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Kiai
aka: Power Up Scream
Mr. Huge: RRARRRRRR AARRR RRARRGG ARRRRG GGRRAAAR!
Snowflake: Rar.

The kiai is Kung-Foley done with your mouth. Often associated with stereotypical anime and Martial Arts Movie genre, the technique involves shouting, grunting or screaming while posing or fighting to audibly demonstrate your bone-crushing power. In some teachings, it is believed that the shout 'releases' your inner energy and allows you to use more force behind your blows. In reality strikes synchronized with exhalation are the strongest, regardless of sound.

Kiai (Japanese for "unification of will", and pronounced like the words "key" and "eye" in rapid succession) is the technical term for the shout that accompanies kata (martial arts moves) in many real-life martial arts (and thus is Truth in Television). It serves partly as a battle cry, partly as a confidence booster at the moment you need to go all-out with an attack, and partly as a way to startle your opponent. Fighters are supposed to come up with their own kiai, though often it's simply "kiai." It's commonly seen in martial-arts films, anime, and really, anybody who's Hot-Blooded and kicking ass.

See also Screaming Warrior, as well as Funny Bruce Lee Noises. Also see Make Me Wanna Shout if a Kiai is weaponized.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime And Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: "Wryyyyyy!" (pronounced "ree", to rhyme with "tree") is a battle-cry that many vampires use, though it is most famously attributed to Big Bad Dio Brando and commonly parodied in fandoms (much like "Za Warudo").
    • Hero Jotaro Kujo has his own battle cry: ORAORAORAORAORA ORAAAAAAAAAAA!
    • Dio's most famous and only face son, Giorno, also uses MUDA MUDA MUDA MUDA as his battle cry like Dio, he even uses the WRYYYYYYYY at one point.
  • Bamboo Blade's Tama-chan uses this to stop one of her opponents cold, before executing a brutal throat strike that counts as one of the highlights of the series. Especially impressive considering she's maybe half the size of the other girl.
  • Dragon Ball is, of course, notorious for this, combined with Transformation Is a Free Action whenever it's used for powering up.
    • The Funimation dub seems to take this even further... just check out Goku's Super Saiyan 3 transformation and then wonder how Sean Schemmel is still voice acting today.
      • The editing of the clip suggests some reuse of the best voice take— but I still hope he got a few days off to recuperate.
      • In a behind the scenes feature of Dragon Ball Z, Sean Schemmel talks of how he passed out in the recording booth after this scene.
    • Kiai is stated in Daizenshuu 7 a Ki Attack used to knock away opponents or deflect attacks.
    • Earlier, Tenshinhan uses a simple Kiai to dispel Cyborg Tao Pai Pai's Super Dodonpa.
  • Played with in Bleach prior to the Soul Society arc by Orihime and Chad, who, while receiving training under Yoruichi to tap into their latent spiritual powers, initally believed that executing the trope was necessary.
    • Of course, being a swordsman series, there are a lots of screaming.
  • Used especially in the battle scenes of Soukou No Strain.
  • Knowingly subverted in InuYasha. Shippo, with a challenge from a strong opponent looming, asks InuYasha how to summon his powerful sword technique, the Wind Scar. Amused by the question, InuYasha replies with blatant lies, telling him he summons the power with chants of "Gagaga!" and "Dadada!". Hilarity Ensues when Shippo tries to use it in battle.
  • Digimon Frontier has the characters let out bloodcurdling screams for every occasion, going straight into the best (or worst - depending on your sense of humor versus your emotional investment in the show.) Narm the franchise has to offer. It eventually reached the point where, when the main character got another Evolutionary Level near the end, the American voice actor actually refused to voice the new form - the strain of all the screaming that would be involved was more than he wanted to put his voice through.
