Karate Vocabulary

Basic Karate Terminology


ichi (one
ni (二) two
san (三) three
shi (or yon) (四) four
go (五) five
roku (六) six
shichi (or nana) (七) seven
hachi (八) eight
ku (or kyu) (九) nine
ju (or jyu) (十) ten

Body Parts & Targets

jodan (上段) upper level (usually refers to the head)
chudan (中段) middle level (usually refers to the solar plexus)
gedan (下段) lower level (usually refers to the groin)
te (手) hand (as in karate, which means ’empty hand’)
ude (腕) arm
hiji (肘) elbow
kata (肩) shoulder
waki (わき) underarm, or the area under the shoulders
ashi (足) leg or foot
kubi (首) neck
tekubi (手首) wrist (lit. “hand-neck”)
ashikubi (足首) ankle (lit. “foot-neck”)
hiza (膝) knee
koshi (腰) hip(s), also lower back

Kihon (Basic Techniques)

shizentai (自然体) “natural” standing position
heisokudachi (閉足立ち) feet together (lit. “closed-feet stance”) and knees usually bent
heikodachi (並行立ち) feet apart & parallel
zenkutsudachi (前屈立ち) front stance
kokutsudachi (後屈立ち) back stance
kibadachi (騎馬立ち) side stance
tsuki (突き) punch
keri (蹴り) kick
uke (受け) block or receive
harai (barai) (払い) sweep
chokuzuki (直突き) straight punch
kizamizuki (刻み突き) jab
gyakuzuki (逆突き) reverse punch
oizuki (追い突き) lunge (stepping in) punch
sanbonzuki (三本突き) triple punch
maegeri (前蹴り) front kick
yokogeri (横蹴り) side kick
ushirogeri (後ろ蹴り) back kick
mawashigeri (回し蹴り) roundhouse kick
keage (蹴上げ) rising/snapping kick (often refers to side snap kick)
kekomi (蹴込み) thrusting kick (often refers to the side thrust kick)
ashibarai (足払い) foot/leg sweep
ageuke (上げ受け) rising block
sotouke (外受け) outside block
uchiuke (内受け) inside block
gedanbarai (下段払い) down (sweeping) block
shutouke (手刀受け) knife-hand block
uraken(uchi) (裏拳打ち) back-fist (strike)
empi(uchi) (猿臂打ち) elbow (strike)
nukite (抜き手) spear hand thrust
shomen (正面) hips straight/facing front (also the area in the front of the dojo)
hanmi (半身) hips to the side (half-facing, lit. “half body”)
gyakuhanmi (逆半身) hips twisted to the reverse side (reverse half-face)

Kumite (Sparring)

yakusoku kumite (約束組手) any basic kumite where the attack is announced first
kihon ippon kumite (基本一本組手) basic one-step sparring
kihon sanbon kumite (基本三本組手) basic three-step sparring
kihon gohon kumite (基本五本組手) basic five-step sparring
jyuu-ippon kumite (自由一本組手) semi-free sparring
jyuu kumite (自由組手) free sparring

Kata (Forms: predefined sets of movements)

At SVSK we practice the following traditional Shotokan kata:

Taikyoku Shodan (太極初段)
Heian Shodan (平安初段)
Heian Nidan (平安二段)
Heian Sandan (平安三段)
Heian Yondan (平安四段)
Heian Godan (平安五段)
Tekki Shodan (鉄騎初段)
Tekki Nidan (鉄騎二段)
Tekki Sandan (鉄騎三段)
Bassai Dai (抜塞大)
Kanku Dai (観空大)
Empi (燕飛)
Jitte (十手)
Hangetsu (半月)
Jiin (慈隕)
Gankaku (岩鶴)
Bassai Sho (抜塞小)
Kanku Sho (観空小)
Meikyo (明鏡)
Chinte (珍手)
Nijushiho (二十四歩)
Gojushiho Sho (五十四歩小)
Gojushiho Dai (五十四歩大)
Wankan (王冠)
Unsu (雲手)
(other kata practiced less frequently)

Other terms frequently used in the dojo

dojo (道場) training hall
soji (掃除) cleaning (the floor in the dojo)
seiza (正坐) traditional (formal) sitting position
rei (礼) bow
shomen (正面) front of the dojo
sensei (先生) instructor
sempai (先輩) senior
kohai (後輩) junior
otagai (お互い) each other
taiso (体操) warm-up (lit. exercises)
osu! (押忍)(おす!、おっす!) all-purpose martial arts greeting
yoi (用意) ready
kamae(te) (構え) to face or face-off, as in for kumite
hajime (はじめ) begin
yame (やめ) stop/finish
kotai (交代) change places
kiai (気合) a yell, usually accompanying a technique; an outward manifestation of energy and commitment in the technique
migi (右) right
hidari (左) left
hantai (反対) opposite
mokuso (黙想) silent meditation
makiwara (巻き藁) literally, “rolled straw” – the traditional striking board of karate used to increase focus of punches & strikes. At one time the board was covered with a straw pad at the striking area (usually cotton/canvas nowadays).
kime (決め) focus (lit. decisiveness, but more often used to describe physical commitment in the form of timing of muscular contraction)
waza (技) technique
dojo-kun (道場訓) the creed of karate-do, repeated at the end of each class
tokui kata (得意形) test/favorite (lit. specialty) kata
owari (終わり) the end


If you have questions about Japanese terms ask your instructors.