Can You “Power Up” by Screaming?

Power screams are common in the martial arts. Do they work when you're being attacked on the streets?

posted on June 6, 2024
screaming as a power up

Several months ago, I was asked “if I was being attacked, is there any way to 'channel' all my energy, like I see in some athletes, and physically 'power-up'?” I have found many articles on how letting out a word, scream or grunt at a crucial time can be beneficial in a controlled environment, but I am unable to find any articles that are specific to using this “power -up” technique when time is of the essence in a violent encounter.

As most of us know, being physically fit is confirmed to help prevent and manage heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. It is also one of the key factors that improves mental stability, and an overall quality of life and well-being. The act of yelling while exercising or lifting has many benefits, per CrossMag. Please note that this technique is being used while exercising/lifting, and not when time is of the essence. 

Screaming manIncrease in intensity: Shouting can help you train more force and intensity; screaming is a release mechanism that allows the athlete to release excess tension, and this can lead to greater commitment, stimulating better physical performance.

Higher concentration: When performing a demanding exercise or participating in a competition, the noise produced by the scream can divert attention from negative thoughts and external distractions. The act of yelling can become a ritual that helps focus on the task at hand, increasing concentration and determination.

Less stress: Yelling during training helps relieve stress and manage frustration better; suppressing the urge to yell when angry is not good.

Activates the Diaphragm: When you throw out a “power-up shout,” you engage your diaphragm muscles, which are responsible for breathing. By engaging these muscles, you can improve your breathing technique and increase oxygen delivery to your muscles. This can help to improve your endurance and overall performance.

Enhances Mind-Muscle Connection: This is the ability to consciously contract and control your muscles. A well placed “power-up shout” can help you to improve your mind-muscle connection which increases muscle awareness and activation.

Greater strength: The screams that can be heard in the athletes' gyms or crossfitters aren't just for attention; yelling actually helps increase strength.

Shouting During Hand to Hand Training

There are many articles out there that talk about a specific “power-up shout” that is a word (like Kia, Ahss, Ch, Ah, Kihap, etc.) that is yelled during specific times in your training. This is usually not seen by high level athletes, but it is still common practice. Please make note that this technique is being used while training and not when time is of the essence. I think that Akula Taekwondo breaks it down nicely. 

Increases Power: Shouting can pretty much guarantee that we are breathing correctly, it reduced hesitation and if channeled well, it increases the most power from your body.

Intimates Opponents: You have to admit, surprise screams make you jump.

Increases Confidence: A well placed “Kia” places your mind and body in a state that releases anxiety and increases a positive psychological return.

Self-Protection: If you are lucky enough to see a strike coming, a well place “Kia” will tighten your core muscles, release air from your lungs, and can even lessen the pain.

Can You “Power Up” By Screaming During a Violent Encounter?

The answer is probably not. I bet you thought it was going to be a yes. I did too, but after focusing on distance and context, where a power-up scream may be beneficial in a controlled setting, it will not be beneficial when seconds matter and your life is on the line. Think about it: Most every point that was made in this article had no time limit, breathing techniques were applied, and their goal/end result had nothing to do with life-saving skills.

I knew the person that had asked me this question would be reading this article so I wanted to be 100-percent comfortable with my decision. I called my friend Larry Lindeman who is a lifetime martial artist, combat athlete, SWAT, Police and has a degree in Exercise Physiology. I knew he would be able to shed some light on this, and he did not disappoint.

Screaming womanLindeman said that “Context and time is the answer here. When you are in an equal initiative, life preservation will not be the focus, but when you are in an unequal initiative, it is crucial. When engaged in a criminal assault, there is no time to think about 'powering-up', you are 'in it' and you have to make the best use of your resources.  Oddly, traditional martial arts focus, almost entirely on equal initiative conflict. Martial arts movies fight scenes are all equal initiative. Criminal assaults, by definition, are unequal. The criminal doesn’t want a fight, they want to use violence to achieve a goal, and therefore, they stack the deck so they will win every time. They use shock and awe, guns, masks, yelling, to stack the deck. Even if the victim is armed, their gun is still holstered and they didn’t know if and when the attack was coming.”

Equal initiative means both combatants both know it is going to happen and exactly when it’s going to happen, such as boxing, wrestling, and honor fights. 

Unequal Fights Are The Norm

Unequal initiative event means things like a criminal assault. The criminal has the initiative. They decide if and when the attack occurs. Action is faster than reaction therefore the initiative is unequal. They have it, you don’t.   

Lindeman goes on the say “Screaming can be a valuable offensive tool, but not on defense. Contextually, with space in mind, you can use a scream aka a verbal flashbang to get an adrenal response from the other person with the goal to “shock” and startle them. A good scream can also draw attention to the situation from surrounding people. When your primal brain hears someone screaming, your first instinct is to look around.”

Lindeman brought up another good point in that “A criminal has a “time limit” on their exchange with you. They want to get “paid” from the time spent with you and when you scream, the clock in their own head starts ticking. They will also be concerned on who is watching, they want to get “in and out” with no witnesses.”

I would like thank Larry Lindemann for the time and energy that he put into this article and my education. He is an expert in this field and our conversations make me think outside the box.

That confirms it, trying to “power-up” and increase your physical capabilities during an assault will probably be a no go but don’t be disappointed, your voice is an amazing self-protection tool so if you have the space, scream, scream, scream at that bad dude and “build a sonic wall,” as Larry would say. 


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