    • Ironically, during the new form's scenes, a comparitively smaller amount of screaming was actually involved.
    • Digimon Tamers did it first when Takato's wordless scream of determination actually rejuvenated his partner. When the other Tamers started copying him, Terriermon / Rapidmon asks "What's all the yelling about?"
  • Fist of the North Star: Even beyond the classic (and arguably most famous of all incarnations of this trope) "ATATATATATATATAAAAAAAAA" of Kenshiro as he's unleashing the Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken, a few of the other major characters do this to some extent, notably Rei and Raoh.
  • Subaru of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a frequent user of these in battle.
    • Taken to another level when Subaru completely lost it on Nove and Cinque. Sure, yelling can focus your attacks, but hysterical screaming and crying is just that much better.
  • ∀ Gundam gave us Harry Ord and his UNIVEEEEEEEEEEERSSSSEEEE!
  • Like many other things, kiais are weaponized in Ranma ˝: the devastating Yamasenken school (created by Genma, of all people) typically opens by yelling "DON'T MOVE!!" at the top of one's lungs. It is powerful enough to stun not just seasoned martial artists like Ranma, but even rampaging bears. It is at this point that the practitioner moves in with a tree-felling kick.
  • In Eyeshield21, many of the characters have a kiai. Kurita has "FUNNURABA!" (here I come), Monta has "MUKYAAA!" (literally a Tarzan yell), and Komusubi has "HUGOOOO!" Even Sena, who rarely seems like he enjoys it (although he does) develops a battle cry of "UOOOOOOO!" during the Christmas Bowl.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy usually does this whenever he delivers the final blow to his opponents, even so much that Christopher Sabat (Funimation VA for Zoro) feels sorry for Colleen Clinkenbeard (Funimation VA for Luffy) whenever he sees such a Kiai scene for Luffy, since Colleen will inevitably have to dub that scene later on.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's protagonist Shinji unleashes one of these the first time he dispatches an Angel. Except, instead of a Hot-Blooded roar of determination, it comes out more like an agonized scream of terror...which it kind of was.
  • In a somewhat bizarre choice by the current dubbing company for Pokémon, the dubbed version of Diamond & Pearl has gym leader Candice use this term multiple times, even though the North American child demographic for the English version has probably never heard the term in their lives.
  • Used in Naruto Shippuuden by Killer-Bee, host of the Eight-Tails, such as after he uses his Lariat attack to rip Sasuke open, complete with using a hand held skyward to throw the horns. "WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!" (sounds better than it reads).
  • It's more of a Verbal Tic, but in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Apachai Hopachai has a tendency to yell "APAPAPAPA!" constantly when he's fighting (or training, though he has a tough time differentiating between the two). Kenichi himself does this at one point when imitating Apachai.
  • Street Fighter II V is notorious for all the characters scream like maniacs while fighting. What was pretty awesome for raise the level of emotion in the fights. Also, Fei Long gets even more infamous in the anime for his Funny Bruce Lee Noises.
  • Lampshaded in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu when Sousuke (as Bonta-kun) is training yakuza. He tells them to not waste movement and not to yell while attacking (this is all translated by Kaname).
  • Akira Hibiki from Raideen will occasionally let out a loud "RAIIIII!".
  • Used in, of all things, Smile Pretty Cure!. Cure Happy literally screams "KIAI DA! KIAI DA! KIAI DA!" over and over to get her Finishing Move to work.
    • Ultra Cure Happy takes this Up to Eleven in Episode 47, when she fires her massive Beam Spam against Pierrot. She screams and gets louder and louder and LOUDER every second.

