Since this is an English language guide intended for all levels, the English translations of Japanese terms will be used as much as possible, since it would be cruel obfuscate the material while we teach it. For the sake of consistency, though, it is important that you learn the Japanese names. Many different styles use these terms, and translations always include some degree of artistic license from the translator. This can lead to confusion, since our translations may not correspond with those of other practitioners, authors, and teachers which you may encounter. However, some Japanese terms have no clear or convenient English translation, so those Japanese names will be used throughout this guide.
The names of individual techniques are listed on their respective pages; the names general concepts are listed below:
Please note the following conventions when reading this site:
- All techniques are described from the defender's perspective; so “right” and “left” will always refer to the defender’s right or left side.
- The “centerline” refers to the body’s line-of-symmetry; an imaginary line running from the top of the head, between the eyes, down the middle of the nose, dividing the navel, etc.
- Movements directed towards centerlines are “inside” techniques.
- Movements directed away from centerlines are “outside” techniques.
- When facing an opponent, the opponent is to be treated like a reflection in a mirror. While this may seem confusing at first, this conventions is the only thing which the entire martial arts community seems to agree upon -- so please, don’t take this from us!
- When the opponent uses their right hand to grab the defender's left hand, this is a “same-side” grab. Same-side techniques do not cross the centerline.
- If an opponent uses their right hand to grab the defender’s right hand, this is a “opposite-side” grab, since the opponent must reach across their centerline.
[Photo explaining same and opposite-sides]
Common Japanese Words
Please keep the following in mind when using Japanese terminology:
- The Japanese language has terse vowels, which require a clear and sharp pronunciation; you could inadvertently say a completely different word if the vowel sounds are slightly off. This can cause great embarrassment, since the Japanese love pun-based humor.
- A macron (a line drawn over a vowel) indicates the sound should last twice as long.
- Since the letter "i" needs its dot to be recognizable, its double-length version is usually rendered as "ii".
- "a" is the central-a, as in "father".
- "e" is the middle-e, as in "get".
- "i" is the short-i or long-e, as in "we".
- "o" is a middle-o, as in "old".
- "u" is a closed-near back sound, as in "soon", but without pouting the lips.
- The "u" at the end of words is often silent.
- A macron (a line drawn over a vowel) indicates the sound should last twice as long.
- Double consonants are always pronounced separately (e.g., bokken is pronounced "bok'ken").
- "g" is always a hard-g, like in "goal," (as opposed to a j-like soft-g sound, as in "giraffe").
- "f" is more like "ph," since it's halfway between a "f" and a "h" sound.
- "r" is pronounced quickly, without rolling the tongue. This causes confusion, as it almost seems like a “l”.
- Both "tsu" and "su" are pronounced like "sue," but "tsu" has a hissing-s.
- The Japanese language has no plural tense, so do not add a "-s" when using Japanese words; it just make things weird.
- Japanese people customarily give their family name first, and then their given name. Likewise, a person's title is given as a suffix, and not a prefix. To make things simple, this website will use Western naming conventions.
|Bunkai||Practical applications of a kata's movements. (Literally: “picking apart / analysis / disassembly”)|
|Dan||Degree (Literally: "step")|
|Dō||A path which leads to enlightenment. Typically, this is an art which is practiced as a way of life. (Literally: “the Way.” Dō is the Japanese pronunciation for Tao / Dao.|
|Dōjō||Training hall (Literally: “Way-place”)|
|Goshin-Jutsu||Self-defense (Literally: “body-protection art”)|
|Gi||A slang term for uniforms (Literally: a suffix meaning “clothing”)|
|Hanshi||A rarely-granted title reserved for the greatest of masters and teachers-of-teachers. (Literally: "model gentleman")|
|Ibuki||Hard breathing methods.|
|Joseki||The founder of a system. (Literally: “set-stone”)|
The suffix "-ka" refers to a practitioner of a given activity. (e.g., jūdō players are jūdōka; aikidō practitioners are akidōka, etc.)
|Kata||Formalized solo practice drills, with the goal of developing proper biomechanics. Because each movement has an associated bunkai, kata is much more than calisthenics. (Literally: “a set form or format / mold / model”)|
“-geri” is used when combined with other words.
