List of Karate Terminology – Key Words & Commands

Here are many of the key Japanese Karate terms, words & commands. This page will also help you to pronounce these Karate terms and phrases. For the Japanese names of specific Karate techniques (i.e. Ushiro Geri or Neko Dachi), you can also visit the Black Belt Wiki sections focused on Karate kicksKarate stancesKarate punchesKarate blocks, etc.

Many of these terms were assimilated into Japanese and not all of them are Japanese in origin. Karate originated from Okinawa which utilized their own indigenous language blended with Chinese and Japanese. An example being that some karate schools use Hiji and others use Empi (both meaning elbow strike but with different origins).

Instructors often use Japanese terminology during kata practice such as for Shotokan KataGoju-Ryu KataKyokushin KataShito-Ryu Kata, etc. For other martial arts words & commands, please visit the main Martial Arts Terminology section.

Wiki – Best Karate Books

Related Sections

  1. Kata
  2. Japanese Numbers
  3. Karate Kicks
  4. Karate Punches
  5. Karate Ranks & Titles

Karate Terms & Commands – English to Japanese

  • Ankle – Ashi-Kubi
  • Attention – Kiotsuke (sounds like Key-oh-zoo-kay)
  • Back – Ushiro (sounds like Oo-she-row)
  • Basic Techniques – Kihon (sounds like Key-hon)
  • Begin/Start – Hajime (sounds like Ha-gee-may)
  • Belt – Obi (sounds like Oh-bee)
  • Block – Uke (sounds like Oo-kay)
  • Body Movement – Tai Sabaki
  • Bow – Rei (sounds like Ray)
  • Breathing Exercises – Kokyu Ho
  • Cat – Neko (i.e. Neko Ashi Dachi = Cat Foot Stance or Cat Stance)
  • Elbow – Empi or Enpi (sounds like En-pee or Em-pee)
  • Elbow Strike – Empi-Uchi (sounds like Em-pee Oo-chee)
  • Focus – Kime
  • Foot – Ashi (sounds like Ah-she)
  • Form or Pattern – Kata (sounds like Ka-ta)
  • Form (Kata) Technique Application – Bunkai (sounds like Boon-kay)
  • Front – Mae
  • Goodbye – Sayonara (sounds like Sa-yoh-na-rah)
  • Hand – Te (sound like Tay)
  • Head – Atama (sounds like Ah-ta-ma)
  • Heel – Kakato (sounds like Ka-ka-toe)
  • I (Me) – Watashi (sounds like Wa-ta-she)
  • Kata Starting Point – Embusen or Enbusen
  • Kick – Geri or Keri (sounds like Geh-ree or Keh-ree)
  • Knee – Hiza (sounds like He-zah)
  • Kneel – Seiza
  • Kneeling Techniques – Seiza Waza
  • Knife Hand – Shuto (sounds like Shoe-toe)
  • Left – Hidari (sounds like Hee-da-ree)
  • Low (Level) – Gedan (sounds like Geh-dan)
  • Mat (Practice/Training Mat) – Tatami (sounds like Ta-ta-me)
  • Meditate – Mokuso
  • Middle (Level) – Chudan (sounds like Choo-dan)
  • One More Time – Mo Ichi Do (sounds like Moe E-chee Doe)
  • No – Iie (sounds like E-ay)
  • No Mind (State of “No Mind”) – Mushin
  • Please – Dozo (sounds like Doe-zoh)
  • Practitioner of Karate – Karateka
  • Pulling Hand (brining hand back to ready position) – Hikite
  • Punch – Tsuki or Zuki (sounds like Zoo-key)

 

