Common Terminology

The Mudansha ranks in Tensoku Ryu primarily study skills, practices, Kata, and other curriculum materials based on Japanese martial arts. This suggests that much of the terminology you will encounter during instruction involves Japanese terms. In this article we will cover some of the more common terms you will encounter. You will likely want to refer to this page often, particularly early in your studies.

Japanese Terms

Here is a list of Japanese terms and phrases that you will likely encounter during your training. You can select the number of terms that show at one time and move forward and back through display pages as needed. You can also sort the list in various ways by clicking on the column titles. You may also enter a word in the Search box to find a specific meaning.

Japanese TermMeanings
BoLong Staff Weapon
BunkaiAnalysis; Insights
ChikomaShort Distance, Within Range
ChudanMiddle Level; Middle Elevation
ChumaMiddle Distance, One Step Away
Dachi (Tachi)Stance
DanDegree or Step
DojoPractice Studio
Empi or HijiElbow
EriLapel or Collar
GedanLower Level
IpponSingle Cylindrical Object
IttomaMiddle level distance, 1 step away
JoShort Staff Weapon
JodanUpper Level
JujiCross; Shape of Ju (the number 10)
KakeHooking Action
Kamae (Gamae)Posture
KamaeteKeep your guard up
KanjiAncient Japanese Characters
KaratekaKarate Practitioner
KataChoreographed Movement, Shoulder
KatanaLong Japanese (Samurai) Sword
KenFist; Straight Bladed Sword
Keri (Geri)Kick
KibaHorse Riding
KumitePoint Fighting; Sparring
KutsuBend; Lean
KyuClass; Grade; Rank
Ma AiDistance
MawashiAround; Circling; Rotating
MoroPair; Dual
MushinMind Without Thought
NeGround; Base; Root
NihonDual; Two Long Cylinders
OiLunge; Charge; Pursue
RandoriFree Practice; Sparring
RyuStyle; Stream; Martial Arts System
SaiFork Shaped Metal Weapon
SakotsuCollar Bone
SeizaSitting Position; Sit Command
SenseiOne who has gone before; teacher
ShihanMaster or Senior Instructor
ShihoEvery Direction; Four Directions
ShimeChoke; Strangle
ShuHand (also see Te)
SotoOutside; Outer
TamaBall; Sphere
TateVertical; Length; Sword Fight
Te (Shu)Hand (also see Shu)
TeijiShape of the letter ‘T’
TettsuiHammer; Iron Hammer
TomaFar Distance, 2 or More Steps Away
UchiStrike; Inside; Inner
UdeArm; Forearm
UkeBlock; Receiver; Training Partner
UraReverse Side; Back; Opposite
UshiroBack; Behind; Rear
WazaTrick; Technique
Yari (Nukite)Spear
YokoSide; Horizontal
ZenIn Front; Meditative
ShuHand (also see Te)

Many words in Japanese can be spelled in different ways. It is common for words containing the letter “n” to also be correctly spelled with the letter “m”. A very common example is “Kenpo” and “Kempo”. While many different martial styles differentiate themselves based in part on the spelling of this word, the word is the same either way. It means “fist law” no matter how it is spelled.

Another area where different letters can be used involves the letters “k” and “g”. A good example here is the word for “kick”, which can be spelled “Keri” or “Geri”; Keri is preferred where the word is used alone (perhaps in a title), and Geri would be used where the word follows another (e.g. Mae Geri). If you see a word starting with the letter ‘K’, but cannot find its definition, try the ‘G’ spelling (and vice versa). A similar spelling option can be found using the letters ‘T’ and “D’; for example, “Tachi” and “Dachi”.

Pluralities are generally not used in the Japanese language. So, “Keri” might refer to one kick or several kicks. “Kata” might refer to the one Kata that you are doing now, all of the Kata you know; or all of the Kata in the known universe.

You will often find that one longer word is composed of many other separate smaller words. For example, “Zen” can mean “In Front” and “Kutsu” can mean bend. When used together they can form the word “Zenkutsu”, which is a Hard Bow stance in which the front leg is bent and the side leg profile looks something like a bent Japanese archery bow (the Yumi). If you cannot find a specific word, try looking up each syllable to see if that helps explain the term.

Other Terminology

You will encounter other non-Japanese terminology as you study. Here are some common terms you will encounter.

  • Front and Back – aside from the obvious (where is your front or where is your back), this term is most useful when describing which side of the body you are to employ for a particular movement. If you are facing forward and have your right leg back and your left leg forward, then your right leg is your back leg, and your left leg is your front leg. Additionally, your right arm is your back arm, and your left arm is your front arm. If you now extend your right arm and retract your left arm so that the right arm is forward of your left arm, but leave your feet positioned as before, your right arm is still your back arm (even though it may be the most forward at the moment). So, by way of a formal definition, your back arm is the arm that is on the same side of the body as your back foot.
  • Pedestal Leg – when you stand on one leg the leg that is still in contact with the floor is called the Pedestal Leg
  • C- Step or V-Step – when stepping forward we prefer to have the back leg come inward and pass directly beside the front leg and then move outward again as it continues to its final position. This offers you improved balance and stability during the movement and also ensures your center stays focused directly in front of you. If you trace this movement of the foot along the floor it forms a gentle “C” or V” shape, hence the name for the term.

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