The following set of Japanese words is provided to give the Karate student a working vocabulary in the dojo.  The brief definitions given are as they would be used in relation to Karate and not necessarily in general conversation.  Many Japanese words do not have an exact English counterpart so more than one definition may be listed.  An example of this is the word ãtsukiä which literally means to thrust but is generally given in English as punch.

The beginning Karate student should not feel overwhelmed at having to learn these terms.  You will learn them through constant usage in the dojo, not just by memorizing these lists.  The serious Karate student will find that knowledge of the language, culture and history of the people who created this art is invaluable to their study.


The key to correct pronunciation of Japanese lies in the vowel sounds.  There are five and they are always pronounced the same way.

A as in father
E as in set
I as in unique
O as in go
U as in rude

Consonants are pronounced the same as in English with the following exceptions:

G is always hard as in Go
R is half way between the English R and T sounding something like L

Careful attention must be given to the long vowels which have a macron over them like this:

Karate-Do.  They are pronounced the same only held longer.

Double consonants are both pronounced.  An example of this is the word ãtettsuiä which is pronounced ãtet-tsuiä with both tâs enunciated.

Vowels are frequently muted after a soft consonant.  Examples are:

Mokuso --- mokâso
Renshi ---Renshâ
Desu ka --- desâka

This is something that always confuses beginning students.  The pronunciation of some consonants changes when combining words and when shifting to the combining form of verbs.  Some examples of this are:

Keri        ---      mai-geri         K        --        G
Tachi     ---      yoi-dachi       S        --        J or Z
Kamae(ru) ---  kamae            T        --        D
Mawasu    --- mawashi         H        --        B or P
Tsu       ---      Chi                  Su        --        Shi

HINT:  In general it is very easy to speak Japanese if you keep in mind these simple guidelines.  One other point of importance is that in speaking you should use your lips much less than in English, basically just tensing or relaxing, not moving them.



White         Shiroi
Purple        Murasaki
Yellow        Kiiroi
Orange       Orenji
Blue            Aoi
Green         Midori
Brown        Chairo
Black          Kuroi
Red             Akai



1          Ichi (sho)
2          Ni

3          San

4          Shi (yon) 

5          Go      
6          Roku  
7          Shichi (nana) 
8          Hachi     
9          Ku       

10        Ju    

11        Juichi   

12        Juni

20                    Niju
21                    Nijuichi
 30                    Sanju
 40                    Yonju
 50                    Goju
 60                    Rokuju
100                   Hyaku
 500                  Gohyaku
 1,000               Sen
 5,000               Gosen
 10,000             Ichiman
 100,000           Juman



Mudansha -Kyu Ranks
Jukyu        10th
Kukyu        9th
Hachikyu 8th
Nanakyu    7th 
Rokyu        6th 
Gokyu        5th 
Yonkyu      4th 
Sankyu       3rd 
Nikyu         2nd 

Itkyu          1st

Yudansha - Dan Ranks
Shodan       1st
Nidan          2nd
Sandan       3rd 
Yondan      4th 
Godan        5th 
Rokudan     6th
Nanadan     7th
Hachidan    8th
Kudan         9th
Judan          10th

Kyu - The 10 ranks before black belt.  The mudansha grades.
Dan - The 10 grades or steps of black belt level.  The yudansha ranks.
Mudansha - A person who holds a kyu rank.
Yudansha - A person who holds a dan rank.
Karateka - A student of Karate
Sempai - Ones senior.  A form of address for your senior.
Sensei - A teacher.  A title of respect for someone older and wiser.
Kyoshi - An honorary title usually given to nanadan and hachidan
Hanshi - A master instructor.  An honorary title given to kudan and judan


(click on terms to hear pronunciation)

Anata wa ikaga desu ka - And how are you
Arigato gozaimasu - Thank you very much
Arigato - Thank you (very casual form, not to be used to a senior)
Do itashimashite  - Not at all.  You are welcome
Domo arigato gozaimasu - Thank you very much (most polite form)
Domo - Thanks.  Sorry.  (Very casual form)
Dozo - Please (do this).  (Very casual)
Genki desu, arigato - I am fine, thank you
Gomen-nasai  - Excuse me (informal form, not to be used to a senior)
Hajime shaste kudasai  - Permission to begin, please
Ikaga desu ka - How are you
Konban wa - Good evening
Konnichi wa - Good afternoon
Kudasai  - Please give me the favor of (polite form)
Ohayo-gozaimasu - Good morning
Omedeto-gozaimasu - Congratulations
Onegai-shimasu - I humbly request.  Please teach me.
Oyasumi-nasai - Good night
Sayonara - Good bye (do not use to a senior)
Shitsurei-shimasu  - Excuse me.  Good bye (when departing from someone who is your senior)



Hajime - Begin
Hayaku - Hurry up.  Quickly
Ki o tsuke - Attention
Matte - Wait.  Stop.
Mawatte - Turn
Moichido - One more time.
Mokuso hajime - Meditation begins
Mokuso yame - Meditation ends
Naotte - Return to the original position (usually yoi-dachi)
Narande - Line up.
O-tagai ni rei - Bow to each other
Rei - Bow
Sensei ni rei - Bow to the teacher
Shomen ni rei - Bow to the front
Suware - Sit
Tate - Sit up
Yame - Stop
Yasume - Rest
Yoi - Ready