Code and Stuff

Japanese for Martial Artists

by Don on October 05, 2020 underjapanesemartial arts

This is an idea I’ve had kicking around in my head for a little while now. Historically, I’ve practiced a few different martial arts, including Aikido, various forms of Aiki-Jujutsu, Brazilian Jiujitsu and so on. Something I’ve often noticed from my fellow students is they sometimes struggle with the Japanese names of techniques, which may or may not be required learning depending on your school. In fact, practicing Aikido is where I was first exposed to Japanese, as we had to not only learn technique names but also various formalities. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list on the topic, mind you, just to cover some common words and break them down a little bit so you can see how parts are reused and fit together.

Style Names

空手 「からて」 karate

空 「から」 kara - empty
手 「て」 te - hand
空手道 「からてどう」 karatedou - way/path of the empty hand
空手家 「からてか」 karateka - karate practitioner
家 「か」 ka - house, lineage

合気道 「あいきどう」 aikido

合 「あい」 ai - harmony
気 「き」 ki - spirit, energy
道 「どう」 dou - path, way

柔術 「じゅうじゅつ」 juujutsu

柔 「じゅう」 juu - softness, gentleness
術 「じゅつ」 jutsu - art, technique

柔道 「じゅうどう」 judo

柔 「じゅう」 juu - softness, gentleness
道 「どう」 dou - path, way
柔道家 「じゅうどうか」 judoka - judo practiioner

Common Terms

道場 「どうじょう」 doujou - dojo
型 「かた」 kata - kata, form
技 「わざ」 waza - technique, move, skill
基本 「きほん」 kihon - basics, fundamentals
級 「きゅう」 kyuu - rank
段 「だん」 dan - rank
気 「き」 ki - spirit, energy
投げ 「なげ」 nage - throw
帯 「おび」obi - belt
体 「たい」 tai - body

Aikido / Aikijujutsu Terms

一教 - ikkyou
二教 - nikyou
三教 - sankyou
四教 - yonkyou
五教 - gokyou

The first character in each of these are numbers, 1 through 5, while the second character, 教, means “teach”.

四方投げ - shihounage

We have most this already - 四 is 4, which can be read either shi or yon. 方 is read “hou” and means direction, while 投げ, as covered above, is “throw”, coming from the verb 投げる (nageru). So this is the four direction throw.

小手返し - kotegaeshi
小 「こ」 ko - small
手 「て」 te - hand
返し 「がえし」 gaeshi - return, reverse

We only have one part of this so far - 手 (te), hand. 小手 (kote) is “forearm” and 返し is from the verb 返す (kaesu), “to return”.

呼吸投げ - kokyuunage
呼吸 「こきゅう」 kokyuu - breathing
投げ 「なげ」 nage - throw

Another one where we already know part of it - なげ. The remaining part, 呼吸 (kokyuu) means breathing.

入身投げ / 入り身投げ - iriminage
入り 「いり」 iri - entering
身 「み」 mi - body, somebody

We already know 投げ at this point. 入り (iri) is the same as 入る (hairu), to enter.

回転投げ kaitennage
回転 「かいてん」 kaiten - rotation

回転 (kaiten) is a word that means rotation - you might also see this for conveyor belt sushi bars, which are called 回転寿司 (kaitenzushi).

天地投げ - tenchinage
天 「てん」 ten - heaven
地 「ち」 chi - earth

All we need to learn here are 天 (ten) and 地 (chi), which really are just heaven and earth.

十字投げ juujinage
十字 「じゅうじ」 juuji - cross, crossed

十字 is a good term to know, as it’s also used in 十字固 (juujigatame), the name for the armbar. 十 (juu) is the kanji for the number ten and 字 (ji) is the kanji for character. 十, of course, looks like a cross.

突き 「つき」 tsuki - thrust, stab
胸突き 「むねつき」 munetsuki - chest thrust
顔面突き 「がんめんつき」 ganmentsuki - face thrust

突き (tsuki) is the common term for a thrusting strike, usually a punch, as in the verb 突く (tsuku) - to stab. 胸 (mune) means chest and 顔面 (ganmen) means face (顔 - kao - also means face).

打ち 「うち」 uchi - strike, hit
正面打ち 「しょうめんうち」 shoumenuchi - front of the head strike
横面うち 「よこめんうち」 yokomenuchi - side of the head hit

打ち, meaning strike, is from the verb 打つ (utsu - to strike). 面 (men), you might recognize from the face thrust above - it’s a kanji that means “face” or “mask”. 横(yoko) means “side”.

片手取り 「かたてどり」 katatedori - single hand grab
諸手取り 「もろてどり」 morote-dori - two handed grab
両手取り 「りょうてどり」 ryoute-dori - both handed grab
肩取り 「かたどり」 katadori - shoulder grab

This is a pretty easy one to break down. You can probably figure out that 取り (dori) is grab. We also already know that 手 (te) is hand, as seen in the first three. In the last one, 肩 (kata) is shoulder, so that becomes self explanatory. For the other three:

片 - one sided
諸 - together, many, several
両 - both

Judo / BJJ Terms

In the above section, we used 投げ (nage, throw) a lot, and that’ll be helpful here. There are more terms you’ll see common to techniques in Judo / BJJ, some of whichi are also above, and some of which will be new. Some examples:

肩 「かた」 kata - shoulder
帯 「おび」 おび - belt
車 「くるま」 kuruma - wheel
体 「たい」 tai - body
背負い 「せおい」 seoi - carrying on one's back
落とし 「おとし」 otoshi - dropping
腰 「ごし」 goshi - hip
足 「あし」 ashi - foot, leg
大 「おお」 oo - big
外 「そと」 soto - outside
内 「うち」 uchi - inside
刈り 「がり」gari - reap
返し 「がえし」 gaeshi - reversal
絞 「しめ」 shime - strangle, constrict
固 「かため」 katame - harden, set
腕 「うで」 ude - arm

Again, this isn’t exhaustive, and sometimes the Japanese doesn’t make much sense on its own, I suppose. But here are some examples of these words in actual techniques:

一本背負い投げ - ippon seoinage - shoulder/back throw
肩車 - kata guruma - shoulder wheel
諸手刈り - morote gari - two handed reap
体落 - tai otoshi - body drop
腰車 - koshi guruma - hip wheel
足車 - ashi guruma - leg wheel
膝車 - hiza guruma - knee wheel
大外刈 - oosoto gari - big/major outer reap
大内刈り - oouchi gari - big/major inner reap
裸絞め - hadaka jime - naked choke / strangle
送襟絞 - okuri eri jime - sliding lapel choke / strangle
袖車絞 - sode guruma jime - sleeve wheel strangle
腕緘 - ude garami - arm lock / kimura
十字固 - juuji gatame - arm bar, cross armlock
十字絞 - juuji jime - cross choke

Obviously there’s a lot more Japanese in use than this, and some of this might not be perfect or perfectly translated/explained, but hopefully it’s useful to folks who struggle to put the terms together.

If you ever come across unfamiliar Japanese (and you will), you can always look it up at

© 2023 Don Walizer Jr