Pre Kiai

How do you kiai without sounding like a squeaky mouse amongst the baritones 7

—Cindy Tittle

Kiai is a powerful shout or cry "with ki" For nage, kiai concentrates, focuses, and invigorates mind and body — if only because it requires breathing rather than holding the breath. For uke, kiai can be startling and disconcerting, an auditory overload1.

Although kiai was clearly important to Ueshiba (and is fundamental to karate and other martial arts) it seems to be increasingly rare in Aikido. Many students feel embarassed or incorrect ("squeaky") not because they cannot kiai, but because rather than concentrating on the spirit, they concentrate on the sound — and it sounds wrong. Yet "wrong" may be nothing more than the impossible task of mimicking the instructor's voice. Obviously a child will be unable to mimick a manly basso pro-fundo\ the same man attempting to mimic the kiai of a first soprano will feel forced and artificial.

The following exercise is useful in finding the appropriate sound for you. The sound you find in this exercise is not the actual kiai, but the exercise is a tool you can use to amplify the sound and to find the kiai appropriate to your spirit, intent, actions — and body.

1. Stand or sit tall and comfortable and place two fingers at One-Point. Open your throat to make round, full sounds, not flat tight ones.

For example, Ei\ works better than Eeee and Ohh\ works better than Ooo\

  1. Make the lowest sustainable "non-static-ish" tone you can manage.
  2. Breathe, relax, try again, lower. Try to get a feeling of making that deepest tone you can produce to the position of your fingers, and that you can sustain comfortably for a full exhalation Repeat several times.
  3. Place fingers on throat and make the highest pitch you can produce and sustain for a full breath.
  4. Now, back to One-Point. Start the low tone you found there and slide your fingers up toward your throat, very slowly. As your fingers rise, so
  5. See Shifflett (2000, p. 158) for the taies of a Norwegian politician facing an angry mother moose with nothing but his voice. See Karl Friday's Legacies of the Sword (1996, p 85) for a similar encounter with a bear and application of kiate, "striking with ki'

does your tone. Take it all the way up to your highest pitch (fingers at throat) in one full breath.

  1. Play with this, going high to low. When you can comfortably produce relaxed even tones throughout the range,
  2. ... You're ready to find your "natural"'pitch which will lie just about center between tanden and throat
  3. Repeat the exercise, stopping at the point midway between One-Point and throat. There you should find the tone that will be easiest to sustain, to reproduce and that will strain your voice least.

No, kiai is not the transverse ofaiki. Except when it is. And it can be. Except when it's not.

Analogy: Take a magnifying glass. This is your body.

Find a sunbeam. This is your spirit.

Focus the light in the glass to make a fire. This is kiai.

I'm that dumpy middle-aged woman who looks like she has no business doing martial arts. I didn't kiai either; then one day it just started coming out of me. At first it was embarrassing, but now I see that when I kiai I move faster and have more power.

I don't always do it and I don't think about doing it when I'm doing it, but I've noticed that if someone much bigger and stronger comes at me hard, that's usually when it happens. Our dojo doesn't do much of it usually, but my sensei says don't think, do. If that's what happens, that's what happens.

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Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

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