This submission is by our Norwegian member, Chandra Mohan Murughaia. He is a Medical Doctor in Trondheim Hospital. He holds Shodan rank (for several years); his essay is thought provoking.

The significance of Kiai

The first time a beginner in martial arts comes across the word Kiai is through the learning of the kata. In superficial terms one learns that it is the expulsion of the breath strongly with simultaneous tensing of the appropriate muscles and usage of vocalisation/vokal sounds. In technical terms, in kata  one summons all energy both physical and mental in one technique to generate maximal effective technique to attain a goal or an objective one has in mind (intention).

We can begin to examine it further by consider the etymology (origin) of the word. Kiai is composed of two letters in the Kanji. ‘Ki’ for energy and ‘Ai’ to unite.

Kiai is more mental than physical when one examines it at a deeper level. At this level it is no longer an expulsion of breath, tensing of muscles, or a shout. The Kiai infact need not be a shout at all ,that is it can be a ‘Silent kiai’ that for the casual onlooker it maybe not be noticeable at all.

But what does Kiai unite? In the principle of martial arts or perhaps more so applicable to life itself, is the concept of body, mind and spirit which man constantly struggles to keep them in harmony. The constant battle to keep these three in unity is the source of all internal conflicts and wrong actions. This leads to fear, guilt ,corruption of mind and immoral thoughts.

In Kiai the body ,mind and spirit all unite at that decisive moment so that the mind is free of conflict and fear and one acts ‘rightly’.

In the moment of kiai the mind is completely empty through unification  so that in that there is no fear even in the moment of death. In other words the body can die ‘freely’, if it so should happen in the moment of Kiai.

In Kiai there is no concept of time and the mind has not conjured up any kind of image or intention. The mind, body and spirit ‘simply’ act together without forming an intention in the mind . The Kiai can then be considered as the continual cycle of unification ,the dying and renewing of the mind, body and spirit as it passes through life . 

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