As karate originated from Okinawa and spread to Japan, many styles across the world seek to maintain this inherent heritage by continuing to teach karate using the original Japanese names for the various techniques being taught. Secondly, as karate now finds itself very much an international phenomenon, training with Japanese terminology is proving invaluable in allowing for people from different nationalities and cultures to train with one another, without suffering from any major translation problems. It is thus a good idea that you as a karateka learn this basic terminology in order to better understand what is going on in your classes.

Basic Technique Terminology

  • age-uke — rising block
  • ashi-barai — ankle sweep
  • empi — elbow
  • empi-uchi — elbow strike
  • chudan — stomach level
  • gedan-barai — downward block
  • gyaku-zuki — reverse punch
  • hajime — Begin!
  • hiraken — fore-knuckle fist
  • ippon — one point
  • jiju-ippon-kumite — semi free one-blow sparring
  • jodan — face level
  • kata — forms
  • kiba-dachi — straddle-leg stance
  • kime — focus
  • kokutsu-datchi — back stance
  • kamae — fighting stance
  • kumite — sparring
  • mae-geri — front kick
  • mae-geri-keage — front snap kick
  • mae-geri-kekomi — front thrust kick
  • mae-tobi-geri — flying front kick
  • mawashi-geri — roundhouse kick
  • mawashi-zuki — roundhouse punch
  • mawate — Turn!
  • makiwara — punching board
  • oi-zuki — lunge punch
  • riken — back fist
  • shuto — knife hand
  • uchi-uke — inside forearm block
  • ude-uke — outside forearm block
  • ushiro-geri — back kick
  • ushiro-geri-keage — back snap kick
  • ushiro-geri-kekomi — back thrust kick
  • uraken-uchi — back fist strike
  • yame — Stop!
  • yoi — Ready!
  • yoko-geri — side kick
  • yoko-geri-keage — side snap kick
  • yoko-geri-kekomi — side thrust kick
  • yoko-tobi-geri — flying side thrust kick

Japanese Count Sequence

  1. Ichi
  2. Ni
  3. San
  4. Shi
  5. Go
  6. Roku
  7. Shichi
  8. Hachi
  9. Ku
  10. Jiu

Black Belt Dans (Ranked from Lowest to Highest)

  1. Shodan
  2. Nidan
  3. Sandan
  4. Yondan
  5. Godan
  6. Rokudan
  7. Shichidan
  8. Hachidan
  9. Kudan
  10. Jiudan

ADVANCED TERMINOLOGY

-A-
Age tsuki – rising punch
Age uke – rising block
Anata wa – and you?
Antei – balance
Arigato gozaimasu – thank you
Ashi – leg
Ashi baral – leg sweep
Atama – head
Ato de – Later

-B-
Bo – Six foot staff (Weapon)
Bojutsu – Art of the Bo
Bunkai – The application of a move in a kata
Bushi – Warrior
Bushido – Way of the warrior

-C-
Chudan – Middle area
Chudan uke – Middle block

-D-
Dachi – Stance
Dai (Dai Ichi) – Number
Dai (Passai Dia) – Greater, major
Dai sempai – Most senior student
Dan – Black belt rank
Deashibarai – Forward foot sweep
Denwa – Telephone
Do – The way or path
Doita shimashite – You are welcome
Dojo – Place to train
Domo arigato gozaimasu – Thank you very much
Dozo – Please

-E-
Ee-EH, wah-KAH-ree-mah-sehn – No, I do not understand
Ee-KEE-mah-shoh – Let’s go
Eku – Oar (Weapon)
Empi – Elbow

-F-
Fukyu – Fundamental, basic
Fumi komi – Stomping (kick)

-G-
Gedan – Lower area
Gedan uke – Lower block
Genki desu – I am fine
Geri – Kick
Gi – Karate uniform
Go – Hard or #5
Gyaku tsuki – Reverse punch

-H-
Hachiji dachi – Open stance
Hai – Yes
Haishu – Back of hand
Haisoku – Instep of foot
Haito – Ridge of hand
Hajime – Begin
Hanshi – Grand Master
Hara – Abdomen, center of Ki
Hayaku – Quickly
Heiko dachi – Parallel stance
Heisoku dachi – Closed foot stance
Hidari – Left
Hiji – Elbow
Hiji – Elbow smash
Hiza – Knee

-I-
Ikaga desu ka – How are you
Ima – Now
Ippon ken – One knuckle fist
Itchoku sen – Straight line

-J-
Jiyu kumite – Free style sparring
Jo – Four foot staff
Jodan – Upper area
Jodan uke – Upper block
Ju – Soft or the #10
Judan – 10th Degree Black Belt
Jutsu – Art

