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Martial Arts Terminology - Japanese / English

Here are some useful Japanese words and phrases for the martial artist.


Japanese Kanji - Ju JitsuMany of the Japanese Martial Arts use the Japanese names for strikes, kicks, throws, locks and chokes. Within the Jikishin Ju Jitsu syllabus, all of the techniques used are described in English. The following are the translations from Japanese to English of the commonly used terms, and also include both primary and cardinal numbers in Japanese.

 

Pronunciation of Japanese Syllables & Consonants

Ai "Aye" As in Eye
Ei "Ay" as in Hay
A "Ah" as in Large
Ae "Aye" As in Eye
E "Eh" as in Beg
I "Ee" as in Seed
O "Oh" as in Go
U "Oo" as in Too
Ui "Ooee" as in Gooey
Ry Hard R with Roll of tongue
G Hard "G" As in Get

 

Japanese Words Relating To Martial Arts

A

Age Upward, Rising, Elevate, Lif
Age Uke Rising block
Agezuke Rising punch
Ai Harmony
Aikido The Way of harmony - a martial art
Aikuchi Knife
Aite Opponent
Ashi ate Attack vital points with feet
Ashi barai Foot sweep
Ashi guruma Leg wheel
Ashi gatame Leg lock
Ateme Attack / Strike
Atemi Waza Attack vital points of body
Ayumi ashi Normal foot walk

 

B

Bo Long staff
Bogu Armour
Bojitsu Art of staff fighting
Bokke Wooden training sword
Bu Martial / Military
Budo Martial Way (spiritual)
Bugei Combat martial arts
Bujitsu Martial Art
Bushi Honourable Warrior
Bushido The Way of the Warrior

 

C

Chiburi The act of shaking blood from the sword
Chikara Strength
Chugaeri Forward somersault

 

D

Dachi Stance / Posture
Daisho Sword set consisting of Katana and Wakazashi
Daito Long Sword
Dan Black Belt rank
Do Way (spiritual)
Dojo Martial Arts school or training place

 

E

Embo Set fighting / locking sequence
Empi uchi Elbow strike

 

G

Gatami Locking / Holding
Garami To coil, wind around, entwine
Gedan barai Downward forearm parry
Gedan tsuki Downward straight punch
Geri Kick
Gi (Judogi / Katategi) Uniform for martial arts training (Judo Gi / Karate Gi)
Goshin jitsu Art of self defence
Gusoku Armour worn by Samurai
Gyaku Reverse
Gyaku tsuki Reverse punch

 

H

Hachimaki Headband
Hajime Begin - sparring / practice
Hakama Traditional Japanese culottes (Now worn for weapons training and Aikido)
Hanbo Short stick / Baton
Hanmi Stance
Hanshi High grade of at least 8th Dan
Hantei Decision
Happo Kiri 8 ways of cutting with sword
Hara Kiri Ritual suicide (vulgar)
Harai Sweep
Harai goshi Sweeping hip throw
Hi Blood groove of Sword
Hidari Left
Hiza guruma Knee wheel
Hojo jitsu Art of tying
Hon (also Kihon) Original, fundamental, basic
Honbu The principle dojo is a system of martial arts
Hontai Basic posture

 

I

lai jitsu Art of the live blade
laido Way of the live blade
Ibuki Breath control
Ikkyo 1st immobilisation (Aikido)
Ichiban “Number one”, the best
Ippon One point (judo)
Ippon ken One knuckle punch
Irimi Entering movement
Irimi Nage Entering Throw
Itami To cause pain, injure or hurt
Itai “Ouch”
Itsutsu Five (As in itsusu no kata or forms of five.)

