Have you ever just screamed? It could be a wail let out in distress or a shout of joy. Either way, there is power in our voice, a power that carries out our spirit, energy, and emotion into the world. When harnessed, that energy can be let out as a powerful weapon.
Whenever we have a new student in our classes, I always tell them that the dojang (the training area) is a place where they are allowed to be loud. I want them to yell very loudly when they perform their punches and kicks. But when they let out that burst of energy, we don't just shout something random. Students say "Ki-Ahp". In Korean, this term (기합) refers to a loud yell, but not just a random scream. It refers to a yell that shows one's spirit or energy. But why do we have students do this? Well there are 2 major reasons.
A Ki-Ahp Shows Power
On the Fourth of July, many people light fireworks. You know if your neighbors are shooting them off because there is a loud popping and cracking sound that accompanies the light show. Fireworks are powerful and dangerous (if not used appropriately) and their power is demonstrated by the deafening boom that comes with them.
If a loud sound is a sign of power, then when we punch or kick, we want to have a loud sound as well. By letting out a Ki-Ahp when we strike it helps generate power. Like a war cry before battle, yelling can get the body pumped up and ready to perform the technique ahead of you. There have been plenty of times I have watched someone attempt to break a board. They have a strong technique, but the board doesn't break. Then, when they are reminded to Ki-Ahp, all of a sudden their techniques become more powerful. The simple act of yelling raises our power to new heights. It is a battle cry that not only lets our opponents know how capable we are, but it also reminds ourselves.
A Ki-Ahp Shows Confidence
Think about the most confident person you know. I am willing to bet that they are neither meek nor shy. Their voice is a weapon that shows they believe in themselves and they are capable. The same can be said of our Ki-Ahp. When we are faced with an opponent, bully, or attacker, having a loud voice could be something that discourages them from taking their actions further. People like to pick on those weaker than them, and when you let out a loud yell, it is a reminder that you are not weak. You are strong, you know it, and you want them to know it too.
There have been so many times I have watched students compete in tournaments and a Ki-Ahp makes a difference in the scoring. I have even seen sparring matches where a student throws a technique and Ki-Ahps, and even though it wasn't the cleanest point, the judges still award it. Why? Because if the student yelled, they must be sure they got the point (even if the judge didn't see it-- by the way that is a terrible judge, but my point still stands). Confidence breeds success.
But what about outside of the context of martial arts? When faced with a challenge at school or work, I highly discourage you yelling at your teacher or boss. But again, the Ki-Ahp is not just a yell, but a voice of confidence. Carry yourself boldly. When you answer a question in math class, don't second guess yourself. Provide your answer. If it is wrong, don't be discouraged but be confident that next time you'll get it right. What about in the work place? Maybe your boss assigns you a task you don't know how to complete. Don't be meek! Confidently ask for help and reassure them that next time you'll be able to do it even better.
Confidence and power are two things that students have to learn on their own. But by encouraging and practicing a loud voice, such as with a Ki-Ahp in our martial arts classes, students will be on the path to gaining these and many other amazing character traits.
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.