    Comic Books 
  • Birds of Prey: White Canary uses this as she fights Black Canary. See here.
  • Usagi Yojimbo - every fighter has their signature kiai; Usagi's is "RYAAAAH!"
  • The Immortal Iron Fist has "K'ai!". He used it to the point where the K'un L'uns (the interdimensional people who trained him) began referring to him as Daniel Rand-K'ai.

    Film 
  • Orgazmo: A-Cup, a not so subtle villain, porn-star, and martial artist does this gratuitously, especially before whaling on Joe Young numerous times. He happens to yell "key-yo" as opposed to "key-eye".
  • Undercover Brother subverts this when Undercover Brother gets into fights. His kiais are all names of different black celebrities/musical groups (for example, in one fight he uses "Shaquille O'Neal", "Cisqo", and "Earth, Wind, and Fire" as kiais, all screamed in a high-pitched voice reminiscent of and/or in open parody of Bruce Lee or the blaxploitation kung fu stars.
  • They Call Me Bruce (1982). A kung fu master tries to instruct Bruce in this technique. Bruce's shout ends up shattering a nearby display cabinet.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • Andromeda: Possible subversion; While teaching Trance to fight, Tyr advises her to use a kiai to encourage proper breathing. She chooses "Hi-ho," which has the secondary advantage of incapacitating her opponents with helpless laughter.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a Running Gag of saying "HIKEEBA!" during parts of films where a Kiai would be appropriate. The cry originated in the film Women of the Prehistoric Planet, during a scene where the Plucky Comic Relief shouts this before throwing himself to the ground.
  • Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show uses these alongside her trademark karate chops. She's usually silent when doing the follow up kick when her target has been knocked down.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena never leaps into battle without letting out a piercing cry of "LILILILILILIIIIIII!"
  • Shows up a lot on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, especially from Tommy. Big Bad Lord Zedd, after effortlessly trouncing the seemingly unbeatable Tommy, lampshaded his opponent's habit by asking: "Are all those hi-yahs really necessary?"
  • "EUUAAAGH!"
    Dex, Masked Rider
  • Old-school Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series would have the heroes yell "Toh!" when jumping.
  • In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry plays tennis with his wife, who grunts loudly whenever she swings. Larry complains that it sounds like "pigs fucking."
  • Ultraman... SHUWATCH!
  • The MythBusters have never studied the effects of a kiai-style outburst on fighting ability, but they do play it straight from time to time when swinging weapons around or punching things (For Science!). Ironically while testing the efficacy of samurai armor, Kari noted that the urge to shout wordlessly while swinging a sword is almost involuntary.
  • Mocked on Eve. Michelle, Rita and Janie's kung fu instructor insists that his profession is a silent art and they should go to a karate school if they want to scream.

    Music 
  • Used in the song Kung Fu Fighting
  • In the track preceding 'Karate' on Tenacious D's first album ('Karate Schnitzel'), JB hits KG while yelling "Kiai!", because the bastard had eaten his schnitzel!
  • The end of several tracks on Ugly Duckling's Audacity has a sample of a British guy dramatically narrating "the sound of the Kiai scream".
    We promise to reveal the sound of the Kiai. Now listen, to the tremendous force of the scream. It is powerful enough...to kill.
    EEEEEEEYYAAAAAAHHHH!!!

    Opera 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Yoshihiro Tajiri has sometimes been heard making high pitched noises when he really gets into kicking someone.
  • Low Ki when delivering his ghetto stomp.

    Radio 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Orks in Warhammer 40,000 are an innately psychic race; every one of them generating at least low-level psychic fields. The combined force of dozens or hundreds of orks charging into battle screaming at the top of their lungs actually makes them stronger. "WAAAGH!" is not just their Battle Cry; it's their word for war—yes, the exclamation points are part of the word.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition supplement Oriental Adventures. The samurai class had a special ability: they could focus their ki and use a kiai (a loud, fierce shout) to raise their strength to superhuman levels for one round of combat.
  • GURPS has a skill specifically called Kiai. It requires the advantage Trained by a Master to use.

