Explore the key Japanese terms, words and commands used in Karate
This page contains a brief summary of some of the more commonly used Karate Terminology a student will need to understand during their Karate journey.
All students should familiarise themselves with these terms, words and phrases which will be used during training sessions and gradings
All Karate Instructors at Staffordshire Martial Arts Academy will use these terms often, helping you to understand their meanings and pronunciations.
STANCES - DACHI
Fudo dachi – rooted stance. Now also referred to as Sochin dachi, but they are two separate stances.
Gankaku dachi – crane stance, as used in the kata Gankaku.
Hachji dachi – open leg stance. The feet are positioned about one shoulder length apart and pointed outwards at 45 degrees. It actually translates to “figure of eight stance” and the true full name for this stance should be “soto hachji dachi” and when the feet are angled in at 45 degrees the name is “uchi hachji dachi”.
Hangetsu dachi – half moon stance.
Heiko dachi – parallel stance.
Kiba dachi – straddle stance. Also known as horse riding stance.
Kokutsu dachi – back stance.
Kosa dachi – cross stance or as it is more commonly called “crossed feet stance”.
Musubi dachi – informal attention stance, Heels placed together but with each foot turned out at 45 degrees
Naihanchi dachi – kiba dachi, but with the feet turned in. funakoshi changed the name from naihanchi to tekki.
Naname shiko dachi – diagonal straddle leg stance.
Neko-ashi dachi – cat foot stance.
Renoji dachi – L stance
Sagi ashi dachi – heron leg stance.
Sanchin dachi – hour-glass stance.
Shiko dachi – square stance, or four thigh stance also sometimes called “sumo stance”
Shizen dachi – natural stance
Sochin dachi – diagonal straddle stance. Immoveable stance. Also now referred as fudo dachi but they are twp different stances. In fudo dachi the weight is further forward.
Tachi – standing or stance. To stand up would be tachigaru. In some older works you may also see zenkutsu tachi etc. instead ofdachi.
Teiji dachi – a stance with the feet in a “T- shape”
Tsuru Ashi Dachi – crane leg stance.
Uchi-hachji dachi – inverted open leg stance, or iverted figure of eight stance. The feet are shoulder width apart but the feet are facing inwards.
Zenkutsu dachi – forward leaning stance. The actual translation means front knee bent stance.
STRIKES - UCHI
Age-empi uchi – Upward elbw strike. Sometimes called “tate empi uchi” seen in the kata nijshiho
Haishu uchi – back hand strike. A strike with the back of the hand where the fingers are straight.
Haito uchi – ridge-hand strike.
Hiji-ate – elbow strike, also called “empi uchi”
Hijiatemi or hijiate – elbow strikes.
Ippon nukite – one finger strike.
Ippon tsuki – one finger thrust today we use the term ippon nukite
Keito ucji – chicken head strike
Kentsuiuchi or tettsui uchi – hammer fist strike.
Kumade uchi – bear hand strike. Kumade also means rake or fork
Nihon tsuki – two finger thrust today we use the term nihon nukite
Nukite – spear hand
Shihon nukite – four finger strike
Shihon tsuki – four finger thrust. Today we use the term shihon nukite
Shuto uchi – knife hand strike.
Tate empi uchi, upward elbow strike. Sometimes also called “age empi”
Te gantana uke – hand sword block, this is now most commonly reffered to as “shuto uke”
Teisho ushi – palm heel strike
Tettsui uchi – bottom fist strike. Also called “kentsui”
Uraken uchi – back fist strike.
Ushiro mawashi empi uchi – back roundhouse elbow strike
Washide uchi – eagle beak strike
Yoko empi uchi – side elbow strike
PUNCHES - TSUKI
Age tsuki (zuki) – rising punch. Seen in the kata empi
Awase tsuki – combined punch, or U punch, also reffered to as morote tsuki
Choku tsuki – straight punch also known as kara tsuki
Dan-tsuki – consecutive punching (same hand)
Gyaku tsuki – reverse puch
Heiko tsuki – parallel punch, (a double, simultaneous punch)
Hiraken – flat fist or fore knuckle fist
Ippon ken – one knuckle fist
Kagi tsuki – hook punch
Kizami tsuki – lunge punch
Mawashi tsuki – roundhouse punch.
