Updated: Aug 18
I teach karate.
I teach adults, children, children with cancer, children with disabilities and often, I teach my own son (at the dojo he calls me 'Sensei Mum': Cute.).
Last night in class, I was teaching the brown belt kids; the advanced group. In total I had six kids: Four girls and two boys, all of whom were aged between ten and twelve. While we were practicing our kata (a detailed pattern of movements), I noticed none of the girls were using their kiai. The kiai is the yell you hear karate practitioners make. The purpose of the kiai is concentrate focus on your life-force and to use it to fight. It's a loud, strong yell that originates in the solar plexus. It's one of my favourite things about karate. You just can't kiai without feeling strong, solid, and ready for anything.
And the girls weren't using it. The boys, on the other hand, were using theirs with passion and energy. So I asked the girls what was causing them to hold back. And this is what they said (after quite a lot of gentle probing):
"It's kind of uncomfortable. We feel embarrassed when we're too loud. It makes us feel really self-conscious and as though people are looking at us. We don't want to be too loud." And this one scared the bejesus out of me, "It's different for the boys. It's okay for them to be loud."
Needless to say, we spent a good part of that class working on our kiai. I spent time with the whole group - not just the girls - chatting about how to recognize their personal power, the strength inside them, and the absolute right - no, duty - to let it out. We did some visualization, breathing practice, and many kiai. We talked about it, we practiced it, we did it over and over until they whole group were laughing and enjoying letting out their life-force. All six kids experienced a strong shift in their energy and as a result, the group energy shifted too. At the end of the class six powerful, strong, solid humans left the dojo; not four quiet girls and two loud boys.
These girls were aged between ten and twelve. Keeping girls quiet is killing their ability to change the world and build their success and independence. Once these girls took control of their own power, the energy shift in the group was palpable. They lifted everyone. I work with women every day who are still afraid to release their power, to use their voices, to speak out and stand out.
My goal is to put myself out of business by guiding new entrepreneurs to recognize and use their personal strength to change the world and gain their independence by building successful businesses. This means everyone woman needs to grab hold of her own life-force and let it out. Yell, shout, be loud, take up space, be unapologetically yourself, let it all out.
If you need a dose of personal power, try practising the kiai at home. I'm serious. Try it. You'll be amazed by how powerful it makes you feel. And when you feel that power, grab a hold of it and let your strength and presence be felt in the world. We'll all be better for it when you do.
How to kiai.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Place your hands gently on your solar plexus (the blue square).
3. Breath in deeply through your nose.
4. Force the air out very quickly by contracting the muscle laying just under your hands (the diaphragm).
5. As you force out the air, keep your shoulders back and your head up and yell into your belly (not your throat). You'll feel the vibration in your solar plexus. And that is your life-force.