Here are some of the words I’ve learned in Karate training so far:

Who’s Who

  • Sensei (Sen-say) Teacher.
  • Sempai (Sem-pie) Senior Student. Usually a black belt who is leading the class for Sensei.
  • Kohai (Koh-hi) Junior Student

Polite Words

  • Onegaishimasu (Oh-neh-guy-she-mahss) Please teach me. The final u is silent, the s sounds like the s in “mass”. Used to greet others, especially those of higher ranks
  • Arigato Gozaimashita (Ah-ree-got-toe Goze-eye-mahsh-tah) Thank you.  The “i” is silent. Formal. Past tense.

Class Opening

When the class is about to start, students line up, in rank order and at attention (see Kamae, below). The most senior student then says:

  • Shomen-ni, rei (Show-men-knee Ray) – Bow towards the front of the Dojo
  • Sensei-ni, rei (Sen-say-knee Ray) Bow towards the sensei
  • Otagai-ni, rei (Oh-teh-guy-knee — Ray) Turn and bow towards the senior student

Then the Sensei says:

  • Dojo kun (Doe-joe Koon) Student Creed. The students recite the student creed.


Here is how you count in Japanese. We often count from one to ten and do sets of ten punches, kicks, blocks, etc.

  1. Ichi (Itchy) sort of; often shortened to “Itch”
  2. Ni (Knee)
  3. San (Sahn)
  4. Shi (She)
  5. Go (just like it looks)
  6. Roku (Rohkoo) – most of us shorten it as “Roke”
  7. Shichi (She-chee) – most of us say it as Sichi or “Seech” for short
  8. Hachi (Hah-chee) – often shortened to “Hahtch”
  9. Kyuu – (Kyew) but with a very soft sounding “u” at the end
  10. Juu – (Jew) but very soft sounding “u” at the end

Words Used in Kata, Bunkai and Kumite

  • Uke (Ooh-keh) – Block. There are many different types of blocks.
  • Tsuki (Zoo-key) Punch. There are a few various of these as well.


Targeting is key. If you don’t get this right, you will fail your stripe and belt tests.

  • Jodan (Joe-dahn) Head. Aim toward the chin.
  • Chudan (Chew-dahn) Chest. Aim toward the place where the gi crosses at chest level.
  • Geidan (Gay-dahn) Down. Aim toward the belt.


The following words are used to describe the stances used in our style of Karate. The order is by frequency of usage, except Neko Ashi Dachi is at the end so I can have  cute Neko (cat) animation.

  • Musubi Dachi (Moo-soo-bee Dah-chee) Attention Stance.
  • Sanchin Dachi (Sahn-chin Dah-chee) Hourglass Stance. Feet shoulder width apart; toes turned in; heel of front foot lines up with toes of back foot; knees pushed in while thighs push out. Rooted, grounded. Used during kata and bunkai.
  • Shiko Dachi (Shee-ko Dah-chee) Horse Stance. Knees bent, low stance, toes are out, feet are either shoulder width apart or, more often, placed on a 45 degree angle from one another.
  • Zenkutsu Dachi (Zen-koot-zu Dah-chee) Front Stance. Feet slightly wider than shoulder width; feet pointed forward;  front foot one and 1/2 steps in front of rear foot, knee bent directly over font foot, rear foot straight but not locked. Back straight, hips pushed forward. 70% of weight is on front foot.
  • Heiko Dachi (Hey-ko Dah-chee) Natural stance.
  • Neko Ashi Dachi (Neck-oh Ahsh-ee Dah-chee) Cat Stance. Starting in Musubi Dachi, heels together, toes at 45 degree angle, move one foot straight out about a shoulder width, both legs bent, front foot has heel up, ball of foot on floor, toes bent. 80% of your weight is on the back leg.


These terms are used to guide you through the kata, given in the order we usually hear them.

  • Rei (Ray) Bow. Bowing is a gesture of respect. Student usually says “Onegaishimasu” as they bow.
  • Yoi – (Yoy) Ready. A signal to ready yourself. From musubi dachi, cross left hand with thumb tucked under right hand, palms toward your body at chest level, turn them 45 degrees as you turn them over. Step out so your feet are in heiko dachi and your arms are at your side with tight fists as if you were carrying a briefcase in each hand.
  • Kamai – (Kah-my) Guard. Place your arms in guard position which may differ depending on the kata.
  • Kakuji – (Kah-koo-jee) All the way through. By your own count. As opposed to doing it as directed by 1 count, stopping after each move; or by groups of move.
  • Hajime – (Hah-jee-may) Begin. Signal to start.
  • Yame – (Yah-may) Stop. Return to attention. Student usually bows and says “Arigata Gozaimashita” after coming back to attention.
  • Mae – (My) Front. Step back to your original position.

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