Karate Terminology (lexicon)

In this section, we delve into the rich lexicon of Karate, a martial art that has not only been a form of self-defense but also a way of life for many. Karate, originating from Japan, is steeped in history and tradition, and its language reflects its deep cultural roots and philosophy.

As you navigate through this guide, you will encounter a wide array of terms that are integral to understanding and practicing Karate. From basic commands and stances to complex techniques and philosophical concepts, this lexicon serves as your essential companion on your martial arts journey.

Whether you are a beginner eager to get a grasp of the basics, or a seasoned practitioner aiming to deepen your knowledge, this guide is structured to assist learners at all levels. Remember, understanding the terminology is not just about memorizing words; it’s about embracing the spirit and discipline of Karate. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey together, exploring the language that binds all karatekas in their pursuit of mastery and self-improvement.


Karate’s lexicon includes specific Japanese terms for numbers, fundamental in training for counting movements and sequences. This section provides a guide to these numerals, vital for understanding instructions and performing kata.

Ichi: One
Ni: Two
San: Three
Shi or Yon: Four
Go: Five
Roku: Six
Shichi or Nana: Seven
Hachi: Eight
Kyu: Nine
Ju: Ten
Ni Ju: Twenty
San Ju: Thirty
Yon Ju: Forty
Go Ju: Fifty
Roku Ju : Sixty
Nana Ju : Seventy
Hachi Ju : Eighty
Kyu Ju: Ninety
Hyaku: One hundred


Stances are the building blocks of Karate techniques. This part of the lexicon lists and explains different stances, detailing their names, characteristics, and uses in various Karate forms and techniques.

Fudo-dachi/Sochin-dachi: Unshakable stance
Hachiji-dachi: Open natural stance 
Han Zenkutsu-dachi: Half front-stance
Heiko-dachi: Parallel stance
Heisoku-dachi: Closed leg stance
Iaigoshi-dachi: One-leg kneeling stance
Ippon-ashi-dachi: One-leg stance, similar to tsuru-ashi-dachi
Kamae: Fighting posture, take a stance
Kiba-dachi/Naihanchi-dachi: Horse riding stance
Kokutsu-dachi: Back stance
Kosa-dachi: Cross-leg stance
Moto-dachi: Fontational stance
Musubi-dachi: Standing stance, heels together
Neko-ashi-dachi: Cat stance
Sanchin-dachi: Three-battles stance
Seisan-dachi: Universal stance
Seiza: Kneeling stance
Shiko-dachi/Jigotai-dachi: Horse stance, open feet
Shizentai-dachi : Natural stance
Tsuru-ashi-dachi/Sagi-ashi-dachi: Crane leg stance/Heron leg stance, similar to Ippon-ashi-dachi
Zenkutsu-dachi: Front stance

Blocking Techniques

Blocking techniques are defensive maneuvers essential in Karate. This section catalogs various blocks, describing their execution and application, helping practitioners understand their role in defense and counterattacks.

Uke: Block
Chudan-soto-mawashi-uke: Middle sideward round block
Chudan-soto-uke : Middle outward bock
Chudan-uchi-uke : Middle inward block
Chudan-yoko-uke : Middle sideward block
Gedan-barai/Gedan-uke: Lower sweeping block/Lower level block
Gedan-yoko-barai-uke: Lower sideward sweeping block
Haito-uke : Reverse knife-hand block
Hangetsu-barai-uke: Half-moon sweeping block
Hari-uke: Sweeping block
Hasami-uke: Scissor block
Hazushi-uke : Removing block
Hiji-uke: Elbow block
Jodan-uke/Age-uke: Upper level block/rising block
Kosa-uke: Cross block
Magetori-barai-uke: Rising double knife-hand block
Makite-uke: Winding knife-hand block
Morote-barai-uke: Augmented lower block
Morote-soe-uke: Augmented forearm block, wedge block
Otoshi-uke: Dropping block
Sagurite-uke: Searching-hand block
Sasae-uke : Supported forearm block
Sayu-barai-uke: Double sweeping block 
Shotei-uke: Palm heel block
Shuto-uke : Knife hand block
Sune-uke: Block with the tibia
Torite-uke: Grasping-hand block
Wari-uke: Split block

Punching Techniques

This section details the punching techniques in Karate, including their Japanese names and descriptions. It explains the mechanics and applications of each punch, crucial for effective striking in both practice and competition.