    Video Games 
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Liu Kang does this trope to death enough to make you fall off your chair laughing. He even does it when he gets hit, but stops that around Deception. There's a reason why he's the God of this.
    • Raiden applies as well.
  • The main character in Kung Fu does this for all his attacks.
  • In Mega Man X4, Zero does this when using the Z saber on the ground. He also does this when he unleashes certain special attacks.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is all about Kiai. C'mon.
    • The PC-based clone osu! even has a special visual-enhancing mode called Kiai Time.
  • Rishu Togo of Super Robot Wars Original Generation and all of his students (most famously, Sanger Zonvolt) all use the battle cry of "CHESTO!"
  • Multiple characters in the Tales Series do this, usually when performing a Mystic Arte/Hi-Ougi or when activating the game's Super Mode.
    • In particular, Stahn from Tales of Destiny yells his head off before performing any of his many hi-ougis and uses a typical stance while doing it.
  • Shofixti Captain Tanaka (and his twin brother Katana) in Star Control 2. With announcement: "And now I howl the scream of death! KYAIEEE!"
  • Imperial Warriors in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 when using their special ability (pulling out their beam katanas) they will scream UIYAAAAAAAH!
  • Shouts of this nature are the only "dialogue" Link, protagonist of The Legend of Zelda series, gets, other than "Hey!", "Com'on!" and "Meow!"
  • The World Ends with You: "Sine! Cosine! Tangent!"
  • In Space Invaders Extreme 2, all stages have their own music and sound effects for spawning, firing, contact, etc. In the most difficult stage, the music is high-tempo J-core and the firing sounds are loli-esque kiai.
  • Fei Long from Street Fighter runs his status as a Bruce Lee Clone into the ground with his high-pitched shrieks every time he throws a punch. A running joke among the community is, "What does Fei Long love to drink? 'WA-TAAA!!'"
    • The trope is openly lampshaded in Street Fighter IV, with Juri Han complaining about how Gei Long's screams are "like nails on a chalkboard".
  • In the Wii version of Punch-Out!!, Great Tiger gets his own yell in his Title Defense version of the Mirage Dance, made even more epic due to the camera switching positions on him immediately following up with him creating a cyclone of illusions. SALZARAAAAAAAAH!
    • Preceded by Dragon Chan in Super Punch Out!! who would shout a rather primitive kiai while delivering his (somehow legal) kicking techniques.
  • The Way Of The Exploding Fist is one of the earliest examples.
  • Sonic Adventure 2: TERIAAAAAA!
  • Dead or Alive has Jann Lee as possibly the single most annoying example in the game due to his Bruce Lee Clone status. The high pitched shrieks are just as present, and often punctuate the computer using him to counter perfectly and send half your health to the great beyond. On the other hand, they're also interruptible, which leads to hilarious situations where you punch him in the face mid-attack. "WA-T-MMPH!"
    • Hitomi has similar kiais that are more spread out. And by spread out, we mean they're associated with her more powerful attacks. Given this is Hitomi, this often means her distinctive kiai means someone's about to be launched a good twenty feet by the small cannons she calls fists.
  • Being a hot-blooded martial artist, Mr. Champloo of Disgaea 3 is prone to yelling, both in and out of combat. When he has something important to say, or is arriving on the scene, he frequently makes himself known with a loud "Kiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!".
  • Furio Tigre in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials And Tribulations, in keeping with his name, will outright roar when angry. At the end of the case, he roars so loudly he blows out the lights in the courtroom.
  • CMONCMONCMONCMON! ONE MORE!!
  • Soldiers in Silent Storm will unleash various kiai-esque cries when executing a long burst with a machinegun. As if it wasn't Badass enough already to fire a light machinegun on full auto whilst standing.
  • Pretty much the whole cast of Sengoku Basara feel compelled to do this, but the trope winner has to be Sanada Yukimura, who shows off his impressive lung capacity EVERY FEW SECONDS!! OOOOOYAKATA-SAMAAAAAAAA!!!!!
  • The (first) default name for Ness's Favorite Thing in Mother 2, which just shows you what you already knew: Boys in Japanese media like nothing more than to yell for seemingly hours on end before attacking.
  • Balrog from Cave Story shouts "Doryaaaa!" in the original Japanese, often enough that it's his Catch Phrase. The Fan Translation rendered this battlecry as "Huzzah!", while the Wiiware version translated it as "Oh yeah!"
  • Subverted in the Nancy Drew game Danger By Design, in that the villain's use of this trope actually gives Nancy clues about what attack the culprit is about to make, allowing the player to block each blow.
  • Being a fighting game, The King of Fighters has TONS of this.
    • Though many people hate Maximum Impact 2 (KOF 2006) with a passion, it can't be denied the Japanese version game has some really good Kiais. Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami are good examples, as well as K' and Ryo Sakazaki.
    • Kim Kaphwan, since day one of the series!
  • Yoshimo from Baldur's Gate II does one of these when he lands a critical hit.
    • After which he laughs. His other dialog suggests that he acts stereotypically 'Asian' because people find it interesting.
  • A number of characters do this in Blaze Union, but Garlot is the worst offender—he even has a "screaming" dialogue portrait. It got to the point that when the opening movie was being made, his voice actor specifically requested that there be a scene with Garlot's kiai in there.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the main character can learn a move like this. It more than doubles attack power when used. Sadly, there is no shouting sound effect, and it's simply called Kiai, and only in the original JP version. A more straight example might be War Cry, which decreases all enemies' attack power... by a whole freaking lot.
  • In Guilty Gear we have Justice. "SHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
  • Most characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl use Kiai.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, we have Yang's (and the rest of Fabul's monks') narmillicious "ACHOOOO!" Later translations restored their honor by making it simply "KIAI!"
  • In Pokémon Black and White Alder literally screams "Kiai" just before the second time you battle him.
    • However, it's first seen the first time you face Marshal of the Elite Four.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the PC is able to unleash special Shouts that have various effects, from sending the enemy flying backwards to dealing straight-up fire damage to freezing them solid.
    • Also done when doing power attacks, both by the PC and others. Dremoras in particular do this in over the top manner on every swing of their weapons.
  • Super Mario 64: "YAH! WAH! HOO!"
  • During battles in Skies of Arcadia, using the Focus option with any character results in a "haaaaaaaAAAAAHHHH!"
  • Team Fortress 2 (or at least, the supplementary official comics): Soldier's "HUTTAH! NECK SNAP!"

