The Kihap (Keeyup or Kiai) In Martial Arts

Ok, so this isn’t even remotely technology related, but I figured I would share something I learned. While taking an MMA martial arts class we are instructed to Kihap, or yell, when striking. The instructor says it’s intended to focus your energy and throw your enemy off balance. I was interested in the ‘focusing your energy’ part so I did what any rational techie would do, I went to Google!

Kihap is basically a battle cry, carried over into modern times. But there are actually some very positive benefits.

  1. It strengthens your core by tightening your abdominal mussels. This translates into more power in your motion and increased defense. The Kinetic Chain, also called Kinetic Linking, is the way your legs can pass their power through your torso and into your arms. To be effective every part of the chain must work as one unit.
  2. It makes your breathe. Heavy physical activity requires energy, the cellular process in your body to generate energy (ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate) requires oxygen. There is another process that doesn’t require oxygen, but it generates far less ATP.
  3. It can help you focus. With lots of repetition your mind and body can be programmed a certain way. National Geographic has a show called Fight Science, in one episode SWAT team members could control their heart rate even with highly elevated levels of adrenaline.
  4. It startles your opponent. To me this one is a side benefit, but still valuable. It’s possible to avoid the fight completely buy dropping back and letting your Kihap out. Might make them think twice.

It doesn’t really matter what sound you make, you can benefits 1 and 2 via remembering to breath properly when striking. Some people make a “Tsst” sound when striking, as long it comes from the abdomen it should still provide benefits.

I don’t believe letting out a long blood curdling battle cry is beneficial when striking. Your Kihap needs to be very quick, one maybe two syllables max. The reason I’m saying this is because if you have a long Kihap when striking your jaw is in a vulnerable state, it’s open. A tight jaw will help guard against dislocation or outright breaks.

Another negative might be that your signal your intent if you Kihap to soon in your strike against a trained opponent, or signal the end of your attack. For example in class we Kihap at the end of the pattern, which means the attack is over. A large component of fighting in information warfare, your reading your opponents weaknesses, trying to conceal your own and conceal your intentions.

So there is something to this ancient activity. It doesn’t summon the power of the spirit world to let you shoot a fireball out of your hands, but it give you more power, a better defense and might scare your opponent off.

National Geographic’s Fight Science: SWAT

National Geographic’s Fight Science: MMA

YouTube Kihap Video

About: Shawn Jackson

I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of Information Technology on both the IT and Development sides of the aisle. I’m currently a Software Engineer for Paylocity. In addition to working at Paylocity, I’m also the Founder of Resgrid, a cloud services company dedicated to providing logistics and management solutions to first responder organizations, volunteer and career fire departments, EMS, ambulance services, search and rescue, public safety, HAZMAT and others.