Japanese Terms

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Basic Pronunciation

All vowels are short and pronounced as follows:

  • “a” as in “father”
  • “i” as in “teen” except shorter
  •  ”u” as in “boot” except shorter
  •  ”e” as in “bet”
  •  ”o” as in “boat” except shorter and without the off-glide

Longer vowel sounds are the same sounds as above, but given more time.

  • “aa,” a longer “a”
  • “ii,” a longer “i”
  • “uu,” a longer “u”
  • “ei,” a longer “e”
  • “ou,” a longer “o”

Except for the above, if you see two or more vowels in a row, they are each pronounced clearly without becoming a single diphthong. An apostrophe is used where a glottal stop occurs (like between the “n” and the second “a” when pronouncing “an apple”).

Consonants always take their “hard” sounds. So “gi” is pronounced with a hard “g” (i.e., not “ji”). “Ch” is always as in “cheese.”

The hyphens don’t mean anything but serve to distinguish separate syllables when it might be ambiguous, or to separate a word into two semantic parts. There shouldn’t be a pause for hyphens.

Parentheses are used whenever a word might be omitted by some people, or if the translation could mean more than one thing. For example, “nukite,” literally only means “spear hand,” which is just the name of the “weapon” you form with your hand, but it is also often used to mean the attack, “spear-hand thrust.” So “thrust” is in parentheses.

Quotation marks are used on the English side to distinguish between literal translations of the Japanese terms from their more figurative meanings (quotes indicate literal translation).


When counting for class, just pronounce the first syllable of bisyllabic numbers (i.e., ich, rok, shich, hach), for shorter, sharper counting.

  1. ichi
  2. ni
  3. san
  4. shi
  5. go
  6. roku
  7. shichi
  8. hachi
  9. ku (kyuu)
  10. juu


  • hachinoji-dachi – ready stance
  • zenkutsu-dachi – front stance
  • kou-kutsu-dachi – back stance
  • kiba-dachi – horse stance / saddle stance
  • neko-dachi – cat stance
  • sochin-dachi / fudou-dachi – sochin stance / “immovable” stance
  • sanchin-dachi – “hourglass” stance
  • hangetsu-dachi – “half moon” stance

Arm attacks

  • tsuki – punch
  • oi-zuki – lunge punch
  • gyaku-zuki – reverse punch
  • kizami-zuki – jab punch
  • nukite – spear-hand (thrust)
  • ura-ken – back hand (strike)
  • empi – elbow (strike)

Leg attacks

  • keri – kick
  • mae-geri – front (snap) kick
  • mawashi-geri – round house kick
  • (yoko-geri) kekomi – side thrust kick
  • (yoko-geri) keage – side snap kick
  • ushiro-geri – back (thrust) kick

Attacking levels

  • jou-dan – “upper level” / face
  • chuudan – “middle level” / stomach / solar plexus
  • gedan – “lower level” / groin


  • age-uke – rising block
  • ude-uke – “arm block”, often used to mean outside block
  • soto-uke – outside block (see above)
  • uchi-uke – inside block
  • gedan barai – down block / “lower level sweep”
  • shuto-uke – knife-hand block
  • nagashi-uke – “flushing block” / deflecting block
  • kakiwake-uke – two-handed “separating” block
  • juuji-uke – two-handed “cross” block


Translations are approximate transliterations of the Chinese characters used to “spell” the kata names.

  • kata – form(s)
  • heian shodan – “stable and secure” / “stable peace,” “first level”
  • heian nidan – ditto, “second level”
  • heian sandan – ditto, “third level”
  • heian yondan – you get the idea
  • heian godan
  • tekki shodan – “iron horseman,” “first level”
  • bassai dai – “destroying a fortress,” “greater” version *
  • empi – “flight of the swallow”
  • jion – “compassion and favor” (This is a Buddhist term and possibly the name of some temple.)
  • kankuu dai – “observing the sky/emptiness,” “greater” version *
  • jutte / jitte – “ten hands”
  • hangetsu – “half moon”
  • tekki nidan
  • tekki sandan
  • nijuushiho – “twenty-four steps”
  • gankaku – “boulder crane” (the bird on a rock)
  • sochin [sou-chin] – “strength and control”
  • bassai sho [shou] – “destroying a fortress,” “lesser” version *
  • kankuu sho [shou] – “observing the sky/emptiness,” “lesser” version *
  • unsu [unsuu] – “cloud hands”
  • gojuushiho (dai) –  “fifty-four steps,” “greater” version *
  • gojuushiho sho [shou] – “fifty-four steps,” “lesser” version *
  • meikyo [meikyou] – “bright mirror”
  • ji’in – “compassion and shadow” (Possibly another temple.)
  • chinte – “rare hands”
  • wankan – “king’s crown”

* Kata with “lesser” or “greater” attached (“sho” or “dai”) don’t really mean “lesser” or “greater” in any quantitative sense. It’s just a way of distinguishing two different kata.


  • kumite – sparring
  • (kihon) gohon kumite – (basic) five-step sparring
  • (kihon) sanbon kumite – (basic) three-step sparring
  • (kihon) ippon kumite – (basic) one-step sparring
  • jiyuu ippon kumite – semi-free one-step sparring
  • (jiyuu) kumite – free sparring

Other words

  • kihon – basic(s)
  • ki-ai – “spirit focus” / a focusing yell
  • kime – “decision” / focus
  • rei – bow
  • youi – “get ready” / often a command to stand in hachinoji-dachi
  • yame – stop
  • yasume – rest, relax
  • maware / mawatte – turn
  • hajime – begin
  • mokusou – “quiet meditation”
  • dojo [dou-jou] – “way place,”  the place where you train
  • dojo kun – dojo desiderata
  • seiza – “proper sitting” / kneeling
  • sempai – senior student
  • kou-hai – junior student

Dojo Kun

Direct translation of the Japanese:

  hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomurukoto.
  one, to work toward completion/perfection of character.

  hitotsu, makoto no michi wo mamorukoto.
  one, to protect the path of truth.

  hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinaukoto.
  one, to nurture a spirit of hard work.

  hitotsu, reigi wo omonzurukoto.
  one, to give weight to courtesy and respect.

  hitotsu, kekki no yuu wo imashimurukoto.
  one, to reign in impetuousness.

The language is archaic Japanese and doesn’t do too well under direct translation, so in the United States, these are generally translated as follows:

  Seek perfection of character.
  Be faithful.
  Respect others.
  Refrain from violent behavior.