Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Dojo





The following set of Japanese words is provided to give the Karate student a working vocabulary in the dojo. The brief definitions given are as they would be used in relation to Karate and not necessarily in general conversation. Many Japanese words do not have an exact English counterpart so more than one definition may be listed. An example of this is the word „tettsuiš which literally means to thrust but is generally given in English as punch.

The beginning Karate student should not feel overwhelmed at having to learn these terms.You will learn them through constant usage in the dojo, not just by memorizing these lists.The serious Karate student will find that knowledge of the language, culture and history of the people who created this art is invaluable to their study.


The key to correct pronunciation of Japanese lies in the vowel sounds. There are five and they are always pronounced the same way.

A as in father
E as in set
I as in unique
O as in go
U as in rude

Consonants are pronounced the same as in English with the following exceptions:

G is always hard as in Go
R is half way between the English R and T sounding something like L

Careful attention must be given to the long vowels which have a macron over them like this:

Karate-Do.† They are pronounced the same only held longer.

Double consonants are both pronounced. An example of this is the word
„tettsuiš which is pronounced „tet-tsuiš with both t‚s enunciated.

Vowels are frequently muted after a soft consonant.Examples are:

Mokuso --- mok‚so
Renshi ---Rensh‚
Desu ka ---

This is something that always confuses beginning students.The pronunciation of some consonants changes when combining words and when shifting to the combining form of verbs. Some examples of this are:

Keri ---  mai-geri     K --  G
Tachi---  yoi-dachi  S  -- J or Z
Kamae(ru) ---kamae  T  -- D
Mawasu--- mawashi  H  --  B or P
Tsu  ---  Chi¬†  Su  -- Shi

HINT:  In general it is very easy to speak Japanese if you keep in mind these simple guidelines. One other point of importance is that in speaking you should use your lips much less than in English, basically just tensing or relaxing, not moving them.



 White  Shiroi
     Purple  Murasaki
Yellow  Kiiroi
Orange  Orenji
Blue  Aoi
Green  Midori
Brown  Chairo
Black  Kuroi
Red  Akai



Ichi (sho)
2 Ni

3 San

Shi (yon)

5  Go 
Shichi (nana)†

10 Ju

11 Juichi 

12 Juni

20 Niju
21 Nijuichi
30 Sanju
40  Yonju
50  Goju
60 Rokuju
100  Hyaku
500  Gohyaku
1,000  Sen
100,000  Juman



Mudansha†-Kyu Ranks
Jukyu  10th
Kukyu  9th
Nanakyu  7th
Rokyu  6th
Gokyu  5th
Yonkyu 4th
Sankyu  3rd
Nikyu  2nd


Yudansha - Dan Ranks
Shodan† 1st
Nidan  2nd
Sandan  3rd
Yondan  4th
Godan  5th
Rokudan  6th
Nanadan  7th
Hachidan  8th
Kudan  9th
Judan 10th

Kyu - The 10 ranks before black belt. The mudansha grades.
Dan - The 10 grades or steps of black belt level.† The yudansha ranks.
Mudansha - A person who holds a kyu rank.
Yudansha - A person who holds a dan rank.
Karateka - A student of Karate
Sempai - Ones senior. A form of address for your senior.
Sensei - A teacher.† A title of respect for someone older and wiser.
Kyoshi - An honorary title usually given to nanadan and hachidan
Hanshi - A master instructor.† An honorary title given to kudan and judan


(click on terms to hear pronunciation)

Anata wa ikaga desu ka - And how are you
Arigato gozaimasu - Thank you very much
Arigato - Thank you (very casual form, not to be used to a senior)
Do itashimashite - Not at all.† You are welcome
Domo arigato gozaimasu - Thank you very much (most polite form)
Domo - Thanks.† Sorry.† (Very casual form)
Dozo - Please (do this).† (Very casual)
Genki desu, arigato - I am fine, thank you
Gomen-nasai† - Excuse me (informal form, not to be used to a senior)
Hajime shaste kudasai - Permission to begin, please
Ikaga desu ka - How are you
Konban wa - Good evening
Konnichi wa - Good afternoon
Kudasai - Please give me the favor of (polite form)
Ohayo-gozaimasu - Good morning
Omedeto-gozaimasu - Congratulations
Onegai-shimasu - I humbly request.† Please teach me.
Oyasumi-nasai - Good night
Sayonara - Good bye (do not use to a senior)
Shitsurei-shimasu - Excuse me.† Good bye (when departing from someone who is your senior)



