Advanced Terminology



Common Goju-Ryu Phrases

One of the first difficulties you might encounter during formal training sessions is understanding what your instructor is saying. Sometimes we train with a guest instructor, or train overseas with people that speak different languages. To make sure everybody understands each other, we use Japanese as a common language. We also use Japanese out of respect and tradition. The following list of words and phrases is by no means complete, but these are the most common things you will hear or say. A slightly more complete list of karate terms including less frequently used words is also available. Because most of us don't speak Japanese, we also use English for many things.After each Japanese word (written in bold) a kind of simple phonetic spelling is included so you know what the word should sound like. This is followed by the meaning of the word as we use it in karate.
  • karate /kahrah-tay/ - "Empty hand" or weaponless art of defense.
  • dojo /doe-joe/ - Literally "way-place," or "place for learning the way," name for karate school/training room.
  • obi /oh-bee/ - Belt
  • gi /ghee/ - Karate uniform (or dogi /doe-ghee/).
  • sensei /sen-say/ - Instructor
  • sempai /sem-pie/ - Senior student
  • hajime /hah-jee-may/ - Begin at your own speed, continue to your own count, as in free sparring or kata.
  • yame /yah-may/ - Stop.
  • migi /me-ghee/ - Right side
  • hidari /he-dah-ree/ - Left side
  • mokuso /mohk-so/ - Meditation (eye's closed)
  • yoi /yoy/ - Ready position (for kata etc.), in musubi dachi stance, hands one fist in front of belt, crossed left over right, palms down.
  • ashi o kaete /ah-she oh kie-tay/ - Change stance, as from left foot to right (ashi means foot/feet)
  • te o kaete /tay oh kie-tay/ - Change hands, used for all hand techniques (te means hand/hands)
  • mawatte /mah-wah-tay/ - Turn around/other way
  • Directions (to strike, etc.)
  • mae /my/ or /may/ - Front
  • yoko /yoe-koe/ - Side
  • mawashi /mah-wah-she/ - Around, eg round-house
  • ushiro /oo-she-roe/ - Back
  • Areas (to strike, etc.)
  • jodan /joe-dahn/ - Upper level, collar and up (e.g. face, head, throat)
  • chudan /choo-dahn/ - Middle level, belt up to collar (e.g. stomach)
  • gedan /gay-dahn/ - Lower level, "below the belt" (e.g. abdomen, groin, legs)

For example, a jodan mawashi geri would be a round-house kick at head height, whereas a gedan mawashi geri would be a round-house kick to the leg. A chudan mae geri is a front kick at stomach/chest height, and so on.


(uke waza)

  • uke - block
  • barai - parry
  • age uke - rising block (particularly to jodan, jodan age uke)
  • yoko uke - side block (particularly to mid height, chudan yoko uke). Palm up, blocking with thumb side of forearm, to the ouside. Also called soto ude uke, soto yoko uke, and ude uke.
  • gedan barai - downward circular block
  • hiki uke - pulling/grasping block
  • uchi yoko uke - inside forearm block
  • sukui uke - scoop block
  • nagashi uke - sweeping block
  • kake uke - hook block
  • koken uke - wrist block, wrist bent inwards, middle finger touching thumb. Block with end of forearm (particularly jodan koken uke).
  • kosa uke (cross block) - arms crossed at wrist, with backs of hands facing downwards and inwards towards each other.
  • shuto uke - knife hand block
  • shotei uke - palm heel block, particularly to gedan, also called shotei gedan barai.
  • tetsui uke - hammerfist block
  • hiza uke - knee block. hiza uchi uke (knee block from outside to inside) and hiza soto uke (knee block from inside to outside).
  • osae uke - pressing block
  • otoshi uke - descending block, eg shotei otoshi uke (palm-heel descending block)
  • kuri uka - circular elbow block
  • sokutei osae uke - pressing block with sole of the foot. Pressing down hard against the attacker's ankle, as in a yoko geri.
  • sokutei harai uke - block with the sole of the foot. Foot swung from outside to inside.
  • haisoku barai - instep block. Foot swung from inside to outside.
  • tora guchi - highly circular block simultaneously to both gedan and jodan, ending with a push forward (characteristic of Goju Ryu).


