Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kotodama and kiai

Here’s an interesting thing I ran across on the net. It is taken from the June 1991 issue of Kim Taylor’s Iaido Newsletter. This stuff is definitively some of the more “woo-woo” of the theories in martial arts, but after you’ve spent the vast majority of your time dealing with pragma, this can make for some interesting thinking material on the more esoteric possibilities. Just don't go off the deep end like we saw in the Youtube videos of the "Kiai Master" or the "no-touch knockout" knuckleheads.

Ran across some interesting information on Kiai from Kanemoto Sunadomari in the Aiki News #83 (January 1990). He was discussing the Shinto theory of Kotodama, the study of the physical effects of sounds. Sunadomari mentions three Kiai sounds used by budoka, "Ya", "To" and "ei". "Ya" and "To" are found in the partner practices of Iai and in the Kendo no Kata exercises. Uchidachi (the initiator), strikes decisively with "Ya". Shidachi (the finisher), avoids and responds with the last strike and with "To". Kotodama theory states that the effects of a sound will be different depending if one is using In or Yo (Yin or Yang).

"Ya", used in the Yo manner means that one is covering something from the outside, (one is smothering the opponent). When it is used in the In manner "Ya" means to pierce something from the inside out. "To" means a conclusion, in Kotodama it means stopping, staying, passing through, or escaping in any direction. On a purely physical level, "Ya" contains a stop of the breath, one closes the throat and maintains air in the lungs for further action. With "To" the sound can be maintained until the breath is gone. One sound means the fight continues, the other that it is over.

The sound "e" means to cleave, to split the enemy. When it is used in the Yo manner it is the Kokoro (spirit) that divides and allots, it also has the meaning of happiness. When it is used with In, it is the Kokoro that receives what has been divided and allotted, it means "to scoop out". When it is linked with evil "e" can be used to scatter and destroy an enemy. In a real dual one uses "ei" to smash down the opponent.

For many years I used "U" as a kiai in Tae Kwon Do. This has a meaning of great effort, it is the sound from the bottom of the hara when lifting a great weight. No wonder my katas seemed ponderous and heavy. With "e" the sound can be longer than "ei" and the stop of breath is not as decisive. This may be why a swordsman uses "ei" in a real duel and not "e" since "e" could allow too much breath to be lost. "U" of course, is a complete and fast expulsion of all breath from the hara, it opens the throat and the lungs together. There is never any breath remaining after using this Kiai so one is completely open (and perhaps vulnerable, in "suki").


  1. It's probably been up there forever. I've just been insanely busy, but I have to tell you that the new header is fantastic!

  2. Hey, Glad you like it. That was one of a set of beauty shots my wife took around the dojo early this spring. You're not too far behind - I've only had it up there two or three days and I can tell from your blog that you have a thing or two on your plate ahead of reading my blog.

  3. I find this stuff very interesting. As you know, Dojo Rat touches on elements of esoterica, and I have witnessed such things...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...