San Jose Dojo – Shotokan Karate of America

The original nonprofit organization teaching traditional karate in America since 1956

Japanese Terms

The information below is adapted from where it is available to SKA members, only. The original includes recordings of each term, where you can click on each term to hear the recording.

Glossary of English and Japanese Terms

Pronunciation keys of Japanese terms are given in parentheses.

How to read Japanese in English alphabet (rōmaji):

English vowels a=ah , i = ee , u=oo , e=eh and o=oh

A macron or a line over a vowel indicates that it is pronounced for twice the length of the vowel without a macron or a line. Sometimes an “h” is added instead, as in Mr. Ohshima’s name. The first “o” in Mr. Ono’s name, on the other hand, is not lengthened. Ohno and Ono are two different names. However, these sounds are just approximations and there are some exceptions.

Please note that the pronunciation keys given here are only approximations and are primarily designed for the members in the U.S. and Canada. They may not necessarily be helpful for the members of international affiliates.


ichi (ee-chee)
ni (nee)
san (sahn)
shi (shee)
go (goh)
roku (roh-koo)
shichi (shee-chee)
hachi (hah-chee)
ku (koo) / kyū (kyoo)
jū (joo)


Head instructor/Master instructor (of an organization)
shihan (shee-hahn)
sensei (sehn-seh-ee)
Training hall
dōjō (doh-joh)
Training uniform
keiko gi (keh-ee-koh gee)/ gi (gee)
Training uniform belt
obi (oh-bee)
Vocal expulsion of air
kiai (kee-ah-ee)
Black Belt rank
dan (dahn)
White/Brown belt rank
kyū (kyoo)
mokusō (moh-koo-soh)
rei (reh-ee)/lei (leh-ee)
Assume stance
kamaete (kah-mah-eh-teh)
Get ready
yōi (yoh-ee)
hajime (hah-jee-meh)
Pivot/assume opposite direction
kaette (kah-eht-teh)
yame (yah-meh)
At ease
yasume (yah-soo-meh)
Basic training
kihon (kee-hohn)
Formal exercise/forms
kata (kah-tah)
kumite (koo-mee-teh)
Escape techniques
torite (toh-ree-teh)
Throwing techniques
nagewaza (nah-geh-wah-zah)
Foot sweep
ashibarai (ah-shee-bah-rah-ee)
Maximum effectiveness/ focus of techniques
kime (kee-meh)
Pulling hand
hikite (hee-kee-teh)
Breathing center in lower abdomen
tanden (tahn-dehn)
Getting into the opponent
irimi (ee-ree-mee)
Elbow Attacks
enpi (ehn-pee)/ empi(ehm-pee)
Jumping-in attack
tobikomi (toh-bee-koh-mee)
Continuous Techniques
renzoku waza (rehn-zoh-koo wah-zah)
Punching board
makiwara (mah-kee-wah-rah)
bō (boh)
Standing Forms
Tachikata (tah-chee-kah-tah) Tachi (tah-chee) changes to dachi (dah-chee) when used after other words.
Front stance
zenkutsu-dachi (zehn-koo-tsoo-dah-chee)
Back stance
kōkutsu-dachi (koh-koo-tsoo-dah-chee)
Horse riding stance
kiba-dachi (kee-bah-dah-chee)
Immovable stance
fudō-dachi (foo-doh-dah-chee)
Cat stance
nekoashi-dachi (neh-koh-ah-shee-dah-chee)
Natural stance
shizentai (shee-zehn-tah-ee)
Close-leg stance
heisoku-dachi (heh-ee-soh-koo-dah-chee)
Half-facing stance
hanmi-dachi (hahn-mee-dah-chee)
Open-leg stance
hachiji-dachi (hah-chee-jee-dah-chee)
Uke (oo-keh) Harai (hah-rah-ee) changes to barai (bah-rah-ee) when used after other words. Harai is one kind of block.
Downward block
gedan-barai (geh-dahn-bah-rah-ee)
Rising block
age-uke (ah-geh-oo-keh)
Forearm block
ude-uke (oo-deh-oo-keh)
Hammer block
tetsui-uke (teh-tsoo-ee-oo-keh)/ tettsui-uke (teht-tsoo-ee-oo-keh)
Knife-hand block
shutō-uke (shoo-toh-oo-keh)
Cross-arm block
jūji-uke (joo-jee-oo-keh)
Two-hand block
morote-uke (moh-roh-the-oo-keh)
Palm-heel block
teishō-uke (teh-ee-shoh-oo-keh)
Hand Techniques
Te Waza (teh-wah-zah)
tsuki (tsoo-kee) changes to zuki (zoo-kee) when used after other words.
Lunge punch
oi-zuki (oh-ee-zoo-kee)
Reverse punch
gyaku-zuki (gyah-koo-zoo-kee)
maete (mah-eh-teh)
Continuous punches alternating hands
bari-bari (bah-ree-bah-ree)
Continuous punching attacks
renzoku-zuki (rehn-zoh-koo-zoo-kee)/ ren-zuki (rehn-zoo-kee)
Punching with horse riding stance
kibadachi-zuki (kee-bah-dah-chee-zoo-kee)
Double punch
morote-zuki (moh-roh-teh-zoo-kee)
Hook punch
kagi-zuki (kah-gee-zoo-kee)
