K’ihap – the purpose of yelling in martial arts (2023)

corwinolsonPosted on January 28, 2012Posted in Martial Arts3 Comments ↓

(Video) Shouting in Karate: The Kiai (the snarl)

One of the first concepts I teach new students of Tae Kwon Do is the K’ihap. This roughly translates to “yell” in Korean. For the origin of the word, see the wikipedia article and search for K’ihap.

Why do we K’ihap in Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts? It has several purposes:

  1. To increase your power. When you do any kind of strike in Tae Kwon Do, adding a powerful yell will increase your power significantly. Such strikes include kicks, hand techniques, and strikes with any other part of your body such as your knees, elbows, or head. Why does it increase your power? For several physical and psychological reasons:
    • It ensures you breathe out at the proper time.
    • It can create greater consistency with your technique. If you always K’ihap in class to practice a technique, doing that same K’ihap when you apply it outside of class will increase the probability that you will execute the technique correctly and with maximum power.
    • It reduces fear and hesitation, so that you strike much closer to the maximum power your body can generate.
  2. To intimidate opponents. The K’ihap will be most effective with less experienced fighters, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that it will have no effect on more experienced fighters. Even if you are facing someone with many years of martial arts training, if you can let out a fierce K’ihap, you will give them some pause. It is almost impossible to become completely immune to someone yelling fiercely in your face. This does remove the element of surprise when you are facing an opponent who is unaware of your martial arts training, but if this element of surprise has already been lost (say if you have already used a surprising technique that only someone with martial arts training would be able to execute), a K’ihap is a very good technique to reduce the appeal of a fight with yourself. Often a K’ihap at the same time as an effective strike against an opponent will make the strike seem even more powerful and painful to them, creating an even stronger desire to end the conflict ASAP. In this way, the K’ihap not only increases your power due to an enhancement of your psychology, it also increases your power due to psychological reasons in your opponent.
  3. To increase your confidence. I mentioned that the K’ihap will reduce your fear and hesitation, which results in greater power, but this effect has a much more profound consequence. When you release a crazy powerful yell as you step into a fighting stance or execute a powerful strike, your mind and body step back into the Dojang (the place of training in Tae Kwon Do, called a Dojo in other martial arts), where you executed these techniques over and over until you could do them in your sleep. In the Dojang, you had little to no fear as you practiced the techniques, especially if you have advanced as little as the belt up from white belt (commonly the yellow or gold belt). By bringing your mental state back to the Dojang, you release much of the anxiety that naturally occurs with a real-life conflict or a tournament sparring match.

    This psychological return to the Dojang also transitions the mind to use more muscle memory rather than attempting to overthink the situation and do something that will make the situation worse. The reason that you practice techniques more times than seems useful at times in your martial arts classes is to ingrain those techniques so deeply that they become part of your muscle memory, as much as walking or riding a bike. They are techniques you can execute with little to no thought. The reason this is so critical is that when you are actually in a real-life conflict or tournament match, your mind will be filled with adrenaline and have MANY other things to consider, such as the position and movement of your opponent and many other factors. So if you have to think about every technique you are executing, you will not be able to consider all of the other critical factors of the situation, and your decisions will reflect this.

    By reducing anxiety and shifting to thinking less about the techniques you are using, the very dangerous psychological effect known as “Tunnel Vision” is reduced. This occurs when you become completely focused on the object of stress in front of you and become completely oblivious to your surroundings. This is very dangerous because an attack can come from any direction, as especially in street fights your opponents will likely not hesitate to team up on you. This lack of compunction is something you must always be wary of.

  4. To protect your body from damage when hit by others. If you can see a strike coming and there is no way to defend against it in time, a K’ihap will serve to tighten your core muscles and prevent organs from getting injured, as well as reduce the pain of the strike when it lands. It also serves to reduce the effectiveness of the technique in the mind of the opponent, because usually when they yell they are on the OFFENSIVE. If you land a perfect kick to someone’s stomach but they yell as if they just hit YOU, that’s gonna throw you off, especially if you’re not an experienced fighter.

Now that we have covered numerous reasons WHY the K’ihap is important, let’s discuss HOW to K’ihap. You should K’ihap with your belly rather than your throat. If you’re not a wind-instrument musician, that may not make a lot of sense initially. The best way to tell the difference is thinking about the concept of projection. When you want to project your voice to the other side of a really long room, you don’t just yell louder do you? No, you speak from a deeper, lower part of your body, which you can feel because when you do this correctly, your stomach will deflate as you speak. This is the same for the proper K’ihap: yell from deep within you, not from your throat or nose. When you do this, not only will you be able to K’ihap repeatedly for a much longer period of time, but the sound will travel much farther and hit your opponents ear drums much more powerfully.

