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One's Favorite Kiai (kendo yell)

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  • One's Favorite Kiai (kendo yell)

    First off, I acknowledge that this topic has been discussed several times within the forum (here's a link to one such thread, titled: "War/battle cry" )... so please forgive me.

    Although I'm still in 'beginner' status (I've been practicing kendo for over four months... and my sensei says it will not be until January 2005 when I'll be allowed to put on my bogu armor and spar with everyone else), oddly... my greatest concern right now is adopting an appropriate "kiai" technique during keiko/sparring. Years ago, I practiced Tae Kwon Do and I'm familiar with the purpose and meaning of a strong kiai... so I have the basic knowledge behind its purpose; it's origin coming from within one's body... the "chi" if you will (and no, I'm not implying that the "kee-op" yell associated with a Tae Kwon Do punch or kick is the same as the kiai for kendo... with kendo, the kiai is largely an attack on your opponent's spirit, etc.).

    Anyway, my point is... acknowledging that a simple or extremely short kiai can, for all intensive purposes, be some sort of gutteral yell, it still sounds to me (based on my listening to all my dojo's intermediate to advanced students' kiais... and to the video clips located on Kendo World of the World and All Japan Kendo Taikai tournaments) that the yell is of Japanese origin. Know what I mean? Yes, I realize that perhaps I'm being a bit anal about this, but I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist... and I would like my kendo to be as true and correct as possible.

    I'm also aware that during tsubazeriai (the situation in which you and your opponent hold your shinais upright, and stand in close physical contact... shinais almost locked together, face to face, in a sort of boxer's clinch) a kiai is also often used and I should think most appropriate (since indeed... you are litterally staring into the eyes of your opponent)... yet quite often, the kiai used by the kendoka in this situation is different than that used during ai-chudan (both kendoka being in position of chudan-no-kamae).

    What I'm hoping to receive back from some of you, are suggestions for phrases. Okay?

    As a side note, (although this may be received as being highly inappropriate and very "un-kendo" like) I can't help but to wonder whether it is NOT a major taboo to utter slight insults at your opponent, specifically when locked in tsubazeriai. What comes to my mind is not profainity... but more along the lines of semi-off color, potentially funny insults such as those used by the French knights/soldiers that were within the castle during the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." You know... "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of eldaberries" (or whatever), or "I laugh in your general direction!" Mind you, any such kiai uttered insults would be in the Japanese language, and of course would be short stated.... and likely only the presiding taikai referee that understands Japanese would understand, and perhaps chuckle and wonder, "Did I hear correctly... what that contestant just said??!!"

    I'd like to receive back suggestions of words or phrases... in Japanese.

  • #2
    well if you want to get kicked in the "danger zone" by your japanese competitors you can say "chikusho" which means something like "bastard!" (literally:beast)


    • #3
      A kiai is a yell, not an uttering of something. If you have fighting spirit and focus in the moment how can you use a part of your mind to actually make a phrase instead of a yell? To me that just shows that you are not giving it all you got.

      Maybe not the answer you expected.


      • #4
        When I kiai, I'm definitely not trying to say anything. Its just that, a yell or scream. Except for when I cut something that is.


        • #5
          All a kiai is is a yell. Based on movies and seeing other people doing it, you might have a "ya!" kind of yell. But based on the movies here on Kendo World, you seem to develop your own kiai as time moves on. I really don't think they are saying anything. If they are, it might not be of anything important. A kiai represents your spirit, so just let yours develop and a yell of your own will come out.


          • #6
            i think that kiai is nessasery, beacause it can help you breathe, like "KIAI" (breathing out) then breathe in and "KIAI" (breathing out) and then breathe in, it helps to regulate breathing so you will not be tired due to lack of oxygen, and also ive found the if a loud kiai is used then some people who are not used to kiai bveing used jump and blink and that is the opertune time for a strike


            • #7
              One of the first things to surrprise me in kendo was the kiai.

              A karate kiai, and I suspect a tae-kwan-do kiai is a different beast. In karate training everyone has a similar kiai that channels Ki. Just look at the striking excersises (group empty air strikes), kata, or breaking competitions - kiais all sound pretty much the same. Not so in kendo!

              As explained to me by my sensei, a kendo kiai will change naturally over time as your kendo improves. As an integral part of your kendo spirit it affects your breathing, balance and rest-energy cycle. Your kendo spirit in turn depends on the type of kenshi you are and your relationship to your opponent during a specific match. It is not mean't to be pretty or cool, it is an imprint of who you are.

              I think trying to model the sound of my kiai is a waste of time and missing the point of kiai. If I feel down or need more energy. I sometimes try to give more kiai, to let my spirit flow. That said, if I'm thinking about changing my sound, my kiai is probably not doing its job. Sort of like footwork. When I think about my footwork I know I'm in big trouble.



              • #8
                Thank You!

                Thank you all for your replies to my thread/inquiry. Obviously... I was "barking up the wrong tree" which is indicative of my status and lack of experience with my budding kendo journey. You have all been absolutely most helpful!!! I mean that with the utmost sincerety.

                Tis my nature.... to make mountains out of mole hills, and to fret over some truly really silly stuff (which is not to imply one's kiai or the purpose of it, is silly whatsoever).