Age-zuki: Rising punch
Awase-zuki: Double vertical punch
Chudan-zuki: Middle level punch
Gedan-zuki: Lower level punch
Gyaku-zuki: Reverse punch
Hiraken-zuki: Fore-knuckle Fist
Jodan-zuki: Upper level punch
Kaku-zuki : Square punch
Kakushi-zuki: Hidden fist punch
Morote-nuki-zuki: Double spear-hand thrust
Morote-zuki: Double horizontal punch
Oi-zuki : Lunge punch, chasing punch
Oyayubi Ippon-ken: Thumb fist (thumb knuckle)
Sayu-zuki : Double side punch
Tettsui-uchi: Iron hammer strike
Tsuki/Zuki: Punch
Uchi-waza : Striking techniques
Uraken-uchi : Backfist strike

Hand Techniques

Beyond punching, Karate includes a variety of hand techniques. This part of the lexicon covers different hand strikes, blocks, and manipulations, providing a comprehensive understanding of their use in Karate.

Haishu-uchi : Back of hand strike
Haito-uchi: Reverse knife-hand strike
Ippon-ken : One finger fist
Kumade-uchi: Bear hand
Nakadaka Ippon-ken: Middle finger knuckle fist
Nihon Nukite: Two finger strike
Nukite-zuki: Spear-hand thrust
Ryotoken-zuki: Fore-knuckle Fist
Shi-zuki/Toride-zuki: Chicken beak thrust/Bird hand strike
Shuto-uchi: Knife-hand strike
Teisho-uchi/Shotei-uchi: Palm strike
Washide-uchi: Eagle beak strike

Elbow Techniques

Elbow techniques are powerful tools in close combat. This lexicon section delves into the different types of elbow strikes and blocks, explaining their effectiveness in close-range defense and offense.

Mawashi-hiji-ate: Circular elbow strike
Sasae-hiji-ate: Assisted elbow strike
Tate-hiji-ate : Upward elbow strike
Ushiro-hiji-ate : Backward elbow strike
Yoko-hiji-ate : Side elbow strike

Kicking Techniques

The lexicon’s kicking techniques section encompasses a range of Karate kicks. It provides detailed descriptions of each kick’s execution and application, an essential aspect of Karate’s dynamic striking arsenal.

Ashi-barai: Leg sweep
Ashi-dome : Lower abdomen/groin stop kick
Fukubu-geri : Abdomen kick
Gyaku-mikazuki-geri : Reverse crescent moon kick (towards the outside)
Keri-age, Keage: Snap kick, rising kick
Keri-komi, Kekomi: Thrust kick
Kinteki-geri Groin kick
Kyobu-geri: Chest area kick
Mae-geri: Front kick
Mae-geri-kakato : Front kick with the heel
Mae-tobi-geri : Flying front kick
Mawashi-geri: Round-house kick with top of foot
Mikazuki-geri: Crescent moon kick (towards the inside)
Sokuto-geri: Foot-edge kick
Tsumasaki-geri: Toe kick
Ura mawashi-geri: Back roundhouse kick or hook kick
Ushiro-geri: Back kick
Yoko-geri: Side kick
Yoko-tobi-geri: Fying side-kick

Knee Strikes

Knee techniques are crucial in close combat scenarios. This section lists and describes various knee strikes and their applications in Karate, highlighting their effectiveness in close-range combat.