Hajime - Begin
Hayaku - Hurry up.† Quickly
Ki o tsuke - Attention
- Wait, less formal form of stop

- Turn
- One more time.
Mokuso hajime
- Meditation begins
Mokuso yame
- Meditation ends
- Return to the original position (usually yoi-dachi)
- Line up.
O-tagai ni rei
- Bow to each other
- Bow
Sensei ni rei
- Bow to the teacher
Shomen ni rei
- Bow to the front
- Sit
- Stand up
- Stop, very abrupt form
- Rest
- Ready, Prepare (position from which to begin a kata)

KARATE KOTOBA - Karate language terms

Age-uke-rising block
Ashi-barai-Foot sweep
Ashi-uke-Leg block
Ate-Smash; strike to a specific point
Atemi-strike to a vital point
Bo (Rokushaku-bo)-a wooden staff (approximately six feet in length)
Bojutsu-art of the bo
Budo-Martial way
Bujutsu-Martial arts
Bunkai-to break something down; the meaning or application of a move from kata
Bushi-Warrior (in Okinawa this referred to someone who used karate)
Bushi-no-te-Warriorís hand; old name for the fighting art of Okinawa
Bushido-The way of the warrior
Chiisai-small, little
Chikama-close interval (a distance at which you can strike without taking a step)
Choku-zuki-Straight or direct punch; leading hand punch
Chudan-Middle level on the body (from the waist to neck)
Chudan-uke-Middle level block
Dai sempai-The most senior student
Dai-A prefix for numbers (e.g., Dai-ichi)
Dai-Large or major (e.g. Passai Dai)
Deashi-barai-Front leg sweep (of an opponent)
Dekimasen-I cannot do it
Dekimashita-I have done it
Dekimasu-I can do it
Do-The way; a suffix for an art that is practiced as a way of life
Dojo kun--The guiding maxims of a dojo; usually refers to Sakugawaís five precepts
Dojo-Way place; training hall for a martial way (Budo)
Eaku-A boat oar used as a weapon
Empi-uchi-An elbow strike
Fukoshin-An immovable mind (which cannot be distracted)
Fumikomi-An attack-step
Fumikomi-geri-Stomping kick
Gedan-Lower level on the body (from the waist down)
Gedan-barai-Downward sweeping block (from inside outward)
Gedan-uke-Lower level block
Gi-Abbreviation for Karate uniform.  The correct term would be Karategi, or keikogi for practice uniform, or dogi for the way uniform.
Gi-Art, skill or technique
Giri-A sense of obligations or duty
Gokui-The inner meaning of an art.  The technique best suited to any given situation.
Gyaku-zuki-Reverse punch
Hachiji-dachi-Open foot stance
Hai-Yes; signifies agreement with a question
Haito-Ridge hand
Haito-uchi-Ridge hand strike
Hantai-ni-In the opposite direction
Hara-Abdomen; seat of the soul; spiritual strength.
Harai-To sweep
Heisoku-dachi-Feet together stance
Hidari-Left (direction)
Hiji-ate-Elbow strike or smash
Hiragana-The Japanese cursive phonetic alphabet.  It is used to write words with complex or non-existent kanji and particles of speech.
Hiza-geri-A kick with the knee; a kick to the knee
Iie-No; signifies disagreement with a question
Ippon-ashi-dachi-One legged stance
Ippon-ken-One knuckle fist
Jiyu-kumite-Free style kumite
Jo--Four foot staff-kobudo weapon
Jodan-Upper level on the body (from the neck up)
Jodan-uke-Upper level block
Jutsu-Art; science
Kaku-zuki-Square punch; A punch across the front (Naihanchi kata)
Kakushide-Hidden techniques
Kakuto-The bent wrist used for striking or blocking
Kama-Sickle; a bladed weapon with a wooden handle
Kamae-Combative posture; refers to position of the physical body and mental-spiritual attitude
Kamidana-The small wooden house on the shelf in the front of the dojo
Kamiza-Spirit seat (same ans Shinden)
Kanji-An ideograph, Japanese kanji are borrowed from the Chinese and each one represents an idea.
