To maintain the cultural, philosophical, and historical links with traditional karate, our dojo uses some Japanese terms and commands in class. The following are some common Japanese words and translations to help you understand.


Dojo. "Place for studying the way." It refers to the training hall of the martial arts.

Karate-ka. "Karate practitioner."

Sensei. "Teacher." This title expresses reverence towards those who have accomplished something of note. In our dojo, it is reserved for the Chief Instructors of the class.

Senpai. "Senior student." It is used to address a student or who started training karate earlier.

Karate-gi. "Karate uniform."

Obi. "Belt."

Dan. "Rank (black belt)." There are ten degrees of black belt.

Kyu. "Rank (colored belt)." In our dojo, there are six degrees before reaching black belt.

Kiai. "The meeting together of energy." It refers to a shout at the moment of contact with the target. In our dojo, the kiai pronounces like the word "eight."

Osu. "Yessir." This is a form of acknowledgement used within traditional dojos. It is the equivalent of "yessir" used in more Americanized dojo. It can be used as a greeting as well.

Kata. "Form." The kata is sequences of techniques meant to be performed with technical accuracy against multiple imaginary opponents. Kata develops grace, balance, coordination, strength, and fighting skills. The kata contains all the knowledge of a martial arts system.

Uke. "The one who is conquered." In self-defense exercises, the term refers to the partner who attacks and is thrown by the defender.


Kiotsuke. "Pay attention!" At this command, usually at the start of a class, students must immediately come to the attention position.

Rei. "Respect." At this command, students must bow to one another and to their teacher.

Hai. "Yes" or "Now." When spoken as a command, Hai means to execute a technique.

Hajime. "Start." It is the command given by the sensei to start a particular exercise, sparring match, or kata.

Yame. "Stop." It is the command given by the sensei to end a particular exercise, sparring match, or kata.

Mokuso. "Meditation." There is usually a brief meditation period at the start of a kata.

Yoi. "Ready." It is usually called at the start of a kata.