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 words and 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 a translation may not correspond with those of other practitioners, authors, and teachers that you may encounter. However, some Japanese terms will still be used throughout this guide, since some terminology has no clear or convenient English translation.
The name of individual techniques are listed on their respective pages; the names general concepts are listed below:
Please keep the following conventions in mind 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. Likewise, “outside” techniques are directed away from centerlines.
- When facing an opponent, they are treated like a reflection in a mirror. 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. Likewise, 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. While this may seem confusing at first, this convention is the only thing in the entire martial arts community seems to agree upon -- so please, don’t take this from us!
[Photo explaining same and opposite-sides]
Common Japanese Words
|Bunkai||Practical applications of a kata's movements. (Literally: “picking apart / analysis / disassembly”)|
|Dō||A path which leads to enlightenment. Typically, this is an art which is practiced not for art's sake, but 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||Uniform (Literally: “clothing”)|
|Hanshi||A rare title granted to the greatest of masters and teachers-of-teachers. (Literally: "model gentleman")|
|Ibuki||Long breathing methods.|
|Joseki||The founder of a system. (Literally: “set-stone”)|
|Karateka||A practitioner of karate. (Literally: “karate-person”) |
The suffix "-ka" refers to a practitioner of an 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 a bunkai associated with it, kata is much more than calisthenics. (Literally: “a set form or format / mould / 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 / counter-attack combination. |
|Kyū||Grade / rank|
This suffix denotes the ranking of students who have not yet completed the basic curriculum. These ranks are typically denoted by color-coded belts. The number of kyū ranks, and their color codes tend to vary greatly between different dōjō.
Also, a slang term for collectively referring to all non-black belt students.
|Kyūsho||The weak points of the human body. (Literally: "places of suffering.")|
|Makiwara||Punching board “a bundle of straw”|
|Mudansha||People below black belt rank. (Literally: “without-a-degree people”)|
|Obi||Belt / sash. |
Contrary to popular belief the belt does not hold the pants up; it holds the jacket closet.
|Otagai ni, Rei!||"(Respectfully) Bow to each other!"|
|Nogare||Short breathing methods.|
|Rei||A respectful bow (Literally: “salute / appreciation”)|
|Renshi||A title given to those who have achieved mastery. (Literally: "polished gentleman")|
|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 a teacher because they are some exalted master, but because they were once like you, and thus know what you need to improve. As such, within Goshin-Jutsu, one becomes a sensei whenever people decide to start calling you that |
Traditionally, “sensei” is used as 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 nanadan 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 technique.)|
|Ukemi||Breakfalls (Literally: "receiving-person”)|
|Waza||Skills or techniques|
|Yūdansha||People with a black belt ranking or higher. (Literally: “have-a-degree people”). |
Contrary to popular belief, a black belt does not denote mastery; it denotes that the student is reasonably competent after completing a basic curriculum, similar to a high school diploma. From there, additional degrees are awarded based on the student's merit, dedication, and contribution to the art.
|Shi / Yon||4|
|Shichi / Nana||7|
“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 chance of your words being garbled (i.e., over a telephone or radio connection) because “Shichi” (7) could be misheard as “shishi” (44).
Other numbers can be made by combining the items listed in the table. For example, 49 is "yonjūku."
Please note that this is a "quick-and-dirty" guide. Japanese uses different words for ordinals, and separate, oddly-specific counting forms for the days of the month, and for counting people.