Some instructors of martial arts teach their students to only K’ihap in very short bursts. This is effective and the correct thing to do in some situations, but there are times when I feel the long K’ihap is far more appropriate. I believe the short K’ihap should be used in situations when you are executing multiple strikes in a row, performing cardio-intense activities that require higher amounts of breathing (such as lots of moving around as you spar), and any other scenarios when a quick but effective strike is needed. I recommend letting out a really long and loud (almost obnoxiously long and loud) K’ihap when you are executing the final move of a combination, breaking a board or brick in a demonstration (or the last board or brick if you are breaking several, with the previous boards/bricks using short K’ihaps), and when you are first facing an opponent in a real life conflict (which is far more effective at creating doubt in their minds than a short little K’ihap that they may hear for only a split second).

I also recommend a long K’ihap when you execute a technique such as a very difficult board or brick break because it will shift your thinking from the pain your hand (or whatever body part) may be experiencing at that moment to a mindset of confidence and strength (which will also make it easier to do that same technique in the future, especially if you are first starting out with martial arts). If you are in a fight, it also conceals the fact that you are in pain at that moment, as your opponent is likely thinking that what you did felt so GOOD you want to yell about it a little longer. And a longer and louder yell will make the psychological effect of increased pain in their own body from your strike even more pronounced.

The K’ihap is intimately connected to many aspects of martial arts and has many benefits. With practice, you can use this technique very effectively, so I recommend doing so every chance you get in your martial arts classes. And if you scare your instructor with a loud K’ihap that comes out of nowhere, that’s a great bonus. :-)



Using both hands


What is the purpose of yelling in martial arts? ›

Shouting forces us to exhale. This strong exhale remove air from our diaphragms and brings more power and speed to attacks. Yelling also forces a subsequent inhale, which brings oxygen into our bodies. In tournaments, a powerful yell helps judges recognize when a strike is landed.

What is yelling in martial arts called? ›

In Japanese martial arts a Kiai (Japanese: 気合, /ˈkiːaɪ/) is a short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. Kiai. Korean name. Hangul. 기합

What is the purpose of Ki Yap? ›

The yell (or kiyap in Korean) serves several purposes. First, it heightens ones focus and helps to concentrate ones energy. Second, it encourages exhaling while executing a Taekwondo technique; as you will learn, this increases its power.

What is the importance of Kihap? ›

The Kihap Serves Several Purposes:

It heightens mental focus and concentration by making students more aware of each technique. It helps to reduce tension. During drills with a partner, the kihap is often used to communicate that you are ready. It is an expression of confidence.

Is yelling a fight response? ›

Yelling activates structures in the limbic system that regulate “fight or flight” reactions. Repeated activation to these areas tells the brain that their environment is not safe, thus the interconnecting neurons in these areas must remain intact.

Do you have to yell in martial arts? ›

In many martial arts, the yell, or Kiai (kihap for Koreans), that participants use is a key way that they gather up all their energy in order to land an attack on an opponent. However, some of the disciplines do not require it to be used, and some instructors even frown upon their students when they use it.

Why do people grunt in martial arts? ›

Grunt/shouting allows you to exert more power:

A study examining the difference in kicking force generated by Mixed Martial Artists when they grunt vs when they don't grunt found that grunters generate 9% more force when they kick.

Are you allowed to get angry in martial arts? ›

Martial arts can also allow a safe outlet for anger. It can teach a person to focus that anger, by using that power within the sparring ring or to execute a more powerful kick aimed at a training bag. The idea is to learn to harness the anger and to focus it on an acceptable target.

What does Hiyah mean? ›

Interjection. hiya. An informal greeting, hi, hello.

Why do ninjas say hiya? ›

“Hi-ya” is a verbal representation of a kiai. If you have to say something or scream to kiai you are not doing it correctly. The kiai is not verbal. It originates in the core by tightening the core muscles.

What do you say when bowing in taekwondo? ›

You face the instructor and bow, saying “Taekwon” as you do so. It is customary to say Taekwon whenever you bow to a person in Taekwon-Do, whether to an instructor or a fellow student.

Is one of the most important words in martial arts? ›

Arguably one of the most important words in the karate vocabulary is 'kata'. This refers to one's form and intricately choreographed martial arts movements. Katas are practiced and memorized and are essential in generating muscle memory for various techniques.

