Kiai – Usually understood as a sudden exclamation of energy within an attack accompanied by a deep sound resonating from the Hara. There are other ways of understandings of Kiai such as silent Kiai.
I love Kiai. Making noise is fun, especially when swinging a stick at someone’s head. It’s one of things the first attracted me to studying Budo, in particular Katori Shinto Ryu.
But besides from the enjoyment of it, what else does it add to training?
Kiai is useful for study, it adds a quality to training which is difficult to obtain otherwise. By using Kiai we can sink our energy down into our Center, relaxing the upper body, ensuring that the movements are coming from the right place. This of course only applies when the Kiai is correct, if it is ‘throaty’ then it will likely serve the opposite effect.
The Kiai also works to unified breath with movement. Essential to training in all Budo Arts, correct breathing relaxes body and mind, with a partner in Kata training it will also help to maintain a shared rhythm and pace.
For some beginning students Kiai can help lower inhibitions. If they can get over making noise and perhaps feeling a bit foolish doing so, they can better able to receive the correct instruction. I have often seen a turning point in students, when they accept Kiai as a necessary part of training. It can do wonders for training and perhaps has further reaching repercussions. Hopefully helping build self confidence.
The Kiai is also very useful as a way to focus your attention on the moment, your partner and all of what you are doing. The Kiai in Katori Shinto Ryu is accompanied by taking the line of attack, adding greatly to the precision of technique.
The eyes Kiai, the voice Kiai, the whole person is brought into the moment. This sensation is extremely valuable to me and is certainly something I would like to pass on. People’s minds are often so distracted with the many obligations of life, taking them out of the present, always thinking of what they must do tomorrow or left undone yesterday. Budo training in general serves to bring people together in a signal moment. Training with passionate intend simply exemplifies this.