The Power of "Kiai" in Martial Arts
What Does "Kiai" Mean?
Kiai, by definition is a piercing shout yelled by the karate ka during kata or combat. But kiai goes far beyond a mere shout: If done correctly , kiai will startle the opponent and in some cases it will even vibrate the very molecules that the opponent is made of!
How Do I Perform a Proper "Kiai"?
By using the diaphragm and core muscles , air is forced from the bottom of the lungs , and pushed up and out of the mouth along with a short one syllable vowel sound. For example the long e sound. This sound and tightening of the abdomen is done in short loud bursts. A great Kiai may not even need to be accompanied by a strike!
"In karate we train our whole body to become a weapon for self defense. This includes our voice."
When projecting kiai at the opponent kiai can cause what is called the startle reflex. The startle reflex causes the human body to recoil their limbs and even momentarily be paralyzed. It also disrupts the opponent's breathing. Though this paralyzation is brief it allows time for the karate ka to take full advantage.
How Does "Kiai" Work?
All matter is made of moving, vibrating molecules. In fact, life is electrically charged molecules. Sound is vibrations that travel well through air and other mediums. When these vibrations strike the molecular vibrations of matter it disrupts the energy flow whether that be an object or flesh. This has been shown numerous times when a singer shatters a glass using only their voice. The karate ka projects kiai with the same intent. Kiai masters have been documented ringing bells with only their kiai. If done correctly in the hands of a master, Kiai causes a pressure and displacement of molecules which in turn can cause fatigue , sickness or even death for the opponent.
Unfortunately, many martial artists simply do not apply kiai in their training or at best they simply make a sound. But kiai is a real force with real effects. Kiai is not magic or theory. Kiai must be practiced and studied with much seriousness to be useful in combat.
(Side Note) The video below is a very good example of how the human body reacts to disruptive force. Although it's not a true example of the power of "Kiai," it does illustrate that often--without actually making physical contact--an opponent will actually "do much of the work" for you!