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. A dojo can be a specific building, or anywhere that a martial arts school meets for practice.

Karateka "Karate practitioner." Anybody who studies and practices karate is a karateka.

Sensei "Teacher." This title is reserved for black belts who have studied for decades, and are knowledgeable enough to teach the entire curriculum of a style. In our dojo, it is reserved for the Chief Instructors of the class.

Senpai "Senior student." This term is used to address a student who has been training for longer or has attained a higher rank. A senpai is any senior student.

Karate-gi "Karate uniform." We practice in a specific uniform that allows us to practice grabs and have full mobility. Wearing the gi also allows karateka to fit in and show commitment to the dojo.

Obi "Belt." The color of an obi denotes the rank of the practitioner. New students begin at the "shiro obi" (white belt) and progress towards "kuro obi" (black belt).

Dan "Rank (black belt)" There are ten degrees of black belt. New black belts begin at "shodan" (first dan) and gain ranks over a lifetime of training.

Kyuu "Rank (colored belt)" In our dojo, there are six degrees before reaching black belt. These ranks begin at sixth kyuu and progress to first kyuu, which is the rank a student achieves before testing for black belt.

Kiai "The meeting together of energy." A kiai a shout at the moment of contact when striking. Our dojo uses the kiai as a technique during important strikes in kata as well as during sparring exercises.

Osu "Yessir." This is a form of acknowledgement used within traditional dojos. It is the equivalent of "yessir" used in more American or Japanese style dojos. It can be used as a greeting at the beginning and end of class as well.

Kata "Form." A 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 "Receiver." In self-defense exercises, the term refers to the partner who attacks and is thrown by the defender.


Ki o Tsuke "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." This is the command given by the sensei to start a particular exercise, sparring match, or kata.

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

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

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