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KIAI - Revisited, posted long ago far far away ...
"A shout delivered for the purpose of focusing all of one's energy into a single movement. Even when audible KIAI are absent, one should try to preserve the feeling of KIAI at certain crucial points within martial arts techniques."
To most this may be the definitive definition of the "Kiai" as it is practiced in today's fighting arts. It turns out that there is so much more to the practice of "Kiai" and I hope to be able to convey that in the following.
"The Real Meaning of Kiai"
Kiai may be described much the same as the indefinable definition of "Tao". The potential power which governs the course of human life, and that source of energy that is inherent in all things - the energy of all energies. Its presence is in all things and the presence of kiai can be detected in all activities from gardening to playing checkers.
The Kiai is a compound of "Ki" meaning 'mind', 'will', 'spirit' and "Ai" is a contraction of the verb 'awasu' which signifies "to unite".
Psychologically it is the art of concentrating the whole of one's energy, 'Ki', upon a single object with that (energy/ki) which conquers that object. It is the art of deep, diaphragmatic belly, breathing (see crises breathing). It is that practical application within the fighting arts, and other aspects of life, used (within the fighting arts) to gain an advantage over your opponent.
Kiai is that energy or power one takes in action along with a strong resolve to complete said action to a successful conclusion, not losing. It is that force which instills the impulse to take advantage of any and all opportunities to not lose.
The fighting arts are of many styles and branches yet 'kiai' is the life blood of all; with out kiai the art itself can not be practiced to perfection.
The karate-ka who gains the advantage of their opponent first will not lose. It is not the physical techniques themselves that carry the battle but 'kiai' is that which gives the budo-ka the power to gain the advantage and not lose. [it must be noted that this perception resides in knowledge, understanding, and application of the fundamental principles of martial systems; kiai is simply an expression of those principles as applied - a simplistic expression of kiai]
The budo-ka must fix their mind on the 'saika tanden or hara', the point just below the naval, and to not think of delivering a strike to the opponent or of the opponents striking (remaining of mind no-mind). [note that to focus on principles is superior to that of any specific technique for the principles, kiai included, when applied bring about superior applications in fighting, etc.]
One must cast aside all specific thoughts and deal with the attacker quickly the moment an opportunity presents itself. To exert kiai at that specific moment is necessary to not lose the battle.
"Kiai and Breathing"
Kiai begins with proper breathing techniques [once again, note that this is begin and all principles are involved where kiai is another expression of many of those]. When you exhale you should feel both muscles and bone relaxing. When inhaling one should feel the strengthening of both muscle and bone. When exhaling you feel a loss of strength and energy while the opposite is true when inhaling. To attack emptiness with fullness is a sure means of not losing. Therefore kiai is synonymous with the art of breathing.
"Kiai wo Kakeru" (to utter kiai) means to attack an opponent with a shout at the exact moment when that opponent has no breathe in their tanden, or hara. The secret to this is to have your saika tanden (hara) filled when implementing kiai. The practice of deep, diaphragmatic belly, breathing is called 'fukushiki kokyu'.
"Munen Mushin and Kiai"
Munen Mushin (with out idea and with out mind) is another essential component of the practice of 'Kiai'. This can only be developed by fukushiki kokyu.
"Posture and Kiai"
The next essential component of 'Kiai' is development of proper posture [body alignment, posture, etc. are the FPofMS's]. One must keep the body soft, pliant, and elastic. It order to do this one must again concentrate energy and breathe in the hara, while keeping the chest empty. Proper posture has an important bearing on proper breathing and also promotes proper flow of energy, ki, through out the body by means of body meridian (energy pathways) lines. Both must be studied and practiced concurrently.
One must keep the mouth closed and the chin tucked towards the throat. The muscles of the throat are then taut and the spine is straight. This provides proper flow to the hara. The effect of proper posture over the mind and body is great and this should be practiced diligently. The correct posture stimulates the circulation of air and blood and invigorates the muscles and other organs. The mental effects are no less considerable. [note: proper posture, alignment, etc. also contribute to less tension when applying both soft and hard and less tension means less wasted energy thus more energy to kiai or to the end application of a technique/principle.]