|Ki||Aliveness; Will-to-Power, inner power; spirit; energy. (Literally: “Spirit / feeling / psyche”)|
|Kiai||A spirited yell which accompanies a technique (Literally: “spirit-joining”)|
|Kihon||Basics / fundamentals. (Literally: "Basis")|
|Kime||Focus of physical or mental energy.|
|Kiotsuke||"Come to attention!" (Literally: “(Attention) posture!” / “Join spirits!”)|
|Kumite||Sparring. (Literally: Blending / braiding hands.)|
|Kūsankū||A slang term for a simultaneous block-counterattack combination.|
|Kyōshi||A title awarded to refers to masters who are the teachers-of-teachers, who usually have shichidan or hachidan rankings. (Literally: "teach gentlemen")|
|Kyū||Grade / rank|
This suffix denotes the ranking of students who have not yet completed the basic curriculum. These ranks are typically indicated with color-coded belts. The number of kyū ranks, and their color codes tend to vary greatly between different dōjō.
Also, this is a slang term for non-black belt students.
|Kyūsho||The weak points of the human body. (Literally: "places of suffering.")|
|Makiwara||Punching board (Literally: “a bundle of straw”). These were common training tools in Asian striking arts before padwork and bagwork became common.|
|Mudansha||People who have not earned a black belt. (Literally: “without-a-degree people”)|
|Obi||Belt / sash.|
|Otagai ni, Rei!||"(Respectfully) Bow to each other!"|
|Nogare||Soft breathing methods.|
|Rei||A respectful bow (Literally: “salute / appreciation”)|
|Renshi||A title given to those who have achieved mastery and earned a good reputation. (Literally: "polished gentleman". This title is derived from the verb renshu, "to practice.")|
|Sempai ni, Rei!||(Respectfully) Bow to the senior students!|
|Sensei||A title given to teachers. "Sensei" literally translates as “one who came before you;” a sensei is not an exalted sage, but someone who was once like you, and thus knows what you need to improve. As such, within Goshin-Jutsu there is no formal criteria to earn this title; one becomes a sensei whenever students decide to start calling you that. |
Traditionally, “sensei” is a suffix (e.g., Jones-sensei), but it is commonly used as an honorific in English-speaking countries (e.g., Sensei Jones). Sensei is not a title you use when describing yourself.
|Sensei ni, Rei!||"(Respectfully) Bow to the teacher!" Remember, you bow to people, never before them. If respect is not reciprocated, then it is not respect.|
|Shiai||Competition or tournament. (Literally: “ordeal-meeting”)|
|Shihan||A title given to esteemed masters, usually with shichidan or hachidan rankings. (Literally: "expert/master/exemplar-example")|
|Tori||The partner who successfully completes a technique. Typically, this is the partner taking the defender role in waza practice. (Literally: “taker / winner / chooser”)|
|Tsuki||Punch (Literally: “thrust”)|
|Uke||Block or opponent. (Literally: “catcher / receiver” because blocks, and opponents, receive techniques.)|
|Ukemi||Breakfalls (Literally: "receiving-person”)|
|Waza||Skills or techniques|
|Yūdansha||People who have earned black belt rankings. (Literally: “have-a-degree people”).|
|Shi / Yon||4|
|Shichi / Nana||7|
Common numbers and their Japanese translations are listed for your use. Combining these list items generates other common numbers (e.g., 49 is "yonjūku," 4*10 + 9). Please note that this is a "quick-and-dirty" guide. The Japanese language uses different words for ordinals; and separate, oddly-specific counting forms when counting people, and another form for the days of the month. Please be mindful of the following conventions:
- “Shi” and “yon” both mean “four,” but there are oddly-specific cultural and linguistic restrictions on when and how to use “shi,” since it is a homophone for “death” in Japanese. The Japanese are thus extremely superstitious about the number four; buildings rarely have fourth floors, and items rarely come in 4-packs.
- Likewise, since "ku" is a homophone for "suffering," it is often drawled out into "kyū."
- “Shichi” and “nana” both mean “seven.” “Nana” is used when there is a risk of garbled communication (e.g., over a poor telephone or radio connection) because “shichi” (7) could be misheard as “shishi” (44).