Shotokan karate terminology

What some of it means.

Shotokan karate has its own unique terminology. Even though it is taught all over the world and in many different languages, it is not uncommon for commands in dojo to be given in Japanese. This is because Japan is where this art form came to life.

The following list of some of the terminology that a student may encounter. This list is by no means definative, as such students should view this list as merely a starting point.  

General Terms:

karate do - empty handed way / shihan - master / sensei - teacher

sempai - senior student / kohai - junior student

dojo - training hall /  obi - belt / seiza - kneeling /mokuso - meditate

rei - bow / yoi - ready / hajime - begin / yame - stop

naote - relax / hidari - left / migi - right /jodan - upper /chudan - middle

gedan - lower / dachi - stance / zuki - punch / uchi - strike / uke - block

geri - kick / tai sabaki - body shifting / yori ashi - foot shifting


kazama zuki - jab / choku zuki - straight punch / oi zuki - lunge punch

gyaku zuki - reverse punch / yama zuki - mountain punch

yoko zuki - side punch / shita zuki - inverted punch

ippon ken - one knuckle strike / uraken - back fist / tetsui - hammer fist

empi uchi - elbow strike / nukite-zuki - spear hand strike / shuto - knife hand

shuto-zuki - sword hand strike


jodan age uke - upper rising block / jodan tetsui - upper hammer fist

gedan uke - lower block / soto uke - inward middle block

kake wake uke - reverse wedge block / haishu-uke - back hand block

uchi uke - outward middle block / morote uke - augmented block

teisho oshi uke - pressing palm heal block / shuto-uke - sword hand block

juji-uke - X block

Stances :

zenkutsu dachi - front stance / kokutsu dachi - back stance

kiba dachi - horse stance / fudo dachi - rooted stance

neko ashi dachi - cat stance / hangetsu dachi - hourglass stance


hiza geri - knee strike / mae geri - front kick / yoko geri keage - side snap kick

yoko geri kekomi - side thrust kick / fumakomi - stomp kick

mika zuki geri - crescent kick / mawashi geri - round kick / tobi geri - jump kick

ni mae geri - double front kick / ushiro geri kekomi - back thrust kick

Other Terms:

gedan-barai - down block / chudan oi zuki - middle lunge punch

chudan uchi uke - inside outward block / tetsui zuki - hammer fist strike

shuto uke - sword hand block / shuto zuki - sword hand strike

tai-sabaki - body shifting / jodan oi zuki - upper lunge punch

jodan age uke - upper rising block / yoko geri keage - side snapping kick

mae geri keage - front snapping kick / chudan uraken - middle back fist

chudan nukite zuki - middle spear hand strike

chudan gyaku zuki - middle reverse punch

morote chudan uchi uke - augmented middle inside outward block

jodan soto uke - upper forearm strike

morote gedan uchi uke - augmented lower inside outward block

morote shita zuki - augmented upper inverted punch

chudan teisho yoko uke - middle side palm heel block

chudan yoko zuki - middle side punch

ni jodan shita zuki - double inverted upper punch

chudan tsukami uke - middle grasping block

chudan osae uke - middle pressing block

chudan mae empi uchi - middle forward elbow strike

chudan keito uke - middle chicken head block

hitosashiyubi gedan nukite - lower index finger spear hand

shuto gedan barai - lower sword hand strike

washide jodan uchi - upper eagle strike / chudan uraken - middle back fist

jodan mae geri keage - upper front snapping kick

chudan hiza geri - middle knee strike / chudan mika zuki geri - middle crescent kick

chudan mawashi zuki - middle round house punch

jodan shuto juji uke - upper open hand X block

ni yoko chudan zuki - double middle side punch

chudan-tate-shuto-uchi-uke -middle level vertical inside outward sword hand block

chudan choku zuki - middle straight punch / ni jodan uke - double rising block

hidari ashi dachi - left legged stance / chudan uchi otoshi - middle falling block

jodan yoko uchi barai - upper side sweeping block

sho koko bo uke - tiger mouth block 

chudan oi zuki maeude hineri - middle lunge punch with turning forearm

jodan tate mawashi uchi - upper vertical roundhouse strike 

naname shita ni oshinobasu - double downward oblique push

gedan gassho uke - lower double palm heel block / sankaku tobi - triangle jump

chudan nakadaka ippon ken - middle one knuckle strike

jodan age nihon nukite-zuki - upper two finger spear hand strike

haishu uke - back hand block / jodan kensei - upper palm feint  

 Remember: "In the dojo actions always speak louder than words".