If you have ever been in a dojo, watched a tournament, or seen karate in a movie, the chances are that you are familiar with the shouts that emanate from the karatekas. Whether the screams come in loud outbursts or subdued breaths, there are reasons why karate fighters scream when they fight. So, why do they scream?

Continue reading to learn seven reasons why karate fighters scream when they fight. Yelling for emphasis, power, technique, and more allows karatekas to perform both better and more safely. Screaming while practicing karate is an art form in and of itself, and it is useful to learn why.

What Is a Karate Scream?

When a Karate fighter, or “karateka,” screams when they fight, it is called “Kiai.”

This compound word consists of “Ki,” which means energy, and “Ai,” which means join. So, when you scream in karate, you are uniting your energy. Kiai is also meant to bring out one’s fighting spirit, allowing for motivation, focus, and power.

As a martial arts fighter, Kiai is an important aspect to practice. It promotes better execution of countless moves and strategies in karate. Whether you have recently begun practicing karate or have been a karateka for some time now, mastering your Kiai is essential to performing at your full potential. Below are different reasons why karatekas use Kiai while fighting.

7 Reasons Why Karate Fighters Scream When They Fight

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why karatekas scream when they fight. Kiai allows a karate fighter to use a basis from which to build on several aspects of their talent. Through the method of shouting during sparring or kumite, a karateka can channel their fighting spirit to capitalize during a fight.

What Is the Benefit of Yelling For Strikes?

One of the most common roles Kiai plays in karate is for a fighter’s strikes. Those familiar with all types of workout techniques know that exhaling while pushing, pulling, or lifting weight results in a more aggressive, more successful execution of weight training. Similarly, Kiai involves a karateka’s exhaling to strike more powerfully.

Along with the simple exhalation, yelling with Kiai provides even more aggression for an offensive strike. You will probably hear karatekas practice Kiai for the majority of the time when they are striking.

Do Karatekas Use Yelling For Defense?

Kiai is also useful for defense during a Karate fight.

For one, exhaling and yelling subconsciously flexes your abdomen and various muscles, making it less likely for the breath to be knocked out of you or to suffer damage to other parts of your body. Especially in a close fight, this awareness is essential.

Secondly, Kiai helps a karateka absorb the pain of their opponent’s strike. If you scream while being hit, you might be surprised how any adrenaline released makes you less susceptible to a tough blow.

Kaia Allows You to Set a Breathing Pattern

One of the most difficult aspects of Karate is finding the right pace. Having a technique that allows you to stick to methods you have mastered while incorporating other factors is important for better performance.

By familiarizing yourself with a breathing pattern, you form a base on which to build your strategy. Practicing Kiai allows you to maintain an awareness of your breathing, further aiding you in focusing on both the strength of your mind and the skill of your offensive and defensive moves.

Use Kaia to Show Authority

Another offensive strategy for the use of Kiai while fighting in Karate involves showing authority. Suppose your opponent is not quite as well versed as you in the mental strength it takes to perform elite Karate moves. If this is the case, your Kiai can be overbearing to your opponent, making them feel much less confident on their side of the sparring.

It is important to hold your ground during a sparring match. Even if your opponent also has a good Kiai, trying to intimidate them with your screams can still be effective. Showing dominance over your opponent is key to keeping your confidence and taking advantage of their mistakes.

Kiai is Used to Distract an Opponent

Similar to showing your authority over your opponent, Kiai can disrupt your opponent’s focus altogether.

An aggressive shout or outburst from you can quickly confuse your opponent to the point of losing focus on the task at hand. If you master the art of Kiai, you will leave them wondering why they could not maintain their own technique during the Karate fight.

What is great about Kiai – as you will learn more about later in the article – is that one’s preference of the way they scream differs greatly. If you can practice Kiai with a variety of shouts, it can aid in confusing your opponent even more.

Summon Your “Fighting Spirit”

Breathing pattern and strategy aside, Karate focuses on maintaining your inner forces and utilizing them for sparring. Sometimes, you must get out of your own head to concentrate better. Kiai is a way to immerse yourself in the art of karate and experience it in your own interpretation.

Karate heavily emphasizes the summoning of one’s “fighting spirit.” Through Kiai, you can relate to karate in your own way. Your unique Kiai is a statement of the type of fighter you are. The more time you spend perfecting your Kiai, the more you will hone your karate skills.

Focus on Technique

As has been mentioned in the section discussing your breathing pattern, Kiai helps you set the tone for what you make of your sparring match. The more comfortable you are with your own screams, the better equipped you will be to perform as mistake-free as possible.

Your Kiai gives your fighting style personality. Through that personality, you build your karate technique. Maintaining Kiai that keeps you grounded in your technique will give you the freedom to practice stress-free karate.

Different Ways To “Kiai”

As said before, there are different ways to Kiai. You might hear some people say, “Eigh!”, “Hiya!”, or “Ya!” Others might actually sound out the word “Kiai!” Still, you may hear a wide variety of different interpretations of one’s Kiai.

It all depends on the school you attend, as well as how you practice Kiai as a discipline. Once you begin familiarizing yourself with your own Kiai, the sound you make will come naturally.


If you see a kumite match for the first time, it might be confusing to hear karatekas screaming during the fight. However, these screams play a huge role in focus, strategy, power, and more. Kiai is one of karate’s many important art forms.