Karate Terminology

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.


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.


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


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


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


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

Improve Your Karate and Become a Better Martial Artist – call Paul on 07977 697 689

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