No matter how nutty, outgoing, or enthusiastic we are, we all have seem to have a hard time when it comes to coming up with and delivering our kiai — our yell, grunt, or shout we make during a strike (kick, punch, knee, etc.). Hiiiiiiiiiyaahhhhh! You’ve heard that if you’ve watched an old time martial arts movie. That’s a kiai. Here’s a good post on how to kiai, if you need more details. What I am wondering about isn’t so much how to kiai but why so few of us in the beginner classes refuse to do it!
Of course, the simple answer is that it’s….well… embarrassing. Nearly everyone starts out at first making not a sound. Complete and utter silence. In fact, a lot of people just starting out don’t even breathe as they should. Eventually most people in class, myself included, will hiss, that is push air out through a partially open mouth. It’s pretty quiet but appears to get at least part of the job of a kiai done — expelling air out forcefully with the strike as it tightens the stomach muscles to enable you to take a blow to the midsection more safely. It also punctuates the move being performed for added effect.
What it doesn’t do, at least in a real combat situation, is scare the shit out of, startle, or confuse the opponent. Not really necessary in the dojo, most of the time, to be sure but this is the place to find your kiai.
I think there are a lot of kiais to choose from as long as you follow what appears to be the general rules of avoiding hard consonants and minimizing use of the vocal chords as much as possible. There’s a lot of creativity, it seems, that one can bring to the proceedings if they choose. Hell, make it a weekend project! Try to keep the windows closed and, if you are in an apartment, mind the neighbors. Once coming up with something that feels comfortable the next step is introducing it to the training, especially around the other students that you have been training alongside with for several months and never heard you do more than hiss.
As with everything to do with martial arts — go for it! There’s no holding back, especially with Krav Maga, so why should your kiai be an exception? If you’re going to go all out let everyone hear you mean business is my stance.
Oh, and you should hear mine. I’m not proud.