 

J

Jigoro Kano

Originator of Judo

Jigoku Defensive posture
Jigotai Defensive posture
Jikan Referee’s call in a contest denoting competition (or round) time is over
Jitsu Method / martial art
Jitte See Sai
Jiyu kumite Free sparring
Jiyu renshu Free practice
Short staff / stick
Jodan uke Upward block
Jogai Denoting “out of bounds” in a contest
Joseki The upper area of a dojo where the higher ranked practitioners and instructors sit
Ju Principle of suppleness
Ju Jitsu Flexible art
Judo Gentle Way - Olympic Sport of throwing and grappling
Judoka In Judo - one who practices, a student or exponent
Juji Cross or 'X'
Juji gatame Cross arm lock
Juji uke Cross or X block
Junbiundo Warming up exercises
Juken A short sword or bayonet
Juku Private school

 

K

Kabuto Samurai helmet
Kaeshi Waza Counter technique
Kai Association
Kaiten Rotation
Kakari / Kari To hook, hooked to, hung up, suspended
Kakari geiko A form of randori where a student is required to take on consecutive opponents in a specified time limit
Kakato geri Heel kick
Kake Throwing attack
Kaku Corner
Kamae Fighting posture
Kami Divine Spirit also Upper, elevated
Kamiza Upper place The area in a dojo where the sensei or dignitaries sit / Altar - Traditionally to founder and kept in Dojo
Kamma Short scythe / sickle - used as weapon
Kan House, hall or school
Kan Intuitive learning (usually as opposed to Ri, or rational learning)
Kan geiko Winter training
Kancho Grand master
Kansetsu Waza Art of locking & bending of joints
Kappo Art of resuscitation
Karate Art of the Empty Hand
Kasumi Temples
Kata Stylised series of blocks and strikes performed to teach correct form (Form)
Kata Single (also Shoulder)
Kata guruma Shoulder wheel
Kata gatame Shoulder lock
Katai Hard, stiff
Katame To secure, make strong or firm, to guard
Katana Sword of the  Samurai
Katsugi To carry on the shoulders
Kawazu gake Leg entwining. A throwing technique illegal in contest judo
Kazushi 8 ways to break balance
Keijo Jitsu Art of the Jo
Keiko To practice, exercise, to drill.
Kekome Thrust
Kempo Art of Hard Fist
Kendo Sports sword form, the modern form of ken jitsu or sword art
Kengi Sword technique
Ken jitsu Sword art
Ken ken

A phrase meaning “hop hop.” The hopping action taken sometimes when throwing an opponent

Kengo A strong swordsman
Keri To kick
Keri waza Kicking techniques
Kesa A scarf, worn around the neck
Kesa gatame Scarf hold
Ki Inner force - energy - life
Kiai Shout made as an expression of the use of Ki
Kibi dachi Horse stance
Kihon renshu Fundamental practice
Kihon Basics of technique
Kiken gachi Win by injury
Kime Focus during a technique
Kiotsuke Straighten the back (usually from kneeling Rei)
Kiritsu Stand up from knees - command
Ko Minor, small
Kobudo Practice of old martial ways - traditional weapons training
Kobushi ate Attack vitals with fist
Kodansha
A holder of the rank of godan (5th grade) or above
Kaeshi Counter technique
Kohai A jujior member in a dojo - one’s junior in the sempai-kohai system - a younger man
Koho ukemi Back breakfall (Also called ushiro ukemi )
Kokoro Mind, spirit, mentality
Komi To put into (Mostly used affixed to the verb as in osaekomi)
Koryu Older systems of juj itsu, or the “traditional” systems, especially those before the Meiji era in 1868
Koshiki Ancient, the past
Koshi waza Hip throwing techniques
Kote waza Wrist locks
Kowaza A minor technique
Kubiri To strangle or choke
Kuden The oral teachings of a school
Kumi To grapple as a wrestler (Kumi-uchi is a form of combat before the ju jitsu came into use) - To intertwine
Kumi-ai Linked together, hold each other as wrestlers
Kumi kata To be linked together as a pair - the basic grip used in judo and ju jitsu - kata in this phrase indicates doing something as a pair.
Kumite Sparring
Kun Rules of the dojo usually written on hanging wall scrolls
Kuruma Wheel
Kuzure Modified
Kuzushi To unbalance or upset
Kyu Rank below Dan - coloured belts
Kyudo Way of the Archer - the modern budo form of kyu jitsu archery skill
Kyu Jitsu Art of the bow and arrow
Kyusho Vital spot of body / Pressure points

 