  • kumite - sparring
  • san dan gi - basic three step/three level sparring
  • sanbon kumite - three step sparring
  • ippon kumite - one step sparring (block and counter)
  • jiyu ippon kumite - free one step sparring, emphasis on technique
  • randori kumite - slow and soft free style sparring with emphasis on technique
  • yakusoku kumite - prearranged sparring
  • jiyu kumite - hard and fast controlled continuous free fighting (iri kumi in the Okinawan dialect)
  • go kumite - full contact sparring
  • sanbon shobu kumite or shiai kumite - three point competition karate


(-dachi or -tachi)

  • heisoku dachi (ready stance) - Feet together, legs straight and relaxed.
  • musubi dachi (ready stance) - Heels together, with each foot pointing outwards 45º (forming a right angle between the feet).
  • heiko dachi (natural stance) - Feet parallel, shoulder-width apart.
  • soto hachiji dachi or just hachiji dachi (natural stance) - Feet shoulder-width apart, feet both pointing outwards at 45º.
  • uchi hachiji dachi (natural stance) - As for soto-hachiji-dachi but feet pointing slightly inwards.
  • zenkutsu dachi (front stance) - Forward leg bent at the knee with 60% of weight on front leg and 40% on rear leg. Knee of rear leg locked and extended approximately two shoulder-widths behind lead foot. Torso erect. Feet facing outwards at 45º.
  • han zenkutsu dachi (half front stance) - As for zenkutsu-dachi, but feet only one shoulder-width apart. Weight is distributed evenly. Front knee is bent so that toes are obscured.
  • sanchin dachi (tension stance) - Feet shoulder-width apart, weight distributed evenly over both legs. Kneeds tensed and pulled inwards. Forward foot slightly ahead of rear foot, so that back of front foot aligns with the front of the rear foot. Toes pointed slightly inward. Back straight and hips tensed, with pelvis pulled forwards and upwards.
  • gyaku zenkutsu dachi (rear defense stance) - As in zenkutsu-dachi but turned around so straight leg points forward. Head and torso turned to face forward, leaning to the rear.
  • neko ashi dachi (cat stance) - Rear knee bent, with foot flat on ground, and toes facing to the outside. Resting lightly (10%) on the front leg, approximately one shoulder-width from the rear leg. Toes of front foot facing forwards, flat on ground with heel of foot raised. Crouching slightly, with front leg in centre of body, bent a little at the knee. Torso erect.
  • kokutsu dachi (back stance) - Rear knee bent, with foot facing to the outside. Forward leg approximately two shoulder-widths in front of and perpendicular to rear foot (i.e. facing forwards). 70% of weight on rear leg, 30% on foward leg.
  • hanmi kokutsu dachi - as for kokutsu dachi, but rear leg is placed slightly to the side. Rear foot points directly sideways with back of foot aligned with big toe of front foot.
  • kiba dachi or naifanchi dachi (horse stance) - Feet roughly two shoulder-widths apart, parallel, toes pointed forwards.
  • shiko dachi (straddle stance) - Feet spread approximately two shoulder-widths apart, toes pointed outward at 45º. Weight distributed evenly over both legs. Knees bent deeply and pulled back as far as possible. Torso erect. Lower legs/shins approximately vertical.
  • naname shiko dachi (diagonal straddle stance) - as for shiko dachi but at a 45º angle.
  • yokomuki shiko dachi (sideways straddle stance) - As for shiko-dachi, but looking directly to the side.
  • sesan dachi (side facing straddle stance) - Similar to yokomuki shiko dachi, but leading foot points directly forward and rear foot points directly outwards.
  • moto dachi - Similar to naname shiko dachi, but leading foot points directly forward and rear foot points directly outwards.
  • shirasagiashi dachi or sagiashi dachi (one-legged or crane stance) - Leg raised and tucked behind knee of supporting leg. Supporting leg bent at knee and foot turned outward, weight shifted back above supporting leg.
  • renoji dachi (Japanese character Re stance) - Feet one shoulder width apart, front leg in centre of body pointing directly forwards. Rear leg pointing outwards 45º. Legs relaxed and straight.
  • kosa dachi (crossed-leg stance) - One leg crossed over the other with both knees bent. Front foot flat on ground. Rear leg supported on ball of foot. Front foot facing to outside at 45º.
  • bensoku dachi - similar to kosa dachi but both feet flat on ground.
  • naihanchi dachi - as for sanchin dachi but feet even (neither is further forward than the other).
  • fudo dachi or sochin dachi (free/immovable stance)