Mae-hiza-geri : Front knee kick
Mae-tobi-hiza-geri: Flying front knee kick
Mawashi-hiza-geri: Circular knee kick
Mawashi-tobi-hiza-geri: Flying circular knee kick


Footwork in Karate involves more than mere movement. This part of the lexicon explains different footwork patterns, their strategic uses in positioning, defense, and attack, emphasizing mobility and stability.

Ayumi-ashi: Almost like normal walking
Hiki-ashi : Backward step, same side
Hiraki-ashi : Outside step (dodge)
Kosa-ashi : Switching side
Okuri-ashi: Forward crossed step
Tenkan-Ashi : Pivot (180 degree)
Tsugi-ashi: Rear foot reaches front foot, then front foot moves forward (half step)
Yori-ashi : Half step, same side in front

Evasion Techniques

Evasion techniques are key to avoiding attacks. This section covers the art of maneuvering and repositioning in Karate, detailing how to effectively dodge and counter strikes.

Naname-mae-sabaki: Front oblique evasion
Naname-ushiro-sabaki: Rear oblique evasion
Yoko-sabaki : Side evasion

Commands & Phrases

Karate practice involves specific commands and phrases. This lexicon section provides translations and explanations of common terms used in training and competitions, crucial for effective communication in the dojo.

Arigato Gozaimasu: Thank you very much
Doitashimashite : You’re welcome
Hai: Yes
Hajime: Begin
Hantai: Other direction
Irimi: Entering straight
Kamaete: On guard, take position
Kiotsuke: Attention
Matte: Wait
Mawatte: Turn around
Moichido: Once more, again
Mokuso: Meditation, let’s start meditation
Mokuso yame : Let’s stop meditation
Narande: Line up
Onegaishimasu : Please (teach me)
Otagai ni Rei : Bow to everyone
Rei: Bow
Sayonara: Goodbye
Sensei ni Rei : Bow to the teacher
Sensei ni Taishi: Face the teacher
Shomen ni Rei : Bow to the front
Shomen ni Taishi: Face the front
Shugo: Line up, gather together
Soto: Outside
Sumimasen: Excuse me, sorry
Tatte kudasai : Stand up
Yame: Stop
Yoi: Ready, attention

Body Parts

Understanding the names of body parts in Japanese is important in Karate. This section lists these terms, aiding practitioners in comprehending instructions and anatomical references during training.

Ago: Chin, jaw
Ashi: Foot and/or leg
Ashi-kubi : Ankle
Atama: Head
Haisoku : Reverse foot (instep)
Hana: Nose
Hiji, Empi: Elbow
Hiza: Knee
Kakato: Heel
Ken: Fist
Koshi: Hips
Koshi/Zenzoku : Ball of foot
Kubi: Neck
Me: Eye
Mune: Chest
Nodo: Throat
Shinkei : Nerve
Soku: Foot
Sokutei: Sole of the foot
Sokuto: Foot blade, foot edge
Suigetsu: Solar plexus
Sune: Shin
Te: Hand
Tekubi: Wrist
Tsumasaki : Toe
Ude: Forearm
Wanto: Sword arm (side of forearm)
Yubi: Finger

General Terms

This comprehensive section covers a wide array of general terms used in Karate, from equipment to techniques and cultural concepts, providing a broad understanding of the art’s terminology.

