General Terminology in Karate

This is a list of general terminology found in traditional Karate, you will hear all these words in your dojo. It is highly recommended to learn them because traditional Karate is taught using Japanese vocabulary and the explanations on your own language depending on where you live.

Greetings & Affirmations

  • Hai: Yes
  • Rei: Bow
  • Sayonara: Goodbye
  • Domo: Thank You (Informal)
  • Domo Arigato: Thank You (Formal)
  • Shomen ni: Face towards the front
  • Sensei ni: Face towards the teacher
  • Seiretsu: Line up by rank
  • Seiza: Meditation position-kneeling
  • Mokuso: Meditate/Gather Your Thoughts


  1. Ichi
  2. Ni
  3. San
  4. Shi
  5. Go
  6. Roku
  7. Shichi
  8. Hachi
  9. Ku
  10. Ju


  • Mae: Front
  • Yoko: Side
  • Ushiro: Back
  • Mawashi: Round
  • Jodan: Head high level
  • Chudan: Mid-high level
  • Gedan: Low level; Down
  • Migi: Right
  • Hidari: Left
  • Gyaku: Reverse
  • Age: Rising
  • Uchi: Inner
  • Soto: Outer

General Commands

  • Yoi: Ready
  • Hajime: Begin
  • Yame: Stop
  • Yasume: Relax (or ready position)
  • Mawatte: Turn around

General Vocabulary

  • Anata: You
  • Anza: Sitting position, cross legged
  • Ashi: Foot
  • Ashi-Kubi: Ankle
  • Atama: Head
  • Barai: Sweep
  • Bunkai – Kata: Technique Application
  • Chudan: Middle (Level)
  • Dachi: Stance
  • Dojo: School (Karate)
  • Dozo: Please
  • Embusen or Enbusen: This is the term used to refer to the spot where a kata begins. In addition, nearly all kata start and end on exactly the same Embusen point.
  • Empi: Elbow
  • Empi-Uchi: Elbow Strike
  • Gedan: Low
  • Geri: Kick
  • Gi: Uniform
  • Hajime: Begin/Start
  • Harau: Sweeping Techniques
  • Hidari: Left
  • Hikite: Pulling Hand (bringing hand back to ready position)
  • Hiza: Knee
  • Iie: No
  • Jodan: Upper (Level)
  • Kakato: Heel
  • Karateka: Practitioner of Karate
  • Kata: Form
  • Keage: Snap
  • Kekomi: Thrust
  • Geri: Kick
  • Ki: Type of intrinsic energy. Known as Qi or Chi in Chinese martial arts.
  • Kiai: Shout
  • Kihon: Basic Techniques
  • Kime: Focus
  • Kiotsuke: Attention
  • Kokyu Ho: Breathing exercises
  • Kumite: Sparring
  • Mae: Front
  • Mawatte: Turn Around
  • Migi: Right
  • Mo Ichi Do: One More Time
  • Mokuso: Meditate
  • Mushin: Void or State of No Mind
  • Nage: Throw
  • Neko: Cat (i.e. Neko Ashi Dachi = Cat Foot Stance or Cat Stance)
  • Nodo: Throat
  • Obi: Belt
  • Oss or Osu: Push On Through Difficulties. Nevertheless, this term used in many different ways and is often used by non-Japanese Karate students for “Thank you”, “I understand”, etc. Oss (Osu) is a kind of respectful catch-all phrase.
  • Senpai or Sempai: Senior Student
  • Sensei: Teacher/Instructor
  • Seiza: Kneel
  • Seiza Waza: Kneeling Techniques
  • Shuto: Knife Hand
  • Tatami: Practice/Training Mat
  • Te: Hand
  • Tsuki or Zuki: Punch
  • Uke: Block
  • Ushiro: Back
  • Watashi: I (Me)
  • Waza: Technique
  • Yame: Stop
  • Yoko: Side
  • Zuki or Tsuki: Punch

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Peter A Soto is a Black Belt with more than 20 years of experience, athlete, teacher and webmaster. Based in the city of San Diego, California.