Kiai, Kake-goe and Kime, Part 1, Kiai


Kiai and Kime have a certain kind of mystery in Karate and have been highlighted as something supernatural. Kime and Kiai were often associative with power, focus, and of course the famous snap of the Gi.
The mystification has gone fast over the past few decades, but there is nothing mysterious about Kiai, Kime, and Kake-goe.

The first of three articles is about my interpretation of Kiai.

When and how to use a proper Kiai?

First, it is important to define the concept of Kiai, which I will give my bid on in the following.
The word Kiai consists of two words, “ki” (気), which means energy, and the word “ai” (合), which can be translated as “to combine” or “united”. Kiai, therefore, means something like “united energy”.


It is very important to make a good and solid Kiai. By doing this, one shows the true fighting spirit. My teachers have told me that for 25 years of training in sportskarate, so I did a lot of screaming over the years.
The Kiai occurs only at certain predetermined points in each kata. When performing the “yell of spirit”, the whole body stops for a second with maximum muscle tension at the moment of impact; a powerful thundering scream is performed and the stored energy is released. It is said that the released energy is transferred to the opponent, and will cause great damage. It is like throwing a stone into water, you get a ripple effect.


  • First, I do not think that the creators of Kata used Kiai, as sportskarate does nowadays. The introduction of Kiai in Kata is of origin that is more modern. It is conceivable that Kiai, as a scream, where introduced in Karate around 1930 in connection with the development of the Japanese version of Karate-Do.
  • The screams heard when performing Kata are often dramatic and exaggerated, and more reminiscent of Kake-goe.
  • The only reason to stop the technique with muscle tension is to spare the elbow joint.
  • There is no ripple effect when the technique stops.
  • You should not stop the attack with muscle tension at the moment of impact. The executed technique should continue.

My Kiai

While performing Kata or Kumite I keep my body relaxed, elastic, and without tension. This also applies when I make a Kiai in Kata or Kumite. There are no fixed points in Kata where I use Kiai like a big and nasty scream since every technique is a Kiai-technique, the way I interpret Kiai.
Furthermore, I don’t do the extreme muscle tension associated with Kiai, I try to stay relaxed. My Kiai is more in the direction of a boxer using some sort of “ssss” sound or a weightlifter grunt. My mouth is usually closed to avoid injury to the jaw in case I should be hit in kumite.
My Kiai is performed more or less loud, but never in the way you see it in sportskarate. Furthermore, I never empty my lungs in connection with Kiai, I only let out a short, quick breath. That way I have air for each explosive movement. Nevertheless, I will save the breathing part for another article.

I can perhaps best explain the principle of my Kiai as follows:

“Kiai comes from the diaphragm up through the body, to the mouth, and out in connection with an exhalation. It is reminiscent of coughing or sneezing”.

That was my explanation of the way I use Kiai, I hope you get the point.

Questions: Don’t you use screams at all Gert San?
Reply: Of Course, I do, and that is the topic for my next article.


Thanks for reading.

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