One of the most “embarrassing” things for begginers in kendo is kiai. Many people, when starting kendo feel ashamed and avoid “yelling” loud. This is normal and a very common behaviour either because people are naturally more shy or because don’t like to attract attention. But, can you imagine kendo without kiai? Weird thing, right? As all martial artists know, kiai is one of the most important parts of practice. When in a kendo shiai your strike will only count as an ippon (point) if you make a convicent kiai. More than just “yell” to intimidate the opponent”, kiai expresses your spirit, your will, your strength. It’s also a way to get yourself ready for shiai.
Besides being important, it is a beautiful thing to watch and listen. A shiai is much more interesting if the opponents express their will and strength making good kiai. So, I’ve been working on this lately. I must confess that I’m not a very shy person and I only felt uncomfortable about “yelling” in the first month of training. After that, I started to use my vocal cords to make a big noise but, of course, this is a wrong thing to do (it’s wrong in terms of technique and it’s bad for your throat - trust me!). But I’ve been working to improve my kiai and make it come from my stomach, as it’s supposed to. I must admit that I did some progress but I still have to work on it. I’m really striving to give the most of me and to show my will to make the perfect strike.
Thus, I decided to establish a train for my kiai. This consists in: practicing yoga (unfortunately, I only have time once a week) and use relaxation techniques. Kiai has much to do with correct breathing and I learned how to breathe properly before I started kendo through relaxation techniques. These techniques allow you to learn breathing using your stomach and not just your chest. I believe they can be very useful for kenshi because they promote correct breathing and, consequently, a better oxygenation of the body. Yoga also helps with this and that’s why I finally decided to give it a try. As some of you may recall, I chose kendo because I wasn’t very enthusiastic about yoga. But, after falling in love with kendo, I resorted to yoga as a kind of “complementary training”. From what I read, among other things, yoga promotes a better posture and breathing. For these reasons, I thought this modality could help me improve my kiai and my center of gravity. I can’t tell about the results because I started recently, but I will keep you updated ;)