  • Push On Through Difficulties – Oss or Osu. Nevertheless, this term used in many different ways and is often used by non-Japanese Karate students for “Thank you”, “I understand”, etc. Oss (Osu) is a kind of respectful catch-all phrase.
  • Right – Migi (sounds like Mee-gee)
  • School (Martial Arts) – Dojo (sounds like Doe-Joe)
  • Senior Student – Senpai or Sempai (sounds like Sen-pie)
  • Shout or Yell – Kiai (sounds like Key-eye)
  • Side – Yoko (sounds like Yoh-koh)
  • Snap – Keage
  • Sparring – Kumite (sounds like Coo-meh-tay)
  • Stance – Dachi (sounds like Dah-chee)
  • Stop – Yame (sounds like Yah-may)
  • Strike – Uchi (sounds like Oo-chee)
  • Sweep – Barai (sounds like Baa-rye)
  • Teacher/Instructor – Sensei (sounds like Sen-say)
  • Technique – Waza (sounds like Waa-Zaa)
  • Thank You (Formal) – Domo Arigato (sounds like Doe-moe Ah-ree-gah-toe)
  • Thank You (Informal) – Domo (sounds like Doe-moe)
  • Throat – Nodo (sounds like No-doe)
  • Throw – Nage
  • Thrust – Kekomi
  • Turn Around – Mawatte (sounds like Ma-wa-tay)
  • Unarmed Combat – Taijutsu
  • Uniform – Gi (sounds like Ghee)
  • Upper (Level) – Jodan (sounds like Joe-dan)
  • Void or State of No Mind – Mushin
  • Yes – Hai (sounds like Hi)
  • You – Anata (sounds like Ah-na-ta)

50 Japanese Words

Karate Terms & Commands – Japanese to English

  • Anata – You
  • Anza – Sitting position, cross legged
  • Ashi – Foot
  • Ashi-Kubi – Ankle
  • Atama – Head
  • Barai – Sweep
  • Bunkai – Kata Technique Application
  • Chudan – Middle (Level)
  • Dachi – Stance
  • Dojo – School (Karate)
  • Domo – Thank You (Informal)
  • Domo Arigato – Thank You (Formal)
  • Dozo – Please
  • Embusen or Enbusen – This is the term used to refer to the spot where a kata begins. In addition, nearly all kata start and end on exactly the same Embusen point.
  • Empi or Enpi – Elbow
  • Empi-Uchi or Enpi-Uchi – Elbow Strike
  • Gedan – Low (Level)
  • Geri or Keri – Kick
  • Gi – Uniform
  • Hai – Yes
  • Hajime – Begin/Start
  • Harau – Sweeping Techniques
  • Hidari – Left
  • Hikite – Pulling Hand (bringing hand back to ready position)
  • Hiza – Knee
  • Iie – No
  • Jodan – Upper (Level)
  • Kakato – Heel
  • Karateka – Practitioner of Karate
  • Kata – Form or Pattern
  • Keage – Snap
  • Kekomi – Thrust
  • Keri or Geri – Kick
  • Ki – Type of intrinsic energy. Known as Qi or Chi in Chinese martial arts.
  • Kiai – Shout
  • Kihon – Basic Techniques
  • Kime – Focus

 

  • Kiotsuke – Attention
  • Kokyu Ho – Breathing exercises
  • Kumite – Sparring
  • Mae – Front
  • Mawatte – Turn Around
  • Migi – Right
  • Mo Ichi Do – One More Time
  • Mokuso – Meditate
  • Mushin – Void or State of No Mind
  • Nage – Throw
  • Neko – Cat (i.e. Neko Ashi Dachi = Cat Foot Stance or Cat Stance)
  • Nodo – Throat
  • Obi – Belt
  • Oss or Osu – Push On Through Difficulties. Nevertheless, this term used in many different ways and is often used by non-Japanese Karate students for “Thank you”, “I understand”, etc. Oss (Osu) is a kind of respectful catch-all phrase.
  • Rei – Bow
  • Sayonara – Goodbye
  • Senpai or Sempai – Senior Student
  • Sensei – Teacher/Instructor
  • Seiza – Kneel
  • Seiza Waza – Kneeling Techniques
  • Shuto – Knife Hand
  • Tatami – Practice/Training Mat
  • Te – Hand
  • Tsuki or Zuki – Punch
  • Uke – Block
  • Ushiro – Back
  • Watashi – I (Me)
  • Waza – Technique
  • Yame – Stop
  • Yoko – Side
  • Zuki or Tsuki – Punch

Japanese Greetings

Karate Terminology – Sensei (Teacher)

Karate Terminology

Karate Terminology – Image provided by Wikimedia Commons

References

  1. Penn State Shotokan Karate-Do, Karate Terminology, http://www.clubs.psu.edu/up/shotokan/terminology.html
  2. JKA South Bassonia Karate, Terminology, http://www.jkasouth.co.za/terminology.html
  3. IMA Karate, Karate Dictionary, http://www.imakarate.com/student-information/karate-dictionary/