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Japanese Terminology in Martial Arts

What does “X” mean in Japanese? Find out below!

The most popular Martial Arts are often influenced by Classical Japanese martial arts like Karate and Ju-Jutsu.

More modern Martial Arts like MMA and BJJ often use English words to describe technique but you do hear the occasional foreign word thrown in every once in a while, is it Japanese? find out below.

How to Count in Japanese

  1. Ichi – One
  2. Ni – Two
  3. San – Three
  4. Shi/Yon – Four (note: yon is usually four, shi is only used in certain situations because “Shi” also means “Death”)
  5. Go – Five
  6. Roku – Six
  7. Shichi/Nana – Seven (note: similar to “shi”, “shichi” is only used in certain situations, otherwise “nana” if more commonly used. The numerical pronunciation for shi is the same as death, therefore, unlucky.)
  8. Hachi – Eight
  9. Ku – Nine
  10. Ju – ten
  11. Ju Ichi – Eleven
  12. Ju Ni – Twelve
  13. Ju San – Thirteen

20. Ni Ju – Twenty

Body Parts in Japanese

  • Atama/Men – Head
  • Kami – Hair
  • Hitai – Forehead
  • Kasumi – Temple
  • Chototsu – Atemi point between the eyes
  • Kao – Face
  • Mimi – Ear
  • Me – Eye
  • Hana – Nose
  • Kuchi – Mouth
  • Ha – Tooth
  • Ago – Chin/Jaw
  • Kubi – Neck
  • Hichu – Windpipe
  • Nodo – Throat
  • Sakotsu – Collar Bone
  • Kata – Shoulder
  • Karada/Tai – Body
  • Mune – Chest
  • Eri – collar or lapel
  • Sebone – Spine
  • Katsusatsu – Spine between the shoulder blades
  • Bitei Kotsu – Coccyx
  • Abara/Rokkotsu – Ribs
  • Ude/Wan – Arm
  • Naiwan – Upper arm
  • Hiji/Empi (or Enpi) – Elbow
  • Gewan – Forearm
  • Te – Hand
  • Shute – Palm
  • Tekubi – Wrist
  • Kobushi/Ken – Fist
  • Yubi – Finger
  • Oyayubi – Thumb
  • Jinzo – Kidney
  • Hara – Stomach/Abdomen
  • Heso – Belly Button
  • Koshi – Hips/Waist
  • Kinteki – Groin
  • Ashi – Foot/Leg
  • Mata – Thigh
  • Hiza – Knee
  • Ashikubi – Ankle
  • Kakato – Heel
  • Haisoku – Instep
  • Tsumasaki – Toe

Japanese Adjectives, Directions, Movement & Positions

  • Dan – Level
  • Jodan – Upper (Level)
  • Chudan – Middle (Level)
  • Gedan – Low (Level)
  • Dachi – Stance
  • Kiba Dachi – Horse riding Stance
  • Heisoku Dachi – Feet together stance
  • Zenkutsu Dachi – Leg Forward stance
  • Shizentai – Natural Stance
  • Hidari – Left
  • Migi – Right
  • Ushiro – Back
  • Mae – Front
  • Yoko – Side
  • Choku – Straight
  • Gyaku – Reverse
  • Naka – Center
  • Mawatte – Turn Around
  • Massugu – straight ahead
  • Asoko – Over there
  • Heiko – Parallel
  • Juji – Cross
  • Hiki – Pull, tug
  • Irimi – Entering
  • Barai/Harai – Sweep
  • Kari – Reap (Changed to gari when used with a prefix word)
  • Kaiten – Rotation
  • Kagi – Hook
  • Kiri – Cut
  • Mikazuki – Crescent
  • Ko – Minor/small
  • O – Major/Large
  • Kesa – Scarf (around the neck)
  • Omote – Front or surface
  • Muwatte – a foot movement used in turning between stances
  • Seisa – Sitting position on heels
  • Anza – Sitting position, cross legged

Japanese Martial Arts Techniques

  • Furimi – Avoidance
  • Choku Tsuki – Straight punch
  • Fusegi – Escapes/Defences
  • Waza – Technique
  • Bunkai – Kata Technique Application
  • Embusen or Enbusen – This is the term used to refer to the spot where a kata begins. In addition, nearly all kata start and end on exactly the same Embusen point.
  • Geri or Keri – Kick
  • Harau – Sweeping Techniques
  • Kumite – Sparring
  • Kata – Form or Pattern
  • Kokyu-Ho – Breathing exercises
  • Kihon – Basic
  • Hikite – Pulling Hand (brining hand back to ready position)
  • Kiai – Shout
  • Empi-Uchi or Enpi-Uchi – Elbow Strike
  • Ashi Barai – Foot Sweep
  • Fumikomi – Stomp or Stomping Kick
  • Shuto – Knife Hand
  • Tsuki or Zuki – Punch
  • Uke – Block
  • Gedan Geri – Low Roundhouse Kick
  • Kin Geri – Groin Kick
  • Mae Geri – Front Kick
  • Mae Geri Keage – Front Snap Kick
  • Mae Geri Kekomi – Front Thrust Kick
  • Mae Tobi Geri – Jumping Front Kick
  • Uchi Mikazuki Geri – Inside Crescent Kick, In-To-Out Crescent Kick, etc.
  • Nidan Tobi Geri also known as Nidan Geri – Jumping Double Front Kick
  • Otoshi Mawashi Geri – Downward Roundhouse Kick, Circular Falling Kick, Falling Roundhouse Kick, etc.
  • Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku – Tornado Kick
  • Tobi Geri – Jumping Kick
  • Tobi Hiza Geri – Jumping Knee Strike
  • Tobi Mae Geri or Mae Tobi Geri – Jumping Front Kick
  • Tobi Mawashi Geri – Jumping Roundhouse Kick
  • Tobi Ushiro Geri – Jumping Back Kick
  • Hiza Geri – Knee Strike
  • Kakato Otoshi Geri – Axe Kick – Sometimes only referred to as Kakato Geri.
  • Kansetsu Geri – Joint Kick (usually attacking an opponent’s knee)
  • Mawashi Geri – Roundhouse Kick
  • Mikazuki Geri – Crescent Kick
  • Ura Mawashi Geri – Reverse Roundhouse Kick or Hook Kick
  • Geri – Spinning Reverse Roundhouse Kick, Spinning Wheel Kick, Spinning Hook Kick, etc.
  • Ushiro Geri – Back Kick
  • Ushiro Geri Keage – Back Snap Kick
  • Ushiro Geri Kekomi – Back Thrust Kick
  • Yoko Geri – Side Kick
  • Keage – Side Snap Kick
  • Yoko Geri Kekomi – Side Thrust Kick
  • Yoko Tobi Geri – Jumping Side Kick or Flying Side Kick
  • Age-Zuki (Age-Tsuki) – Rising Punch
  • Choku-Zuki (Choku-Tsuki) – Straight Punch
  • Gyaku-Zuki (Gyaku-Tsuki) – Reverse Punch
  • Haishu Uchi – Back Hand Strike
  • Haito – Ridge Hand Strike
  • Hasami Zuki – Scissor Punch
  • Kage-Zuki – Hook Punch
  • Kizami-Tsuki – Jab Punch
  • Maswashi-Tsuki – Roundhouse Punch
  • Morote-Zuki (Morote-Tsuki) – Double Fist Punch or Double U Punch
  • Nukite – Spear Hand Strike
  • Nihon Two Finger Spear
  • Oi-Tsuki – Lunge Punch
  • Shuto – Knife Hand Strike
  • Tate-Tsuki – Vertical Punch
  • Teisho Palm Heel Strike
  • Tobikomi Zuki – Snap Punch
  • Uraken – Back Fist Strike
  • Ura-Tsuki – Upside-Down Punch or Inverted Punch (To The Solar Plexus)
  • Yama-Tsuki – Two-Level Double Punch or Mountain Punch
  • Tobi Yoko Geri or Yoko Tobi Geri – Jumping Side Kick or Flying Side Kick
  • Tsumasaki Geri – Toe Kick
  • Uchi Haisoku Geri – Twist Kick, Instep Kick, etc.
  • Age Uke – Rising block
  • Ashi waza – Foot and leg techniques
  • Atemi – Strike to a vital area
  • Atemi waza – Striking Techniques
  • Dori (Toru) – To grab or capture.
  • Hadaka Jime – Naked strangle
  • Henka – Variation
  • Juji Gatame – Cross lock/armbar
  • Juji Jime – Cross choke
  • Juji Uke )- Cross block
  • Kaeshi ·- Countering Techniques. (Kaeshi also means to turn)
  • Makkikomi – Winding throw
  • De Ashi Barai – Advancing Foot Sweep
  • Jiyu Kumite – Free sparring
  • Ippon Seoi Nage – One arm shoulder throw
  • Irimi nage – Entering throw
  • Ensho – Round heel
  • Jodan Uke – High block
  • Kagi Tsuki – Hook punch
  • Kaishu – Open hand
  • Hiji Ate – Elbow strike
  • Hiraken Tsuki – Horizontal fist punch
  • Hiza Ate – Knee strike
  • Hiza geri – Knee strike/kick
  • Kake – The point at which a throw will take it’s maximal effect
  • Kamae – Posture (or stance)
  • Kani basami – Crab scissors
  • Kansetsu – Joint Locking
  • Kansetsu waza – Joint Locking techniques Kata-gatame – Shoulder pin
  • Kata-guruma – Shoulder wheel (fireman’s lift throw)
  • Kata-ha-jime – Single wing strangle
  • Katame – Lock/Hold
  • Katame Waza – Joint locking/immobilizing techniques.
  • Kappo/Katsu – Resucitation & revival techniques
  • Keri – Kick
  • Keri waza – Kicking techniques
  • Kesa Gatame – Scarf hold
  • Kesa-Giri – Sash cut – A diagonal cut with a Japanese sword from shoulder to hip.
  • Ko-soto-gari/gake ·- Minor/small outer reap/prop
  • Kote Gaeshi – Wrist turnout lock/throw
  • Ko-uchi-gari/gake – Minor inner reap/prop
  • Koshi guruma – Hip wheel throw
  • Ogoshi – Major/Large hip throw
  • O-guruma – Major/Large Wheel
  • O-soto-gari/gake – Major/Large outer reap/prop
  • O-soto-guruma – Major/Large outer wheel
  • O-soto-makkikomi – Major/Large outer winding throw
  • O-soto-otoshi – Major outer drop
  • O-uchi-gari/gake – Major inner reap/prop
  • Nigiri – Grip (Gyakute nigiri -reversehand grip – Junte Nigiri – Normal grip)
  • Nage – Throw
  • Nage-no-kata – Throwing kata (usually used to refer to the Kodokan Nage-no-kata)
  • Nage waza – Throwing methods

