Karate TerminologyPronunciation for Romanized Japanese (Romaji) is very simple. All syllables receive equal stress unless a vowel is doubled, in which case that vowel will be stressed. Vowel sounds are very similar to English as listed below and do not change based on surrounding characters. In all cases “O” is the same, even if followed by a second vowel. The second vowel will be pronounced as well. As an example, in Romaji the word “Mae” is pronounced Mah-eh, or close to “Maya,” rather than with a short, hard “A.” An exception to this rule is that often a trailing vowel will be so abbreviated as to be almost inaudible. In the karate term “Osu,” the trailing “u” is essentially left out, and “Osu” is pronounced “Oss.” There is no hard and fast rule for this, but these words are more often heard than seen, and it’s not difficult to pick up during training.

A = “ah” E = “eh” I = “ee” O = “oh” U = “oo”

Consonants are generally the same as English, again they are pronounced consistently across all words without changing based on surrounding characters. “G” is always hard, unlike in English where hard “G” is used for “garden” and soft “G” for “generate.”

Phonetic Japanese English Translation


    ichi ee-chee or eech, often “Itch!” 1
    ni nee 2
    san sahn 3
    shi shee 4
    go goh 5
    roku rohk (the R is rolled) 6
    shichi sheech 7
    hachi hahch 8
    ku kuh 9
    ju juh 10

Stances (dachi)

    zen kutsu dachi front stance
    ko kutsu dachi back stance
    kiba dachi horse stance
    sochin dachi /
    fudo dachi
    immovable stance
    neko dachi cat stance
    shizen tai ready stance

Blocking Techniques (uke-waza)

    age uke rising block
    ude uke middle block
    gedan barai down block
    uchi uke inside-ouside block
    shuto uke knife-hand block
    kakiwake uke two-handed separating block

Arm Techniques

    tsuki punch
    oi zuki step-in punch
    gyaku zuki reverse punch
    kizami zuki jab punch
    nukite spear hand
    ura-ken backfist
    empi elbow

Leg Techniques

    geri kick
    maeh geri front (snap) kick
    mawashi geri roundhouse kick
    yoko geri kekomi side thrust kick
    yoko geri keage side snap kick
    ushiro geri back kick

Sparring (kumite)

    jo dan head level
    chu dan stomach level
    ge dan lower level
    sanban kumite three-step sparring
    ippon kumite one-step sparring
    jiyu ippon kumite/
    jiyu kumite
    semi-free sparring

Other Terms

    kihon basic training
    kiai “spirit focus,” a focusing yell
    kime “decision,” focus
    rei bow
    yoi “get ready,” a comman to take natural/ready stance
    yame stop
    mawatte turn
    hajime begin
    mokuso quiet personal meditation
    seiza proper kneeling position
    sempai senior student
    ko-hai junior student