I watched 叶问4 (Ip Man 4) last night, and became interested in the sounds they make during fighting:

Kiai (Japanese: 気合, /ˈkiːaɪ/) is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. ... The concept has become a notable part of Asian martial arts in popular culture, especially in martial arts films, in writing often rendered in variants such as Hi-yah!, Aiyah!, Eeee-yah!, or Hyah!.
Kiai, Wikipedia

See also Why do martial artists “shout” in the execution of a technique? on MartialArts.SE. I didn't immediately find the Chinese equivalent of this term.

Question: Is there a Chinese word for the Japanese 気合, the sounds ("Hi-yah!" etc.) made when performing martial arts?

I'm not even sure this is real, or just something people do in Asian movies marketed to Westerners.

  • I doubt there is any equivalent in Chinese for 気合 in terms of phonation articulation. But 气合 can interpret it very well in terms of semantics.
    – dan
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 3:35

3 Answers 3


Here's a Zhihu question about kiai in kendo (劍道). In the realm of Japanese martial arts, it looks like Chinese would just character-transcribe the word as「气合」.

Note that「気合」is specifically a Japanese term, and is used for a host of other meanings in Japanese (breathing, martial spirit, etc.) , so I would say that using「气合」in Chinese in a martial-arts related sense is not appropriate for anything outside of Japanese martial arts. The closest Chinese-language term for martial spirit would be something like「气勢」, and this doesn't necessarily point to any shouting.

「气合」is also a classical Chinese term meaning agreeable sentiments/inclination.

  • 气合 itself makes sense in Chinese too. It means your breath coordinates with your move. 气势 has nothing to do with this respect.
    – dan
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 3:29
  • @dan sure, but that's not how Chinese used 气合 before, as per the classical definition. Looks like an influence from Japanese martial arts. Qigong's controlled breathing exercises, for example, does not use the word 气合 at all. (I also mentioned that 气勢 only involves martial spirit, not any other meaning).
    – dROOOze
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 3:34
  • I feel it's not odd at all if I see it's used in the context of Qigong.
    – dan
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 3:41

Quote:- “ Is there a Chinese word for the Japanese 気合。。。?“

This is a damn good question. I've never thought about this until now.

Having practiced Chinese, (洪拳), Japanese, (Judo), and Korean, (Taekwondo, holding a Black Belt), I am familiar with the practical aspects of "Kiai". The Koreans have a direct equivalent called 기합, (Kihap), (气合), but for some reason there is no direct Chinese terminological equivalent.

But having said that, I do know that some, (not all), Chinese martial artists do use a more descriptive term, namely, 发声, (Fa Sheng), meaning to issue, to emit, to send out sounds while performing their preset Forms, or presumably in combat, if ever the situation arises.

I do not wish to go into the martial aspects of it as this is not the proper forum, but I would just surmise that the reason why there isn't a direct comparable term in Chinese martial arts to "Kiai" is because of the historically diverse, disorganized and secretive nature of the numerous Chinese arts stretching across the whole continent of mainland China, (there are literally hundreds of individual arts practiced in practically every village), that there isn't a central governing body to standardized the technical terms or practice of the numerous art, (which is impossible as no two arts are exactly the same, though the Chinese government around the 1950s & 60s tried and the mishmash art officially called "Wu Shu", (武术),was born and now in the Olympics)

So, while practitioners of the Chinese arts may know exactly what it means in practice, nobody actually coined an "official" word for it, unlike the more insular and better organized Japanese and Koreans.

Hence in my own training the Chinese master simply ordered "Ahhhheeee....!", and we "Ahhhheeeee..., without asking him what this shout is called. It was only when I later took up the Japanese and Korean arts did I know it's actually called "Kiai" or "Kihap"


Wayne Cheah's answer provided a reasonable speculation on why there's no direct equivalent of 「气合」in Chinese martial art term.

Instead of describing the short shout emitted when preforming martial art as "WHOOO!!! HA!!" or "HUT!!", the more technical description would be "吐气发劲" (exhale and strike vigorously) or "扬声吐劲" (emit loud voice along with stronge force)

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