  • sabaki - general term for body moving/shifting techniques
  • tai sabaki - body movement
  • te sabaki - hand movement
  • ashi sabaki - foot movement
  • suri ashi - sliding step
  • tsugi ashi - shuffling step
  • tenkai ashi - pivot
  • kaiten ashi - forward step pivot
  • tenkan ashi - pivot backstep
  • ayumi ashi - natural stepping/walking
  • yori ashi - dragging step
  • keri ashi - kicking foot
  • tenshin - moving, shifting
  • chakuchi - replacing

Supplementary Training

(Hojo undo)

  • chishi - stone lever weight. Flat stone or concrete weight with a straight handle (typically 3-6kg). Originally an Okinawan tool for packing soil.
  • nigiri-game - gripping jar
  • makiwara - striking post. A post with the striking area wrapped in rope (hence the name) or leather.
  • temochi-shiki makiwara - hanging striking post
  • ishisashi - stone padlock, with uses similar to a dumbell.
  • tan - barbell. Originally the wheels of a trolley.
  • tou - cane or bamboo bundle
  • jari bako - sand-box
  • tetsu geta - iron clogs
  • kongoken - oval metal weight (invented by Chojun Miyagi, typically 30-40kg)
  • sashi-ishi - natural stone weights
  • makiage kigu - wrist roller
  • tetsuarei - dumbell

Other Terms

  • age - upper/rising
  • ashi tanren - leg conditioning
  • bunkai - techniques and applications of a kata
  • gasshuku - training camp
  • gyaku - reverse
  • hara - centre, centre of mass
  • hoju undo - supplementary exercises utilising aids to develop strength, stamina, speed and coordination (see above)
  • honbu dojo - central dojo of an organisation/region
  • junbi undo - warmup and preliminary exercises
  • junbi owarimasu - end of warmups
  • kakie - a type of hand/arm exercise and associated applications used mostly for close combat. Also for improving strength, control and muchimi.
  • kamae - stance and distancing as assumed for sparring
  • karate-do - the way of karate. do means way or path (from the chinese tao).
  • karateka - a karate practioner
  • kata - a sequence of pre-arranged movements and techniques
  • ki - spirit and energy (similar to chi)
  • kiai - shout given as techniques are delivered to focus energy
  • kihon - basics
  • kime - focus
  • ma-ai - correct distancing or timing with respect to one's partner
  • morote - both hands simultaneously
  • muchimi - heavy/sticky but still flowing (a desirable feature of many techniques)
  • mushin - to do something automatically or without having to think about it.
  • ritsurei - standing bow
  • seiken - normal fist (front two knuckles)
  • seiza - kneeling
  • shihan - chief/master instructor. For IOGKF Goju Ryu this is Morio Higaonna.
  • shime - testing of sanchin kata
  • soto - outside (inside to outside)
  • tako ashi - gripping the floor with spread toes.
  • uchi - inside (outside to inside) or strike
  • ude tanren - forearm conditioning
  • zarei - sitting bow
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