It is important to understand the Japanese terminology and phrases as thoroughly and accurately as possible in order to understand the concepts, theories and technical ideas used in the martial arts.
The people who originally developed the Japanese martial arts were, in fact, Japanese and they obviously thought and conveyed their ideas in the Japanese language. To better understand why something is done the way it is, or why a technique is named what it is, it is essential to have an accurate understanding of the Japanese words and phrases that describe the techniques, theories, skills and philosophies in the martial disciplines. This doesn’t mean you have to speak the language fluently, or adopt the customs of Japan, but it does mean that you should understand the words used in the martial arts as accurately and objectively as possible. If you don’t understand what is being said, you won’t understand why it is being said.
In many combat sports, such as boxing or wrestling, the language of the culture that initially developed them has not been retained as extensively as in the Japanese martial arts. In some cases, however, these activities have, indeed, retained some of the phrases used by the people who initially developed them. The sport of fencing uses French terminology in some cases, for instance. Also, some wrestling skills retain the French names they originally had. Being in the par terre position is known to just about every wrestler. Other sports have retained some of the language of the cultures that invented them as well. The sport of baseball is enormously popular in Japan and the Japanese have adopted words and phrases from English to describe various things associated with that sport.
Part of what makes a sport, job or activity interesting is the unique “language” each has. The use of terminology is not limited to martial arts or sports. When two machinists, for instance, get together they most surely sprinkle their conversation with many words and phrases that would perplex the rest of us. Also, how many times have we had to ask our doctor to explain some medical condition “in language that I can understand?” The martial arts are no different. We have our own common language, and if you practice one of the martial arts initially developed in Japan, you know the common use of Japanese terminology is something we do every time we get on the mat.
A BASIC GUIDE TO THE PRONUNCIATION OF JAPANESE WORDS
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when pronouncing the Japanese words used in the martial arts.
An important thing to know that, sometimes, a word or phrase’s first letter is changed if it is used as the second word in a phrase or name. An example would be: The “k” in katame (to secure, hold or lock, make strong, to guard and commonly used to describe holds or submission techniques) is changed to “g” when used in the phrase kesa gatame. When used as the first word in a name such as katame waza, the “k” is retained. Another example is the word harai (sweeping, to clear away and commonly used to describe the sweeping action of the leg in throwing techniques). When used as the first word in a name such as harai goshi, the “h” is retained, but if the word is not used as the initial word in a name or phrase such as okuri ashi barai, the “h” has been changed to a “b.” Another one (of many examples that could be given) is the word shime (to squeeze), commonly used to describe choking or strangling techniques). When used in the phrase shime waza, the “s” is used. The “s” hardens to a “j” when the word is used as a secondary word in a name or phrase to be jime. These are common examples of this grammar rule usually seen in the terminology used in the martial arts.
Phonetic Pronunciation of Words
Aiis pronounced “eye” (as in aikido)
Eiis pronounced as a long “a” (as in keiko)
Ais pronounced “ah” (as in nage)
Aeis pronounced “eye” (as in sasae)
Iis pronounced as a long “e” (as in uki)
Eis pronounced “eh” (as in tate)
Ois pronounced as a long “o” (as in soto)
Uis pronounced as a long “u” (as in uke)
Uiis pronounced “ooee” (as in sukui)
Ryis pronounced as an “r” and roll your tongue (as in ryo)
Gis always a hard “g” (as in go)
DESCRIPTIONS AND BRIEF HISTORIES OF MARTIAL DISCIPLINES
JudoThe name of the art Jigoro Kano developed in 1882 is “Kodokan Judo.” Kodokan means “school to study the philosophy or way” and is used a proper name of the martial discipline now commonly referred to as “judo.” The word judo means “flexible, yielding, flexible or adroit way or philosophy.” Many people also call it the “gentle way” which it also does mean, but not necessarily in this context. Judo is definitely not gentle!
Historically, Kodokan Judo, as developed by Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), kept what was known as jujutsu alive in Japan during the Meiji Period following commodore Perry’s opening of Japan to the west in the late 1800s. Although traditional jujutsu ryu (systems) fell by the wayside because of cultural shifts in Japanese society and the popularity of Kodokan Judo, if it were not for the Kodokan, jujutsu would have faded into the mists of Japanese history with the coming of the modern era in Japan and the twentieth century.
Judo has been accepted as an Olympic sport and is now practiced worldwide. The International Olympic committee (IOC) accepted judo for men as a demonstration sport in 1964and fully into the Olympic Games in 1972. In 1988, the IOC accepted women’s judo as a demonstration sport and fully accepted women’s judo as part of the Olympic Games in 1992. While it’s true Prof. Kano warned against training in judo exclusively for contest purposes (where the philosophies of the Kodokan and the physical education aspects of Kodokan Judo might be lost to the idea of simply winning contests), he knew that judo needed the international exposure that only something like the Olympics could give it. Kano was an active member of the International Olympic committee and lobbied for judo’s inclusion into the 1940 Olympic Games which were to be held in Tokyo (but never held because of the outbreak of World War II).
The development of Kodokan Judo had a profound effect in many ways on all martial arts both historically and technically. Had it not been for Jigoro Kano’s influence in the spread of judo, the martial disciplines of Japan, not only jujutsu, might have been lost to history.
Aikido The art developed by Morihei Uyeshiba in the early part of the 20th century. It means “way of the spirit of mutual harmony” and is based on Daito-ryu aikijitsu, Kito-ryu jujutsu, Goto-ha Yagyu jujutsu (all systems of hand-to-hand combat) and kenjutsu (the art of the sword). It was approximately 1938 that Morihei Uyeshiba started to call his martial art by its present name of “aikido.” Uyeshiba, a deeply religious man, founded his martial art on the principle of “aiki” or the harmonious blending of intrinsic human spirit. Technically, the emphasis is one flowing, graceful techniques using the “ki” or internal, vital energy of the participant.
BudoThe generic phrase for all martial disciplines developed after the Meiji era (1868-1912) in Japan. The word “bu” means martial or military.
Bugei The generic name for all martial arts developed before the Meiji era in Japan. The word “bugei” means “martial accomplishment or method.” The traditional martial arts of Japan are bugei and don’t emphasize philosophical, ethical or moral training, while the budo developed after 1868 emphasize the “do” (or “michi”) which means philosophy or way.
Jujitsu (Jujutsu) The name “jujutsu” is more correct, although jujitsu or jiujitsu are common and accepted names as well. This is a generic name of the martial disciplines native to Japan and came into popular use approximately in the 1600s. You’ve read what ju means and the word jutsu or jitsu means skill, art or ability. Jujitsu, generically speaking, means “adaptive, flexible or yielding skill or art.” Actually, jujutsu is considered by many to be the first martial discipline in Japan that was named because of its concepts or principles. The concept of “ju” is central to the understanding of jujutsu and prior to the activity being called jujutsu in the 1600s; it had a variety of names. Depending on the focus of the art or the family that taught it, the art was called kumi-uchi, yawara, wajutsu and other names. In the 1600s and 1700s, after the phrase jujutsu came into more popular use, jujutsu schools flourished, each specializing in a particular approach to combat. Some systems favored throwing while other favored submission arts and other favored striking. There were many ryuha (systems or styles “streams” of jujutsu) actively teaching during the 17th and 18th centuries in Japan.
When the Meiji Period started in 1868, the jujutsu schools, along with everything else that were part of feudal Japan, fell from favor in Japanese society. The jujutsu masters were not held in esteem as they had been before with most losing their status in provincial government and losing their government patrons. In the late 1800s, jujutsu had fallen into decline and Jigoro Kano, through his Kodokan Judo, became instrumental in preserving jujutsu in Japan.
Today, there are still “traditional” systems or styles of jujitsu as well as modern adaptations of this martial art, and as was done several hundred years earlier, each style offers a different approach to personal combat and self-defense.
Karate The martial art developed in Japan by Giichen Funakoshi in the early 1920s. The phrase karate means “empty hand” and emphasizes striking and kicking. Gichen Funakoshi was an Okinawan who introduced the martial art of “te” to the mainland of Japan. He learned the art in his homeland of Okinawa, where it was known by various names, usually based on the style or school of the headmaster or location. The art flourished in Okinawa for years before Funakoshi took it to Japan where it became popular, especially among the colleges.
After Giichen Funakoshi introduced karate to Japan, his school became known as “Shotokan.” Shoto was Funakoshi’s pen name, and as a result, his style was the “school of Shoto.” Various styles of karate followed into Japan from Okinawa, such as Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Wado-ryu and others. Other styles were eventually developed by Japanese who mastered the art such as Kyokushinkai-ryu and others, and each developed its own following.
The roots of this martial discipline go back to China, when the fighting art was introduced to Okinawa in the 1500s (approximately). The Chinese fighting arts have a variety of names and approaches to combat, both empty hand and with weapons.
Kendo Literally means “sword way or philosophy” and is practiced with participants wearing body and head protection and a shinai (bamboo practice sword). It is the modern adaptation of kenjutsu, or “sword art” which was practiced by the bushi (samurai) before the Meji era in 1868. Along with judo, kendo is taught in the Japanese publish school system as a method of physical education.
Kempo The Japanese martial art of punching and kicking loosely based on the Chinese martial art of “Chuan fa.” Also called “kenpo.” The art became popular after Gichen Funakoshi introduced karate in Japan in approximately 1924. There are many styles of kempo and kenpo practiced throughout Japan and the rest of the world.
Ninjutsu (Ninjitsu)This is the martial art of stealth and literally means “stealth art or skill.” The art of assassins and spies. Ninja, the practitioners of the art (literally translated to mean “stealers in”) were hired to do the dirty work of espionage and killing the local lords in feudal Japan before the Meiji era in 1868. Ninjitsu was not looked upon with favor by the people, and the art was considered necessary but less than honorable. The ninja developed skills in many areas of killing, fighting, spying and adapting to many situations to accomplish their tasks. Generally, the ninja’s life was a short and violent one and without the honor bestowed on the samurai class.
Sumo The form of wrestling that is extremely popular in Japan. Sumo’s roots are ancient, with the first recorded match considered to be in 23 A.D. Sumo matches draw thousands of spectators and millions watch it on television. It is, traditionally, the most popular sport in Japan. Known for the huge men (the “sumotori”) that compete in the sport. Sumo’s combination of pageantry, ritual and action has made it the popular sport it has been for centuries. However, baseball is now more popular but sumo remains a favorite to many Japanese.
Yawara Wrestling or grappling, usually referring to the manipulative arts. Used in reference to “soft’ arts. The word “yawaraka” means gentle, mild or delicate. Yawara is often referred to as the manipulative arts of writs and hand locks in some systems of jujutsu. Yawara was one of several names used to describe what eventually became known as jujutsu in the 1600s.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF JIGORO KANO AND HENRY SEISHIRO OKAZAKI
The martial arts exist today largely because of the work of the four men whose brief biographies follow. There certainly have been many other influential people who have contributed their lives and talents to the teaching of the martial arts, but these four men are often regarded as primary innovators and pioneers who devoted their lives to their particular martial disciplines and to the overall development of the martial arts.
Jigoro Kano, Founder of Kodokan Judo (photo at right)
Jigoro Kano’s influence in the development of the martial arts makes him one of the most significant leaders in history, not only in Japan, but anywhere.
Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo and in 1882 opened the first Kodokan at the Eisho temple in Tokyo, Japan. From this humble start, judo has grown to an activity practiced by millions all over the world.
Jigoro Kano was born on October 28, 1860 in Mikage, Japan and died while on a ship during a world tour on May 4, 1938. He was an influential figure in Japanese sport, education and politics. Prof. Kano was one of the founders of the Japanese Olympic Committee and lobbied to get judo accepted as an Olympic sport. He was also influential in Japanese education and through his work, judo became part of the public school physical education program.
Kano worked hard and reorganized the leading jujutsu schools of Japan, eventually reorganizing them into his Kodokan Judo and prevented them from becoming just an historical footnote in Japanese history. He initiated a structured and educational approach to the study of jujutsu, which had not bee done previously.
Jigoro Kano was the innovator of many things we do today in many martial arts. He developed the system of ukemi (breakfalls) so that students could practice safely and with confidence. He developed the first modern judogi (judo training uniform). Before Kano standardized the judogi in about 1906, there was no standard garment worn by participants. He renames and reclassified many techniques and skills so that the names made sense and described the movement being done. Up to that time, there was no standard terminology used and each ryuha (system) used its own creating much confusion. It was Prof. Kano who developed the belt rank system, which is still used today. These are some of the innovations Jigoro Kano made.
It was through Kano’s work that Japan became part of the International Olympic committee. Eventually, judo was added to the list of sports in the Olympic Games as a demonstration in 1964 and as a fully-accepted sport in 1972. Kano was also an innovator in the concept of physical education, as there had been little work or research done in this area before, especially in Japan. Through his efforts, judo and kendo were made part of the middle-school curriculum in Japanese public schools in 1908.
Jigoro Kano’s influence was to such an extent that he assisted both Morihei Uyeshiba in his fledgling aikido and Gichen Funakoshi in his new karate by giving them training accommodations at the Kodokan Institute. It was Kano’s influence that helped these martial arts gain credibility in Japan during the early part of the 20th century.
Jigoro Kano is one of the most significant and influential people in the history of martial arts and his influence continues today.
Henry Seishiro Okazaki, Father of American Jujitsu (photo at right)
Many people consider Henry Seishiro Okazaki as the “father” of jujitsu in America. Although not as widely known as Jigoro Kano, Morihei Uyeshiba, Giichen Funakoshi or some other notable figures, Prof. Okazaki made a considerable impact on the development of jujitsu throughout the 20th century.
Prof. Okazaki was the first jujutsu instructor to teach non-Japanese on a wide scale. The popularity of Kodokan Judo has often over-shadowed Prof. Okazaki’s Kodenkan Jujitsu. Kodenkan (now called Danzan-ryu) was the dominant system of self-defense jujitsu in the United States for many years, and many variations of Okazaki’s Kodenkan teachings continue to flourish today.
“Kodenkan” translates to mean “school to study the ancient traditions.” The word ”Danzan” is the Japanese word for the Hawaiian Islands, thus Danzan-ryu means “Hawaiian system.”
Henry Seishiro Okazaki (1890-1951) was born in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan and immigrated to Hawaii in 1906. He studied various martial arts in Hilo, mastering several systems of traditional jujutsu as well as studying at the Kodokan in Japan and attaining sandan (3rd grade) in Kodokan Judo. He also studied different restorative arts as well as massage and was a master of kappo and katsu (the arts of resuscitation). In 1930, he moved to Honolulu and opened a massage sanatorium and began to teach jujitsu. By the mis-1930s, Okazaki attracted so many students that he opened the Hawaii Jujitsu Guild and taught his system of jujitsu to anyone, regardless of race or sex. Up to that point, it was rare for a non-Japanese to learn jujitsu.
In 1939, the first Kodenkan Jujitsu dojo (training hall) opened on the mainland United States when Ray Law opened the Oakland, California Judo School. In 1958, the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation was formed, and for many years was one of the largest, if not largest, national jujitsu organizations in the United States. There are several other organizations teaching Kodenkan or Danzan-ryu as well.
Henry Seishiro Okazaki’s influence on jujitsu and self-defense continues today, especially in the United States, but also internationally.
BELT RANKING SYSTEMS
The ranking system using belts as is commonly done today was developed by Jigoro Kano about two years after the Kodokan’s founding. Prior to Prof. Kano and Kodokan judo, there was no single, uniform system of ranking used in the martial arts of Japan. The older, traditional martial disciplines of kenjutsu, iaijutus, jujutsu and other fighting arts used a menkyo (license) system of ranking their practitioners. Most of these various systems used fairly individualized levels of initiation or licensing for instructors and none used the belt ranking system, as we know it today in such disciplines as judo, karate and aikido.
The system of belt ranks devised by Jigoro Kano has changed somewhat over the years but the basic system of yudansha (graded exponents) and mudansha (ungraded exponents) is still in use. The yudansha ranks are the black belts and the mudansha ranks are the belt under black belt, reserved for the novices. Mu is a phrase for a void or nothingness, dan means grade or rank and sha is a term meaning a person. So, the word mudansha refers to a person not holding rank or grade. The word yu indicates possession of something, thus the word yudansha refers to a person holding rank or grade.
This use of yudansha and mudansha is called the kyu-dan system. The word dan means grade or step and the word kyu indicates class. Initially, Prof. Kano used three kyu ranks and five dan ranks, probably devising this system about two or three years after the founding of the Kodokan. In the four or five years after the Kodokan was established, Prof. Kano’s students who were yudansha began wearing a black sash around the waist to signify their rank and status as a “graded” practitioner. By the mid-1890s, Prof. Kano had expanded the yudansha grades to ten. The first people promoted to shodan, the initial or first grade in the yudansha ranks were Jojiro Tomita and Shiro Saigo. We might then surmise that these two men were the first people to achieve the rank of black belt in judo or in any martial art.
There don’t seem to be any definitive reasons why the color black represents a yudansha and the color white represents a mudansha other than the contrasting colors of black and white represent different things in Japanese culture and philosophy. The color white represents simplicity, while the color black represents the opposite, having to do with possession (in this case, possession of rank). Traditionally, the white judogi or dogi
Represents purity and simplicity and this is why the more traditional judo, jujitsu, aikido and other budo systems use the white uniform for practice.
While the kyu-dan system of belt ranks was devised by Jigoro Kano for Kodokan Judo, it became popular with the emerging martial arts of Japan in the early 20th century. Gichen Funakoshi saw the benefit of this ranking system and used it in his Shotokan karate system and was probably the first martial discipline outside of Kodokan Judo to use it. The kyu-dan belt rank system was eventually accepted into most martial arts systems in Japan, and eventually the world.
As the Japanese martial arts became international and there was less control of the various schools or systems from Japan, a variety of martial arts used the kyu-dan system. As time went along, even the Korean martial arts (such as yudo and taekwondo) embraced the kyu-dan system, although using Korean terminology.
However, the traditional fighting arts of China, Indonesia, Burma and other countries sis not use the kyu-dan system of ranking, preferring their own methods, if any were used formally at all in these martial arts. In western cultures, the use of belt ranks was not used for their fighting disciplines. Activities such as boxing, the various styles of western wrestling, sambo (developed in the Soviet Union in the early part of the 20th century), savate from France and other western martial arts did not embrace the use of the kyu-dan system. While these disciplines may have used some type of classification for instructors or skilled exponents, the use of colored belts was not generally accepted.
The kyu-dan system of belt ranks devised by Prof. Kano is now widely used in all parts of the world for many martial arts, whether they are Japanese in origin or not. The yudansha usually wear black belts with many systems signifying high ranks above godan (5th grade) with red and white, red, red and black or other color combinations. The use of wearing a belt of alternating colored sections of red and white for holders of 6th, 7th and 8th dan and a solid red belt for holders of 9th and 10th dan was first started by Kodokan Judo sometime in the 1920s it is believed. The use of a brown belt for holders of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd kyu in the mudansha ranks was used earlier by the Kodokan around the turn of the 20th century. With the popularization of martial arts throughout the world, a variety of belt colors have emerged for the mudansha ranks in particular. The various colors of yellow, orange, green, blue and purple seem to have been started in the 1950s in Europe as external motivation for students. Here is a list of the yudansha and mudansha ranks.
Yudansha (Graded) Ranks
Shodan1st Grade (The “initial grade” as “sho” means initial or first in a series.)
Mudansha (Ungraded) Ranks
Ikkyu1st ClassBrown Belt
Nikyu2nd ClassBrown Belt
Sankyu3rd ClassBrown Belt
Yonkyu4th ClassBlue Belt
Gokyu5th ClassGreen Belt
Rokkyu6th ClassYellow Belt
Shichikyu7th ClassWhite Belt
Generally, it is an accepted fact that the belt worn by someone is only as good as the person wearing it and the system, school or organization issuing the rank. Belt ranks are very much part of many of our present-day martial arts and their use is an accepted part of what the martial arts are.
TERMINOLOGY FOR DIRECTIONS
This is a brief list of the terminology for the directions a technique may go to, or how the bodies of the participants are in relation to each other.
Age Up, to elevate or raise
Omote Front, to face something, face up
Otoshi To drop
Taoshi To throw something down
Ura The rear or back of something
Ushiro Opposite of the front, rear or behind
Yoko Across, crosswise, from side to side, sideways
PARTS OF THE BODY
The names of the parts of the body are useful in many respects in the study of the martial arts. While not all body parts are listed, the most commonly used words are.
Abara The side of the chest
Ago, Agoto Jaw
Ashi Leg or foot
Ashi no ubi Toes
Ashi no yubi Toes
Chusoku Ball of foot
Dokko Mastoid Process
Haiso Instep of foot
Haito Inner edge of hand
Hara Trunk of body (doh or do also means trunk of body)
Hichu Adam’s Apple of throat
Hizagashira Knee cap
Jinchu Philtrum (under nose, upper lip)
Kansetsu A joint of the body
Kakato Heel of foot
Kakuto Top of bent wrist (as in kakuto uchi)
Mata The crotch of the legs, a fork (as in a fork in the road). Used in the throw, uchi mata.
Mi Person (a person’s body)
Oshiri Buttocks (also called Shiri)
Senaka, sena Back
Seoi To carry over the back
Senaka, Sena Back
Shute Palm of hand
Shuto Ulnar edge of hand
Suigetsu Solar Plexus
Teisoku Arch of foot
Tettsui Edge of fist (“hammer fist”)
Uto Nasion (bridge of nose)
Yubi Finger (Oya-yubi Thumb)
Waki Side of the body (armpit area)
COUNTING AND NUMBERS
Learning to count in Japanese is useful, as many instructors and students count off the repetitions of an exercise or drill during practice.
4Shi (or Yon)
7Shichi (or Nana)
20 Ni-ju (21 Ni-ju-ichi, 22 Ni-ju-ni, etc.)
This glossary of words, phrases and terminology is comprehensive, but it may not contain all the specific information you, the reader, may wish to see. In this case, it is recommended that you make use of the references listed in the back of this handbook or in other reference material. However, every attempt has been made to include as many words and phrases as possible that are used in the study and practice of Japanese martial arts.
Ai Exclaim (As in kiai, or spirit shout or spirit exclamation)
Ai To agree, mutual (Used only in compound words such as aikido.) Also means harmony or to join.
Aiki Blending of intrinsic human spirit in a harmonious way. (As used in aikido or aikijutsu.)
Aite Partner or opponent
Agaki To move the legs as a tortoise when on the back (as in fighting off the back in groundfighting)
Anza, Agura Sitting in an informal position
Age To elevate or raise
Ashi Foot or leg
Ashi no yubi Toes
Ate To strike
Atemi To strike a person
Ayumi ashi The method of footwork in judo and jujutsu. Ayumi means to walk and ashi means the foot.
Awase To combine (As in awase waza, or combining of two techniques)
Bo Long wooden staff
Bogu Protective equipment for kendo
Bokken Wooden sword
Bu Martial, military
Budo Martial or military way or philosophy
Bugei Martial or military skill. More inclusive term than bujutsu or bujitsu. Referred to the martial arts prior to the Meiji era in 1868.
Bujutsu Martial skill or martial technique
Buke The military class of people in Japan before the Meiji era in 1868
Bushido “Way of the warrior” A code of conduct for the warrior class developed by Soko Yamaga (1622-85).
Bushi Warrior (Samurai is the generic name for all men privileged to wear 2 swords. A military class of people before the Meiji era in 1868.)
Butokuden Established in the 1890s as a training center for the leading teachers of martial arts in Japan.
Butsukari Repetitive drill for developing skill in throwing. Means to “strike hurriedly” (similar to uchikomi)
Butsu (Utsu) To strike against something
Bakuro A jockey (As in bakuro jime, the “rodeo ride” position in groundfighting)
Chikara Strong, the use of force
Chu Middle (as in chudan uke.)
Chui caution (used in contests.)
Chuo The center
Daito-ryu jujutsu a system of jujitsu emphasizing techniques similar to yawara and other hand arts and emphasizing “aiki.” Daito-ryu is one of the systems studied by Morihei Uyeshiba before his founding of aikido.
Dan Grade, step (As in shodan.)
Danzan The Japanese name for the Hawaiian Islands and is another name (Danzan-ryu) for Kodenkan Jujitsu, founded by Henry Seishiro Okazaki.
Daki To hug, to hold in the arms
Dashi To lead out, bring out, cause to go out
De To proceed, or to go out, to advance (As in de ashi barai.)
Den Tradition, legend (As in Kodenkan Jujitsu.)
Do Way, philosophy, doctrine, reason, principle, virtue (Used only in compound words.) Similar to “michi” which means road, way, or the right way or course of conduct.
Dogi Practice suit (Also called judogi.) the word “gi” is never used alone and only as the second part of a name or word.
Dojo Commonly called a practice hall, but actually a place (jo) of meditation. Literal translation is “philosophy place.”
Dojo Kun Rules of the dojo
Dojime Scissors hold. Literally means “body squeeze.”
Edo The ancient name for Tokyo until the Maiji era in 1868.
Eri Lapel or collar of a jacket
Furyu Manners or customs handed down from past generations
Fuseru To reverse
Fusen Default (as in fusen gachi-win by default.)
Gachi (Kachi) To win, be victorious
Gakko Educational institution
Gari (Kari) To reap (As in o soto gari.)
Ge Lower (as in gedan uke.)
Gei Art, science, technical application or method applied in martial arts. (As in bugei.)
Geta Traditional wooden shoes worn in Japan.
Gi To dress, a garment (Always used as suffix as in judogi or jujitsugi.)
Gi Technical (in a practical sense), a deed
Go Hard (As in goju-ryu karate.)
Gokyo no Waza The five classifications of techniques originally devised by the Kodokan in 1905. This is the first standardized form of instruction for throwing techniques.
Goshin jutsu Self-defense art
Goshinho Methods of self-defense
Ha Wing (As in kata ha jime.)
Hada-gi A garment worn next to the skin (See “gi” above.)
Hadaka Naked, bare (As in hadaka jime.)
Hadakari To straddle
Hagai The wings of a bird (used to describe the hold “full nelson”) in jujitsu. As in hagai jime.
Hajime To start (Used as a referee’s command in contests.)
Hajiki To jerk, to snap, to cause to move with a sudden spring
Hakama The loose trousers worn by the samurai and now used in some martial arts.
Hane To spring or bounce (The judo throw hane goshi.)
Hando no Kuzushi Reaction forms of unbalancing. This implies how the opponent reacts to the attacker’s diversionary attack.
Hantei The referee’s call for a decision in a contest. Literally means judgment.
Hansoku Violation of the rules in a contest
Happo Eight sides or directions (as in happo no kuzushi or 8 directions of unbalancing developed in Kodokan judo.)
Hando no kuzushi Reaction forms of unbalancing. This implies how the opponent reacts to the attacker’s diversionary attack.
Harai Sweeping, to sweep or clear away
Hairi kata Method of entry. The actual fitting in of the body for a throwing technique varies with the specific technique. Fitting the application of the throw to the situation.
Hara The belly, often believed to be the center of the “ki.”
Haragi The concept of the pursuit of a goal with total commitment.
Hara kiri Also called seppuku. The method of committing ritual suicide in fuedal Japan when dishonored. Used by the samurai class and others. Literally means “belly cutting.”
Hasami To hold between 2 other things (as in hasami jime)
Haya Fast, quick, swift
Haya ashi Swift-footed
Henka Variation of the basic application
Hikkomi To draw into (As in hikkomi gaeshi.)
Hiku or hiki To pull or draw, to stretch
Hikite Pulling hand
Hikiwake A draw in a contest. To pull apart (as in two men fighting.)
Hishigi To crush (As in ude hishigi juji gatame.)
Hiza The knee
Ho Side, region, place
Ho Rule, law, usage, doctrine (As in goshin-ho.)
Ho A gun
Hojutsu The art of shooting
Hon (Kihon) Original, fundamental, basic
Honbu The principle dojo is a system of martial arts.
Hontai Basic posture
Ichiban “Number one”, the best
Ippon Literally means “once settled” and is the phrase used by a referee in a contest to signify one contestant has defeated his opponent with a skillful technique. Also used in the name of the throw “ippon seoi nage.” The prefix “ip” indicates anything that is one, once or single. Thus, the name ippon seoi nage implies throwing an opponent over the back at one point (ippon).
Ippon shobu A match decided on the basis of one point
Irimi Entering (As in irimi nage in aikido of jujutsu.)
Itami To cause pain, injure or hurt
Itsutsu Five (As in itsusu no kata or forms of five.)
Jigoku Hell (As in jigoku jime.)
Jikan Referee’s call in a contest denoting time is over.
Judoka One who practice judo, a student of judo
Ji ta kyo ei One of Jigoro Kano’s maxims for kodokan judo which means “by helping, improving, yourself, everybody-the community benefits” .
Sei ryoku zen yo The second of Jigoro Kano’s principles of kodokan judo which means “best use of energy”.
Jigotai Defensive posture
Jiyu kumite Free sparring
Jiyu renshu Free practice
Jo Stick (As in jodo.)
