Japan­ese has been described as a vague or indi­rect lan­guage. What is meant by this is many words in Japan­ese have more than one mean­ing and often there are sev­eral words with the same or very sim­i­lar mean­ings. Some­times the mean­ing of a word can only be deter­mined by it’s con­text within a sen­tence or even how it is used dur­ing the course of a conversation.

This short vocab­u­lary of Japan­ese is meant to assist stu­dents under­stand what is being said in the dojo. To this end the words here are defined by their rela­tion­ship to the mar­tial arts. Don’t assume the def­i­n­i­tions here are the only cor­rect one for the word in ques­tion, nor should you assume that the words listed here are the only words avail­able for what some­one is attempt­ing to say.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Key:

  • Let­ter “A” — pro­nounced as a short A, as in the word “father
  • Let­ter “E” — pro­nounced as a long A, as in the word “hay
  • Let­ter “I” — pro­nounced as a long E, as in the word “sweet
  • Let­ter “O” — pro­nounced as a long O, as in the word “row
  • Let­ter “U” — some­times the U is silent

Gen­eral Japan­ese Terms

ashi
(ashh-hee) Foot, feet or legs.
dachi
(da-chee) Stance.
do
(doh) Way or path.
dojo
(doh-joe) Train­ing hall. Lit­er­ally — “The place of the way”.
gedan
(gay-dan) Low or lower.
hai
(hi) Yes.
hajime
(HAH-jee-meh) Begin.
hikite
(hik-i-tay) Posi­tion of the back hand when doing for­mal techniques.
hiza
(he-za) Knee.
jodan
(joe-dan) Upper. Also joudan.
karategi
(kah-rah-teh-gee) Also called “gi” or “dojogi” The uni­form worn dur­ing the prac­tice of karate. In most tra­di­tional Japan­ese and Oki­nawan karate dojos, the gi must be white and cot­ton (syn­thet­ics with cot­ton allowed).
kata
(kah-tah) Form or for­mal exer­cise. There are two major clas­si­fi­ca­tions of kata in training:
1. Godo-kata: Group form in which a group of stu­dents per­form the same kata in unison.
2. Kojin-kata: A form per­formed alone by an indi­vid­ual student.
keri
(ker-ree) To kick. The sound of this word changes when com­bined with other words to make “geri” (ger-ree) which is the pro­nun­ci­a­tion used when refer­ring to kicks.
kiai
(kee-ah-ee) A sharp sound made at the moment of kime to aid in the tens­ing of body mus­cles and focus­ing of the mind for a more effective
kime
(KEE-meh) Focus. The pin­point con­cen­tra­tion of mind and body to achieve max­i­mum effectiveness.
kihon
(KEE-hon) Basic or standard.
kihon-no-keiko
(KEE-hon-noh-keh-ee-koh) Prac­tice in basic techniques.
kiot­suke
(kee-oht-soo-kay) Come to attention.
kogeki
(koh-geh-kee) To attack.
kohai
(KOH-hah-ee)
A junior mem­ber of the dojo.
kumite
(koo-mee-teh). Spar­ring. Lit­er­ally means to engage one’s hands with an oppo­nent. There are two types of kumite training:
A. Kihon Kumite. Basic spar­ring in which attack tech­niques and tar­get areas are predetermined.
B. Jiyu kumite. Free spar­ring. The dis­tance, tim­ing and tech­niques are left to the judg­ment of the two participants.
kumite-no-keiko
(koo-mee-teh-noh-keh-ee-koh) Prac­tice in sparring.
maai
(mah-ah-ee) Dis­tanc­ing. The cor­rect dis­tance between two opponents.
mae ni
(mah-eh-nee) Move forward.
matte
(maat-tay) Stop or wait.
mawatte
(mah-waht-teh) Turn around.
naorei
(na-o-ray) Recover. The com­mand given when you move from heiko dachi to masuba dachi
obi
(OH-bee) Belt.
rei
(REH-ee) Bow. The three bows per­formed at the begin­ning and end of each class are:
   Shomen ni rei (Bow to the front)
   Sen­sei ni rei (Bow to the teacher)
   Ota­gai ni rei (Bow to each other)
seiretsu
(SEH-ee-reht-soo) Lineup in an orderly fashion.
seiza
(SEH-ee-zah) The Japan­ese for­mal method of sit­ting on the floor with the knees bent and the legs under the body.
sen­pai
(SEHN-pah-ee) A senior per­son in a school or orga­ni­za­tion. In Wado Ryu sen­pai is also a for­mal title given to 2nd Dan and above black belts.
sen­sei
(sehn-seh-ee). Teacher. The term may be applied to any­one who guides or instructs another, such as a doc­tor or lawyer. Lit­er­ally, sen­sei means “one who has gone before”. In Wado Ryu sen­sei is also a for­mal title given to 3rd Dan and above black belts.
soto
(so-toe) Out­side or exterior.
tai sabaki
(tie-sue-bach-ee) Boyd movement/shifting.
tatte
(TAHT-teh) Stand up.
torre
(tore-re) Attacker.
tachi-rei
(taa-chee reh-ee) Stand­ing bow.
tsuyoku
(t’soo-yoh-koo) Exe­cute strong, fast techniques.
uke
(oo-key) block or defender.
ushiro ni
(00-shee-roh-nee) Move backward.
Wado Ryu
(wa-doe-roo) The Japan­ese style of mar­tial arts founded by Mas­ter Hironori Otsuka and taught at David Deaton Karate Stu­dios. “Wa” mean­ing peace or har­mony, “do” mean­ing way or path and “Ryu” mean­ing style of or school of. Lit­er­ally trans­lated Wado Ryu means “Style of Peace Way” or “Style of Har­mony Way” but is nor­mally referred to as “The Way of Peace” or “The Way of Har­mony” in English.
yame
(yah-meh) Stop.
yasume
(yah-soo-meh) Relax.
yoi
(YOH-ee) Be ready.
yowaku
(YOH-wah-koo) Move lightly.
yukkuri
(yoo-koo-ree) Slowly, or “at ease”.
zan­shin
(zan-shen) “The remain­ing mind”. Main­tain­ing com­plete aware­ness and alert­ness at all times.

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