This is a comprehensive list of karate terms in Japanese for beginners that cover over 250 most frequently used terms and phrases for greeting, bowing, stances, techniques, counting, directions, body parts, vital terms, and more.

Table of Contents

General terms

Karate (空手) means “empty hand”. Kara means “empty” and te means “hand”.

Karate-do (空手 道) means “the way of the empty hand”.

Karateka (空手家) means “karate practitioner”.

Dojo (道場) means the “place of training”. If you want to break the term dojo down: do means “way” or “path” and jo means “place”.

Oosu. There is some dispute as to the origin and meaning of oosu but this term is used widely with many meanings in a Japanese karate dojo.

You may say oosu when bowing upon entering the dojo, when bowing to an instructor or to a partner, when you want to say thank you, when you want to show respect, or when you acknowledge that you’ve heard and understood instructions from your instructor.

Hai (はい) generally means “yes” but is very frequently used in traditional karate dojo to acknowledge that you’ve heard and understood your instructor. Oosu is never used in traditional Okinawan dojos and hai is used instead.

Sensei (先生) means the one who comes before, teacher, instructor, master.

Senpai (先輩) means senior student.

Dojo kun (土壌くん) martial arts ethics, martial arts code.

Rei (れい) means respect or bow.

Onegaishimas (お願いします) means “please”. In traditional karate styles like Goju Ryu, you are expected to say onegaishimasu which is roughly translated as “please teach me” when entering a dojo, bowing to the instructor at the opening ceremony, before using a training tool and before performing a kata.

Arigato (ありがとう) means thank you (informal)

Arigato gozaimashita (ありがとうございました) means thank you very much (past tense).

Gi (ぎ) means karate uniform.

Obi (おび) means belt.

Kamae means ready stance or posture.

Junbi undo (準備運動) means “preparatory exercise” or “warm-up”.

Kihon (きほん) means “basics” or “fundamental”.

Kata (型, かた) means “form”.

Kumite (組手) means “the meeting of hands” or sparring.

Kiotsuke (きおつけ) means “attention”.

Hajime (始め) means to start or to begin.

Yame (止め) means to stop, to cease.

Mou ichi do (もう一度) means one more time.

Zanshin (残心) means the state of being aware and ready.

Mokuso (もくそ) means meditation.

Mushin (むしん) a state of no mind.

Muchimi (もちみ) refers to a flexible, relaxing, and fluid way of generating power.

Chinkuchi (チンクチ) refers to the discharge of explosive power in karate techniques similar to the fa jin (發勁) concept in Chinese martial arts.

Kime (決め) is derived from the verb “kimeru” which means “to decide” and is often translated as to focus the energy or power of a technique.

Seiza (正座) means to sit correctly, a kneeling position assumed at the opening and closing ceremonies.

Otagai-ni rei (お互いに れい) means to bow to each other.

Mawatte (回って) means to turn around.

Ma-ai (間合い) refers to the distance between opponents in combat.

Shomen means the front (of the dojo).

Shomen ni rei means to bow to the front.

Makiwara: ((巻藁) a padded striking post.

Sayonara (さよなら) means goodbye.

Tai sabaki (体捌き) means body movement, body shifting.

Ashi sabaki (足捌き) means footwork.

Te sabaki (手捌き) means handwork.

Tsuri ashi (すり) means sliding footwork.


Ichi (一): one

Ni (二): two

San (三): three

Shi/yon (四): four

Go (五): five

Roku (六): six

Shichi/nana (七): seven

Hachi (八): eight

Ku (九): nine

Ju (十): ten

For numbers 11 to 100, you simply combine the numbers from 1 to 10. For example, the number 11 is made up of 10 and 1 and it is ju ichi in Japanese.

Ju ichi (十一): eleven

Ju ni (十二): twelve

Ni ju (二十): twenty

San ju (三十): thirty

Hyaku (百): 100

You rarely ever need to count to a hundred in karate.

Direction words in Japanese

Mae: Front

Ushiro: Back

Hidari: Left

Migi: Right

Soto: Outside

Yoko: Side

Naka: Inside

Mannaka: Middle

Aida: Between

Shita: Under

Ue: On

Hantai: Reverse or change (direction)

Body Parts Used in Karate in Japanese

Fukubu (ふくぶ): abdomen

Ashikubi (足首; あしくび): ankle

Ude (うで ): arm

Hiji (ひじ): elbow

Ashi (あし): foot, leg

Te (て): hand

Atama (頭; あたま): head

Hiza (膝; ひざ): knee

Nodo (喉; のど): throat

Tekubi (てくび ): wrist

Kakato (かかと): heel

Attacking levels

Jodan (上段): “upper level” (face and neck area)

Chudan (中段): “middle level” (from around the solar plexus to the stomach)

Gedan (下段): “lower level” (groin area)

Common karate stances in alphabetical order

These karate stances are listed in alphabetical order for easy reference.

