Karate Terminology

List of Important Karate Terms & 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), please also visit the 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 some Empi (both meaning elbow strike but with different origins).

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

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Related Sections

  1. Karate Numbers – How to count in Japanese
  2. Karate Kicks – Japanese names for various kicking techniques
  3. Karate – Names of Body Parts – Japanese names for body parts (i.e. strike to the head)
  4. Karate Punches – Japanese names for Karate punches & strikes.
  5. Karate Stances – Japanese names for Karate stances.

Karate Terms & Commands – English to Japanese

  1. Attention – Kiotsuke (sounds like Key-oh-zoo-kay)
  2. Back – Ushiro (sounds like Oo-she-row)
  3. Basic – Kihon (sounds like Key-hon)
  4. Begin/Start – Hajime (sounds like Ha-gee-may)
  5. Belt – Obi (sounds like Oh-bee)
  6. Block – Uke (sounds like Oo-kay)
  7. Body Movement – Tai Sabaki
  8. Bow – Rei (sounds like Ray)
  9. Breathing Exercises – Kokyu Ho
  10. Elbow – Empi or Enpi (sounds like En-pee or Em-pee)
  11. Elbow Strike – Empi-Uchi (sounds like Em-pee Oo-chee)
  12. Foot – Ashi (sounds like Ah-she)
  13. Form or Pattern – Kata (sounds like Ka-ta)
  14. Form (Kata) Technique Application – Bunkai (sounds like Boon-kay)
  15. Goodbye – Sayonara (sounds like Sa-yoh-na-rah)
  16. Hand – Te (sound like Tay)
  17. Head – Atama (sounds like Ah-ta-ma)
  18. Heel – Kakato (sounds like Ka-ka-toe)
  19. I (Me) – Watashi (sounds like Wa-ta-she)
  20. Kata Starting Point – Embusen or Enbusen
  21. Kick – Geri or Keri (sounds like Geh-ree or Keh-ree)
  22. Knee – Hiza (sounds like He-zah)
  23. Knife Hand – Shuto (sounds like Shoe-toe)
  24. Left – Hidari (sounds like Hee-da-ree)
  25. Low (Level) – Gedan (sounds like Geh-dan)
  26. Mat (Practice/Training Mat) – Tatami (sounds like Ta-ta-me)
  27. Middle (Level) – Chudan (sounds like Choo-dan)
  28. One More Time – Mo Ichi Do (sounds like Moe E-chee Doe)
  29. No – Iie (sounds like E-ay)
  30. No Mind (State of “No Mind”) – Mushin
  31. Please – Dozo (sounds like Doe-zoh)
  32. Pulling Hand (brining hand back to ready position) – Hikite
  33. Punch – Tsuki or Zuki (sounds like Zoo-key)
  34. 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.
  35. Right – Migi (sounds like Mee-gee)
  36. Senior Student – Senpai or Sempai (sounds like Sen-pie)
  37. School (Martial Arts) – Dojo (sounds like Doe-Joe)
  38. Side – Yoko (sounds like Yoh-koh)
  39. Shout or Yell – Kiai (sounds like Key-eye)
  40. Sparring – Kumite (sounds like Coo-meh-tay)
  41. Stance – Dachi (sounds like Dah-chee)
  42. Stop – Yame (sounds like Yah-may)
  43. Strike – Uchi (sounds like Oo-chee)
  44. Sweep – Barai (sounds like Baa-rye)
  45. Teacher/Instructor – Sensei (sounds like Sen-say)
  46. Technique – Waza (sounds like Waa-Zaa)
  47. Thank You (Formal) – Domo Arigato (sounds like Doe-moe Ah-ree-gah-toe)
  48. Thank You (Informal) – Domo (sounds like Doe-moe)
  49. Throat – Nodo (sounds like No-doe)
  50. Turn Around – Mawatte (sounds like Ma-wa-tay)
  51. Unarmed Combat – Taijutsu
  52. Uniform – Gi (sounds like Ghee)
  53. Upper (Level) – Jodan (sounds like Joe-dan)
  54. Void or State of No Mind – Mushin
  55. Yes – Hai (sounds like Hi)
  56. You – Anata (sounds like Ah-na-ta)

Karate Terms & Commands – Japanese to English

  1. Anata – You
  2. Anza – Sitting position, cross leged
  3. Ashi – Foot
  4. Atama – Head
  5. Barai – Sweep
  6. Bunkai – Kata Technique Application
  7. Chudan – Middle (Level)
  8. Dachi – Stance
  9. Dojo – School (Karate)
  10. Domo – Thank You (Informal)
  11. Domo Arigato – Thank You (Formal)
  12. Dozo – Please
  13. 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.
  14. Empi or Enpi – Elbow
  15. Empi-Uchi or Enpi-Uchi – Elbow Strike
  16. Gedan – Low (Level)
  17. Geri or Keri – Kick
  18. Gi – Uniform
  19. Hai – Yes
  20. Hajime – Begin/Start
  21. Harau – Sweeping Techniques
  22. Hidari – Left
  23. Hikite – Pulling Hand (brining hand back to ready position)
  24. Hiza – Knee
  25. Iie – No
  26. Jodan – Upper (Level)
  27. Kakato – Heel
  28. Kata – Form or Pattern
  29. Kiotsuke – Attention
  30. Keri or Geri – Kick
  31. Ki – Type of intrinsic energy. Known as Qi or Chi in Chinese martial arts.
  32. Kiai – Shout
  33. Kihon – Basic
  34. Kokyu Ho – Breathing exercises
  35. Kumite – Sparring
  36. Mawatte – Turn Around
  37. Migi – Right
  38. Mo Ichi Do – One More Time
  39. Mushin – Void or State of No Mind
  40. Nodo – Throat
  41. Obi – Belt
  42. 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.
  43. Rei – Bow
  44. Sayonara – Goodbye
  45. Senpai or Sempai – Senior Student
  46. Sensei – Teacher/Instructor
  47. Seisa – Sitting position on heels
  48. Shuto – Knife Hand
  49. Tatami – Practice/Training Mat
  50. Te – Hand
  51. Tsuki or Zuki – Punch
  52. Uke – Block
  53. Ushiro – Back
  54. Watashi – I (Me)
  55. Waza – Technique
  56. Yame – Stop
  57. Yoko – Side
  58. Zuki or Tsuki – Punch

50 Japanese Words

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/

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