Morote tsuki – augmented punch or U punch
Nagashi tsuki – flowing punch
Nakadaka ippon ken – middle finger one knuckle fist
Oi tsuki – lead hand punch
Ren tsuki – alternative punching
Sanbon tsuki – a series of three punches, generally the first is oi tsuki jodan , followed by a slight pause ten, chudan gyaku tsuki, immediately by chudan tsuki, but it can be performed with three punches to the same target
Seiken – fore fist, regular fist
Tate tsuki – vertical punch
Toma komi tsuki – jabbing punch
Tsuki – a punch or thrust
Ura tsuki– an upper cut / close punch used at a close range. Sometimes called staz tsuki
Yama tzuki – a wide U shape punch. Also called a ountain punch, yama= mountain
Zuki – a different spelling of tsuki you would use the spelling zuki when your adding the word to another. You use the spelling tsuki when it is said by its self
KICKS AND LEG TECHNIQUES- GERIS AND ASHI WAZA
Ashi – foot or leg
Ashi barai – foot/leg sweep
Ashi gatana – foot sword
Ashi waza – name given to all leg and foot techniques, ashi meaning leg or foot and waza meaning technique
Fumikiri geri – cutting kick
Fumikomi geri – stamping kick
Geri – kick when using the spelling geri it should be added to another wrd to describe the kick. Geri by its self would mean diahorrea also see keri and keru
Hiza geri – knee kick
Kakato geri – axe kick, striking with the back of the heel of the foot
Keage – “kick up” in karate we use this when describing snapping as oppose to thrusting kicks.
Kekomi – thrust kick (literally, kick into/ straight)
Keri – kick, you will see kick spelt this way. Keri by itself is a noun meaning kick coming from the verb keru “to kick”, the normal spelling used is geri
Keru – kick, this is used when saying kick as a verb
Mae geri – front kick
Mae geri keage – front snapping kick
Mae geri kekomi – front thrusting kick
Mawashi geri – round house kick
Mikazuki geri – crescent kick
Nidan geri – double kick, as seen at the end of the kata kankudai
Ren geri – consecutive kicking, alternative kicking i.e. left then right
Tobi geri – jumping kick
Tsumas geri – kicking using the tips of the toes to strike with should only be used to attack the soft parts of the opponents body e.g. groin
Ushiro geri – back kick
Yoko geri – side kick
Yoko geri keage – side snap kick
Yoko geri kekomi – side thrust kick also referred to as yoko kekomi
BLOCKS - UKE
Age uke – upper rising block. Used generally to guard against an attack to the face
Ashibo-kake uke – leg hooking bloc, in which the leg is raised to the side and swung in a circle to deflect an opponents kick to abdomen
Ashikubi-kake uke – ankle hooking block normally used toblock a front kick. It is similar in motion to ashibo-kake uke
Awase uke – combined block. A generic term for any combined block
Chudan ude uke – middle level block, a general term for middle level blocks
Empi uke – ebow block a general term for the blacking action using the elbow
Gedan barai – lower level sweep. Normally the move students make prior to going on to do their combinations, one of the reasons for this is so that the first move in karate is a block which demonstrates that karate is for self defence. When we call gedan barai it is really short for gedan barai uke
Gedan barai uke – lower level sweeping block. Gedan barai but using it as a block
Gedan soto ude uke – lower level outside forearm block, as seen in the kata tekki nidan
Gedan uke – lower level block
Haishu uke – back hand block. A block using the back of the hand
Haito uke – ridge-hand block
Hai-wan uke – back arm block
Harai waza – sweeping techniques
Hiji uke – elbow block, a blocking ation using the elbow. Also see empi uke
Jodan uke – high level blck
Jo uke waza – jo blocking techniques. Used in the kata bassai sho
Juju uke – X block
Kagi uke – hooking block
Kaisho uke – open hand block
Kake uke – hooking block. A generic term for hooking blocks
Kakiwake uke – reverse wedge block
Keito uke – chicken head block
Kentsui uke (tettsui uke) – hammer fist blocks
Kosa uke – crossed block
Koken uke – wrist strike block
Morote uke – augmented block
Nagashi uke – sweeping block. This is one of the three times nagashi is referred to as sweeping
Nami ashi – inside snapping block, also known as returning wave, as seen in the kata tekki shodan
Otoshi-uke – dropping block
Seir yuto uke – ox jaw block. A hand technique delivered with the base of the shuto (knife hand)
Shuto uke – knife hand block
Soto ude uke – outside forearm blockor sometimes said as lower wrist block
Soto uke – outside block, normally a shortened version of soto ude uke
Sukui uke – scooping block
Te gatana uke – hand sword block, this is now commonly referred to as shuto uke
Teisho barai – palm hand sweep. As seen in the kata unsu
Teisho uke – palm hand block
Tsukami uke – grasping block
Tsuki uke – punching block
Uchi ude uke – inside forearm block
Uchi uke – inside block generally used as a short version of uchi ude uke
Ude uke – forearm block
Uke – block
Uraken uke – back fist block. For when the back fist is used as a block. This application is seen in the kata heian nidan