M

Ma Space, distance
Maai Fighting distance / Distance between opponents
Mae Forward / Front
Mae ukemi Front breakfall (Also called zenpo ukemi.)
Maegeri Front kick
Mage To bend
Makura Pillow (As in makura kesa gatame)
Maitta “I surender” - used verbally when the recipient can’t show submission by tapping
Make To lose
Maki To wrap
Maki komi Winding Throw
Makiwara Punching post / striking board used in karate training
Mannaka Centre
Matte Wait
Mawashi To turn, spin or circle, to turn as a wheel, to wrap around something. A mawashi is also the loin covering of sumo wrestlers.
Mawashi geri Roundhouse kick
Mawashi tsuki Roundhouse punch
Meijin Expert / Master
Mi Person (a person’s body)
Michi Way or philosophy
Migi Right
Mojin Disciple
Mokko / Mokuso Meditation
Momi To make unwarranted violent actions (as in competition)
Morote Both hands (as in morote gari) Moro means both.
Mudansha Having no grade. An ungraded person in the belt rank system
Mukashi Ancient times

 

N

Nage To throw or propel
Nagekomi Throwing practice
Naginata Pole Arm / Pike
Nami Common, usual
Ne To lay down, to recline
Nen Year (as in years old)
Newaza Grappling - The phase of judo or jujitsu training where groundfighting is emphasized. The phase literally means “reclining techniques”.
Nihon Japan
Nikkyo 2nd immobilisation (Aikido)
Nippon Japan
No Of (As in nage no kata)
Nogare kata
Escape forms
Nori To ride
Nukite Spear or straight hand

 

O

O Major, great, big
O Sensei “Venerable teacher.”
Obi Belt or sash around the waist
Ohkiku To make a very large motion
Oizuki Front thrust
Okii Big, large
Okuden Secret teachings. Each jujutsu system had “secret teachings” which were revealed to a student after having gone through rigorous training and acceptance into the system’s higher levels of learning.
Okuri To slide, to send after quickly
Omote Front, to face something, face up
Oroshi Descending
Osae Immobilise, to press upon or against, to retrain, keep down
Osaekomi To apply an immobilisation
Osoi Slow
Osu Push
Oshi To push or shove
Otoshi To drop / allow to fall in
Owaza Major technique

 

R

Randori

“Free practice.” Opposite of kata where there is little option in the training. Randori implies freedom of reasoning or choice

Rei To bow
Reigisaho Dojo etiquette
Ri Reason, the natural laws (Ri is the method of training which emphasises rational learning as opposed to kan, or intuitive learning)
Ritsurei Standing bow
Renmei Federation
Renshi Student, brother
Renshu To drill or exercises
Renzoku To continue without interruption
Ryo Both
Ryote Both hands
Ryu Means “stream” but is interpreted to mean a system or school of training, thought or philosophy, latterly school.

 

S

Sageo Sword cord
Sai Steel three prong weapon used in pairs
Samurai Warrior
Sankaku, Sangaku Triangle, literally 3 angles or corners
Sasae To block
Saya Scabbard
Sei

Essential quality of anything, natural (as in seibu, or essentials of anything martial) - also strength or vigor.

Seiza Kneeling / Sitting position
Sempei Assistant to Sensei / Senior member of dojo
Sen Initiative in applying mental, physical or technical ability to gain advantage over an opponent
Sen no sen Superior initiative where one attacks the opponent before he has a chance to attack - taking the initiative away from the opponent.
Sensei Teacher / Instructor / Coach (plural same)
Seoi To carry over the back
Seoi nage Shoulder throw
Seppuku Ritual suicide
Shiai Contest - single combat as a trial of skill
Shiai jo Contest area
Shiatsu Type of massage
Shigaku The “blind spot” (Literally means “dead corner”)
Shihan Highest ranking teacher / Master
Shihan One who has trained under the Soke
Shiho Four corners
Shikko Knee walk
Shime To squeeze (As in shime waza)
Shime waza Strangulation techniques
Shimoseki / Shimoza Lower area of dojo where the lower ranked students sit
Shimpan Referee
Shin Sincere, truth, faith, real, genuine, straight, mental application of being sincere
Shinai Practice sword in kendo made of bamboo
Shintai Foot advance / retreat
Shiruken Round or multi-pointed throwing weapons (Ninja)
Shisei Posture
Shita Down
Shizen hontai Natural basic posture
Shobu A contest
Shochu geiko Summer training
Shodan First Degree Black Belt
Shugyo Austere training - cultivation of virtue - similar to medieval knights, Samurai may go on a quest to test their martial skills and learn from experience
Sode The sleeve
Shoshin Novice, beginner
Shotokan Style of Karate
Shuriken Straight throwing weapons
So Spear
Sogai

