Most of the terms that we use in class are actually composites of multiple Japanese words. Jodan tzuki for instance, uses "jodan" (upper level) and "tzuki" (punch). We interpret this (slightly inaccurately) to mean "head-level punch".

Just like English, there are lots of words that can be used to clarify the main action. We can specify the side of the body (right, left or alternating), the direction of the action (rising, falling, straight, hooking), the level (upper, middle or lower) and more besides. These words are all combined into terms that express with minimal ambiguity, the required action. Of course, you might argue that having to learn a new language to understand what is being asked of you deliberately creates maximum ambiguity, and I'd be the first to agree with you! But that's a debate for another part of this site...

Anyway, these actions and modifiers are generally just grouped together in a type of dojo abbreviation which, whilst not absolutely grammatically correct, gets the point over with the minimum number of words.

It's usual to specify the side (left, right), the level (high, low, etc), the body part (single knuckle, forefist, etc), the direction (rising, roundhouse, straight, etc), and the technique (punch, kick, block, etc) in that order. For example, migi gedan choku tzuki or jodan kizami ren tzuki. In Japan, they might add the word "no" (of) after the side command, but we tend to leave it out.

In this guide, I have not wasted time listing every single permutation of every single move. You know that a straight punch can be performed at multiple levels and you recognise the word that describes the level at which it is performed - I don't need to insult your intelligence by actually stating each variant in full.

However, I have made a slight exception in the case of moves that are usually performed in a certain way, just so that you can see how karate commands are constructed.

Incidentally, there are lots more expressions and phrases in the martial arts world in general, but I have tried to restrict myself solely to techniques that you may encounter in a GKR dojo, and phrases or commands that you might hear in one.

In constructing this guide, I've consulted numerous Japanese people and they often disagreed about the exact meaning of a word. For starters, many words only exist in a martial arts context, so if Japanese people are not familiar with martial arts, they wouldn't necessarily know the meaning of words, any more than you would know the meaning of medical terms unless you were in that field. To further complicate things, some words are not only context sensitive, but even depend upon the kanji (Japanese characters) used to write them. Take the term "uchi": it means both "inside" and "strike", and the Japanese word sounds exactly the same in both instances. Like the English words "to", "two" and "too", the context is necessary, but when even the context is not enough, you can only be certain of the exact meaning by seeing the word written.

Some words have a literal and intepreted meaning.:For instance dojo literally means "way place", but we use it to mean training hall. Where there is a literal meaning, I have included it in inverted commas "".

Pronunciation notes

Strictly speaking, virtually nobody in a European, Antipodean or American dojo pronounces Japanese words properly. We have adapted them to fit within our language patterns, just as we did with all the Latin, Greek and French words that we've assimiliated into our language over the centuries.

Originally, I started by writing the GKR way of saying the words, but to be honest, I've decided against that approach. We should make an effort to learn the proper pronunciation, or at least the accepted pronunciation outside of Japan - otherwise, we might just as well speak English.

In describing each word's pronounciation, I've tried to break it down into the component sounds, which I've written. Any word in our language can be expressed using a standard set of 41 phonemes (sound elements). Unfortunately, these phonemes require special characters to notate, and unless you know the phonemic "alphabet", the sybols would not make much sense. Therefore, whilst I have used the phonemic alphabet, I've notated it using English-sounding elements. If you encounter an element that you recognise as a word, then it is pronounced exactly as you would normally pronounce that word. For instance "dojo" can be expressed as "doe-joe". Doe, as in a female deer, and joe, as in a person's name. What could be simpler?

Unfortunately, there are a few recurring vowel sounds that can't be expressed using real words, and these are clarified below:

oe - as in toe
ee - as in tree
ah - as in car
uh - as in brush
eh - as in bet
oo - as in zoo
oh - as in lost
ay - as in hay

Alternate spellings

Many Japanese sounds cannot be precisely written in English because we have no exact equivalent sound. Thus, the spelling is down to the transcriber. Common sounds are ts as in tsuki, nm as in empi, gk as in taigyoku and kake, ry as in ryu.

I have used the most common current GKR spelling (although even we use multiple spellings for the same word sometimes.)

