View Full Version : Kiai

29th August 2002, 12:33
I saw this post in the ninjutsu forums, about kiai being practised in bujinkan dojos. From what I understand from a variety of sources, true kiai is for the most part a lost art, and most people today are merely shouting with no idea of how it is really done. Could someone possibly shed some light on this subject for me or point me to some sources on it?
Much appreciated

29th August 2002, 12:42
We actually had a Kiai practice.

The students would lie on their back wit htheir hands under their butt.

Then they would lift their feet 6 inches and hold it for a couple of minutes.

Then the Black Belts would line up and stomp on each students stomach to force a proper Kiai.

We can't do that now:confused: because students are too soft and people think it is torture...

Karl Friday
3rd September 2002, 14:57
Originally posted by meat
From what I understand from a variety of sources, true kiai is for the most part a lost art, and most people today are merely shouting with no idea of how it is really done. Could someone possibly shed some light on this subject for me or point me to some sources on it?

"Kiai" is written with the same same ideographs as "aiki," but in reverse order, and represents very much the same concept. Both terms refer to the marhalling of ki and the harmonizing of your energies with those of the opponent, but "aiki" emphasizes embracing the opponent's ki, while kiai involves projecting your ki onto the opponent. The art of using kiai is usually called "kiai-jutsu," or (less commonly) "kiate."

While kiai is usually associated with the "karate shout" emitted at the focal point of a blow, this kind of shout is only one tiny aspect of kiai. To begin with, kiai can be silent as well as voiced. More importantly, true kiai must involve the opponent's energy as well as one's own. Kiai-jutsu theory holds that the physical and spiritual strength of living things ebbs and flows with the intake and outflow of the breath. Most kiai-jutsu technique, therefore, is built around timing and measuring both your own breathing and your opponent's. The most basic application involves a short, powerful kiai delivered at the precise instant an adversary finishes exhaling, shattering his composure and destroying his capacity to attack or respond. Properly applied, kiai can be a formidable weapon. There are lots of stories about experts knocking birds from the sky and repelling attackers with the power of their kiai alone.

A personal favorite involves Seki Humitake, the current headmaster of the Kashima-Shinryu. Seki, a biologist by profession, once kiai-ed a bear, while on a research trip to Canada in 1969. Late one afternoon, he and an assistant, were returning to his laboratory after collecting samples from a salmon stream in the nearby woods. All at once Seki felt a sense of danger (sakki) seemingly emanating from someone nearby. Because the only person he could see was his assistant, who he was sure wasn't out to get him, he ignored the feeling and continued on his way. A few steps later he saw a dark shape move in the bushes next to the path and, before he could react, a large black bear reared up on its hind legs before him, less than 2 meters away. As the bear came forward, it became obvious that it was not only as startled and confused as the men, but also too close to run from. The more agitated the bear became, the rougher and more exaggerated its breathing became. By this time Seki was keenly aware that there was no way he could get away from the bear, so (with nothing to lose anyway!) he decided to try a bit of kiai-jutsu. Just as the bear finished one exhalation and before it could begin its next inhalation, he applied a sharp kiai attack. The bear stopped all movement for an instant, looked confused, and then, dropping back to all fours, turned and lumbered off into the woods, leaving the two scientists to continue cautiously homeward.

For more on how kiai fits into the whole package of classical Japanese bugei thinking, you can check out the relevant sections of my Legacies of the Sword book. E.J. Harrison's Fighting Spirit of Japan also has a good section on kiai, as explained by jujutsu folks around the turn of the last century.

4th September 2002, 08:44
If you are explaining or teaching it to students for the first time, don't even think of telling them it is called "kiai." That insures that, through beginning basics, anyway, they will yell "Ki-ai!" at the top of their lungs, not from where it should come.

To make it as simple as possible, I usually ask them if they make any noise when hefting something really heavy. Most say they do. "That" I tell them, "is kiai." The next question I get is from the one or two who don't make any noise when they lift, and that is fine, as well, but "you do let your breath out when you lift, don't you?" I know that isn't the whole nine yards, but until they remember to continue breathing (most stop at the most advantageous use of kiai) and they remain relaxed (center isn't something to get into with beginners, either), they have pretty much a good, general idea of what it is.

Any more than that is useless, for a while. Of course, if it still isn't understood, asking them to go to the nearest wall move it over a few inches, works, too. That's a game, but by the time they catch on they are breathing and bringing up a loud groan. Then everyone has a good laugh, but with some, I've found that is one of the better "explanations" I've used and usually sticks.

Hope it helps.


PS: If the bear incident worked, it wouldn't suprise most natives-Americans. Mostly, the bear is considered to be the equal of man so I'm pretty sure that did actually happen just the way you say it did, Karl.