Japanese martial arts vocabulary

For lists of the various stances; strikes and punches; kicks; other attacks; and defences, please refer to the syllabus for your own martial art, available for Mountain Warriors students at: www.mountainwarriors.com/library

The Japanese kanji are included below (in purple), for your reference, and also the hiragana or katakana phonetic pronunciation (in blue) . . .

1. Direction / position

  • Age上げ – Rising あげ
  • Chudan中段 – Middle level ちゅだん
  • Gedan下段 – Lower level げだん 
  • Gyaku – Reversal/opposite ぎゃく
  • Heikō平行 Parallel へいこう
  • Hidari – Left ひだり
  • Jōdan 上段 – Upper level じょうだん
  • Kōkutsu後屈, – Backward leaning こうくつ
  • Ma’ai 間合い – Combative distance まあい
  • Mae – Front / before まえ
  • Migi – Right みぎ
  • Morote 諸手 – (With) both hands もろて
  • Omote – Front おもて   Omote can also imply that something is simple and direct (as opposed to ura)
  • Shita – Downward/below/lower した
  • Shōmen正面 – Front しょうめん
  • Soto – Outside そと
  • Ura – Behind うらUra also has connotations of hidden, secret or advanced. Some kata may also be done in ura, which basically means they are done spinning around.
  • Uchi – Inside うち NB: Uchi 打ちalso means “strike”
  • Ushiro後ろ – Behind うしろ
  • Yoko – Side よこ
  • Sayū左右 – Literally “left right” さゆう
  • Zenkutsu前屈 – Forward leaning ぜんくつ

2. Movement

  • Ate 当て – Strike あて
  • Barai / Harai 払い – Sweep ばらい、はらい
  • Kaiten 回転 – Rotation / revolution かいてん
  • Kake / Gake – To hook or trap かけ、がけ
  • Keri / geri 蹴り– Kick けり、げり
  • Komi – Strike against こみ
  • Mawaru 回る – To turn / revolve (transitive verb) まわる (for example: Mawatte = an instruction to turn around)
  • Mawasu 回す – To turn / revolve (intransitive verb) まわす(for example: Mawashi-geri = “spin kick”
  • Oi 追い – Lunge おい
  • Oroshi 下ろし – Drop おろし
  • Sukui 掬い – Scoopすくい
  • Tai Sabaki 体捌き – Body movement/shifting たいさばき
  • Tobu 飛ぶ – Jump とぶ
  • Tsuki 突き– Punch つき
  • Uchi 打ち – Strike うち
  • Uke 受け– Block うけ

3. Parts of the body

  • Ago 顎 – Jaw あご
  • Ashi – Foot / leg あし
  • Chūsoku中足 – Ball of foot ちゅうそく
  • Empi / Hiji 猿臂、肘 – Elbow えんぴ、ひじ
  • Ganmen顔面 – Face (of a person) がんめん
  • Haisoku 背足 – Top of foot (instep) はいそく
  • Hiza – Knee ひざ
  • Hizō 脾臓 – Spleen ひぞう
  • Sakotsu 鎖骨 – Collar bone さこつ
  • Kakato – Heel かかと
  • Koshi – Hips こし
  • Kubi – Neck くび
  • Mune – Chest
  • Naka yubi中指 – Middle fingerゆび
  • Oya Yubi 親指 – Thumb おやゆび
  • Shotei 掌底 – Heel of hand しょてい
  • Sokuto 足刀 – Edge / blade of foot そくと
  • Suigetsu 水月 – Solar Plexus (literally water-moon)
  • Sune – Shinすね
  • Te – Hand
  • Teisoku 底足 – Inner edge of foot ていそく
  • Ude – Forearm うで
  • Yubi – Finger ゆび

4. Weapons

Okinawan kobudō 沖縄古武道 weaponry

  • – Staff  ぼう
  • Kama – Sickle, scythe かま
  • Nunchaku ヌンチャク — Two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope
  • Sai – A pointed, prong shaped metal baton サイ
  • Tekkō 手甲 – “Fist-load weapon” テッコウ
  • Tonfā 転破– A stick with a perpendicular handle トンファー

Japanese weaponry:
Bladed weapons

  • Kama – Sickle, scythe かま
  • Katana  – A traditional sword, with a curved, slender, single-edged blade, circular or squared guard, and long grip to accommodate two hands かたな
  • Ken – Sword (in general) けん
  • Naginata 薙刀 – A long wooden shaft with a curved blade on the end なぎなた
  • Tantō 短刀 – Knife (literally “Short blade”) たんとう
  • Wakizashi 脇差 – Literally “side inserted [sword]” – shorter than the katana わきざし
  • Yari  – Spear やり

Flexible weapons

  • Hojōjutsu 捕縄術 – Restraint using cord or rope ほじょうじゅつ
  • Kusarigama鎖鎌 – A kama on a metal chain with a heavy iron weight at the end くさりがま
  • Kyoketsu Shoge 距跋渉毛 – A double edged blade, with another curved blade attached near the hilt, which is then attached to 12 to 18 feet of rope, chain, or hair ending in a large metal ring. きょけつしょげ

