On my recent trip to Ireland I was asked a few times about the notion of Ki-ai. Below is a brief summary of what we discussed.
1. Kake-goe (掛け声):
"Kake-goe" denotes the verbal utterances or vocal calls emitted by practitioners of martial arts during the execution of specific techniques or sequences of movements. These vocalizations serve the purpose of synchronizing actions, indicating the initiation or cessation of a manoeuvre, or augmenting concentration and vigour. The intensity and intention behind "kake-goe" can vary contingent upon the particular martial art and the given context. For instance, in disciplines such as kendo, these vocalizations are harnessed to harmonize strikes during sparring or to mentally prepare before entering into combat engagements.
2. Kiai (気合い or 気合):
In contrast, "kiai" constitutes a distinct vocalization method that accentuates the release of energy, directed focus, and resolute intent. It is often characterized by a succinct, forceful cry uttered in tandem with a corresponding physical action, such as a strike or a defensive stance. The primary objectives of employing "kiai" encompass the intimidation of adversaries, the concentration of the practitioner's internal energy, and the amplification of the efficacy of techniques through meticulous management of breath and mental concentration. This vocal technique constitutes an intrinsic element of diverse Japanese martial arts, including karate, judo, and aikido.
While both "kake-goe" and "kiai" entail the vocal aspect within the purview of martial arts practice, the crux of their distinction lies in their underlying motives and the manner of execution. "Kake-goe" predominantly addresses matters of synchronization, temporal alignment, and rhythmic synchronization, whereas "kiai" is fundamentally concerned with channelling energy, sharpening concentration, and enhancing the potency of techniques. The combined deployment of these vocal expressions profoundly contributes to the holistic efficacy and fervor exhibited by practitioners in the pursuit of their martial arts discipline.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan