Self-defense is more than blocking and striking. It’s using our brains—common sense is the first step to self-defense—and heeding the warning when your intuition feels something is off. Is also about using VOICE. Voice is such an important weapon in self-defense that there is a name for it: Kiai (Kee-eye).
You might recognize a kiai as the “hiya” from karate movies. However, it can be any word or sound that you want to make. Swearing a string of profanities counts. Same goes for shouting “Fire!” or a child yelling “Stranger, stranger, 911!” It doesn’t matter what sound you make. Just make some noise.
Kiai is a spirit shout, and it has a few purposes.
- It helps draw attention to our situation. If someone hears you scream or shout, they can intervene or call the police. Remember, an attacker doesn’t want to get caught. Drawing attention is the last thing they want.
- It can scare your attacker. A loud, unexpected yell can short circuit someone’s brain for a moment allowing you a second or two to strike or break from their grip.
- It tightens our muscles to prepare us to take a hit.
- It fires us up. Many athletes do this before a competition. “Come on!” “We got this!” “Go Team!” are among the more mild versions of kiai.
Just like singers and drill instructors train their voices, so must martial artists. Many beginner students struggle to kiai, as they feel silly or self-conscious. Counting our basics out loud and with enthusiasm helps them develop the kiai. The sound you make isn't as important as using your voice to fight back.
Author and martial arts instructor
Romance for the Rebel Heart