List of Useful Karate Terminology and Kanji

list of karate terminology

This article covers useful terminology and associated kanji commonly used in karate, the dojo during training and in general.

Karate Terminology Basics

Counting

  • Ichi, 一 – One
  • Ni, 二 – Two
  • San, 三 – Three
  • Shi, yon, 四 – Four
  • Go, 五 – Five
  • Roku, 六 – Six
  • Nana, shichi, 七 – Seven
  • Hachi, 八 – Eight
  • Kyuu, 九 – Nine
  • Juu, 十 – Ten

Tradition of Karate

  • Karate, 空手 – Empty-handed
  • Karate-dou, 空手道 – The way of karate
  • Shorinji-ryu, 少林寺流 – An Okinawan school of karate practiced at The Vancouver Dojo
  • Butoku-kai, 武徳会 – Martial arts organization dating back to 8th century AD

Karate Terminology in the Dojo

karate dojo

  • Seiza, 正座 – Kneeling position
  • Ki wo tsuke, 気をつけ- (Stand to) attention
  • Rei, 礼 – Thanks, gratitude, bow
  • Mokusou, 黙想 – Meditation, silent contemplation
  • Hai, はい – Yes, understood, I see
  • Yoi, 良い – Ready, prepared
  • Sensei, 先生 – Teacher, instructor, master
  • Sensei ni taishite rei, 先生に対して例 – Face the teacher and bow
  • Shoumen, 正面 – Front, main
  • Shoumen ni taishite rei, 正面に対して例 – Face the front and bow
  • Yame, 止め – Stop (an activity), discontinue
  • Waza, 技 – Technique

Karate Kata 

Karate kata names often including the names of the karate master who created the kata.

  • Kata 型  – Form

Stages

Some kata names such as the pinan series of katas, are followed by levels or stages:

  • Shodan, 初段 – First stage, lowest stage
  • Nidan 二段 – Second stage
  • Sandan 三段 – Third stage
  • Yodan 四段 – Fourth stage
  • Godan 五段 – Fifth stage

See a reference to the list of kata names taught at The Vancouver Dojo.

Karate Belt Ranking

  • Kyu, 級 – Grade, rank, level; ranking system used in martial arts
  • Dan, 段 – Degree of advanced proficiency used in martial arts

See more details on an explanation of karate belt ranks.

Equipment & Apparel

karate gi or dougi
  • Dougi, 道着 – Uniform worn in martial arts, karate gi
  • Obi, 帯 – band, belt; also used for kimono sash

Foundational Karate Stances

  • Tachi, 立ち – To stand; changes to “dachi” when preceded by another word
  • Neko ashi dachi, 猫足立ち – Cat stance
  • Kiba dachi, 騎馬立ち – Horse stance
  • Ko kutsu dachi – Back stance
  • Zen kutsu dachi – Front stance

Foundational Karate Strikes

karate strike
  • Age zuki、上げ突き- Rising punch
  • Gyaku zuki, 逆突き – Reverse punch
  • Oi zuki, 追い突き- Lunge punch
  • Nukite zuki 貫手 – Lunch punch with a spear hand
  • Shuto uchi、手刀打ち – Knife-hand strike

Foundational Karate Blocks

karate block
  • Gedan barai, 下段払い – Low block
  • Shutou uke、手刀受け – Knife-hand block
  • Uchi uke, 内受け – Inside forearm block
  • Soto uke, 外受け – Outside block
  • Age uke, 上げ受け – Rising block

Foundational Karate Kicks

karate kick
  • Mae geri keage, 前蹴り蹴上げ – Front snap kick
  • Mae geri kekomi, 蹴込み – Front thrust kick
  • Yoko geri keage, 横蹴り蹴上げ – Side snap kick
  • Yoko geri kekomi, 横蹴り蹴込み – Side thrust kick

Breakfalls

  • Ukemi, 受け身 – Breakfall
  • Ukemi waza, 受け身 – Breakfall technique, falling technique
  • Ushiro ukemi, 後ろ受身 – Backward breakfall
  • Yoko ukemi, 横受け身 – Sideways breakfall
    • Migi, 右 – Right
    • Hidari, 左 – Left
  • Mae ukemi, 前受け身 – Forward breakfall
  • Mae mawari ukemi, 前回り受身 – Forward-rolling breakfall
  • Ushiro mawari ukemi, 後ろ回り受身 – Backward-rolling breakfall

Useful reference: A Guide To Japanese Pronunciation: Sounds, Words, and Sentences