Kiai: Its all in the Voice


It seems that the use of the voice to project energy (i.e. kiai) was a part of Karate-do, but not a formal part of training. There are many folk tales of karate fighters who were known to have “given a spirited yell” during a fight. This would suggest to me that it is a natural occurrence, and one that did not need practice during training.

Considering that there is / was ample discussion on developing and storing “ki” in the tanden in both modern and classical karate, I would suspect the idea of releasing this energy through the voice would have alsocrept into the discussion. However, I do not think the use of kiai was a fixed practice.

In my own case, when I learned Goju-ryu, the kiai was at a predetermined point in the kata. However, when I started practicing Tou’on-ryu, Kanzaki sensei simply said to “kiai” at whatever point in the kata I naturally felt like it. It was entirely up to me. Nothing written in stone. I suppose in my own humble view, “kiai” in classical Okinawan karate is simply an option that the student can use or not. It is entirely up to him.

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