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Commanding voice


A command is an oral order given by the instructor. The precision with which a movement is executed by the students is affected by the manner in which the command is given. Some commands have two parts: the preparatory command and the execution command. Neither part is a command by itself; each command part makes up the total command.

Preparatory commands

The preparatory command mentally prepares the student for its execution. For example, when counting out a series of kicks, give the preparatory command “Ready!” before executing the count. Or, after giving the preparatory command, “Face the front,” give a “Kiai!” as the execution command. Don’t run the preparatory command and the execution command together; there should be one count interval between them.

Combined commands

In some commands, the preparatory command and the execution command are combined, such as in "Char-yot!" and "Kyong-nae!" For these commands, inflection, higher pitch, and greater loudness are added to the last syllable. The first syllable prepares the student and the last syllable commands the execution.

A pet peeve of mine is the running together of two separate commands, such "Char-yot Kyong-nae." These are two separate commands; there should be a short pause between the two commands so students may perform the first command correctly before the second command is issued.

Supplemental commands

Supplemental commands are oral orders that reinforce and complement the main order. They ensure proper understanding and execution of a movement. A supplementary command may be a preparatory command, a portion of a preparatory command, or a two-part command. It is normally given between the preparatory command and the execution command. For example, when beginning a one-step sparring sequence, give the preparatory command “Ready!” and then state which students will initiate the attack before giving the execution command.

Command voice

A correctly delivered command will be understood by everyone in the class. The command should be heard clearly by the last student in the last row. Correct commands have a tone, cadence, and snap that demand willing, correct, and immediate response from students.
The loudness of a command is adjusted to the number of students in the class. It is necessary for the voice to have carrying power, but excessive exertion is unnecessary and harmful. A typical result of trying to speak too loudly is the almost unconscious tightening of the neck muscles to force sound out. This produces strain, hoarseness, sore throat, and worst of all, indistinct and jumbled sounds instead of clear commands. Ease is achieved through good posture, proper breathing, correct adjustment of throat and mouth muscles, and confidence.


The best posture for giving commands is the position of charyot or attention. Students notice the posture of the instructor. If the posture is nonmilitarily relaxed, slouched, stiff, or uneasy, the students will imitate it.


The most important muscle used in breathing is the diaphragm—the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm automatically controls normal breathing and is used to control the breath when giving commands. Use the diaphragm to force air from the lungs during a command instead of trying to use the lungs. The commands will be sharper and more commanding. The throat, mouth, and nose act as amplifiers and help to give fullness (resonance) and projection to the voice.


Distinctiveness depends on the correct use of the tongue, lips, and teeth, which form the separate sounds of a word and group the sounds into syllables. Distinct commands are effective; indistinct commands cause confusion. All commands may be pronounced correctly without loss of effect. To enunciate clearly, make full use of the lips, tongue, and lower jaw. To develop the ability to give clear, distinct commands, you should practice giving commands slowly and carefully, prolonging the syllables. Then, gradually increase the rate of delivery to develop proper cadence, still enunciating each syllable distinctly.


Inflection is the rise and fall in pitch and the tone changes of the voice. The preparatory part of the command is the part that indicates movement. Pronounce each preparatory command with a rising inflection. A common fault with beginners is to start the preparatory command in a pitch so high that, after employing a rising inflection for the preparatory command, it is impossible to give the command of execution with clarity or without strain. A good rule to remember is to begin a command near the natural pitch of the voice. The execution part of the command is the part that indicates when a movement is to be executed. Give it in a sharper tone and in a slightly higher pitch than the last syllable of the preparatory part. It must be given with plenty of snap. The best way to develop a commanding voice is to practice.


In commands, cadence means the uniform and rhythmic flow of words. The interval between commands is uniform in length so that everyone in the class will be able to understand the preparatory part of the command and will know when to expect the execution part of the command. When supplementary commands are necessary, the instructor should allow for one count between the preparatory part of the command and the supplementary part of the command, and an additional count after the supplementary part of the command but before the execution part of the command.


A commanding voice compels, it does not ask! A loud, snappy commanding voice will maintain control of a large class with no correction needed and it will inspire students to give their maximum effort.

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