Jogai A phrase denoting “out of bounds” in a contest.
Joseki The upper area of a dojo where the higher ranked practitioners and instructors sit.
Ju The concept of “ju” is to be flexible, pliable, yielding or adaptive. It summarizes the philosophy of judo and jujutsu in which functional strength, flexibility and adaptability is emphasized, both physically and mentally. “Ju” also is the number 10.
Judo (See explanation earlier in this text.)
Juji To cross (As in juji jime.)
Ju no Ai The principle or doctrine of the concept of ju.
Junin gake 10-man takedown where one contestant takes on a line of 10 opponents (also used is a gonin gake, or 5-man takedown)
Jujutsu, jujitsu (See explanation earlier in this text.)
Junbiundo Warming up exercises
Juken A short sword or bayonet
Juku Private school
Jutsu, jitsu Skill, art, technique
Kaho The form of training used in jujutsu where there is no free grappling or sparring. Training using kata, or pre-arranged formal exercises, exclusively.
Kami Upper, elevated
Kamijo Upper place The area in a dojo where the sensei or dignitaries sit.
Kan House, hall or school
Kan Intuitive learning (usually as opposed to ri, or rational learning).
Kan geiko Winter training
Kani Crab (As in kani basami.)
Kappo, Katsu Method of resuscitation kappo literally means “method of life” as opposed to sappo or “method of killing.” Kappo was used in many traditional jujutsu systems especially when students were choked out or injured in training.
Katai Hard, stiff
Katame To secure, make strong or firm, to guard
Kagame, kagami To bend
Kakage To lift up, hoist
Kakari, kari To hook, hooked to, hung up, suspended
Kakari geiko A form of randori where a student is required to take on consecutive opponents in a specified time limit.
Kake To hook, or to attack
Kamae Combative stance or posture
Kami Upper, above or upper in rank or place (As in kami shiho gatame.) Also the word for a Shinto diety.
Karami To coil, wind around, twine
Kari To cut or reap (As in o soto gari.)
Kata Shoulder (As in kata gatame.)
Kata Form (As in nage no kata.) A kata is a pre-arranged drill or exercise used for training purposes.
There are 7 core Kata (forms) in Kodokan Judo.
1-Nage no Kata-the form of throwing. This was the first kata that Prof. Jigoro Kano developed to privide structured learning in his new Kodokan. This is an exercise with 15 throwing techniques.
2-Katame no Kata-form of grappling. This, along with the Nage no Kata, form the "Randori no Kata" where the techniques of "sport" judo are emphasized. This kata is an exercise on the groundfighting of Kodokan Judo.
3-Ju no Kata-the form of "gentleness" or "yielding" that is often taught to women in Kodokan Judo.
4-Koshiki no Kata-the form of antiquity. This is an exercise that comes directly from Kito-ryu Jujutsu.
5-Kime no Kata-form of decision. This is a self-defense kata directly taken from older forms of jujutsu.
6-Goshin Jutsu-the form of self-defense art and is another self-defense form but is newer in formation that the Kime no Kata.
7-Itsutsu no Kata-the form of "five" that is the most philosophical in nature of all the Kodokan Judo forms.
Katate Single hand (As opposed to morote, or ryote, or double hands.)
Katsugi To carry on the shoulders
Kawazu gake Leg entwining. A throwing technique illegal in contest judo.
Keiko To practice, exercise (in order to learn), to drill.
Kempo (Kenpo) The modern Japanese adaptation of Chinese chuan fa, meaning “fist way” and is a popular system of self-defense.
Kendo Sword way, the modern form of kenjutus or sword art.
Kengi Sword technique
Kengo A strong swordsman
Ken ken A phrase meaning “hop hop.” The hopping action taken sometimes when throwing an opponent (as in ken ken uchi mata).
Kenshusei Special research student (at the Kodokan Judo Institute)
Kesa A scarf worn around the neck (as in kesa gatame).
Keri To kick
Ki Vital force, internal energy, spirit, heart
Kiai A shout used to show spirit, often used when executing a technique. Similar to the shout, grunt or noise made by weightlifters or other when performing hard physical demands on the body. A good translation might be “spirit shout.”
Kihon (Hon) Fundamentals
Kihon renshu Fundamental practice
Kime To make sure, to settle, to decide. The follow through in a technique. Also as in the formal exercise “kime no kata” or form of decision.
Kiken gachi Win by injury (kiken make-loss by injury)
Ko Minor, small (As in ko uchi gari.)
Kodansha A holder of the rank of godan (5th grade) or above
Kodokan Means “school to learn the way” and is the name Jigoro Kano chose to describe his system of jujutsu in 1882. Although the name had been used by another jujutsu system earlier, the name was not widely known and Kano believed it to best describe his martial discipline. The Kodokan is also the building in Japan, located in Tokyo, which is the successor to Kano’s first “Kodokan” in 1882. The Kodokan is considered the “headquarters of judo”, at least traditionally, by most judo practitioners.
Kaeshi Counter (as in kaeshi waza)
Kogi judo The study of judo in a “wide sense” as originally defined by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, where ethical training is emphasized in preference to simply winning contests.
Kyogi judo The practice of judo in the “narrow sense” as defined by Jigoro Kano where contest ability is emphasized over the total study of Kodokan Judo.
Kohai A jujior member in a dojo. One’s junior in the sempai-kohai system. A younger man.
Komi To put into (Mostly used affixed to the verb as in osaekomi.)
Kokoro Mind, spirit, mentality
Koryu Older systems of jujutsu, or the “traditional” systems, especially those before the Meiji era in 1868.
Koshiki Ancient, the past
Kosen As in kosen judo, a method of judo where newaza is emphasized over throwing techniques. Kosen judo was popular among the universities in Japan before World War II, but lost its following after the war when Kodokan Judo was reorganized. Kosen judo is still practiced in a few universities in Japan.
Kowaza A minor technique.
Kubiri To strangle or choke.