Maintaining good posture refreshes the mind and creates an air of dignity which is also an important factor of kiai practice. [this is expressed by viewing military; military bearing is simply proper body alignment, posture, etc. that brings one into a erect, confident, and etc. bearing or presence; this is tantamount to the kiai eyes where the body language contributes to the eyes which seem to be invincible, etc.]
"Kiai and Eyes"
Great importance is given in kiai to the eyes. It cultivates clear and rapid vision and it helps them radiate an air of dignity. Also, the habit of looking straight into things is good kiai practice [note that in FPofMS the straight look is supplemented by the superior peripheral vision]. The student of any fighting art must cultivate the habit of looking straight and steadfastly into the face [note that looking at the mouth in particular and allowing peripheral vision to catch movement or tells] of an opponent and regard every other object in the same manner with little or no blinking.
"Kiai and Fingers"
Nigiri-katami, grasping tight, is where the practitioner closes the fingers firmly with the thumb on top of the index finger (locks the wrist). It is said that this practice also instills energy into the body and enables one to preserve the presence of mind in the most tense of situations. [yet remember that in FPofMS one must be relaxed to acquire the speed along with momentum where the last second the grasp tight upon contact is important to transmit power and energy into the target.]
"Kiai and Feet"
It is also practiced in the art of kiai that one must put more strength into the feet (thus stances; rooting to the earth) than into the arms and hands. The feet anchor one to the earth and proper anchoring allows one to generate the 'ki' from the hara and extend it out to the arms and hands. [also note that the stance is transitory in nature; kamae which involves stance is something taken only for the exact moment of application to target otherwise moving from kamae to kamae is important]
In studying the art of kiai the feet must be trained carefully.
"Kiai Psychological Aspect"
A Philosopher once said, "If the mind be kept one and undivided it will accommodate itself to ten thousand varied circumstances. That is the reason why a superior person can keep their mind empty and undisturbed."
The mind must always be kept in a state of readiness (zanshin) to meet with any situation with calmness at any time. One must make good use of the mental force or state of their opponent so they may bring that opponent under their control - deprive the opponent of their mind, or no-mind (mushin). This can be a technique of distraction followed by taking the advantage.
Takuan said, "Mind makes ki a vehicle to convey it far and wide in its active operation." Mind controls 'ki', but the latter may sometimes influence the former.
When 'ki' is quiet, mind also remains quiet. In 'kiai' it is very important to cultivate and train the ki. In fighting arts stress is laid on the concord of mind (ki) and force (chikara).
"Manifestation of Force, or Chikara"
Kokoro (mind or spirit) dictates action to ki, and chikara (force or strength) executes the mind. The art of kiai deals with the cultivation of this ki.
Kiai implies the making of a strong body by means of a strong mind. Kiai hardens the entire frame/body rendering it invulnerable to attack. [this is exemplified by Sanchin and testing with Sanchin Shime]
"The Secret of Not Losing"
Do not think of winning the battle but rather think of the way in which you may not lose the battle. Take your mind off of the technique and the threat as training and practice when done correctly will act instinctively so the mind remains on the current present moment, not the past or the future or winning or losing yet on the void.]
Going back to the original quote of the kiai shout. Kiai can be silent. You may then think of the shout as a technique to teach one to focus ki to that one single moment, the one single moment of energy focused into that one single point of contact. Once someone has mastered the art of kiai they can then utilize a shout or not.
The Kiai is not just a shout that is placed at specific points within training or combat; it is something far more and warrants deep thought and practice.
It must be noted that when translated directly from the characters the above is not evident and the above may or may not actually have accuracy yet this is my view on the subject and my perception in practice - do what you will with it, if it gives you inspiration to practice and learn it and the FPofMS's then it has value. If not, let it go.
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