Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dune: The Spice Ki-ai

Lately here at Dojo Rat we've been exploring martial themes in popular movies, and this is a great example; Paul's fight with Feyd (played by Sting) in "Dune".

For those not familiar with the series of novels by Frank Herbert (a local writer from my corner of Washington State) here's the plot in a nutshell:

Paul Atreides is heir to a noble family that is sent to the desert planet Arrakis (Dune) to investigate the conspiracy to manipulate the most valuable commodity in the Universe: the mysterious "Spice", which allows users to fold time and space.
There are betrayals and double-crossing, giant "Sandworms" and a native resistance army of "Fremen" which aid Paul in his fight against the enemy Harkonnen clan.

Paul appears to be the long-prophesied messiah of Fremen legend, and the movie climaxes with this fight between Paul and Harkonnen Feyd-Rautha (Sting).

Author Frank Herbert is brilliant in his knowledge of desert culture, the occult and martial arts. Film director David Lynch distanced himself from this project after release, as aspects of this dark film were controversial and mostly appealed to followers of the book series.

What brings this video to Dojo Rat is the fight scene above. Not so much for the techniques, but for the Ki-ai which Paul uses to explode Feyd at the end of the fight.
As martial artists, we are taught to use the Ki-ai shout as a sign of intent, strength and intimidation. A weak Ki-ai sounds pathetic, a strong ki-ai takes years to perfect, and may change in subtle ways depending on use.
I read an account of an Aikido expert somewhere in the wilderness of Norway who was attacked by a moose. With no other choice, he let out a huge Ki-ai. Allegedly, the moose was dazed, staggered and briefly fell over.
I believe it. I have used the Ki-ai in similar ways. One time I was training for my first Black-Belt test and was running through some farmland in a California town. As I ran by one farm, three big dogs came out on the road and began to chase me. Well, there was surely no way for me to outrun the dogs, so I turned, stood my ground and let out the most vicious Ki-ai I could.
The dogs stopped in their tracks, turned around and ran back to the farm. The same thing happened on a dark rainy night walking down a street in Portland.

It seems clear to me that we cultivate Ki, or "Chi" for health and strength- which makes it available for use in stressful times. The Ki-ai is a great example of an expression of true intent and can be a valuable tool.

You can read more about "Dune" at this Wiki link.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the voice is definitely the human weapon, I used it against a charging dog miself, very effective.

Chris said...

As much as I love that movie, the only disappointing thing about it is the "weirding modules"... as if, given all the crazy stuff in that film, audiences would be more likely to accept that that sonic power could be produced by a technological device than the human body-mind. In the books, of course, the "weirding way" that Jessica and Paul teach the Fremen is clearly an internal martial art/yogic discipline... whoever thought of the "weirding module" devices deserves a Zen stick to the head.

Dojo Rat said...


Thanks, I have not read the book since high-school.
I like it way better without the module, as it should be.
But in the end, that was the message. Like so many devices, we really don't need them after all...

Sean C. Ledig said...

One of my Tang Soo Do instructors had training as an opera singer. He had the loudest, and most disorienting ki-hap I've ever heard.

I definitely believe after training with him that there is something to be said for a powerful ki-hap/kiai.