                • #9
                  I think that trying to learn about the kendo kiai as a beginner would be a very difficult concept to grasp. I think that all of us can recall the first time we were told to kiai by our instructors during our first men strike. For those people that had no prior martial arts training, it felt strange to openly yell like that. Just raising our voices to the right level was all that we could hope for, let alone understanding what the kiai meant.

                  I fully agree in what was mentioned about as your kendo grows, so will your kiai develope. It takes a while just to find the right volume and tone for yourself. There are two seperate kiai to think about. The first is during a strike while yelling, men - kote or -dou. The other kiai is while in chudan facing your opponent. Of course, when yelling during a strike, it creates the ki-ken-tai that is needed in a well formed strike. The second is not a taunt towards your opponent. It is a yell that helps stimulate you before or in preparation of a strike. I believe that a good kiai will also help stimulate your opponent as well. I have had times in a friendly bout when my opponent and I both benefit from each others kiai. Some say it is like a "good feeling" to be matched with someone with a strong kiai. I truly believe, that your opponent is not your enemy that must be destroyed at all costs. But rather someone who can help teach you what you lack or what skills you need. Yelling insults at such a person would never enter my mind. The kiai, rather than an attack on your opponents spirit, is a projection of your own spirit for its benefits.

                  Anyway, the path to learning kendo it is a long road, and you should enjoy even the little steps.



                  • #10
                    There's not much to add to this. My only suggestion is to not think about your kiai. In the beginning people tend to copy the kiai they hear from sensei or people in their club. As time goes on, it does develop into your own thing. Your kiai changes based on the situation your are in. Sometimes deep, sometimes short, sometimes long, etc. Just kiai. If you feel like it, then kiai. Even at random times during keiko when you just feel like yelling, then kiai. Don't worry if you are saying anything or not. I just make strange sounds, not words, as do most people. There is enough to think about in your technique and such to also have to worry about kiai. Just let it develop on it's own and you'll be happy with it as it develops.


                    • #11
                      I was glad to see that my idea's of "kiaing" are similar to those expressed by the forum. I myself used to kiai the names of the hits, but recently i have unconciously been simply yelling my kiai with nothing particular being said, just trying to get that spirit out and i feel more comfortable, when i make a hit i tend to spend that extra second thinking about the name of the hit for some reason and tend to get the name wrong if i dont or if i do combo's, i prefer my method but i do try and keep the names when i do make the hits, i suppose that is the proper way to do it isnt it?
                      definatly during shiai especially i tend not to put the names out, during practice maybe.


                      • #12
                        Tennis and RacketBall

                        Kiai is not unique only to the martial arts. In tennis or racquetball it's called grunting. Tennis players are encouraged to grunt when they exert force on a ball. The goal is to encourage deep breathing. This same idea applies to weight training where you are always trained to exhale during exertion otherwise you will black out.

                        The reason why kiai is so important in Kendo is that in the thick of "battle", like tennis, ones breathing becomes uneven and kiai just reminds you to keep your breathing deep (or you'll pass out).

                        If you're interested in a reference to grunting in racquet ball, see:

                        [anyway, just my opinion...]


                        • #13
                          When you make a cut you kiai the name of the cut. You can do this in a short sharp gutteral manner or in a longer more flowing manner. I tend to think that sharp kiai makes for a sharp cut. This may be the Japanese type sounds that you are hearing.

                          After a period of time the way in which you kiai the name of your target changes eg sometimes now I just kiai 'te' instead of 'kote'- if I want to do a particularly quick cut.

                          I think that it is generally not a good idea to insult your opponent during shiai. I think that there is a rule that says that a competitor must not disrespect his or her opponent. I feel that any non-martial kiai or jokes would be seen as a sign of disrespect.

                          From another point of view, if you give a joking Monty Python type insult, you might find it rather funny yourself and thereby open yourself up to a cut!

                          I use a 'ya' type kiai and it has served me well for about 15 years - although it has changed during that time. So I think that the suggestion someone gave to use that sort of kiai while you work out your own is not to be sneezed at!

                          One thing to think of is that a person's kiai becomes quite distinctive and members of one's dojo can usually identify you from afar from your kiai.



                          • #14
                            What my sensei told me in my earlier days of kendo was to be just ridiculously loud. Its a psychological thing. You learn to relax and let it all out, and not care what you sound like or anything really, and with that comes confidence and better kendo. Just be loud. It doesnt matter what it is, but be loud.

                            Another sempai of mine said to just relax, and look inside yourself. Everyone has an animal or a fire inside themselves, and thats where you can find a really powerful kiai. This applies to finding a stronger kiai. It helped me anyway.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ares
                              but recently i have unconciously been simply yelling my kiai with nothing particular being said, just trying to get that spirit out and i feel more comfortable, when i make a hit i tend to spend that extra second thinking about the name of the hit for some reason and tend to get the name wrong if i dont or if i do combo's, i prefer my method but i do try and keep the names when i do make the hits, i suppose that is the proper way to do it isnt it?
                              definatly during shiai especially i tend not to put the names out, during practice maybe.
                              I have seen many kendoka that blubber mumblings while hitting their point at tournaments practice etc. Im not really sure how I feel about this subject, however, I think at practice you should make an effort to call the point you cut and at a tournament, do whatever coes out naturally. Chances are if you practice calling your cuts, the proper name will come out naturally during shiai.