What do you say when you bow in martial arts? ›

When you're bowing, you can say “onegaishimasu,” which, roughly translated, means “Please,” i.e., please teach me, please help me, please hold class, etc. At the signal of the instructor, get up (quickly, without waiting for the person on your left, necessarily).

What is this powerful yell that's often used while striking in karate? ›

KIAI (kee-ai): A short, loud shout accompanying a sharp, strong technique. Helps release air from the lungs and relax the upper body so that the technique is more effective. Also helps focus mental energy and display spirit.

Does yelling make you stronger in a fight? ›

Yelling promotes maximal muscular power and exerts a significant effect on the intensity of cardiorespiratory responses.

Is yelling during a fight abuse? ›

But screaming at someone hysterically in an emotional verbal assault is considered to be emotional abuse. Yelling as the first and only response might also ultimately be called emotionally abusive as well.

Does yelling solve anything? ›

You might think that yelling at your kids can solve a problem in the moment or can prevent them from behaving badly in the future. But research shows that it could actually be creating more issues in the long run. Yelling can actually makes your child's behavior even worse.

Can you yell without yelling? ›

The dictionary defines “yelling” as to “utter a loud cry.” And this character wasn't being loud. His volume wasn't high. But his tone was aggressive, his language was sharp, and the tension in the conversation had clearly escalated. You can “yell” without “yelling.” You can “yell” without raising your voice.

How do you not yell in a fight? ›

Another way to stop yelling during an argument is to learn how to breathe. If you're already fired up, you'll need to learn to calm down your sympathetic nervous system. “Taking a few deep intentional breaths and focusing on the present moment will be a game-changer because it will help to slow things down,” May says.

What are the three rules of martial arts? ›

In order to make such distinctions, we focus on the three pillars: self-discipline, self control, and respect. These rules are what distinguish a martial artist from an attacker.

What is the purpose of grunting? ›

Tennis players grunt because it helps them concentrate, breathe, and increase their intensity. Grunting can be beneficial to every tennis player, as it is scientifically proven to increase shot velocity by roughly 5%.

Why does grunting make you stronger? ›

By grunting, you're essentially channeling your inner animal, which helps you move more weight. In fact, a Drexel University study found that grunting instead of regular breathing can boost maximum static handgrip strength by as much as 25 percent.

Why do Muay Thai fighters yell? ›

They actually serve a specific purpose when striking. The Muay Thai scream, grunt, or shout is known as an 'energy shout' or 'kiai' in Japanese martial arts. Muay Thai fighters make these sounds to 'stiffen' the body at impact, increasing the impact force of the strike.

What is the hardest thing to do in martial arts? ›

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is considered to be the most difficult martial art to learn. Even to athletic students, mastering this discipline is unlikely to come easy. But the difficulty of learning Jiu Jitsu is attractive to many students.

How do you control emotions in a fight? ›

6 Tips for Getting Control of Your Anger During a Conflict
  1. Slow down. Don't let your anger run away with you. ...
  2. Question your emotional reactions. ...
  3. Think before you speak. ...
  4. Future-project. ...
  5. Consider potential domino effects. ...
  6. Empathize with your spouse. ...
  7. Learn to have better fights.
Sep 8, 2021

What is the least violent martial art? ›

Aikido is known to be the least violent of all martial arts. A student training in Aikido may not have the same self-defence skills against a peer as with other forms, but it's extremely useful as it teaches basic self-defence moves that can be used against less-skilled people.

What is hi yah? ›

Hi-YAH! is your new favorite martial arts and Asian action movie channel! Featuring hundreds of hours of programming, refreshed monthly, including your favorites from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Johnnie To, Yuen Woo-Ping and more. Start Free Trial. Trailer.

What is the hardest thing in karate? ›

In karate, the most dangerous move is simply an elbow to the face, Ribeiro said. Elbows are harder than fists, and an attack with an elbow is more likely to make contact than a knee or kick attack, Ribeiro said. Whereas a punch can lead to a broken fist, an elbow will simply make a solid impact, Ribeiro said.

What do you say before a karate fight? ›

First, you can say Onegaishimasu during the opening sequence in a Karate practice. Most dojos use the same routine to start a practice, which we will go through a bit later on. During the sequence, however, there comes a moment where you bow to the instructor to show your respect for him.

What does Kam Wah mean in Chinese? ›

oosely translated, Kam Wah Chung means “Golden Flower of Prosperity.” The historic building was indeed a prosperous place—it was once a general store, an herbalist's office, a place of worship, and a center of Chinese social life.