Kuchi Mouth (As in kuchi waza, meaning “mouth technique.” Not a flattering term and refers to someone who talks a better game than he actually does.)
Kuden The oral teachings of a school
Kumi kata To be linked together as a pair. Often referred to as the basic grip used in judo and jujitsu. The use of the word “kata” in this phrase indicates something as a pair.
Kumi-ai Linked together, hold each other as wrestlers
Kumi To grapple as a wrestler (Kumi-uchi is a name of a form of combat before the name jujutsu came into use.)
Kumi To intertwine
Kumite Sparring, as in karate. Literally means “intertwining hands.”
Kumite Refers to sparring in a striking context and randori refers to free practice in a grappling sense.
Kun Rules of the dojo usually written on hanging wall scrolls.
Kuruma Wheel (As in hiza guruma.)
Kubiri To strangle or choke
Kuzushi To unbalance or upset
Kyu A level in ranking (as in ikkyu) indicating student status before attaining “dan” rank.
Kyudo “Archery way”, the modern budo form of kyujutsu, or archery skill.
Kyokai Aport association. Kiyo or kyo means “sport diversion” and kai means “association.”
Kyusho Pressure points
Ma Space, distance
Ma ai Distance between opponents
Maitta Phrase meaning “I surender” and used when the recipient can’t show submission by tapping.
Make To lose
Makura Pillow (As in makura kesa gatame.)
Mage To bend
Maki To wrap
Makikomi To wrap around, winding (as in soto makikomi.)
Makiwara A striking board used in karate training
Mata Inside the crotch of the legs, a split (as in a fork in the road and used in uchi mata.)
Mate, Matte Wait
Mawashi To turn, spin or circulate, to turn as a wheel, to wrap around something. A mawashi is also the loin covering of sumo wrestlers.
Mi Person (As in ukemi.)
Michi Way or philosophy
Momi To make violent actions as in a contest.
Momi-ai To contend or struggle together as wrestlers.
Mondo Question and answer period where the sensei instructs the pupils. This is often held at the conclusion of practice.
Morote Both hands (as in morote gari). Moro means both.
Mudansha Having no grade. An ungraded person in the belt rank system
Mukashi Ancient times
Nage To throw or propel
Nagekomi Throwing practice
Nami Common, usual (As in nami juji jime.)
Nafudakake A name board displayed in a dojo showing members’ names and seniority.
Ne To lay down, to recline (As in newaza.)
Newaza “Grappling.” The phase of judo or jujitsu training where groundfighting is emphasized and is a commonly used phrase in judo. The phase literally means “reclining techniques”.
No Of (As in nage no kata.)
Nogare kata Escape forms
Nori To ride
Nihon, Nippon Japan
Nukite Spear or straight hand (As in a thrust in karate.)
O Major, great, big (As in o uchi gari.)
O Sensei Means “venerable teacher.” The founder of aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba is probably the most famous person to have the title of “O Sensei.”
Obi Belt or sash around the waist
Ohkiku To make a very large motion.
Oizuki Front thrust (As in karate.)
Okii Big, large
Okuden Secret teachings. Each jujutsu system had “secret teachings” which were revealed to a student after having gone through rigorous training and acceptance into the system’s higher levels of learning. Such a thing is the oku no kata, or forms of secrets, used in the Kodenkan sytem of jujitsu founded in 1924 in Hawaii.
Omote Front, to face something
Okuri To slide, to send after quickly (As in okuri ashi barai.)
Osae Immobilize, to press upon or against, to retrain, keep down (As in osae waza.)
Osaekomi To apply an immobilization (As in osaekomi waza.)
Oshi To push or shove
Otoshi To drop, to let fall (as in tai otoshi). To entrap
Owaza Major technique
Randori “Free practice.” The form of practice initially developed by Jigoro Kano where the students would use their skills in a free training situation. Opposite of kata (form or structured training) where there is little, if any, option in the training. Prof. Kano studied Kito-ryu jujutsu where “ran o toru” was used as a training form. Ran o toru means “freedom of action” and gave the students the ability to practice freely and initiate their own skills. Ran means freedom and dori implies reason, doctrine, right principles. Randori implies freedom of reasoning or choice in this application of the phrase.
Rei To bow
Reigisaho Dojo etiquette
Ri Reason, the natural laws (Ri is the method of training which emphasizes rational learning as opposed to kan, or intuitive learning in the martial disciplines.)
Ritsurei Standing bow
Renraku A series (in order) (As in ranraku waza.)
Renshi Student, brethren
Renshu To drill or exercises
Renzoku To continue without interruption (As in renzoku waza.)
Ryote Both hands (as in ryote jime). Ryo means both.
Ryu, Ryuha Means “stream” but is interpreted to mean a system or school of training, thought or philosophy (As in Kito-ryu jujutsu.)
Sankaku, Sangaku Triangle, 3 angles or corners (As in sangaku jime.)
Sasae To block (As in sasae tsurikomi ashi.)
Seoi To carry over the back (As in seoi nage.)
Se The back
Sei Means essential quality of anything, natural (as in seibu, or essentials of anything martial). Also means strength or vigor.
Seiza Sitting in a formal position.
Sempai A senior member in a dojo.
Sen Initiative in applying mental, physical or technical ability to gain advantage over an opponent.
Sen sen no sen Superior initiative where one attacks the opponent before he has a chance to attack. Taking the initiative away from the opponent.
Sensei Teacher. A polite term for addressing a scholar or physician. Often used as we use the word “coach” in western culture.
Shiai A single combat as a trial of skill Also refers to a competition or tournament.
Different types of shiai are:
Kachinuki shiai-winner stays out contest
Kohaku shiai-red and white contest
Koten shiai-big point contest
Kaikyo shiai-rank contest where athletes of same rank compete against each other
Shinkyu shiai-kyu promotional contest
Soatari shiai-round-robin contest
Tentori shiai-single-elimination contest
Tsukinami shiai-monthly developmental contest
Shiai jo Contest area
Shigaku The “blind spot.” (Actually means “dead corner.”)
