Japanese-English Vocabulary

Japanese has been described as a vague or indirect language. What is meant by this is many words in Japanese have more than one meaning and often there are several words with the same or very similar meanings. Sometimes the meaning of a word can only be determined by it’s context within a sentence or even how it is used during the course of a conversation.

This short vocabulary of Japanese is meant to assist DDKS students understand what is being said in the dojo. To this end the words here are defined by their relationship to the martial arts. Don’t assume the definitions here are the only correct one for the word in question, nor should you assume that the words listed here are the only words available for what someone is attempting to say.

Pronunciation Key:

  • Letter “A” – pronounced as a short A, as in the word “father
  • Letter “E” – pronounced as a long A, as in the word “hay
  • Letter “I” – pronounced as a long E, as in the word “sweet
  • Letter “O” – pronounced as a long O, as in the word “row
  • Letter “U” – sometimes the U is silent

General Japanese Terms

ashi
(ashh-hee) Foot, feet or legs.
dachi
(da-chee) Stance.
do
(doh) Way or path.
dojo
(doh-joe) Training hall. Literally – “The place of the way”.
gedan
(gay-dan) Low or lower.
hai
(hi) Yes.
hajime
(HAH-jee-meh) Begin.
hikite
(hik-i-tay) Position of the back hand when doing formal techniques.
hiza
(he-za) Knee.
jodan
(joe-dan) Upper. Also joudan.
karategi
(kah-rah-teh-gee) Also called “gi” or “dojogi” The uniform worn during the practice of karate. In most traditional Japanese and Okinawan karate dojos, the gi must be white and cotton (synthetics with cotton allowed).
kata
(kah-tah) Form or formal exercise. There are two major classifications of kata in training:
1. Godo-kata: Group form in which a group of students perform the same kata in unison.
2. Kojin-kata: A form performed alone by an individual student.
keri
(ker-ree) To kick. The sound of this word changes when combined with other words to make “geri” (ger-ree) which is the pronunciation used when referring to kicks.
kiai
(kee-ah-ee) A sharp sound made at the moment of kime to aid in the tensing of body muscles and focusing of the mind for a more effective technique.
kime
(KEE-meh) Focus. The pinpoint concentration of mind and body to achieve maximum effectiveness.
kihon
(KEE-hon) Basic or standard.
kihon-no-keiko
(KEE-hon-noh-keh-ee-koh) Practice in basic techniques.
kiotsuke
(kee-oht-soo-kay) Come to attention.
kogeki
(koh-geh-kee) To attack.
kohai
(KOH-hah-ee)
A junior member of the dojo.
kumite
(koo-mee-teh). Sparring. Literally means to engage one’s hands with an opponent. There are two types of kumite training:
A. Kihon Kumite. Basic sparring in which attack techniques and target areas are predetermined.
B. Jiyu kumite. Free sparring. The distance, timing and techniques are left to the judgment of the two participants.
kumite-no-keiko
(koo-mee-teh-noh-keh-ee-koh) Practice in sparring.
maai
(mah-ah-ee) Distancing. The correct distance between two opponents.
mae ni
(mah-eh-nee) Move forward.
matte
(maat-tay) Stop or wait.
mawatte
(mah-waht-teh) Turn around.
naorei
(na-o-ray) Recover. The command given when you move from heiko dachi to masuba dachi
obi
(OH-bee) Belt.
rei
(REH-ee) Bow. The three bows performed at the beginning and end of each class are:
   Shomen ni rei (Bow to the front)
   Sensei ni rei (Bow to the teacher)
   Otagai ni rei (Bow to each other)
seiretsu
(SEH-ee-reht-soo) Lineup in an orderly fashion.
seiza
(SEH-ee-zah) The Japanese formal method of sitting on the floor with the knees bent and the legs under the body.
senpai
(SEHN-pah-ee) A senior person in a school or organization. In Wado Ryu senpai is also a formal title given to 2nd Dan and above black belts.
sensei
(sehn-seh-ee). Teacher. The term may be applied to anyone who guides or instructs another, such as a doctor or lawyer. Literally, sensei means “one who has gone before”. In Wado Ryu sensei is also a formal title given to 3rd Dan and above black belts.
soto
(so-toe) Outside or exterior.
tai sabaki
(tie-sue-bach-ee) Boyd movement/shifting.
tatte
(TAHT-teh) Vertical punch.
torre
(tore-re) Attacker.
tachi-rei
(taa-chee reh-ee) Standing bow.
tsuyoku
(t’soo-yoh-koo) Execute strong, fast techniques.
uke
(oo-key) block or defender.
ushiro ni
(00-shee-roh-nee) Move backward.
Wado Ryu
(wa-doe-roo) The Japanese style of martial arts founded by Master Hironori Otsuka and taught at David Deaton Karate Studios. “Wa” meaning peace or harmony, “do” meaning way or path and “Ryu” meaning style of or school of. Literally translated Wado Ryu means “Style of Peace Way” or “Style of Harmony Way” but is normally referred to as “The Way of Peace” or “The Way of Harmony” in English.
yame
(yah-meh) Stop.
yasume
(yah-soo-meh) Relax.
yoi
(YOH-ee) Be ready.
yowaku
(YOH-wah-koo) Move lightly.
yukkuri
(yoo-koo-ree) Slowly, or “at ease”.
zanshin
(zan-shen) “The remaining mind”. Maintaining complete awareness and alertness at all times.

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