Tanden & Kiai

Tanden refers to the human body’s center of gravity, which is the lower abdominal area below the navel. According to traditional Asian beliefs, this is the area from which the body relays a form of energy that is called Ki in Japanese, the energy that moves and changes all things in universe. Ki and tanden are essential elements in all forms of traditional East Asian medicine, from acupuncture and shiatsu to herbal medicine.

Tan refers to essence of Asian medicine, and Den means “rice field”. The tanden is not a single point but a field spread out across the lower abdomen which, like a rice paddy, can be divided into sections. The ideogram is a view of a rice paddy from above. People who actively develop their Ki, whether doctors of Asian medicine or martial artists, often refer to various section of the tanden.

A detailed description of the theories behind traditional Asian medicine is not within the scope of this article. It should be noted, however, that even if you are not believe in Ki, you should still be aware that any activity in Karate, from breathing to spinning kicks, should originate in the tanden.

A simple straight punch, for example, would not be very effective if you only moved your arm and shoulders. When you launch a straight punch toward an opponent in front of you, you should step forward and lower your weight onto your front knee and fully extend your back leg for the greatest power. In other words, should make certain that your tanden moves in coordination with your fist, arm, and shoulder. Even if you are punching from a stationary position, you must turn hips as you extend the arm, essentially twisting your upper body around the tanden, other strike will have very force behind it, like everything in Karate the greatest power comes from the lower body, where the tanden is located.

Similarly, when you breathe, you should use your lower diaphragm rather than your chest and shoulders. Using your upper body to breathe tends your shoulders, which hinders movement. By focusing your breathing toward your tanden, your breaths will be deeper and your more body relaxed and limber.

You don’t need to believe in Ki to apply your tanden in practice. In fact, the existence of Ki and its effectiveness in combat is the subject of much discussion in martial arts circle. Some are believers; others are not. Most martial artist, however, will agree regardless of their opinion of Ki, an awareness of one’s center of gravity, the tanden is essential in developing proper technique.


Anyone who has ever seen a Karate demonstration knows that Karate masters always shouts when they punch or kick. And they shout very loudly. You might even say they scream. This is called Kiai.

Many Asian believe that there is a force that flows through all things, making them move and change. This is called Ki in Japanese . The weather, for example, which is always changing, is called tenki, or “heavenly Ki”.

People have Ki as well, although most times we are not even aware of it. You may, however, have had the experience of being tired one minute and full of energy the next, just because something-a sudden invitation to a party, or a impending deadline for a term paper-stimulated you. And when people are very scared or very angry or excited, they sometimes find that are stronger than they’ve ever been. Some Asian explain this by saying that in these situations, people are intuitively focusing their Ki in just the right way to give themselves incredible energy. Some martial artists believe that with practice, you can learn to control your Ki to give yourself this energy whenever you want. A part of this is the screaming, the Kiai, which means “working with Ki” or “harmonizing Ki”.

But you don’t have to believe in Ki to understand why shouting might make your Karate techniques stronger. By shouting, you are making sure you are exhaling at the time of attack, which in turn ensure that you are relaxed, and experts in all sports say that you are your strongest and fastest when you are relaxed. This is why bodybuilders exhale when they are lifting weights, and why you can hear, even on television, the sharp exhalation of boxers whenever they punch. This also is why all Karate instructors. Whether or not they believe that Kiai is very important.

A proper Kiai comes not from the lung but from the lower abdomen, or Tanden. Do not repeatedly shout from your lung as this can tired you very quickly and even damage your throat.

As you continue your study, you may become more motivated in class whenever you and your classmates make loud Kiai during your drills. A good Kiai can also motivate you to retaliate when you are on the receiving end of a particularly daunting attack. When you become more aware of your breathing in general, you should also see an increase in your stamina and strength.