teishō (teh-ee-shoh)
Rising punch
age-zuki (ah-geh-zoo-kee)
Striking Techniques
Uchi Waza (oo-chee-wah-zah)
Back-fist strike
uraken-uchi (oo-rah-kehn-oo-chee)
Bottom-fist strike
tetsui-uchi (teh-tsoo-ee-oo-chee) / tettsui-uchi (teht-tsoo-ee-oo-chee)
Knife-hand strike
shutō-uchi (shoo-toh-oo-chee)
nukite (noo-kee-teh)
Two-finger spear-hand
nihon-nukite (nee-hohn-noo-kee-teh)
seiken (seh-ee-kehn)
Fore-knuckle fist
hiraken (hee-rah-kehn)
One-knuckle fist
ippon-ken (eep-pohn-kehn)
Middle finger/knuckle fist
nakadaka-ken (nah-kah-dah-kah-kehn)
haitō (hah-ee-toh)
Keri (keh-ree) changes to geri (geh-ree) when used after other words.
Front kick
mae-geri (mah-eh-geh-ree)
Round kick
mawashi-geri (mah-wah-shee-geh-ree)
Side-thrust kick
yokogeri-kekomi (yoh-koh-geh-ree-keh-koh-mee)
Side-up kick
yokogeri-keage (yoh-koh-geh-ree-keh-ah-geh)
Crescent kick
mikazuki-geri (mee-kah-zoo-kee-geh-ree)
Stamping kick
fumikomi (foo-mee-koh-mee)
Rear kick
ushiro-geri (oo-shee-roh-geh-ree)
Double front kick
nidan-geri (nee-dahn-geh-ree)
Flying front kick
tobi-geri (toh-bee-geh-ree)
Flying side-thrust kick
tobi-yokogeri (toh-bee-yoh-koh-geh-ree)
Front kick with front leg
maeashi-geri (mah-eh-ah-shee-geh-ree)
Front-thrust kick
maeashi-kekomi (mah-eh-ah-shee-keh-koh-mee)
Continuous kicks
renzoku-geri (rehn-zoh-koo-geh-ree)
Foot edge
sokutō (soh-koo-toh)
kakato (kah-kah-toh)
hizagashira (hee-zah-gah-shee-rah)
Kumite (koo-mee-teh) often becomes gumite (goo-mee-teh) when used after other words.
Basic one-time sparring
kihon ippon gumite (kee-hohn eep-pohn goo-mee-teh)
Free one-time sparring
jiyū-ippon gumite (jee-yoo-eep-pohn goo-mee-teh)
Three-time sparring
sanbon gumite (sahn-bohn goo-mee-teh)
Five-time sparring
gohon gumite (goh-hohn goo-mee-teh)
jiyū kumite (jee-yoo koo-mee-teh)
Upper body
jōdan (joh-dahn)
Middle body
chūdan (choo-dahn)
Lower body
gedan (geh-dahn)
Distance, timing, and other things between opponents
ma (mah)
shiai (shee-ah-ee)
rei (reh-ee) / lei (leh-ee)
One point match
shōbu ippon (shoh-boo eep-pohn)
hajime (hah-jee-meh)
yame (yah-meh)
aiuchi (ah-ee-oo-chee)
I award no point
torimasen (toh-ree-mah-sehn)
tsuzukete (tsoo-zoo-keh-teh)
One more time
mō ichido (moh ee-chee-doh)
End of match
soko made (soh-koh mah-deh) / sore made (soh-reh mah-deh)
waza ari (wah-zah ah-ree)
ippon (eep-pohn)
Two half-points equal one point
waza ari awasete ippon (wah-zah ah-ree ah-wah-seh-teh eep-pohn)
hikiwake (hee-kee-wah-keh)
aka (ah-kah)
shiro (shee-roh)
Red is the winner
aka no kachi (ah-kah noh kah-chee)
shinpan (sheen-pahn) / shimpan (sheem-pahn)
Throwing Techniques
Nagewaza (nah-geh-wah-zah)
To topple a folding screen
Byōbudaoshi (byoh-boo-dah-oh-shee)
Spinning top
Komanage (koh-mah-nah-geh)
Encircle the neck
Kubiwa (koo-bee-wah)
Half wheel
Katawaguruma (kah-tah-wah-goo-roo-mah)
‘V’ turning swallow
Tsubamegaeshi (tsoo-bah-meh-gah-eh-shee)
To spear a ball
Yaridama (yah-ree-dah-mah)
To push off a cliff
Taniotoshi (tah-nee-oh-toh-shee)
To encircle with the arm
Udewa (oo-deh-wah)
To hammer upside down
Sakatsuchi (sah-kah-tsoo-chee)
Performer of the technique
tori (toh-ree)
Receiver of the technique
uke (oo-keh)
Falling techniques
ukemi (oo-keh-mee)

For more information on nagewaza, please refer to Karate-Dō Kyōhan, pages 227-232.

When Shihan or Sensei is used as an honorific or a title, there are a few important things one needs to be aware of:

Shihan or Sensei is attached to the end of the person’s family name, e.g., Ohshima Shihan (not Shihan Ohshima), Ohshima Sensei (not Sensei Ohshima)

According to the Japanese culture, it is not appropriate to call oneself Shihan or Sensei, or introduce oneself with the title Shihan or Sensei, e.g., Instructor John Doe shouldn’t call himself Shihan, Sensei, Doe Shihan or Doe Sensei. His students can, but he shouldn’t.

The same thing applies to the honorific san (meaning Mr., Mrs., or Miss). Mr. John Smith shouldn’t call himself Smith-san or John Smith-san. San can be attached only to the end of others’ names.

Adapted from Shotokan Karate of America website