Hidden Weapons

  • Kubotan – A self-defense keychain with a rod for concealing in the hand – typically around the size of a marker pen. (No kanji, as this is a registered trademark – the kubotan was developed in the 1960s)
  • Suntetsu寸鉄 – A metal rod/spike about 6 inches in length with a string or ring to allow it to be secured to a finger すんてつ
  • Tessen 鉄扇 – Japanese war fan てっせん
  • Yawara – One or two small, thick sticks that protrude about an inch from each side of the hand やわら

Staff weapons

  • Hanbō 半棒 – Literally “half-staff” – normally around 90 cm (3 foot ) long はんぼう
  • – A short staff usually around 3-5 feet long じょう
  • Rokushakubō 六尺棒 – A staff of around six foot (The shaku was a unit of measurement around 1 foot long) ろくしゃくぼう
  • Tanbō短棒 – A short staff, shorter than the hanbō たんぼう

Thrown weapons

  • Metsubishi目潰し – A defensive weapon composed of powders to be thrown at the eyes めつぶし
  • Shuriken 手裏剣 – Sharpened hand-held blades しゅりけん

Other weapons

  • Bokken 木剣– Wooden training sword ぼっけん
  • Bokutō 木刀 – Another word for bokken, more commonly used in Japan ぼくとう
  • Iaitō 居合刀 – Metal traing sword いあいとう
  • Jutte / Jitte十手 – A short metal truncheon that was used by police in Edo period Japan じゅって、 じって
  • Kusari Fundo鎖分銅 – A hand held weapon comprising a length of chain with a weight connected to each end of the chain くさりふんど

5. Body Weapons

  • Haishu 逆手 – Backhand はいしゅ
  • Haisoku背足 – Instep はいそく
  • Haitō背 – Reverse Knife Hand (Ridge Hand) はいとう
  • Hiraken 平拳 – Flat Fist ひらけん
  • Ipponken一本拳 – Extended knuckle fist いっぽんけん
  • Keikō 鶏口 – Chicken Beak fist (Finger Tips) けいこう
  • Nakayubi Ippon Ken中指一本拳 – Middle Finger Knuckle Fist なかゆびいっぽんけん
  • Nukite貫手 – Finger tip strike (literally Spear hand) ぬきて
  • Oyayubi Ippon Ken 親指一本拳 – Thumb Knuckle Fist おやゆびいっぽんけん
  • Seiken正拳 – “Proper fist” – the most commonly used form of fist せいけん
  • Shutō 手刀 – Knife hand しゅとう
  • Shotei掌底– Palm heel しょてい
  • Sokutō足刀– Knife edge foot そくとう
  • Teisho掌底 – Palm Heel ていしょ
  • Tettsui鉄槌 – Bottom of fist / hammerfist てっつい
  • Uraken 裏拳 – Reverse fist / Back hand うらけん
  • Yama zuki山突き– Double punch やまづき

6. Japanese cardinal numbers

  • One – Ichi 一     いち
  • Two – Ni         に
  • Three – San 三       さん
  • Four – Shi / yon        し、よん
  • Five – Go       
  • Six – Roku       ろく
  • Seven – Shichi / nana       しち、なな
  • Eight – Hachi       はち
  • Nine – Kyū / ku        きゅう 、く
  • Ten – Jū 十       じゅう
  • Eleven – Jū ichi 十一       じゅういち
  • Twelve – Jū ni 十二       じゅうに
  • Thirteen – Jū san 十三       じゅうさん
  • Fourteen – Jū yon 十四       じゅうよん
  • Fifteen – Jū go 十五       じゅうご
  • Sixteen – Jū roku 十六       じゅうろく
  • Seventeen – Jū nana 十七       じゅうなな
  • Eighteen – Jū hachi 十八       じゅうはち
  • Nineteen – Jū kyū 十九       じゅうきゅう
  • Twenty – Ni-jū 二十       にじゅう
  • One hundred – Hyaku 百       ひゃく
  • One thousand – Sen        せん
  • Ippon, Nihon, Sanbon, Yonhon, Gohon . . . 一本、二本、三本、四本、五本 … Japanese counter for fingers (and any other long, cylindrical object). For example Ipponken (extended knuckle fist); Nihon-nukite (two-finger piercing hand) いっぽん、にほん、さんぼん、よんほん、ごほん …