  1. Bensoku dachi: Turning cross-leg stance
  2. Chinto dachi: A stance only used in Chinto kata
  3. Fudo dachi (sochin dachi): Immovable stance or rooted stance
  4. Gankaku dachi (or sagi ashi dachi): Crane or heron stance
  5. Gyaku neko ashi dachi: Reverse cat stance
  6. Gyaku zuki dachi: Reverse punch stance
  7. Gyaku zuki tsukkomi dachi: Reverse lunge stance
  8. Hachiji dachi: Natural or open leg stance, feet shoulder-width apart pointing outward
  9. Hachinoji dachi: Ready stance
  10. Han zenkutsu dachi: Half front stance
  11. Hangetsu dachi: Half moon stance
  12. Hanmi neko ashi dachi: Half turned cat stance
  13. Heiko dachi: Feet parallel, shoulder-width stance
  14. Heisoku dachi: Feet are closed together, heels touching
  15. Jun zuki dachi: Front punch or jab stance
  16. Jun zuki tsukkomi dachi: Front lunge punch stance
  17. Kake ashi dachi: Crossed leg stance
  18. Kiba dachi: Horse riding stance
  19. Kokutsu dachi: Back stance
  20. Kosa dachi: Crossed leg or scissor stance
  21. Moro ashi dachi: One foot forward stance
  22. Moto dachi: Foundational Stance
  23. Musubi dachi: Formal attention stance or V-shape stance, heels together, feet pointing outwards forming an angle of about 60 degrees
  24. Naihanchi dachi: Modified horse stance. One shin-length plus one to one and a half fist between the heels, feet pointing inwards, knees slightly bent
  25. Neko ashi dachi: Cat foot stance
  26. No tsukomi dachi: Forward lunging stance
  27. Renoji dachi: Letter “Re” stance or the L stance. Heels are on the same line, one foot pointing outward at 45 degree angle and one foot pointing straight forward
  28. Sagi ashi dachi: Heron leg stance
  29. Sanchin dachi: Hourglass stance
  30. Sesan dachi: side facing straddle stance
  31. Shiko dachi: square stance
  32. Shizentai dachi (yoi daichi): Natural ready stance. One foot space between the heels, feet pointing outward about 30 degree angle
  33. Shomen neko ashi dachi: Forward-facing cat stance
  34. Soto hachiji dachi: Outside figure 8 stance
  35. Tachi dachi: Standing stance
  36. Tate seisan dachi: Vertical seisan stance
  37. Teiji stance: T-shaped stance
  38. Tsuru ashi dachi: Crane leg stance
  39. Uchi hachiji dachi: Inside figure 8 stance
  40. Yoko seisan dachi: Side seisan stance
  41. Zenkutsu dachi: Front stance

Blocking technique terms

Waza means techniques.

Uke means receiving.

Uke waza means “receiving technique“, however, they are often referred to in English as “blocking technique“.

  1. Chudan yoko uke: middle-level side block
  2. Gedan barai: downward sweeping block
  3. Hiki uke: pulling block
  4. Hiji uke: elbow block
  5. Jodan age uke: high-level/head level rising block
  6. Ko uke: wrist block
  7. Shotei barai: palm heel sweep
  8. Shotei uke: palm heel block
  9. Shuto uke: knife hand block
  10. Soto ude uke: block from outside inwards with the bottom of the wrist
  11. Sukui uke: scooping block
  12. Sune uke: shin block
  13. Teisho uke: palm heal block
  14. Tora guchi: tiger mouth block
  15. Uchi ude uke: block from inside to outside

Punching technique terms

Tsuki is derived from the verb tsuku and means ‘thrusting’.

Tsuki waza are thrusting or punching techniques.