Compound / Enclosed area

Soke Head, Founder or Successor
Soke dai Appointed Successor
Sono mama “Do not move” A phrase said by referee in a contest when the situation is necessary, as in a possible injury or to judge a hold
Sore made “That is all.” The phrase used by referee to signal end of contest
Sotai renshu Practicing with a partner
Soto Outer, Outside
Soto uke Outside block
Sukashi

An evasive action taken against opponent’s attack

Sukoshi A little
Sumi Corner
Sukui

To scoop

Sumo Japanese style of wrestling - highly stylised
Sute To throw away
Sute geiko “Throwing practice” where a more skillful partner offers no resistance and to the less-experienced partner who performs the technique
Sutemi To throw the body away. Sacrifice throw
Sutemi waza Sacrifice techniques
Suwari Kneeling on both knees
Suwari waza Sitting Technique (defence)

 

T

Tabi Japanese socks / shoes wth big toe separated
Tachi To stand, standing / Mounted ceremonial sword
Tachi Waza Standing Technique (defence)
Tai jutsu Body techniques- forerunner of ju jitsu
Tai otoshi Body Drop
Tai sabaki Evasion technique / Turning movement of body
Taiho jitsu Body skill or art - the martial art used by Japanese police agencies - arrest techniques
Taiko A ceremonial drum used in a dojo calling the training session to start
Taisabaki

Body management, body movement

Taiso Exercises
Tameshiwari Breaking
Tandoku renshu

Solo exercise or practice

Tani Valley (As in tani otoshi)
Tanto Fighting dagger
Taoshi To throw down / push a man over
Tatami Training mat
Tate Height or length, a row from top to bottom, vertical
Teko Knuckle duster
Tenkan Circular turning movement (Aikido)
Tesabaki Hand movement, management or manipulation
Tessen Iron war fan
Tomoe nage Stomach throw
Tonfa Side handled baton
Tobi To jump - tobi watare means to jump across, tobi komi means to jump or spring into
Toketa The referee’s command that a hold is broken or ended - literally means to be untied or ended
Tokui Proficient (As in tokui waza, or favorite or best technique.)
Tomodachi Friend
Tori Defender / To take - The person who performs the technique
Tsuba Sword guard
Tsubame A swallow-flight bird (As in tsubame gaeshi)
Tsugi ashi Follow-foot movement, a form of footwork
Tsuka Sword hilt / handle
Tsuke Punch / Thrust
Tsuri To suspend, pull up
Tsurikomi “Pull into.” The act of lifting and pulling into the body (As in tsurikomi goshi.)
Tsuri te Pulling hand
Tsuyoi Strong

 

U

Uchi Knife hand strike / Inner
Uchideshi “Inside student.” A live-in student working directly with a sensei.
Uchikomi The repeated practice of a single part of a throwing technique
Uchimata Inner thigh throw
Ude garame Arm lock
Uke Block / opponent / attacker / receive / receiver / Block a punch or kick
Ukemi Breakfailing
Ukeme Rolling breakfail
Uki Floating (As in uki otoshi)
Undo Exercises, calisthenics
Ura Opposite / Rear
Ushiro Rear / Back / Behind
Ushiro geri Back kick
Ushiro ukemi Back breakfall (Also called koho ukemi)
Utsuri Changing, to change
Uwagi The training jacket, an overcoat
Uye/Ue Up

 

W

 

Wa Harmony, peace
Wakazashi Short sword usually paired with Katana
Wake, Wakare To divide or separate
Wana Trap, ensnare
Wari To split
Waza Technique
Waza-ari “Almost a technique” (A score in judo where the person almost completes the technique enough to score the ippon - full point)

