sound knowledge of a martial art, whatever it may be, pressure points are useless - and of course you won't be able to hit ST9 accurately if they have a scarf on - I would agree they are an added bonus, as you suggest. Of course we need to know how to hit hard, clear limbs and about body mechanics etc. but as a 5 foot nothing woman, I know that I can knock someone out if they have me in a bear hug where I can't breathe, my feet are completely off the ground and I can't employ any of these things! (and even if they have a scarf on! LOL!)

As with all styles of martial arts, kyushu jitsu has it's strengths and weaknesses and I personally just want to take the best bits that suit me from different styles of martial arts and use them to my advantage. Surely that is the most important thing at the end of the day - self protection and defence?

Thank you for your thoughts!