Commands & responses

  • Hajime – Begin/Start
  • Kiotsuke – Attention
  • Hai – Yes
  • Iie – No
  • Mo Ichi Do – One More Time
  • Rei – Bow
  • Yame – Stop
  • Kiwostuke – Attention
  • Mate – Wait
  • Otagai-ne-rei – Mutual bow to all assembled

Japanese Martial Arts Concepts

  • Ki – Type of intrinsic energy. Known as Qi or Chi in Chinese martial arts.
  • Mushin – Void or State of No Mind
  • Do/Michi – (the) Way
  • Budo – Martial ways (literally “way(s) of war)
  • Go-no-sen – Responsive initiative
  • Hyoshi – Timing/rhythm
  • Ma-ai – Combative Distancing
  • Kime – Focus
  • Kuzushi – Unbalancing
  • Munen mushin – Striking without conscience
  • Mokuso – Meditation
  • Mushin – No-mindedness
  • Zanshin – Vigilance or awareness after a technique has been performed.

List of Japanese Nouns

  • Anata – You
  • Dojo – School (“Place of the Way”)
  • Gi – Uniform
  • Obi – Belt
  • Sensei – Teacher/Instructor
  • Tatami – Practice/Training Mat
  • Bokken – Wooden sword
  • Watashi – I (Me)
  • Senpai or Sempai – Senior Student
  • Deshi – Student of a system
  • Ani-deshi – Senior student in the dojo (Lit: Big brother student)
  • Katana – Japanese sword.
  • Kodachi – Short sword. (Alternative term: Wakizashi or Shoto)
  • Kohai – Beginner or junior student in the dojo
  • Kyu – Coloured belt
  • Naginata – A long polearm with a large cutting blade

How to Say “Hello” and “Thank You” in Japanese plus other Japanese terminology

  • Domo – Thank You (Informal)
  • Domo Arigato – Thank You (Formal)
  • Dozo – Please
  • Sayonara – Goodbye
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