Tag Archives: kiai

Scream And Shout

Pacific Ocean 2010

In Monday’s post, we discussed that the goal of self-defense is not to win, but to not lose. If you haven’t read the post and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, click here.

In the comments, someone had shared her story of being attacked years ago and being so stunned at the viciousness, she couldn’t fight back. All she could do was scream. She kept screaming as he punched her in the face. She kept screaming as he yelled at her to shut-up. And because she kept screaming, he feared she’d gain attention from the on-coming cars and he ran off. In other words, she did fight back…using her voice.

When we think about self-defense, we tend to think about blocking and striking. But as we discussed in past blogs, self-defense is also about using our brains (common sense is the first step to self-defense) and heeding the warning of the little voice whispering inside us when something doesn’t feel right. Self-defense is also about using our VOICE. Screaming to gain attention from someone who can intervene or call the police is as important as striking our attacker. Remember, he does not want to get caught.

Our voice is so important to self-defense that we even have a name for it.

Kiai (Kee-eye). It’s a spirit shout. And it has a few purposes:

  1. It helps draw attention to our situation.
  2. It can scare our attacker.
  3. It tightens our muscles to prepare us to take a hit.
  4. And it fires us up. (Don’t athlete’s do this before games? “Come on!”  “We got this!”  “Go [insert team name here]!” Of course they do.

You might recognize a kiai as the “hiya” from old karate movies. However, it can be any word or sound that you want to make. Swearing a string of profanities at your attacker counts. Or shouting, “Fire!” or maybe for a child, teaching them to scream, “Stranger, stranger, 911!”

It doesn’t matter what sound you make. Just make some noise. Even if it’s a high pitch girly scream (which I admit I do when someone scares me. Yes they laugh, but I can’t help the sound. I call it my auto-response kiai.)

Like singers train their voices or drill instructors train theirs, martial artist also train their kiai. Usually a new person in the dojo has trouble making any sound at first. Perhaps they feel silly or self-conscious, but after a few weeks they are shouting with enthusiasm and much spirit.

What sound you make isn’t as important as using your voice to fight back.

~KM Fawcett

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