Kiai finding your voice
Noise, communication – it’s a biological instinct to use our voices to express ourselves. The louder the sound the more dominant and expressive the underlying emotional state is.
In a martial arts setting the kiai is meant to focus your energy and breathing and throw your spirit with sound.
It is also meant to communicate intention and assert power in an altercation.
Why did I find it so difficult?
When I used to practice Tai Chi class there was no such noise. Balance, calm and quiet were the order of the day. The focus was more internal.
In my Kuk Sool Won class it was different and I found it interesting to observe the other students during training. Each decided on their own style of kiai. Tiz, huz, hiya – there were all sorts.
Interestingly the stronger and louder the kiai the more assertive and powerful the student appeared.
A Masterful kiai
During one of my kids classes I was reading the dojang rules attached to the wall and my back was turned away from the proceedings. My reading was brought to an abrupt halt as I was startled by the Master’s kiai!
I would not want to be on the receiving end of that! Power, dominance, control -there was no question about who was the more intimidating presence. As Master Saidi told us “Mastery of self leads to mastery in martial arts”.
There were clear advantages to having an energetic kiai but how would I move beyond my reticence and convince myself to actually utter the sound?
Acting as if seemed to be a sensible approach so if I behaved like I was confident maybe my kiai would follow. I started practicing and steadliy my kiai got more noticeable. It went along with adding a game face to convey how serious I was about getting this to work.
While practicing techniques with my training partner, Vineela, I got so into practicing my kiai that I uttered a loud one when we were bowing to each other instead of saying “Kuk Sool” which I was supposed to do. It was a rather funny moment.
A Kiai for Confidence
I can’t say for certain that it was improved confidence that led to a better kiai or a louder kiai that improved my confidence. Nevertheless there was definite progress.
As Julie Andrews playing Maria sings in the Sound of Music “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain,… I have confidence in confidence alone!” Confidence and convincing kiais seem to go hand in hand.
This proved to be rather useful at my first tournament where the weight of my inexperience was bearing down hard as I sat amongst a group of adult white belts waiting my turn to be called by the judges.
As the fear of performance anxiety gripped me I made a decision. It was too late to hope for a lower stance or the ability to kick any higher but I could put on my game face and kiai like I was a warrior in the midst of a battle.
So I did and although my score for my form left lots of room for improvement it secured me a fourth place and it got me an enthusiastic response from my fellow competitors.
I found my voice and it wasn’t perfect but I delivered any way. Have you found yours?
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.