Upon the first time walking into the KB Fitness dojo in central London, one may think : “How peculiar to walk into a room where people are punching and kicking the air. Even more so when they shout a funny, somewhat indistinct word when they are done.”

“It is called the ki-ai,” says the kickboxing instructor. “It helps us all breathe and collect our energy. It sounds something like ‘tu-ya’.”

A new member coming to a KB Kickboxing class for the first time may feel a little self-conscious to join in, but everyone is encouraged to try.

Jess, one of KB Fitness’ instructors, says: “Even if the technique is not that sharp, you can always make it look sharper and firey with a ‘TU-YA!’ at the end.”

Everyone soon finds that, in addition to helping with their breathing, it is very satisfying to match the last technique of the drill to the sound.

“It did not feel natural to do it in the beginning, I was very shy, but now when I don’t do it, it feels like there is something missing. It gives me goosebumps when the entire class finishes the technique together with a chorus of ‘TU-YA!’. It makes me feel like a true martial artist.”

But what does it actually mean? It is common to see martial artists making some kind of noise while they fight, but why is it done?

The ki-ai is defined as a battle cry used by martial artists either before, during or after performing a technique. It is also a word used to describe fighting spirit. Some martial arts use a silent ki-ai, others, such as kendo, require a convincing and confident ki-ai to accompany a technique in order for the point to be scored.

It can be used as a distraction technique too: one of KB Fitness’ Kickboxing Black Belts, Ryan, is well-known for using a very loud ki-ai to distract his opponent during KB tournaments.

Whether it is for breathing, for distracting or collecting the energy, the ki-ai is instrumental in everyone’s martial arts journey.

Are you ready to awaken your fighting spirit too? Come and join us.




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