Making your kiai loud in kendo especially during bogu tests.

Kiai with Quality!?

Kiai with Quality!?


I've been doing kendo for 3 years before I had to move out of Canada for health/family reasons before I rejoined the sport in a kendo club in the Philippines in 2016 and it's a year now since I joined it. So far, I've been able to get through the basic from the ashi sabaki to the basic men/kote/do strikes.

I've been doing my bogu exams since 2016 and I failed twice. I suspected that a part of it may be due to my kiai not being too loud with my Do strikes due to my arms bending a bit at times, which ruins the suburi at times.

My question is what's your advice on how to do a better kiai shout without making yourself tired as much as possible. The sensei emphasizes on using the diaphragm to do the work for you instead of using the throat. My problem is while I think I'm doing it as loud as I can, the sensei told me that he cites that "not enough" kiai with my semi-improper Do strikes and suburi as the reasons why I didn't make it.

Any thoughts/suggestions are appreciated since I'm planning to rectify this problem. Although this means I may need to wait two months until maybe September at best for the sensei to let me try again.

Answer: Thank you for your question. This is a very good question. So when one tells you that you don’t have enough kiai, I can think of two different types of kiai.


Volume is how loud you are. To make your voice loud, as your sensei told you, you need to use the diaphragm. You need to use the lower abs to inhale and when exhale you need to push the air out from the abs.

You will get tired, unfortunately. But only until you get used to it. And your threat needs to be strong. That means you will have to lose your voice once or twice before your throat becomes stronger. So if your profession involves singing or teaching like a professor, you might find it hard to practice kiai. But if you get through this “losing voice” phase, your kiai will improve.

One thing you need to be careful: Do not hold your voice back. Some people tend to tense their throat and chest up when trying to shout. This won’t give you a loud kiai. It is like you hit the break at the same time as increasing the speed of a car. As you can imagine, this only makes you tired.

If you do it correctly, your abs get tired and will feel pains around abs and lower back. But not in a bad way. It feels more like after you’ve done a lot of sit-ups. Your muscles get tired.

Before we work on the quality, it is very important for you to have your emotion/feelings in your kiai. When you are going against someone in a match, what do you think you are thinking or feeling?

Probably you do not want to lose? You want to win? You want to beat your opponent? Or you are scared? You might want to run away from him/her. It is OK to feel
fear. These are the reason why we have our kiai.

When you fight you probably feel something burring inside you. You cannot think properly but you know you have something that you cannot suppress. We call if fighting sprit. Or like I mentioned, you might be feeling fear.

Either case, by having the kiai, you are expressing your fighting spirit or encouraging yourself if you are feeling fear. And also by letting the air out of our body, we can breathe better. When we can breathe better, we can control ourselves under stressing circumstances such as a match.

We, humans, tend to hold our breath when we are under stress. And we live in such a stressful society now and stress causes a lot of sicknesses. That is why “zen” breathing is now so popular. In martial arts, that is exactly the same.

By having the kiai, we are forcing ourselves to breathe. By doing so, we can relax, not only psychologically but also physically. We can relax our shoulders because we are using the abs when breathing in and out.

So you need to have some emotions such as feelings or fears. That is also very important part of the kiai. If you don’t have any emotions/feelings in your shout, it is just a yell. When you strike, you should mean it. And then we can now move on to the quality.

Quality: Just being loud is just an entrance of having a good quality. After having mastered how to be loud in kiai and learned to control your emotions, you now can work on the quality.

Quality is very hard to explain because we cannot show you. You need to feel it. You need to hear the kiai from teachers with high grade. You need to experience this and you need to work on your kiai.

The quality kiai to me sounds loud and sharp. It has very distinctive quality. It is very crisp. If you face to them you can feel it with your body. Just like you are stranding right in front of a big speaker. You can feel the vibration.

You cannot learn the quality kiai from videos. I will share my experience at Kyoto Taikai a while ago. I was there at the Butokuden in Kyoto watching many sensei fighting. And out of no where, I heard extra loud and distinctive kiai as if it would cease the kiai from other sensei. It was so powerful. Do you know who it was?

Masahiro Miyazaki sensei from the Kanazawa Police. 6-times Champion of All Japan Kendo Championships.

I had watched him and heard him on TV or videos. But man, that was so powerful. You just cannot learn how powerful it was through TV or videos. I can still remember his kiai.

Of course, this is not something we can do over a night or two. We need to train years and years to get the quality.

Mind you, nothing can be gained without getting tired. So don’t be afraid of getting tired. It is a part of training. If you don’t get tired, you need to train as often as possible. Also learn how to use your abs. That is the fastest way to improve your kiai.

Good luck!

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