Kanesetsu-Joints (of the body)
Kanesetsu-geri-Joint kick (to dislocate it)
Karate-Empty hand
Karate-do-The way of the empty hand
Karate Gakusei-Karate student
Karate ni sente nashi-ĒThere is no first attack in karate.Ē
Kari-A reaping technique in which the opponentís legs are hooked from under him.
Kata-Forms; a formal prearranged exercise for individual practice
Katakana-The Japanese angular phonetic alphabet, used primarily for writing foreign words.
Keage-Kicking upward; a snap kick
Keiko-Practice, study
Kekomi-Kicking outward; a thrust kick
Kempo-Fist method.  The Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese art Chuan Fa
Keri [Geri]-Kick
Keri-waza-Kicking technique
Ki-Life force
Kiai-A focusing of ki, a shout of the spirit
Kiba-dachi-Horse riding stance
Kime-Focus (of physical or mental energy)
Kin-geri-Groin kick
Kohai-Oneís junior in a dojo (not used as a form of address)
Kosa-dachi-Cross-legged stance (also referred to as kake-dachi)
Kobudo-Ancient martial ways; the old weapons arts of Okinawa
Kobujutsu-Ancient martial arts
Kokoro-Mind, heart, spirit, heart, will, intention, mood
Kokyu-chikara-Internal power; generating power by inhaling
Kote-kitae-Arm conditioning exercises
Kumite-To cross hands; an exercise in Karate between two or more people
Kundoku-The native Japanese word associated with a kanji
Kuzushi-To destroy the balance of an opponent prior to throwing
Kyusho-A vital point on the body
Kyusho-jutsu-Vital point art.  An advanced level of knowledge in Karate that uses the weak points of the body to best advantage.
Ma-ai-Combat engagement distance for any given technique
Mae-In front
Mae-geri-Front kick
Mae-ni-To the front
Makiwara-A striking post that was padded with straw wrapped with rice rope
Mawashi-geri-Roundhouse kick
Migi-Right (direction)
Mikazuki-geri-Crescent moon kick
Mitsu-tomoe-The crest of Hachiman (Shinto god of war) which was adopted as the family crest of Okinawaís ruling dynasty, the Sho family
Mizu-no-kokoro-Mind like water, deep and calm
Morote-uke-Two handed or augmented block
Mushin-Without thought; no mind
Musubi-dachi-Attention stance, heels touching, feet open
Mage waza-Throwing technique
Nage-A throw
Naha-te-A type of karate that developed around Naha city under Kanryo Higaonna.  It has a much more noticeable Chinese influence in its kata.
Naihanchi-dachi-Straddle stance, feet turned inward
Naka-ni-To the center
Nekoashi-dachi-Cat leg stance
Nidan-geri-Double jumping front kick done with the back leg kicking first
Nihongo-Japanese language
Nukite-Spear hand; the ends of stiffened fingers used for striking
Nukite-zuki-A spear hand thrust
Nunchaku-A wooden flail; an Okinawan weapon
Okii-Big, large
Obi-A belt
Oi-zuki-Lunge punch; step punch
On-A favor.  (When someone does you a favor, you are said to be carrying his on and giri forces you to repay it.)
Ondoku-the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word associated with a kanji
Osoto gari-Major outside reap
Otoshi-A drop; lifting and dropping a person.
Reigi-Etiquette; proper form with the emphasis on the underlying spirit of courtesy
Reishiki-Etiquette, proper form, external form
Renshu-Training; forging lessons
Romanji-The system of writing Japanese words with the English alphabet.
Ryu-A style of an art.  A method of transmitting information from generation to generation.
Ryukyu-The chain of islands of which Okinawa is the largest.  The name of the ancient kingdom of Okinawa
Ryukyu-Kempo-An old name for karate.  It means fist method of Okinawa
Sai-A trident shaped weapon made of steel
