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Essential Karate Terminology

Updated: 14 hours ago

Essential karate terminology that every practitioner should be familiar with. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced martial artist, understanding these terms will enhance your appreciation of karate’s rich heritage and improve your communication within the dojo.


Karate (空手):

Meaning: “Empty hand.”

Explanation: Karate is a martial art that emphasises striking techniques using only the body—no weapons.

Pronunciation: Kara-te (sounds like “ka-ra-teh”).


Karate-do (空手 道):

Meaning: “The way of the empty hand.”

Explanation: Karate-do encompasses not only physical techniques but also the mental and philosophical aspects of the art.

Pronunciation: Kara-te-doh (sounds like “ka-ra-teh-doh”).


Karateka (空手家):

Meaning: “Karate practitioner.”

Explanation: Refers to anyone who practices karate.

Pronunciation: Kara-teh-kah (sounds like “ka-ra-teh-kah”).


Dojo (道場):

Meaning: “Place of training.”

Explanation: The dojo is where karate practitioners gather to learn, practice, and refine their skills.

Pronunciation: Doh-joh (sounds like “doh-joh”).


Kihon (基本):

Meaning: “Basic techniques.”

Explanation: Kihon includes fundamental movements, stances, and strikes.

Pronunciation: Key-hon (sounds like “key-hon”).


Kata (型):

Meaning: “Form” or “pattern.”

Explanation: A choreographed sequence of movements that simulates a fight against imaginary opponents.

Pronunciation: Ka-tah (sounds like “ka-tah”).


Bunkai (分解):

Meaning: “Form technique application.”

Explanation: Analysing and understanding the practical applications of kata movements.

Pronunciation: Boon-kai (sounds like “boon-kai”).


Uke (受け):

Meaning: “Block.”

Explanation: Defensive movements to deflect or absorb an opponent’s attack.

Pronunciation: Oo-kay (sounds like “oo-kay”).


Tsuki (突き):

Meaning: “Punch.”

Explanation: Striking with a closed fist.

Pronunciation: Zoo-key (sounds like “zoo-key”).


Geri (蹴り) or Keri (蹴り):

Meaning: “Kick.”

Explanation: Executing powerful kicks using various leg techniques.

Pronunciation: Geh-ree (sounds like “geh-ree”).


Seiza (正座):

Meaning: “Kneeling position.”

Explanation: A formal sitting posture used during meditation, ceremonies, and instruction.

Pronunciation: Say-zah (sounds like “say-zah”).


Rei (礼):

Meaning: “Bow.”

Explanation: A sign of respect and humility when entering or leaving the dojo.

Pronunciation: Ray (sounds like “ray”).


Remember, these terms are not just words; they carry the spirit and tradition of karate. Whether you’re practicing kihon, kata, or bunkai, understanding their meanings connects you to the lineage of martial artists who came before you.


Seiza - formal kneeling position at the commencement of class

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