Why Do You Yell in Martial Arts?


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Martial arts are riveting: You execute interesting techniques, have to bow, and are often barefoot. And at times, you’ve got to yell. But why do you yell in martial arts?

Martial artists sometimes yell to focus their energy and infuse their strikes with greater power. But it can also be used to startle or intimidate an opponent. But in sporting martial arts, it can also be used to register hits so that referees can pay attention to them.

It is also used as a celebratory gesture.

But there’s a lot more to know. It’s a practice that’s employed in several martial arts. In this article, we will explore why Taekwondo fighters scream and why Muay Thai fighters shout. But we will also find out which martial art does not include yelling.

Let’s dive right in.

Why Do Taekwondo Fighters Scream?

Taekwondo fighters scream to add power to their kicks and strikes. It forces them to exhale, augmenting the power and the speed of their attacks.

This naturally triggers subsequent inhale, bringing oxygen to their bodies. It’s also employed to register strikes in tournaments.

This helps the referees to keep score. In a nutshell, it is a way to concentrate the Taekwondoka’s power.

The scream is known as Kihap in Korean.

It is delivered from the diaphragm and not the throat. Ki stands for energy, while hup or hap means to coordinate, concentrate, or gather. So, the word Kihap stands for the concentration or gathering of energy, power, or force.

We can summarize why Taekwondo fighters scream into 4 main reasons: It’s employed to increase power, increase confidence, intimidate opponents, and protect one’s body. Let’s look at each one.

Increase power

Kihap ensures that they breathe out at the right time, and it reduces hesitation and fear, enabling them to strike closer to the maximum power their body can generate.

Intimidate Opponents 

A strong Kihap may startle or intimidate an attacker or opponent, and when it is combined with an effective strike, it makes it seem more painful and powerful.

Increase confidence

It has an “anchoring” effect psychologically because when it is combined with the appropriate stances, it automatically helps transport the fighter’s mind back to the dojang where they have trained many times.

They are likely to then rely on muscle memory instead of overthinking the situation.

Protect bodies

There may be times when a fighter might be unable to defend against a strike or a kick, and screaming helps protect parts of the body because it tightens some core muscles. Some fighters also believe that it helps protect against an excessive surge of energy.

Why Do Muay Thai Fighters Shout?

Muay Thai Fighters shout to increase the power of their strikes. The shout helps them “stiffen” the body shortly before they unleash a kick or strike. This has the effect of increasing its force.

During or shortly before the strike or kick, as the fighter shouts, there’s a contracting of their body, a deliberateness, and focus that makes the strike or kick more impactful.

It’s a simple way to improve how hard they hit! And it’s a reflection of their fighting spirit and the desire to win.

There is the belief that the scream activates the autonomic nervous system, which controls flight or fight response, and that its effect is akin to that of an adrenaline rush. It’s also a way to be conscious of the need to breathe properly.

When Muay Thai fighters shout, there’s exhalation, which naturally leads to inhalation. So, it enables increased energy intake, which helps them perform better and enhances their capacity to endure.

What martial arts don’t yell?

The following are examples of martial arts where yelling is not employed: Tai Chi, Bagua, Wing Chun, Silat, Escrima, Sambo, Savate, Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Pankration, and Systema.

The reality is that yelling is not a part of most martial arts.

Other lesser-known martial arts that don’t yell include:

  • Glima
  • Ringen
  • Armizare
  • Savate
  • Messerfechten
  • Kunst des Fechtens
  • Backhold
  • Irish Stick Fighting
  • La Verdadera Destreza

Because we see it being done in the most popular ones when we watch movies, it is easy to conclude that it is a universal practice. It is not. It’s more commonly employed in Japanese and Okinawan martial arts.

Perhaps it is a reflection of the culture, as it is absent in most Western martial arts and adaptations such as MMA, a style that one could argue attracts the best fighters in the world.

They see no need for yelling. The contestants are also so prepared and conditioned for battle that it is almost laughable that they could be intimidated by an opponent’s scream.

By the way, Tai chi and Wing Chun are examples of Kung Fu.

Can you easily distinguish Kung Fu from Karate? Not to worry. A recent article of mine explores 9 key differences between both. I shared which one is better and whether Bruce Lee practiced Kung Fu or Karate.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which martial arts yell the most?

Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Karate are the martial arts that employ yelling the most. In fact, some Muay Thai fighters use it so much it is akin to an ongoing soundtrack. Taekwondo fighters use it often, sometimes using it to alert referees when they have scored points. Karatekas use it a lot too.

The attacking or defending Kiai are the main ones used in Karate, while some Taekwondo practitioners are enjoined to Kihap whenever they kick. They also use it to alert officials when points are scored.

But the truth is that there is no set number of times practitioners of different martial arts are expected to yell. So, it often boils down to the preferences of individual fighters.

Why should you even bother to learn a martial art?

In a recent article, I shared the most vital reasons it’s important to learn martial arts. I explained why we need to learn self-defense and shared the key benefits of learning martial arts. But I also revealed whether learning martial arts makes you violent.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Why do people yell Kiai in Karate?

People yell Kiai in Karate to reflect their fighting spirit. It is employed to startle or intimidate an opponent, and it is also used as an expression of confidence and victory. It’s a compression of and an instant release of stored energy.

Karatekas use Kiai when they want to breathe when attacking or countering an attack, when they do kata, when channeling their energy, and when demonstrating their power. It gives their punches and kicks more power.

Kiai is a combination of two words: “Ki” and “ai.” “Ki” means energy or mood, while “ai” is often translated to mean “join.” Kiai, therefore, refers to harmonizing one’s energy.

But, there are those who believe that the “ai” is merely an empathic marker.

It’s also believed to be a reversal of “aiki”. “ai” means joining, while “ki” means spirit. Aiki is understood to mean the harmony between spirit and energy.

Say you’re interested in learning Karate; can you learn it at home?

That’s what I got into in a recent article I published. I revealed if it can be learned on YouTube and whether learning it at home would take a longer time. I even shared other strategies for teaching yourself Karate.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

“Kiai” Tutorial & History|ALL Martial Arts Needs It!

Conclusion

In the article, we explored why Taekwondo fighters scream and why Muay Thai fighters shout.

We learned that it’s a way to make their hits more powerful. But we also found out in which martial arts is yelling not employed. Then, we looked at the martial arts where yelling is used the most.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering why people yell Kiai in Karate.


Photo by inna mykytas from Pexels

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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