Japanese to English translations
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 "".
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
You'll notice quite a few words that are separated by a forward slash like this tsuki/tzuki/zuki. This indicates common alternate spellings of the words. 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.
Where known, I have used bold to highlight the most common current GKR spelling (no mean feat considering the fact that we use multiple spellings for the same word sometimes.)
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||GKR mis-pronunciation of Otagai
||"Level"; one; single
||"Way place" - training hall
||Chief dojo; headquarters
||"Soft"; "gentle"; "pliant"; "ten"
||Prepare; adopt a combat readiness stance
||"School" or "system"
||"Empty hand" Japanese unarmed combat
||Shout of spirit or focus
|Kon ni chi wa
||kohn nee chee wah
||"Meeting of hands" Sparring
||Junior rank below black belt - See mudansha
||Distancing; timing; oppoortunity
||"Quiet thought"; Close your eyes; meditation
||"Stop quiet thought"; Open your eyes
||Junior rank below black belt - See yudansha
||School or lieneage of martial arts
||"Senior"; assistant teacher
||Student of black belt rank - See Mudansha
||Everybody (see autagani)
||"thrust towards" strike
Punches and strikes
||Reverse back-hand strike
||Simultaneous double punch with both hands parallel to the ground - Compare to Ura tsuki
||Rising elbow strike
||Upper level punch
||Front jabbing punch
||Strike with the front hand
||Round elbow strike
||Middle-fingered one-knuckle-fist punch
||Stepping or lunging punch
||Front of the knuckles (as used for a straight punch) - GKR mistranslates this as "straight wrist" - Compare to Uraken
||"Underneath thrust"; Short punch
||Strike; inner, inside, interior
||Back or other side; opposite; reverse
||Back of the knuckles (as used for a back-fist)
||Close punch (see shita tsuki)
|Ushiro empi uchi
||Back elbow strike
||Double punch with one hand aiming for the body and the other for the head - Compare with Heiko tsuki
|Yoko empi uchi
||yoh-koh em-pee oo-chee
||Side elbow strike
||gan-car-koo ash-ee datchee
||"Crane on a rock stance" One-legged stance - See also Sagi ashi dachi - Sometimes AKA Tsuru ashi dachi
|Gyaku neko ashi dachi
||gee-ya-koo nek-oe ash-ee datchee
||Reverse cat stance (AKA suri ashi dachi)
|Gyaku zenkutsu dachi
||gee-ya-koo zen-coot-sue datchee
||Reverse forward stance
|Han zenkutsu dachi
||hahn zen-coot-sue datchee
||"Half forward stance"; short stance; fighting stance
||Informal attention stance (feet together, toes together) See musubi dachi
||Informal attention stance (feet together, toes apart) See heisoku dachi
|Neko ashi dachi
||"Cat foot stance"
||Pigeon-toed or hourglass stance
|Sagi ashi dachi
||Propped stance (one foot tucked behind the knee of the other) - See also gankaku dachi
|Shomen ni neko ashi dachi
||shoh-men nee neck-oh ash-ee datchee
||Open cat stance
|Tsuru/suri ashi dachi
||sue-ree ash-ee datchee
||Sliding foot stance - sometimes used to describe Gankaku dachi (AKA Gyaku neko ashi dachi)
||Ready posture - (used as a command to return to heiko dachi from musubi dachi after a bow)
||Pre-arranged sequence of techniques against imaginary opponents
||"First cause, 1st level" - 1st kata - Required for adult yellow belt
||"First cause, 2nd level" - 2nd kata - Required for adult orange belt
||"Rolling wave; smash and break" - 3rd kata
||"Storm a fortess" - 4th kata - Required for red and brown belts
||"Marching/Conquer far, quickly; control and pull in battle" - 5th kata - Required for 1st black tag
||"Flight of the swallow" 6th kata - Required for 2nd black tag
||"36 hands" 7th kata - Required Sho-dan ho
||"18 hands" 8th kata - Required Sho-dan ho and 1st dan black belt
||"Half moon" 9th kata - Required for 1st dan black belt
||"View the Sky" 10th kata - Required for 2nd dan black belt
||"Draw and suddenly break" - 11th kata - Required for 2nd dan black belt
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).
||4 - This version sometimes not used as it has the same sound in Japanese as the word for death
||4 - Preferred version of 4 in Japan
||Foot or leg
||"Monkey's elbow" elbow - See Hiji
||Back of the [fore] arm - see also Heiwan
||Forearm - see also haiwan
||Elbow - See empi
||Ball of the foot
||Forefist (front two knuckles)
||Striking with alternate hands
||Simultaneous scoring techniques
||The competitor to the referee's right (wearing a red belt)
|Aka no kachi
||ah-kuh noh catch
||Red side wins
|Autagani/otagai moto no ichi
||or-tah-gah-nee moe-toe noh itch
||Competitors move to starting position
||Disqualification on technical grounds (stepping out of ring too often for instance)
||Warning with a full point penalty
||One full point
||Single point, tournament sparring
||When a competitor steps out of the ring during a fight
||Warning with a half point penalty
||Conduct that puts the competitor/s at risk of injury
||Disqualification for breach of etiquette (swearing for instance)
||The competitor to the referee's left (wearing a white belt)
|Shiro no kachi
||she-row noh catch
||White side wins
||Start the extended bout (if match is drawn)
|Shobu sanbon hajime
||show-boo sahn-bon ha-jim-ay
||Start the bout (first time only)
|Shomen ni rei
||Competitors turn to face the front
||Unacceptable as a scoring technique
||Half a point