-K-
Kakato – Heel of foot
Kake geri – Hook kick
Kama – Sickle (Weapon)
Kamae – Fighting stance
Kansetsu – Knuckles
Kao – Face
Kara – Empty
Karate – Empty hand
Karate do – The way of the empty hand
Kata – Predetermined form
Keage – Snap (kick)
Keiko – Practice drill
Kekomi – Thrust (kick)
Ki – Spirit
Kiai – Spirit shout
Kiba dachi – Horse riding stance
Kihon – Basic
Kime – Focus
Kimochi – Attitude
Kin geri – Groin kick
Kiotsuke – Attention
Kobudo – Ancient martial ways
Kobujutsu – Art of ancient weapons
Kohai – Junior
Kokegi – Attacher
Koko – Here
Kokoro – Mind, heart, spirit, feeling
Kokutsu dachi – Back stance
Konban wa – Good evening
Konnichi wa – Good afternoon, hello
Koroshi waza – Killing technique
Kosa dachi – Cross-legged stance
Koshi – Hips, ball of foot
Kudasai – Please, give me the favor of
Kumite – Practice fighting
Kuzushi – Leverage
Kyobu – Chest
Kyoshi – Karate master title (7th & 8th Degree)
Kyu – Non black belt rank
Kyushu jutsu – The art of striking vital points

-M-
Ma – Distance
Maai – Individual distance
Mae – Front
Mae geri – Front kick
Makiwara – Punching board
Massugu – Straight
Matte – Wait
Mawashi geri – Round house kick
Mawate – Turn
Migi – Right
Migikae tsuki – Jab punch
Mikazuki geri – Crescent kick
Modotte – Return to ready position
MOH ee-chee-doh, oh-NEH-gah-ee shee-mahs? – Could you repeat it please?
Mokuso – Quiet meditation
Mokuso owari – Meditation over
Morote uke – Augmented block
Mudansha – Kyu rank holder
Mushubi dachi – Open foot, attention stance
Mutskasaee – Difficult

-N-
Nage waza – Throwing technique
Nagore – Deep breathing
Naihanchi dachi – Iron horse stance
Naisan – Man, Women, boy or girl
Nan-jee-dehs-ka? – What time is it?
Narra be nassai – Line up
Neko ashi dachi – Cat leg stance
Nidan geri – Double kick
Nihongo – Japanese language
Nuhite – Spear hand
Nunchaku – Flail (Weapon)

-O-
O-hayo gozaimas – Good morning
O-negai shimasu – Teach me, please
O-yasami nasai – Good night
Obi – Belt
Ot tsuki – Lunge punch
Owari mastah – Over, finished

-R-
Rei – Bow, courtesy
Renshi – Highest teacher
Renshu – To study
Ryu – School or system, way
Ryukyu – The archipelago, known as Okinawa

-S-
Sai – Truncheon (Weapon)
Sanchin dachi – Hour glass stance
Sashi buri desu ne – Long time no see
Sayonara – Good bye
Seiken – Forefist
Seiken tsuki – Straight punch
Seiza – Formal sitting posture
Sempai – Senior student
Senaka – Back of body
Sensei – Teacher, Instructor
Shiai – Match, contest
Shihan – Master instructor
Shiko dachi – Split or square stance
Shin ken – Serious
Sho – Small, minor
Shomei – Front central area of dojo
Shomen – Front
Shomen ni rei – Bow to the front
Shurey no kuni – The country that keeps respect (On our patch)
Shuto – Knife hand
Soto uke – Outside middle block

-T-
Tabemono – Food
Tai – Body
Tai sabaki – Body shifting
Takai – Expensive
Talso – Exercise
Tameshi wara – Breaking
Tatami – Straw floor mat
Tate – Standing, vertical
Tate tsuki – Vertical fist punch
Te – Hand
Teisho – Palm heel
Tettsui – Hammer fist
Tobi geri – Jump kick
Tonfa – Handle (Weapon)
Tsuki – Punch
Tsuyoki – Strong spirit
Tuite waza – Grappling hand technique

-U-
Uchi – Strike
Uchi uke – Inside middle block
Ude – Arm
Uke – Defender, block
Ura tsuki – Inverted punch
Uraken – Back fist
Ushiro geri – Back kick

W-
Wah-KAH-ree mahs KAH? – Do you understand?
Waza – Technique

-Y-
Yakusoku kumite – Predetermined sparring
Yame – Stop
Yasashee – Easy
Yasui – Cheap
Yasunde – Relax
Yoi – Ready
Yoko – Side
Yoko geri – Side kick

-Z-
ZANSHIN: A state of awareness / alert relaxedness / remaining mind
ZASHIKI: seated etiquette. The proper ways to sit, bow and move while in seiza.
ZAZEN: sitting meditation
ZENKUTSU DACHI: a forward leaning stance.
ZENPO DAI SHARIN: a forward cartwheel.
ZINKASA: (k) an older name for the tinbe. See tinbe.
ZOKKO: continue.
ZORI: sandals.
ZUBON: the trousers/pants.
ZUKI/TSUKI: punch.