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General Terms

English Japanese Phonetic
3-step sparring Sanbon kumite sun-bon koo-me-tay
5 step sparring Gohon kumite go-hohn koo-me-tay
Assistant teacher ("senior") Sempai sem-pie
Association Kai kie
Begin Hajime ha-jim-ay
Bow Rei ray
Chief dojo Hombu hom-boo
Close your eyes Mokuso mok-sow
Complete Kan kahn
Distancing Maai mah-aye
Dojo ("Way place") Dojo doe-joe
Everybody ("each other") Autagani or-tah-gah-nee
Fifth level Godan go-dahn
First cause Taigyoku tay-eeg-yo-koo
First level Shodan shoh-dahn
Formal kneeling Seiza say-za
Fourth level Yondan yon-dahn
Free sparring Jiyu kumite gee-you koo-me-tay
Half Han hahn
Hard Go go
Hello Kon ni chi wa kohn nee chee wah
Junior rank below black belt Kyu or mudansha cue - moo-dahn-shah
Karate uniform Gi gee
Level Dan dahn
Martial way Budo boo-doh
Master Shihan she-han
Open your eyes Mokuso yame mok-sow ya-may
Practitioner Ka kah
Prepare Kamae kam-aye
Quiet mind Heian hey-un
Reverse or opposite Gyaku gee-yakoo
School or system Ryu ree-yoo
Second level Nidan nee-dahn
Shout of spirit or focus Kiai key-aye
Soft Ju joo
Sparring Kumite koo-me-tay
Spirit Ki key
Spiritual centre Hara hah-rah
Stop Yame ya-may
Striking post Makiwara mah-kay-wah-rah
Teacher Sensei sen-say
Techniques Waza wah-zuh
Third level Sandan sahn-dahn
Way of Do doe
Yes Hai hay

Punches and strikes

English Japanese Phonetic
Augmented strike Morote tsuki moh-row-teh zoo-key
Back-fist strike Uraken uchi Oo-rah oo-chee
Back-hand strike Haishu uchi hi-shoe oo-chee
Descending punch Oroshi tsuki oe-roh-shee zoo-key
Double punch - Hands parallel to floor Heiko tsuki hay-coe zoo-key
Double punch - One to head, one to body Yama tsuki yam-ah zoo-key
Elbow strike Empi uchi enm-pee oo-chee
Hammer-fist strike Tetsui uchi tet--sue-ee oo-chee
Hooking punch Kake tsuki kah-kuh zoo-key
Knife-hand strike Shuto uchi shoe-toe
Middle-fingered one-knuckle-fist Nakadaka-ippon-ken nah-kah-dah-kah ee-pon-ken
Palm-heel strike Teisho uchi tay-show oo-chee
Punch Tsuki zoo-key
Punch using the front of the knuckles Seiken tsuki say-ken zoo-key
Reverse back-fist strike Furi uchi foo-ree oo-chee
Reverse elbow strike Ushiro empi uchi oo-she-row em-pee oo-chee
Reverse punch Gyaku tsuki gee-ah-koo zoo-key
Ridge-hand strike Haito uchi hay-toe oo-chee
Rising elbow strike Hiji ate hid-jee are-teh
Rising punch Age tsuki ah-gee zoo-key
Round elbow strike Mawashi empi uchi mah-wash-ee em-pee oo-chee
Short punch (underneath punch) Shita tsuki AKA Ura tsuki she-tah zoo-key oo-rah zoo-key
Side elbow strike Yoko empi uchi yoh-koh em-pee oo-chee
Snapping punch Kizami tsuki kay-zah-me zoo-key
Stepping or lunging punch Oi tsuki oh-ee-zoo-key
Straight punch (this what many people mistakenly call seiken) Choku tsuki choh-koo zoo-key
Spear-hand Nukite noo-kay-tay
Strike Uchi oo-chee
Three-punch combination Sanbon tsuki sahn-bohn zoo-key


