The Three Dimensions of Kiai

In class last night Sensei Lee used an analogy that I thought I’d share. It was concerning the Kiai. The discussion was about Kiai in competition and how it isn’t simply a split-second phenomenon.  In essence, Sensei Lee says, it has three vital components.

With the ancient warriors about to go into battle there was a prelude to what was to come. They would go through rituals where they moved around in a simple dance formation and murmured or recited chants. The notion here was preparation; getting into the correct mindset (which was a clear mind). They were getting in touch with their energy and igniting their will for battle. In Sensei Lee’s teaching last night he likened this to leaving the Yoi position in a fight and assuming a fighting stance. Your Kiai is already brewing; preparing for the ultimate attack.

Nl Shotokan KiaiAs with the ancient warriors, the actual battle came next – the peak of energy and intention. It is the dauntless energetic cry of battle that is as mighty as the attack itself.

Finally there is the trailing off. After the peak of the Kia is drained, there is a settling, but a continued awareness (Zanshin). Perhaps the final blow has been delivered but you are still opponent-conscious, ever ready to strike again.

Jesse Enkamp says that the key to teaching karate-ka to find spirit is in focusing on the Kiai. “Learn the kiai. And don’t only learn it, but study it. Watch it. Think about it. Practice it. Re-discover it.”

If you don’t sound like a warrior, you’ve already lost.