 

Y

Yama Mountain (As in yama arashi, or mountain storm.)
Yame / Yamei Halt / Stop Immediately / Come to ready
Yari Spear
Yari Jitsu Art of spear fighting
Yawara Ancient name for Ju jitsu
Yoi The command to “get ready”
Yoko Side
Yoko geri Side kick
Yoko ukemi Side fall - also called sokohu ukemi
Yonkyo 4th immobilisation (Aikido)
Yoshi Continue
Yoten Key points in a technique or teaching a subject
Yowai / Yowari Weak, not strong
Yudansha Black belt holder
Yudanshakai Black belt association
Yusei gachi A win by superiority

 

Z

Za rei Kneeling bow
Zanshin Alert posture
Zen Virtue, goodness
Zenpo kaiten

Front rolling fall

Zenpo ukemi Front breakfall (Also called Mae ukemi)
Zori Sandals made of straw
Zubon The pants in a dogi or judogi

Counting

Primary Numbers

Ichi One
Ni Two
San Three
Shi Four
Go Five
Roku Six
Shichi Seven
Hach Eight
Ku Nine
Jyu Ten
Jyu Ichi Eleven (and so on up to Nineteen)
Ni Ju Twenty
Ni Ju Ichi Twenty One (and so on up to Twenty Nine)
San Ju Thirty
Yon Ju Forty
Go Ju Fifty
Roku Ju Sixty
Sichi Ju (or Nana Ju) Seventy
Hachi Ju Eighty
Ku Ju Ninety
Hyaku Ju One Hundred
Zen (or Sen) One Thousand
Ichiman Ten Thousand

 

Cardinal Numbers

Sho 1st
Ni 2nd
San 3rd
Yon 4th
Go 5th
Roku 6th
Sichi 7th
Hachi 8th
Ku 9th
Ju 10th

Parts of the Body

Abara The side of the chest / Ribs
Ago Jaw
Ashi Leg or foot
Ashikubi Ankle
Ashi no Yubi Toes
Atama Head
Chikubi Nipple
Chudan Middle level / Midriff
Chusoki / Chusoku Ball of foot
Dokko Mastoid Process
Fukurahagi Calf
Goshi Hip
Ha Teeth
Hai Lung
Haiso Instep (of foot)
Haito Ridge hand
Hana Nose
Hara Point in body (centre) where all energy is centred (lower abdomen) / Trunk of body
Hichu Adam’s Apple
Hiji Elbow
Hizagashira Knee cap
Hiraken Half fist
Hiza Knee
Hone Bone
Jinchu Philtrum (under nose, upper lip)
Jinzo Heart
Jodan Upper body area
Kagato Heel (of foot)
Kokoro Heart
Kakuto Top of bent wrist (as in kakuto uchi)
Kami no Ke Hair
Kansetsu A joint of the body
Kao Face
Kata Shoulder
Ken Knuckle
Kin Testicles
Kobushi Fist
Koshi Hip
Kote Forearm / Wrist
Kubi Neck
Kuchi Mouth
Kurubushi Ankle
Mata The crotch / groin
Me Eyes
Mimi Ear
Momo Thigh
Mune Chest
Nodo Throat
Nukite Spear or straight hand
Odeko Forehead
Oheso Navel
Oshiri Buttocks
Oya-yubi Thumb
Rokkotsu Ribs
Se The back
Seiken Fist / Forefist
Senaka Spine
Shiri Buttocks
Shomen Head
Shotei Palm heel
Shute Palm of hand
Shuto Knife hand
Sokuto Knife edge of foot
Suigetsu Solar Plexus
Tai Body
Tanden Abdomen
Te Hand
Tekubi Wrist
Tetsui Hammer fist
Tsumasaki The ball of the foot
Ude Arm / Forearm
Uraken Half fist / Back fist
Uto Bridge of nose
Waki Side of the body or chest (armpit)
Yoko Side
Yubi Finger / Toes

 

Japanese Martial Arts Terminology - Ju Jitsu - Parts of the Body

Our thanks to Sensei David Gadd for corrections, additions and graphic.