7. Japanese ordinal numbers

  • First – Hitotsume 一つ目 or Ichibanme 一番目      ひとつめ 、 いちばんめ
  • Second – Futatsume      二つ目or Nibanme 二番目      ふたつめ 、 にばんめ
  • Third – Sanbanme三番目or Mittsume 三つ目      さんばんめ 、 みっつめ
  • Fourth – Yonbanme 四番目or Yottsume 四つ目      よんばんめ、 よっつめ
  • Fifth – Gobanme五番目 or Itsutsume五つ目      ごばんめ 、 いつつめ
  • Sixth – Rokubanme六番目or Muttsume 六つ目      ろくばんめ 、 むっつめ
  • Seventh – Nanabanme 七番目or Nanatsume七つ目      ななばんめ 、 ななつめ
  • Eighth – Hachibanme 八番目or Yattsume 八つ目      はちばんめ 、 やっため
  • Ninth – Kyūbanme  九番目 or Kokonotsume  九つ目      きゅうばんめ 、 ここのつめ
  • Tenth – Jūbanme十番目      じゅうばんめ

8. Commands and expressions

  • Dōmo arigatō どうも ありがとう – Thank you. (Add gozaimasu ございます/or gozaimashita ございましたfor a more polite form (Arigatō and gozaimasu can also be written in kanji, but this is unusual).
  • Hajime 始め – Begin (command) はじめ (nb hajime 初め is not correct in this situation although it has a similar meaning)
  • Hantai (ni) 反対 (に) – Command to use the opposite direction はんたいに
  • Mawatte 回って – Turn (command) まわって
  • Mokusō (Hajime) 黙想(始め) – Meditate (command) もくそうはじめ
  • Mokusō Yame 黙想止め – Cease meditating (command) もくそうやめ
  • Naotte 直って – Return to the original position なおって
  • Onegai shimasu お願い します – Please おねがいします
  • Osu! 押忍 – Statement of commitment (I will endure/go further) / multi-purpose greeting and expression おす
  • Otagai ni rei お互いに礼 – Bow to each other おたがいにれい
  • Rei – Bow れい
  • Sensei ni rei 先生に礼 – Bow to the instructor せんせいにれい
  • Shomen ni rei正面に礼 – Bow to the front しょめんにれい
  • Yame 止め – Stop (command) やめ
  • Yōi 用意 – Get ready (e.g. assume the position to begin a kata) ようい

9. Colours

  • Blue – Ao / aoi / ao-iro 青 、 青い、 青色      あお、あおい、あおいろ
  • Brown – Chairo茶色      ちゃいろ
  • Black – Kuro / kuroi 黒、黒い      くろ、 くろい      … Burakku ブラック
  • Green – Midori       みどり
  • Red – Aka / akai 赤、赤い      あか、あかい
  • Yellow – Ki-iro 黄色      きいろ
  • White – Shiro / shiroi     白、白い      しろ、しろい

10. Miscellaneous vocabulary

  • Bushi 武士 – Warrior (servant) ぶし
  • Bushidō武士道 – The Way of the Warrior ぶしどう
  • – Spiritual way / path どう
  • Dōgi / Gi 道着 、着– Training uniform どうぎ、ぎ
  • Dōjō 道場 – Martial arts training hall どうじょう
  • Fudō 不動 – Immovable/ready ふどう
  • Fudōshin 不動心 – A calm spirit, even when faced with danger, without fear or confusion ふどうしん
  • Hombu (Dōjō) 本部(道場) – Headquarters of ryuu ほんぶどうじょう
  • Ibuki息吹 – Breath いぶき
  • Jūu – Gentle, pliable, yielding, flexible じゅう
  • Jiyū自由 – Free じゆう
  • Jōseki  上席 – the “most comfortable seat in the house”, where the most important person would sit  じょうせき
  • Jūji十字 – Cross – literally the shape of the character jū (10) じゅうじ
  • Kamiza 上座 – The senior side of the dojo, oposite the main entrance かみざ
  • Kata – Form (pattern of movements) かた
  • Keikō 鶏口 – Chicken beak hand けいこう
  • Kiai気合 – Spirited / aggressive shout きあい
  • Kime 決め – In everyday Japanese this means rule or agreement – but in the martial arts it means focus きめ
  • Kōhai 後輩 – Protégé or junior こうはい
  • Kumite組手 – sparring (this is a karate term) くみて
  • Kyū – Student rank (refers to the ranks below black belt / first dan) きゅう
  • Osae 押さえ – Press down / pin おさえ
  • Ritsu rei 立礼 – Standing bow りつれい
    Ryū – Style, system, school – generally used as a suffix りゅう
  • Seiza 正座 – Kneeling position – literally “proper sitting” せいざ
  • Sempai 先輩 – Mentor or senior student せんぱい
  • Sensei 先生 – Teacher せんせい
  • Shimoseki 下関 – the “least comfortable seat in the house” しもせき
  • Shimoza 下座 – The junior side of the dojo, opposite the kamiza  しもざ
  • Tabi 足袋 – Traditional Japanese socks with a separation between the big toe and other toes たび
  • Tachi / dachi 立ち – Stance たち、だち
  • Tameshigiri 試し斬り or 試し切り – Test cutting (with sword) ためし ぎり
  • Yama – Mountain やま
  • Zarei 座礼 – Kneeling bow ざれい
  • Zōri草履 – Japanese footwear sandals ぞうり
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