Shihan Master teacher (In classical bugei training, the reliance on teaching a group or class as is done today was not widely done. A shihan worked closely with a monjin, or disciple, and instructed him in all aspects of the martial discipline in which the shihan specialized.)
Shimoseki, Shimoza Lower area of dojo where the lower ranked students sit.
Shiho Four corners (As in yoko shiho gatame.)
Shime To squeeze (As in shime waza.)
Shimpan A referee
Shin Sincere, truth, faith, real, genuine, mental application of being sincere (As in Shingitai.)
Shinai Practice sword in kendo made of bamboo
Shingitai The system of self-defense organized by John Saylor based on the Shingitai philosophy of training. The phrase Shingitai implies the coordinated use of shin (sincere mental application), gi (realistic technical application) and tai (the physical application stressing the importance of physical fitness).
Shintai Advancing and retreating, refers to footwork in judo and jujitsu. Also means body movement.
Shizen hontai Natural basic posture
Sho Initial, the first in a series (As in shodan)
Shodan Initial grade, or 1st grade black belt
Shoshin Novice, beginner
Shobu A contest
Shochu geiko Summer training
Shugyo Austere training. The cultivation of virtue. Samurai would go on a “shugyo” similar to medieval knights going on a quest to test their martial skills and learn from experience.
Shumatsuundo Cooling off exercises
Shuto The ulnar edge, or knife-edge, of the hand
Sode The sleeve
Sogai Compound (As in sogai gachi, or a compound win in contest judo.)
Sore made “That is all.” The phrase used by referee to signal end of contest. Sore means “that, that is, that will do.” Made means “as far as (it goes)”.
Sono mama “Do not move.” A phrase said by referee in a contest when the situation is necessary, as in a possible injury or to judge a hold.
Soke Founder of a ryuha or system of martial training.
Sotai renshu Practicing with a partner
Soto Outer, outside (As in o soto gari.)
Sumi Corner (as in sumi gaeshi.)
Sukashi An evasive action taken against opponent’s attack.
Sukoshi A little
Sute To throw away.
Sutemi To throw the body away. Used in sutemi waza, or a classification of throws where the attacker throws his own body to the ground to throw his opponent.
Sukui To scoop (As in sukui nage.)
Sute geiko “Throw down practice.” Training where a more skillful partner offers no resistance and gives advice to the less-experienced partner who performs the technique.
Suwari Kneeling on both knees (As in suwari seoi nage, or the knee-drop “shoulder” throw)
Tachi To stand, standing (As in tachi waza.)
Tachiai Ready stance
Taiho jitsu Body skill or art The martial art used by Japanese police agencies.
Taiko A ceremonial drum used in a dojo calling the training session to start.
Taisabaki Body management, body movement
Taoshi To throw down, push a man over, to throw down anything standing
Tatami A mat
Tandoku renshu Solo exercise or practice
Tani Valley (As in tani otoshi.)
Tate Height or length, a row from top to bottom, vertical
Teisoku Arch of the foot
Tesabaki Hand movement, management or manipulation
Tettsui Bottom edge of the fist (The “hammer punch” in karate.)
Tobi To jump. Tobi watare means to jump across, tobi komi means to jump or spring into.
Tomoe A figure in Japanese that resembles a circle, thus the name for the throw “tomoe nage.” There is no English word for the tomoe figure, but the closest translation is “circle.”
Tokui Proficient (As in tokui waza, or favorite or best technique.)
Toketa The referee’s command that a hold is broken or ended. Literally means to be untied or ended.
Tori Means to take. The person who performs the technique.
Tsubame A swallow-flight bird (As in tsubame gaeshi.)
Tsugi ashi Follow-foot movement, a form of footwork
Tsuki To thrust
Tsumasaki The ball of the foot
Tsuri To suspend, pull up
Tsurikomi “Pull into.” The act of lifting and pulling into the body (As in tsurikomi goshi.)
Tsuri te Pulling hand
Uchi Inner, inside (As in o uchi gari.)
Uchikomi Repetitive fitting-in exercise or drill (similar to butsukari). Literally means to “shoot or strike into.”
Uchideshi “Inside student.” A live-in student working directly with a sensei.
Unbo Exercises, calisthenics
Uke To receive. The receiver in a technique.
Uke Blocking a punch or kick
Uki Floating (As in uki otoshi.)
Ukemi Breakfalls Literally means as in the mat “receiving the person”. A concept developed by Prof. Jigoro Kano. Before Kano, there was no systematic method of teaching students to fall safely, if any falling skills were taught at all.
Ushiro ukemi Back fall (Also called koho ukemi.)
Yoko ukemi Side fall (Also called sokohu ukemi.)
Mae ukemi Front fall (Also called zenpo ukemi.)
Zenpo kaiten Front rolling fall
Uki Floating (As in uki otoshi.)
Ura Rear, the back of something
Ushiro Rear, the back or something, behind something
Uwagi The training jacket, an overcoat
Utsuri Changing, to change (As in utsuri goshi.)
Wa Harmony, peace (As in Wado-ryu karate.)
Wari To split
Waki Side of the chest
Wake, wakare To divide or separate (As in yoko wakare.)
Wana Trap, snare
Waza Technique, trick
Waza-ari “Almost a technique” (A score in contest judo where the person performing the technique almost completes it enough to score the ippon, of full point.)
Yama Mountain (As in yama arashi, or mountain storm.)
Yakusoku geiko Pre-arranged practice A form of randori where the attacker throws and his partner offers no resistance.
Yoi The command to “get ready.”
Yoko Across, crosswise, from side to side, sideways
Yoten Key points in a technique or teaching a subject.
Yowai, Yowari Weak, not strong
Yudansha One who is graded, a holder of the black belt rank.
Yudanshakai Black belt association
Yusei gachi A win by superiority.
Zarei A seated, formal bow
Zen Virtue, goodness
Zori Sandals made of straw
Zubon The pants in a dogi or judogi.