Finding my Kiai voice

Posted on 11.11.2009


I’ve been working a lot on my training lately. Ever since I recovered and learned what my triggers are, actually. So, a few solid months. I made the decision while sitting on the sidelines in Switzerland that I was really going to OWN my training, OWN my rank, and push really hard to get back to full training… All the time. José said to us once in class, ‘It’s either 1000% or not at all‘ (true story) and I’ve been leaning more towards the higher number.

It’s hard and I have to remind myself every day. I have to remind myself that I am healthy NOW and to take advantage of it while I can. It’s only the past month or so that I’ve started to feel really in control of this and I still feel like I am in the ‘pattern forming’ stage of getting my life (back) in order.
I’ve always had kind of a weak Kiai. I’ll attribute that to a lot of things; the earliest being my lack of assuredness in training. That has started to vanish (and after 8 years of involvement/6 of training it’s really about time…) and I’ve begun to notice that the feeling is there, it’s just the voice that is not.
A little background on Kiai for the non-martial arts practicing readers: ‘Kiai’ means many things: battle cry, spirit, form breaker. In many movies about martial arts, it usually ends up being a loud yell or a ‘hi-yaa’ that is made while attacking your opponent. In it’s truest, purest form it is the summoning/gathering of one’s spirit from deep within that is released into a single and explosive focus of will.
In practice, your intent is paramount. I’ve been working a lot on intent lately. It’s really easy, when training with friends, to feel relaxed and maybe not train as seriously as we should. I’ve been trying hard to stay focused during training and push past the smiles that come so easily toward the focus that lies below. I feel somewhat comfortable with where I am right now in regards to focus and intent. In the techniques I am most comfortable with, the feel of Kiai is there. It’s low, it’s starting. I just haven’t managed to push it out.
On one hand, some might suggest that a proper Kiai should have a proper pronunciation. On the other hand, you’ve got Takamatsu Sensei stating in his autobiography that ‘the most important thing is to keep the essence of a true heart’. I’m not calling anyone wrong or right, but it seems to me that the SOUND of the Kiai may not be as important as the intent of the Kiai is. Maybe when you vocalize that intent, and vocalize it well, you end up making a sound that could be considered ‘right’. Maybe this is all one circular process.
I’ve been getting caught up in the details, trying to find a sound and a voice that is proper, my own and full of the correct intent. I think I might drop the ‘proper’ search and focus more on vocalizing the intent. I’ve got a long way to go, and I’m appreciative for the journey.
Posted in: budo, life