What does Hoya mean slang? ›

In 2015, a Viner posted a video where one person shouted, "can I get a hoya?" ( meaning, "can I get an oh yeah?"). Then another person jumped from the top of the stairs onto a mattress screaming, "hoya!"

What does wa sai mean in Chinese? ›

This “wasai” is a word we can often hear in movies or in young people's conversations. The word “wasai” is originally Minnan dialect; “wa” means “I”, and “sai” is a word describing sexual intercourse. That is, “wasai” is a very uncivilized word. But nowadays it has instead become a popular catchphrase among people.

Why are ninjas so quiet? ›

The Ninja walk (shinobi aruki):

Ninjas had to be very quiet when walking and often trained by walking on the sand and gravel to test their silent and trace-less walking skills.

What is the ninjas oath? ›

Japanese researchers have uncovered a rare, centuries-old ninja oath pledging never to divulge the secrets of their spying and sabotage skills — on pain of divine retribution for generations. Written in cursive calligraphy, the oath contains six promises and was signed about 300 years ago by “Inosuke Kizu.”

How do ninjas greet each other? ›

I'm sure you've all seen some time period movie where the two warriors meet and greet each other by clasping forearms (a predecessor to the handshake). This offering of an arm without a weapon was meant to put the person at ease and to communicate your peaceful intentions.

What is the highest form of respect in martial arts? ›

Bowing in the martial arts means the martial artist is showing respect and acknowledging the other individual. Nearly all martial artists bow to their teachers, seniors, and fellow students.

What are three reasons for bowing? ›

In this part of the world bowing the head takes on many meanings. It is a form of greeting, a sign of respect and used to express deference, sincerity, humility and remorse. The bow originates from the waist, with the back straight. Men place their hands on the side while women clasp their hands in front.

Do you hit harder when you yell? ›

Yelling promotes maximal muscular power and exerts a significant effect on the intensity of cardiorespiratory responses.

Does anger help in martial arts? ›

Anger tends to quicken our breathing and keep us in a state of “fight or flight.” Martial arts combats this short, anger-laden breathing with slower, more intentional breathwork. In Jiu-Jitsu, your breath needs to be calm, slow and utilized well.

Is yelling an effective form of discipline why or why not? ›

A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development demonstrated that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children: increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression along with an increase in behavioral problems.

Does yelling give more strength? ›

Increase strength: A study at Iowa State University found that quick, loud, guttural yells boosted strength.

Why does yelling make me feel stronger? ›

Being frequently yelled at changes the mind, brain and body in a multitude of ways including increasing the activity of the amygdala (the emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the blood stream, increasing muscular tension and more.

How effective is yelling? ›

Yelling makes their behavior problems get worse

But research shows that it could actually be creating more issues in the long run. Yelling can actually makes your child's behavior even worse. Which means you have to yell more to try to correct it.

What is the benefit of grunting? ›

The main benefit to grunting is the relaxation of the muscles as you exhale through your shots. Think about it, if you hold your breath and tighten up as you are about to swing through the ball, you will restrict the movement of your muscles and not be as loose as you hit the ball.

Is anger an advantage in a fight? ›

It can be considered positive because a low intensity of anger can help the athlete's performance (Proios, 2012), for example, in fighting sports, the fighter can use anger to bring more energy to the movements, considering this as a tactical advantage.

Does anger make you punch harder? ›

Across multiple studies, we have observed anger increasing the strength of a kick by about 20 per cent compared with when the same individual kicks as hard as possible in a calm state. An individual's personality can influence their experience and regulation of emotions.

How do martial artists stay calm? ›

The breathing exercises done in martial arts helps student remain calm. When we panic, we are often encouraged to breath in because of the sense of relief and calmness it produces. Breathing correctly is part of martial arts training.

How do you discipline instead of yelling? ›

6 Ways to Discipline Kids Without Yelling
  1. Clear Rules.
  2. Discuss Consequences.
  3. Positive Reinforcement.
  4. Reasons You Yell.
  5. Warnings.
  6. Follow Through.
Sep 30, 2020

Is yelling a form of disrespect? ›

Yelling is demeaning, hostile, and threatening with the intent of chastising. Yelling is condescending and demeaning, whereas a firm voice can be reassuring, but directive in style.

What are natural consequences for yelling? ›

It's great when things do have natural consequences, but it doesn't always work that way. So the natural consequence of screaming at the top of your lungs might be hoarseness or a sore throat or exhaustion from all the effort.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated: 04/16/2023

Views: 5739

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.