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Japanese Terms

Japanese Karate Terms*

* Basic Stances *
Japanese Term Common TermLiteral Translation
zenkutsu-dachifront stancefront bend stance
kiba-dachihorse stancehorse riding stance
kohkutsu-dachiback stanceback bend stance
musubi-dachiattentionconnected stance
heisoku-dachifeet togetherclosed feet/leg stance
hachinoji-dachiyoifigure 8 stance
shizen-taiyoinatural body
neko-ashi-dachicat stancecat foot/leg stance
sochin-dachirooted stancesochin (the kata) stance
fudoh-dachirooted stanceunmoving stance
sanchin-dachihourglass stancesanchin (the kata) stance
hangetsu-dachihalf-moon stancehalf-moon stance
* Basic Hand Attacks *
Japanese Term Common TermLiteral Translation
choku-zukipunchstraight punch
oi-zukistepping punchchasing/pursuit punch
gyaku-zukireverse punchopposite punch
kIzame-zukijabfront snap punch
nukite-uchispear handpenetration hand strike
uraken-uchiback fistback of fist strike
enpi-uchielbow strikeelbow strike
* Basic Leg Attacks *
Japanese Term Common TermLiteral Translation
mae-gerifront kickfront kick
mawashi-geriroundhouse kicksend-around kick
yoko kekomiside thrust kickside kick with thrust
yoko keageside snap kickside kick rising
ushiro-geri back kickrear kick
mikazuki-gericrescent kickcrescent moon kick
ashi barai foot sweepfoot/leg sweep
* Basic Blocks *
Japanese Term Common TermLiteral Translation
age-ukerising blockrising reception
soto-ukeoutside (outer) blockoutside forearm reception
uchi-ukeinside (inner) blockinside forearm reception
gedan-baraidownward blocklow level sweep
shuto-ukeknife hand blockhand sword reception
* Kumite *
Japanese Term Common TermLiteral Translation
(kihon) gohon kumitefive-step sparring(basic) five-attack sparring
(kihon) sanbon kumitethree-step sparring(basic) three-attack sparring
(kihon) ippon kumiteone-step sparring(basic) one-attack sparring
jiyuu ippon kumitesemi-free sparringfree one-attack sparring
jiyuu kumitefree sparringfree sparring
shiai kumitetournament sparringcompetition sparring
* Miscellaneous *
Japanese TermCommon TermLiteral Translation
shodanupper levelupper level
chuudanmiddle levelmiddle level
gedanlow levellow level
kihon basicsfundamentalsfundamentals
reibowgiving of thanks
yoh-iassume the yoi posturepreparation
yamestop the finish
naotte at easerecover
mawatteturn aroundgo around
hajimebegin the beginning
dojokarate schoolway place
seiretsuline uplining up
senseikarate teacherteacher

Tsu(ku) = Punch*

Tsu(ku) is a verb. It is pronounced more like ts-ku without the first u sound. In a noun form it is tsuki. It literally means to thrust, pierce, stab, or prick. The word punch is our loose translation of the idea, not the word. So, when you punch in karate, you tsuku. The polite form, which is more appropriate in a classroom, is tsukimasu (pron. ts – kee – mahs). When the word appears following another word, it changes form sometimes to Zuku. So, the following words are available:

gyakuzuki [逆突き] = a reverse punch
oizuki [追い突き] = a chasing punch; a pursuit punch; note: lunge or step is not involved in the translation of this term.
urazuki [裏突き]= a rear punch; usually translated badly as an upper cut or a “close punch.”
mawashizuki [回し突き] = a round punch
agezuki [上げ突き] = a raised punch;usually interpreted as a “rising” punch. Ageru is to manually raise something.


Keru = Kick*
Keru is a verb meaning to kick. A kick, a noun, is keri. When keri follows another word in a compound, sometimes it changes sound to a “g” making it like the following combinations:

maegeri [前蹴り] = a front kick
yoko keage [横蹴り] = side raised kick ; we call it a side snap kick. The Japanese prefer to call it a “raised side kick”. Notice that the character for keru is in the word keage.
yoko kekomi [横蹴込み] = side deep kick; we call it a thrust kick, but komi does not mean to thrust. It means to “deepen.” Some people prefer to use yoko kekomi geri.
mawashi geri [回し蹴り] = around kick; we call it a “round” kick. The mawashi word clearly means to go “around” something or to send it “around.” It cannot thrust, so there is no komi/age extension for the term.
ushiro geri [後ろ蹴り] = behind kick; we say “Back kick.” This kick cannot snap, so there is no extension of age/komi for it.
mikazuki geri [三月蹴り]= 3 day moon kick; we say “crescent kick.” A 3 day moon is a crescent moon, supposedly.

*Source: website