Basic Karate Terminology 

Etiquette

Rei – Bow
律 礼 Ritsu (Rei) – Form, Etikette (Bow)
(正座 or 正) 礼 Zeiza (Rei) – Sitting (Bow)
正面に 礼 Shomen ni Rei – Bow to the Front
(先生に or 先生へ) 礼 Sensei ni Rei – Bow to Teacher
(オタガニ or お互い) 礼 Otagai ni Rei – Bow to Each Other


Counting

ichi  One
ni  Two
san  Tthree
shi (or yon)  Four
go  Five
roku  Six
shichi (or nana)  Seven
hachi  Eight
ku (or kyu)  Nine
ju (or jyu)  Ten

Body Parts & Targets

jodan upper level (usually refers to the head)
chudan middle level (usually refers to the solar plexus)
gedan lower level (usually refers to the groin)
te hand (as in karate, which means ’empty hand’)
ude arm
ashi leg or foot
kubi neck
tekubi wrist (lit. ‘hand neck’)
ashikubi ankle (lit. ‘foot neck’)
hiza knee
hiji elbow
koshi hip(s)

 Kihon (Basic Techniques)

shizentai ‘natural’ standing position
heisokudachi feet together and knees usually bent
heikodachi feet apart & parallel
zenkutsudachi front stance
kokutsudachi back stance
kibadachi side stance
tsuki punch
keri kick
uke block
harai (barai) sweep
chokuzuki straight punch
kizamizuki jab
gyakuzuki reverse punch
oizuki lunge (stepping in) punch
maegeri front kick
yokogeri side kick
ushirogeri back kick
mawashigeri roundhouse kick
keage
rising/snapping kick
(often refers to side snap kick)
kekomi
thrusting kick
(often refers to the side thrust kick)
ashibarai foot/leg sweep
ageuke rising block
sotouke outside block
uchiuke inside block
gedanbarai down (sweeping) block
shutouke knife hand block
uraken(uchi) back fist (strike)
empi(uchi) elbow (strike)
shomen
hips straight/facing front
(also the area in the front of the dojo)
hanmi hips to the side (“half face”)
gyakuhanmi
hips twisted to the reverse side
(reverse half face)

Kumite (Sparring)

kihon ippon kumite one step sparring
kihon sanbon kumite three step sparring
kihon gohon kumite five step sparring
Jyuu ippon kumite semi free sparring
jyuu kumite free sparring

Kata (Forms)

Name Kanji Meaning
Taikyoku shodan

(aka Kihon)

太極初段 Great Beginning
Heian shodan 平安初段 Peaceful Mind, One
Heian nidan 平安二段 Peaceful Mind, Two
Heian sandan 平安三段 Peaceful Mind, Three
Heian yondan 平安四段 Peaceful Mind, Four
Heian godan 平安五段 Peaceful Mind, Five
Tekki shodan 鉄騎初段 Iron Horse, One
Bassai dai 披塞大 To Penetrate a Fortress (Major)
Jion 慈恩 Jion is the name of a temple, and also the name of a buddhist saint
Empi 燕飛 Flight of the swallow
Kanku dai 観空大 To Look At the Sky (Major)
Hangetsu 半月 Half-moon
Jitte 十手 Ten hands
Gankaku 岩鶴 Crane on a rock
Tekki nidan 鉄騎二段 Iron Horse, Two
Tekki sandan 鉄騎三段 Iron Horse, Three
Nijushiho 二十四步 Twenty-four Steps
Chinte 珍手 Unusual Hands (Also rare hands or crazy hands)
Sochin 壯鎭 Tranquil Force
Meikyo 明鏡 Bright Mirror
Unsu 雲手 Hands in a Cloud
Bassai sho 披塞小 To Penetrate a Fortress (Minor)
Kanku sho 観空小 To Look at the Sky (Minor)
Wankan 王冠 King’s crown
Gojushiho sho 五十四歩小 Fifty-four Steps (Minor)
Gojushiho dai 五十四歩大 Fifty-four Steps (Major)
Ji’in 慈陰 Love of Truth (Also the name of a buddhist saint)

Other terms frequently used in the dojo

 

dojo training hall
dojo-kun The creed (motto) of karate, repeated at the end of each class
seiza traditional (formal) sitting position
rei bow
shomen front of the dojo
sensei instructor
sempai senior
kohai junior
osu all purpose martial arts greeting
yoi ready
hajime(ru) begin
yame(ru) stop/finish
mokuso silent meditation
makiwara literally, ‘rolled straw’ the traditional striking board of karate used to increase focus of punches & strikes. The board was covered with a
straw pad at the striking area (usually cotton/canvas nowadays).
kime focus (lit. decisiveness, but more often used to describe physical commitment in the form of timing of muscular contraction)
waza technique
tokui kata test/favorite (lit. specialty) kata
owari the end
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