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Not to be confused with Kyai or KIAI.
For the village in Iran, see Kiai, Iran.
Japanese name
Kanji: 気合
Hiragana: きあい
Korean name
Hangul: 기합
Hanja: 氣合

Kiai (気合?) /ˈk./ is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short yell or shout uttered when performing an attacking move.

Traditional Japanese Dojo generally use single syllables beginning with a vowel. The concept has become a notable part of Asian martial arts in popular culture, especially in martial arts films, in writing rendered in variants such as Hi-yah!, Aiyah!, Eeee-yah!, or Hyah!.

The term is a compound of ki (気) meaning energy or mood, a(u)(), an emphatic marker.[1] The same concept is known as K'ihap in many Korean martial arts, such as taekwondo, hap being the, based on the Korean reading of the same characters; its Hangul spelling is 기합.

In the board game Go the term describes fighting spirit.[2]

Use in martial arts[edit]

Students of Japanese martial arts such as aikido, karate, kobudo, kendo, or judo (or related arts such as taiko drumming) use kiai to startle an opponent, intimidate, express confidence, or express victory. In kendo, for example, a point is only given by the Shinpan (referees) if the hit is accompanied by a strong, convincing kiai. The physical aspects of a kiai are often thought to teach a student proper breathing technique when executing an attack. This is especially useful for longer series of attacks such as kirikaeshi, Kakari geiko (rapid partner exercise creating openings) and uchikomi geiko (responding fast to openings made by the partner).

Mental imagery techniques are used to teach the martial artist to imagine starting a kiai in the hara or dantien-Chinese; from a physiological perspective, this means the yell should start in the diaphragm, not the throat.

Kiai and aiki[edit]

Further information: Neigong

The two terms Kiai and aiki use the same kanji (transposed) and can be thought of as the inner and the outer aspect of the same principle.[3] Some martial arts schools use the term interchangeably.[who?] Otherwise Kiai relates to the manifestation, emission or projection of ones own energy (internal strength), while Aiki relates to the coordination of one's energy with the energy of an external source. Thus kiai is the expression or projection of our own, internal energy while aiki is coordination with an attacker's energy.[citation needed]

This usage of kiai as internal strength, or using one's ki[4] is often found in aiki arts such as aikijujutsu and aikido.[dubious ] In some schools such as the Ki Society, 'keeping one point' (awareness or centredness in the dantian) is described as kiai.[5]


  1. ^ Frederick John Lovret notes, "One should note that ai, the conjunctive stem of the verb au, does not mean "to join" in this case: when used in the second position of a compound word, ai becomes an emphatic marker. Kiai, therefore, is an energetic yell.
  2. ^ Kiai, Sensei's Library (Go resource).
  3. ^ Kiai vs aiki[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Using one's Ki[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ Kiai as 'Keeping One Point'
  • Don Oberloh "The Dojo Desk Reference- Translation of "Hyaku Jiten no Bugei" by Sakiyama Akatsuki. Densho Publications Honolulu, Hi. (2006) ISBN 0-9787198-0-8, Library of Congress # 200669487324 This book is now available as an ebook through Lulu, iTunes and Barnes and Noble.
  • E.J. Harrison, The Fighting Spirit of Japan Overlook TP; Reprint edition (1988) ISBN 0-87951-154-0
  • Forrest E. Morgan, Living the Martial Way: A Manual for the Way a Modern Warrior Should Think,Barricade Books, 1992, ISBN 0-942637-76-3

External links[edit]