The ki-hap is a strange thing to most beginner students and outside observers of the martial arts.  Many fail to understand why they are taught and required to “yell” during their training sessions.  The KI-HAP can be broken down into three simple components:

  1. To startle or surprise your opponent.    Although highlighted in competition, the ability to vocally antagonize an opponent or assailant is invaluable.   The ki-hap will not only jolt your opponent and provide you with an opportunity to attack, counterattack, or defend yourself; but, it will also demonstrate an inherent level of confidence and superiority.  However, in order for the ki-hap to be effective in this way it must be practiced.
  2. For concentration.  The ki-hap sends an internal and auditory cue to both your mind and body that focus is needed.  What is that focus?  It is intent, the intent to destroy one’s target.  Does this then imply the requisite of violence?  Not necessarily.  However, it does create purpose to our training.  Only from purposeful training can we extract the maximum benefit.   A strong ki-hap will lead to increased concentration and focused concentration will also yield a strong ki-hap
  3. For Power.   At a very high level the ki-hap is used to channel what is known as ki-power and direct that power towards one’s intended target.  Initially, we envision “ki” as originating in the abdominal area a few inches below the navel know as the Dan-Jun.  This helps us relearn our infantile breathing patterns and coordinate our breathing, ki-hap, and movements.   Later, we understand that all this leads to increased body control, self-awareness and facility of the endocrine system.   Now, all of that is very complex and will take years to develop; however, there are some very real and quickly attainable benefits of ki-hap even for beginners.    Those benefits tie in closely with the benefit of focused concentration.   By using and training with the ki-hap a beginner student will automatically tense the body at the moment of a strike.  When you yell and hit simultaneously your body will tense faster and harder than without the ki-hap.  When you tense your body appropriately, you will have better linkage and impart more force into your target.  In addition to muscular tension you will create intra-abdominal pressure.  Simply put, this pressure braces and protects your body.   Not only will you hit harder, but you will be more resilient to being hit.   (Think about this and apply it to your strength training!)

When should you ki-hap?  In class and during class it may like there are specific times to ki-hap and specific times not to.  Here are some guidelines:

1.  When in doubt: Ki-hap!

2.  Whenever the instructor counts you should respond with a ki-hap or a loud ki-hap like count

3. Ki-Hap on the termination of every technique, set, or drill.  For example, if we are practicing single punches--ki-hap on every punch, if we are practicing double punches—ki-hap on every other punch, triple punches—every third punch, kicking combinations—on the last kick, mixed combinations—on the last technique in the combination.  You get the idea.  This applies to mirror work, line drills, and partner drills.

4. Ki-hap at the beginning and end of every line drill

5. Ki-hap at the end of every self-defense or one-step

6. Forms (Poomsae) have specific ki-hap points.  If you are unsure, ask a higher belt

7. Ki-hap when you are feeling tired or sluggish

8. Ki-hap when your classmates are feeling tired or sluggish

9. Ki-hap when your training is going well

10. Ki-hap often when you are sparring

Somnath Sikdar
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Master, 7th Dan Black Belt
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