  1. Age tsuki: rising punch (uppercut)
  2. Choku tsuki: straight punch
  3. Chudan tsuki: punch to the chest
  4. Furi tsuki: circular punch (hook)
  5. Gedan tsuki: punch to the groin
  6. Gyaku tsuki: reverse punch
  7. Haito uchi: ridge hand strike
  8. Heiken uchi: fore knuckle fist strike
  9. Hijiate: elbow strike
  10. Jodan tsuki: punch to the face
  11. Kage tsuki: hook punch
  12. Kizami tsuki: jab punch, leading hand punch
  13. Koken: wrist strike
  14. Mawashi tsuki: roundhouse punch
  15. Morote tsuki: double punch
  16. Nukite uchi: spear hand strike
  17. Oi tsuki: lunge punch
  18. Sanbon tsuki: three punch combination
  19. Seiken tsuki: forefist punch (standard punch)
  20. Shuto uchi: knife-edge hand strike
  21. Sokuto uchi: knife-edge foot strike
  22. Tate-tsuki: vertical punch
  23. Teisho uchi: palm heel strike (sometimes called shotei uchi)
  24. Tetsui uchi: hammer fist strike 
  25. Ura tsuki: half punch used at close range
  26. Uraken uchi: back fist strike
  27. Yama tsuki: over the mountain double punch

Kicking and other foot technique terms

Keri means kick.

Keri waza means kicking techniques.

If there is another word in front of ‘keri‘, the pronunciation changes to ‘geri‘ therefore the kicking techniques are often called ‘geri‘ as seen below.

  1. Ashi barai: foot sweep
  2. Fumikomi geri: heel kick
  3. Gedan mawashi geri: low roundhouse kick
  4. Hiza geri: knee strike
  5. Kakato otoshi geri: axe kick, sometimes only referred to as kakato geri
  6. Kansetsu geri: joint kick, usually aiming for an opponent’s knee
  7. Kin geri: groin kick
  8. Mae ashi geri: front leg kick
  9. Mae geri: front kick
  10. Mae geri keage: front snap kick
  11. Mae geri kekomi: front thrust kick
  12. Mae tobi geri: jumping front kick
  13. Mawashi geri: roundhouse kick
  14. Mikazuki geri: crescent kick
  15. Nidan tobi geri: jumping double front kick
  16. Otoshi mawashi geri: downward roundhouse kick
  17. Tatsumaki senpuu kyaku: tonato kick
  18. Tobi geri: jumping kick
  19. Tobi hiza geri: jumping knee strike
  20. Tobi mae geri or mae tobi geri: jumping front kick
  21. Tobi mawashi geri: jumping roundhouse kick
  22. Tobi ushiro geri: jumping back kick
  23. Tobi yoko geri: jumping side kick or flying side kick
  24. Tsumasaki geri: toe kick
  25. Uchi haisoku geri: twist kick, instep kick
  26. Uchi mikazuki geri: inside crescent kick
  27. Ura mawashi geri: reverse roundhouse kick or hook kick
  28. Ura ushiro mawashi geri: spinning reverse roundhouse kick
  29. Ushiro geri: back kick
  30. Ushiro geri keage: back snap kick
  31. Ushiro geri kekomi: back thrust kick
  32. Yoko geri: side kick
  33. Yoko geri keage: side snap kick
  34. Yoko geri kekomi: side thrust kick
  35. Yoko tobi geri: jumping side kick or flying side kick

Kumite drills

Gohon kumite: five-step sparring

Sanbon kumite: three-step sparring

San dan gi: three-level sparring or three-level moving

Kihon ippon kumite: basic one-step sparring

Jyu ippon kumite: one-step sparring (block and counter-attack and then reset)

Jyu kumite: freestyle sparring

Randori kumite: soft freestyle sparring

Yakusoku kumite: pre-arranged sparring drills

Bunkai: breaking down the movements of a kata and applying them in self-defense situations

Kakie: sticking hand practice

Iri kumi ju: continuous freestyle sparring with little contact or soft contact and focus on techniques

Iri kumi go: continuous freestyle sparring with full contact

Shiai kumite: competition sparring

Oyo kumite: application sparring

Semete: attacker

Ukete: defender

Vital points

Source: IOGKF Australia

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A Comprehensive Guide to Karate Etiquette

What Is the Philosophy of Karate?

Shotokan Karate’s Dojo Kun and Their Philosophical Meanings

Goju Ryu Karate’s Dojo Kun and Their Philosophical Meanings


Martial Arts Vocabulary in Japanese

Karate Terminology

Japanese karate terms

Counting in Japanese

Shotokan Karate Academy – Kumite

Zanshin – Wikipedia

Hajime – Wikipedia