Ai: Harmony, cooperation
Ashi Sabaki: Footwork
Atemi: Strike on vulnerable points
Barai: Sweep
Budo: Martial arts
Bunkai: Analysis
Bushido: The way of the warrior
Chinkuchi : Puching strike
Chudan: Middle level (height)
Dai Ichi: The first
Dan: Degrees of black belt
Deai: Counter-attack
Deshi: Student, pupil
Dojo: Place to learn the way
Dojo Kun: Code of the school
Embusen : Kata line of movement
Gedan: Low level (height)
Gi: Karate uniform
Goshin Jutsu: Self defense techniques
Hai: Yes
Hidari : Left
Hyoshi: Rythm, tempo
Iie: No
Jiyu Kumite : Freestyle sparring
Jodan: High level (height)
Kamiza: Seat of honor, shrine
Karateka: Karate student
Kata: Form
Ki: Energy
Kiai: Spirit yell
Kihon: Basics
Kime: Striking energy
Kokyu: Breathing
Kokyu Ho: Breathing methods
Koudansha: A high level black belt
Kumite: Sparring
Maai: Distance
Makiwara: Striking board
Migi: Right
Muchimi : Soft yet explosive technique
Mudansha: One who is not a black belt
Obi: Karate belt
Oyo: Bunkai extract or application
Ritsurei: Standing bow
Shiai: Sparring match
Tai Sabaki/Sabaki : Defensive body movement, dodge
Tameshiwari : Breaking (boards, bricks, etc.)
Uke: Person who “receives” a technique
Ushiro: Back, rear
Waza: Technique
Waza: Technique
Yakusoku Kumite : Pre-arranged sparring
Yuudansha : A person who is a black belt
Zarei: Sitting bow


Directions are fundamental in Karate, especially in kata. This part of the lexicon defines directional terms, helping practitioners understand and execute movements accurately.

Mae: Front, before
Naka: Inside
Naname: Oblique
Shita: Under
Ue: Over
Ushiro : Back, behind, rear
Yoko: Side, besides, aside

Tournament Terms

The tournament terms section is dedicated to the vocabulary used in Karate competitions. It includes scoring terms, rules, and other competition-related jargon, essential for competitors and enthusiasts alike.

(Aka/Shiro) no Kachi: (red/white) wins!
Aiuchi: Simultaneous strike
Aka: Red
Hansoku Chui: Foul warning (point awarded to opponent)
Ippon: One point
Jogai: Out of the ring (exclusion)
Moto no Ichi: Starting position
Mubobi: Failing to defend yourself
Sanbon Kumite : Three-point sparring match
Shiai: Tournament combat
Shikkaku: Disqualification
Shiro: White
Torimasen : No point
Waza-ari: Half point

Ranks & Titles

anks and titles in Karate signify a practitioner’s level and role. This lexicon subsection explains the various titles and ranking systems in Karate, essential for understanding the hierarchy and progression in the art.

Dan: Ranks of black belt
Godan: Fifth degree black belt
Gokyu: Fifth level
Hachidan: Eighth degree black belt
Hanshi: Master teacher
Judan: Tenth degree black belt
Kudan: Ninth degree black belt
Kyoshi: Expert teacher
Kyu: Ranks below black belt
Mukyu: No level
Nanadan : Seventh degree black belt
Nidan: Second degree black belt
Renshi: Senior teacher
Rokudan : Sixth degree black belt
Sandan: Third degree black belt
Sempai/Senpai: Senior student
Sensei: Teacher
Shidoin : Assistant instructor
Shidoshi: Dojo manager
Shihan: Teacher of teachers
Shodan: First degree black belt
Yondan: Fourth degree black belt


Karate is rich in philosophical and strategic concepts. This final section explores these ideas, offering insight into the deeper aspects of Karate’s philosophy and approach to martial arts training.

Fudoshin: Unshakable, fearless mind
Mushin: Empty, non-attached mind
Zanshin : Mental clarity, vigilance
Go no Sen: To respond to an attack after it is initiated
Sen no Sen: To anticipate an attack and to take the initiative
Sensen no Sen: To anticipate an attack before the attack


In wrapping up this journey through the lexicon of Karate, I hope you’ve learned a few new Karate words – I certainly have while researching for this article. The depth and richness of Karate’s terminology are as fascinating as they are integral to the practice of this revered martial art.

Your feedback is invaluable. If you feel there’s something missing or if you’ve spotted an error, please don’t hesitate to send me an email and let me know. It’s through such collaborative efforts that we can continue to deepen our understanding and appreciation of Karate’s rich heritage and practice.

PS: If you would like to learn Japanese, don’t forget to signup for Japanesepod101, you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll learn.

Martin Jutras