    Web Original 
  • Tasakeru: "BANZAI!"
  • Chaka in the Whateley Universe actually uses this as an attack, screaming out "KIIIII-YAAAAAAAAH" in such a way that it stuns everyone nearby.
  • Whenever Ross appears in Steam Train playthroughs, he has a habit of using a sharp, quick "kee-YAH" to punctuate his attacks.

    Western Animation 
  • In Road Rovers, Colleen often did this, but in the form of pop culture references and various celebrity names (e.g., "Sharon...STONE!!!").
  • Happens fairly often in Transformers Cybertron. Even Primus uses it. While swinging moons he converted to maces at an enlarged-to-planet-size Starscream.
  • Used occasionally while practicing by various characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, particularly firebenders, since "power in firebending comes from the breath." It's somewhat less prevalent in actual combat.
    Zuko: Now let me hear you roar like a tiger-dillo!
  • In The Boondocks, Ed Wuncler III uses this when he's committing crimes.

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee popularized the kiai as part of kung fu films in the west, to the point that no over-the-top kung fu imitation would be complete without his signature whooping. First-hand accounts of him actually fighting for real state that he was actually quiet.
  • In traditional eastern martial arts, the Kiai is supposed to serve a variety of functions. The shout is supposed to increase the force of your blows. It also helps keep the fighter breathing during a fight. It expels all the air from the lungs, preventing you from getting the wind knocked out of you. It also flexes the abdominal muscles before a potential counterattack. It can also have a psychological effect on opponents, depending on the strength of the yell. Self defense classes generally advocate shouting when you're attacked in order to summon help.
  • In kendo, kiai are actually required in matches in order to score. The reasons being as stated above, as well as it serving as a representation of one's intent to get the point.
  • Occasionally seen in Mixed Martial Arts, though not that often. A notable example would be Joe Stephenson in his fight with BJ Penn. He loudly kiai'd with almost every strike he threw, leading to repeated shouts of "Arsh! Arsh! Arsh!" He lost.
  • Seen in Professional Wrestling, though it's to hide the fact that they aren't really hitting each other. Mick Foley would often yell "AH-SHA" and Rey Mysterio would loudly yell "WAA-TAH" during strikes.
  • Tennis players are known to shout with each swing, particularly the women. Unlike other examples, this is not generally used for distraction but rather to help the player exhale and swing harder, much like a weight lifter does when lifting large amounts. Although some of the loudest "grunters", such as Monica Seles (the measured sound level of her grunt, 93.2 decibels) or Maria Sharapova (101 decibels), have been accused of doing it to distract their opponent and cover up cues from the sound about what shot they're playing.
  • Basketball players often shout, with the intention of getting a foul called on your defender.
  • Some fencers use loud, sudden yells to startle their opponent into reacting (Harvey Keitel's character in The Duellists takes it to the point of a Verbal Tic), along with similar tricks like stamping a foot. Unlike kiai, this is generally used when you aren't attacking (or at least just before you do).
  • Often a coach or physical trainer will provoke a training subject to yell. Drill sergeants will order trainees to 'sound off'. Raising one's voice raises energy level and motivation as well.
  • Believe it or not, it does have a purpose when used in self-defense classes. Most people will freeze up in stressful situations - for example, being assaulted or mugged - and shouting tends to help snap them out of it. Any shout would do (hence the concept of a battle cry) but it being the phrase people associate with martial arts makes this a partial case of the Coconut Effect.
    • Sometimes, a powerful enough bellow is enough to startle the opponent into weakness in a mundane version of Makes Me Wanna Shout.
  • Fencers sometimes shout whenever the land a hit on an opponent, both for the reasons above, and, since a great deal of points in fencing end with a hit on both sides, to try and convince the director that they were the one who had the initiative.


Funny Bruce Lee NoisesScreaming TropesMake Me Wanna Shout
I Know Kung-FauxThis Index Knows Kung-FuKi Manipulation
Just Testing YouDialogueKnows A Guy Who Knows A Guy
Just Hit HimFight SceneKnife Fight
Handicapped BadassImageSource/Comic BooksBlack Canary

alternative title(s): Wryyyyyy; Power Up Scream
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