3 Types of Kiai (including the one you didn’t know)

3 kinds of kiai

In Japanese, you could say: "Kiai Wo Ireru" which literally translates into "Insert your Kiai".

You can motivate yourself, fire yourself up, get psyched! Or, to give it your all. However... This is common talk. It is not Martial Arts terminology.

From this explanation though, you can relate to Kiai as a shout, giving your all in a technique for example.


Kiai is more than just a shout.

Kamae must have "Kiai", and you harmonise it with your opponent.

In Martial Arts, Kiai comes down to three things.

  1. Kiai as accumulation of your energy - coming out as a shout (external Kiai)
  2. Kiai as accumulation of your energy - without sound (internal Kiai)
  3. Kiai as a unit of your spirit.

Point 1 and 2 are both referring to physical traits such as biomechanics. The third one, although scientifically arguably physical as well, deals with mindset, intention and spirit.

Here's how Maai and Kiai work in Kumite 👇

kiai — the unit to measure your spirit

Although the term Kiai can refer to the shout, it refers to reading and feeling the opponent as well: "Yomi". 

When engaging in Kamae for example during Kumite, you have to measure the opponents Kiai. Read and feel his intention and spirit. At the same, measure and feel the Maai i.e. distance.

If you are not aware of this concept enough, you might take a Maai that is too close to begin with. Or, you will close the distance too much. Simply by habit. It works, but only because your opponent is not aware enough too...

Make sure to fine tune on your opponents Kiai, so that you can read his movement.

This is Kiai. 

  • To measure and feel lively. 
  • To not get surprised. 
  • To get one step ahead of your opponent.


Discover how to execute kihon kumite correctly and know the underlying principles so you never worry about "the correct way" ever again — including hidden techniques revealed by sakagami sensei

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