English Japanese Phonetic
Augmented block Morote uke moh-row-teh oo-kay
Back-arm block Haiwan uke hi-wahn oo-kay
Back-hand block Haishu uke hi-shoe oo-kay
Bent-wrist block Kakuto uke kah-koo-toe oo-kay
Block Uke oo-kay or oo-kay
Blocking techniques Uke waza oo-kay wah-zuh
Descending block Oroshi uke oh-roe-she oo-kay
Double block Chuge uke chew-gee oo-kay
Elbow block Hiji/empi uke hid-jee/enm-pee oo-kay
Forearm block Ude uke oo-day oo-kay
Hooking block Kake uke kah-kuh uke
Inside block Uchi uke oo-chee-o-kay
Knee block Hiza uke hit-zah oo-kay
Knife-hand block Shuto uke shoe-to oo-kay
Low-level block Gedan uke Geh-dahn oo-key
Low level sweeping block Gedan barai geh-dahn bar-eye
Open-hand hooking block - see hooking block
Outside block Soto uke sot-oh oo-kay
Palm-heel block Teisho uke tay-show oo-kay
Ridge-hand block Haito uke hi-toe oo-kay
Rising block Age uke ah-gee oo-kay
Round block Mawashi uke mah-wash-ee oo-kay
Upper level rising block Jodan age uke joe-dahn ag-aye oo-kay
Vertical block Tate uke tah-teh oo-kay
Vertical knife-hand block Tate shuto uke tah-the shoe-toe oo-kay
X block AKA Cross block Juji uke joo-jee oo-kay


English Japanese Phonetic
Back kick Ushiro geri oo-she-roe geh-ree
Crescent kick Mika tsuki geri mee-kah zoo-key geh-ree
Cutting kick Fumi geri foo-me-geh-ree
Double kick Nidan geri nee-dahn geh-ree
Foot sweep Ashi barai ash-ee bar-eye
Front foot kick Mae ashi geri mah-ee ash-ee geh-ree
Front kick Mae geri mah-eh geh-ree
Groin kick Kin geri kin geh-ree
Inside round kick Uchi mawashi geri oo-chee mah-wash-ee geh-ree
Jumping front kick Mae tobi geri mah-ee toh-be geh-ree
Jumping kick Tobi geri toe-be geh-ree
Kick Geri geh-ree
Kicking techniques Geri waza geh-ree wah-zuh
Knee kick Hiza geri Hitza geh-ree
Reverse kick Gyaku geri gyah-koo geh-ree
Reverse round kick Gyaku/ura mawashi geri gyah-koo/oo-rah mah-wash-ee geh-ree
Round kick Mawashi geri mah-wash-ee geh-ree
Side kick Yoko geri yoh-coe geh-ree
Stamping kick Fumi komi geri foo-me-koh-me geh-ree


English Japanese Phonetic
Adopt ready stance - When standing in musubi dachi after bowing Yoi Yooy
Back stance Kokutsu dachi koh-koot-sue datch-ee
Body movement Tai sabaki tie sah-bah-key
Cat stance Nekoashi dachi neck-oh-ash-ee datch-ee
Foot movement Ashi sabaki ash-ee sah-bah-key
Forward stance Zenkutsu dachi zen-coot-soo datch-ee
Half forward stance AKA short stance AKA Fighting stance Han zenkutsu dachi hahn zen-coot-soo datch-ee
Horse-riding/straddle stance Kiba dachi kay-bah datch-ee
Informal attention stance - Toes together Heisoku dachi hay-sock-oo datch-ee
Informal attention stance - Toes apart Musubi dachi moo-soo-bee datch-ee
Parallel stance Heiko dachi hay-coe datch-ee
Pigeon-toed stance AKA hourglass stance Sanchin dachi sahn-chin datch-ee
Stance Dachi datch-ee
Sumo stance Shiko dachi she-coe datch-ee


English Japanese Phonetic
Pre-arranged pattern of techniques against imaginary opponents Kata kah-tah
1st kata Taigyoku shodan tie-kyo-koo show-dahn
2nd kata Taigyoku nidan tie-kyo-coo nee-dahn