Seika-tanden-Lower abdomen
Seiken tsuki-Forefist punch
Seiza-Formal sitting posture with both feet tucked under the hips
Shiai-A contest
Shiko-dachi-Straddle stance, feet turned outward, squatting down
Shime-A choke
Shin-Same as kokoro
Shinden-Spirit seat; the shrine area in the front of the dojo
Shita-ni-Downward; under
Shitahara-The lower abdomen; the seat of the soul
Shizentai-dachi-Natural stance; a short forward stance
Sho-Small, minor
Shomei-Front area of the dojo
Shorin-Ryu-A later name used for Shuri-te and
Tomari-te-Shorin is the Japanese word for
Shaolin (Chinese)-It means small forest
Shugyo-Austere training
Shugyosha-A person undergoing intense training
Shuri-te-The type of karate that developed around Shuri city under Sakugawa.
Shuto-Sword hand; knife hand; outside edge of hand used as a weapon
Shuto-uchi-Knife hand strike
Shuto-uke-Knife hand block
Soji-Cleaning up the dojo (before and after class)
Soto-uke-Outside block (from outside to center)
Suburito-A heavy wooden training sword for developing strength
Suki-A momentary gap in concentration; an opening
Sukoshi-A few, a little bit
Sune-uke-Shin block
Tachi-A stance (specifically the position of the lower body
Tachirei-A standing bow (also referred to as ritsurei)
Tai-The physical body
Tai-chikara-External power; physical strength
Taisabaki-Body motion of an evasive nature
Taiso-Exercises; special exercises for a specific martial art
Takusan-A lot
Tameshiware-Tests of strength in which boards, bricks and other objects are broken
Tanden-The abdomen
Tanren-Spiritual forging
Tatami-Straw floor mat
Tate-tsuiki-Vertical fist punch
Te-hand; old name for karate.  Refers to the original fighting art that developed in Okinawa.
Teisho-Palm heel (also referred to as Shotei)
Teisho-uchi-Palm heel strike
Tettsui-Hammer fist
Tettsui-uchi-A hammer fist strike (sometimes referred to as Kentsui)
Tode-China hand; old name for karate.  Refers to the art that developed from the blending of Te and Chinese arts
Toma-A distance interval (more than one step from the opponent)
Tobi-geri-Jump kick
Tomari-te-A type of karate that developed around Tomari city under Kosaku Matsumora.  A blend of Shuri-te and Naha-te.
Tomoe-zuki-A circular block and punch (passai kata)
Tonfa (Tuifa)-A wooden weapon shaped from a handle
Tsuki-Punch; thrust
Tsuki-no-kokoro-Mind like the moon, perceives everything
Tsuyoki-Strong spirit
Tuite (Torite)-Grappling or joint punishment.  An ancient method of grappling found in karate.
Tuite waza-Grappling hand technique
Uchi-uke-Inside block (from center outward)
Uchikomi-Step forward and strike
Uchima-Striking distance (the distance at which one can strike by taking a single step forward)
Ude-uke-arm block; forearm block
Ue-The top; the upper part
Uke-Block, to receive a technique; the receiver of a technique
Ukemi-waza-falling techniques
Ukemi-The art of falling
Uki-ashi-A floating foot (that steps lightly)
Undo-A movement; an exercise
Ura-ni-To the rear
Ura-zuki-A close punch delivered with the palm upward
Uraken-Back knuckle fist
Uraken-uchi-Back fist strike
Ushiro-Back; rear
Ushiro-geri-Back kick
Ushiro-ni-To the rear
Wakarimasen-I do not understand
Wakarimasu-I understand
Yakusoku-Promise or prearranged
Yakusoku-kumite-Prearranged kumite
Yoi-dachi-Ready stance (also referred to as Hachiji-dachi)
Yoko-geri-Side kick
Yoko-ni-To the side
Yotsu kado no renshu-Four corner turning drill
Yowaki-Weak spirit
Zanshin-Remaining mind; perfect finish; continuing concentration after a technique
Zarei-Seated bow
Zenkutsu-dachi-Forward leaning stance