English Japanese Phonetic
1 Ichi itch
2 Ni nee
3 San sahn
4 Shi she
4 - This is the preferred version of 4 Yon yon
5 Go go
6 Roku rook
7 Shichi shitch
8 Hachi hutch
9 Ku koo
10 Jyu joo
20 Nijyu nee-joo
30 Sanjyu sahn-joo
40 Yonjyu yon-joo
50 Gojyu go-joo
60 Rokujyu rook-joo
70 Shichijyu shitch-joo
80 Hachijyu hatch-joo
90 Kujyu koo-joo
100 Hyaku he-ah-koo

Japanese numbers are structured even more logically than English numbers. In English, we have unique words for 20, 30, 40, etc. In Japanese, they simply prefix the number 10 by the number of single units to get the right value - ie, 60 = 6 x 10 rokujyu (sixten). To get additional single units, you add the appropriate word for the single unit required. For example to make thirteen 13. you simply add 10+3 to come up with jyu san, 77 would be 7x10+8 or shichijyu hachi (seventen eight in English).

Body parts

English Japanese Phonetic
Augmented/double Morote moh-row-teh
Back fist Uraken oo-rah-ken
Back of the [fore] arm - see also Heiwan Haiwan ha-ee-wahn
Ball of the foot Koshi ko-she
Bear hand Kumade koo-mah-deh
Double/augmented Morote moh-row-teh
Eagle beak hand Washide wah-she-deh
Elbow Empi enm-pee
Foot edge Sokuto soh-koo-toe
Foot or leg Ashi ash-ee
Forearm Ude oo-day
Forefist Seiken say-ken
Fore-knuckle fist Hiraken he-rah-ken
Hammer-fist Tetsui tet-sue-ee
Hand Te teh
Heel Kakato kah-kah-toe
Hooking Kake kak-ay
Knee Hiza he-zah
Kneecap Hizagashira he-zah-gah-she-rah
Knife hand Shuto shoe-toe
One-finger spear-hand Ippon nukite ee-pon noo-kay-the
One-knuckle fist Ippon-ken ee-pon-ken
Palm-heel Teisho tay-show
Ridge-hand Haito hi-toe


English Japanese Phonetic
Downward Oroshi oe-roh-shee
Fast Ima ee-mah
Front Mae may-ee
Inner/inside (also means strike) Uchi oo-chee
Jump Tobi toe-be
Left Hidari he-dah-ree
Lower level Gedan geh-dahn
Middle level Chudan chew-dahn
Outer/outside Soto soh-toe
Punching with alternate hands Ren tsuki ren zoo-key
Right Migi me-gee
Rising Age ah-gee
Side Yoko yoh-koh
Snap Keage kay-ah-geh
Thrust Kekomi kay-koh-me
Turn Mawate/mawatte mah-what-eh
Upper level Jodan joe-dahn
Vertical Tate tah-teh


English Japanese Phonetic
Competitors move to starting position Autagani moto no ichi or-tah-gah-nee moe-toe noh itch
Competitors turn to face the audience/front Shomuni show-moo-nee
Conduct that puts the competitor/s at risk of injury Mubobi moo-bow-bee
Disqualification Shikkaku she-car-koo
Draw Hikiwake he-kay-wah-kay
Fight on Tsuzukete tsue-zoo-ket-ay
Half a point Waza-ari wuz-ah-ree
Judge called Shugo shoe-goh
Judgement Hantei hahn-tey
One full point Ippon ee-pon
Red side wins Aka no kachi ah-kuh noh catch
Resume fighting Tsuzukete hajime tsue-zoo-ket-ay ha-jim-ay
Simultaneous scoring techniques Aiuchi eye-oo-chee
Single point, tournament sparring Ippon kumite ee-pon koo-me-tay
Start the bout (first time only) Shobu sanbon hajime show-boo sahn-bon ha-jim-ay
Start the extended bout (if match is drawn) Shobu hajime show-boo ha-jim-ay
The competitor to the referee's left (wearing a red belt) Aka ah-kuh
The competitor to the referee's right (wearing a white belt) Shiro she-row
Unacceptable as a scoring technique Torimasen toh-ree-mah-sen
Warning with a full point penalty Hansoku chui hahn-sock-oo chew-ee
Warning with a half point penalty Keikoku kay-koe-koo
When a competitor steps out of the ring during a fight Jogai joe-guy
White Shiro she-row
White side wins Shiro no kachi she-row noh catch