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Featured Article / Review
Precepts of Okinawan Gojuryu
Precepts of Okinawan Gojuryu

By Chojun Miyagi

... full article
Articles Hierarchy
Articles Home » Glossary - Vocabulary » Terminology with Substance
Terminology with Substance

Terminology with Substance

for Gojuryu Karatedo


There is no expectation for everyone to know everything nor every term applicable to Gojuryu Karatedo however the absolute basics should be consistently adhered to. Seldom do we have an opportunity to disseminate a simple terminology list with a bit of substance to help students gain an understanding of what is beyond the obvious.


While reading through this, the more senior Karateka may say to themselves, “I know this already.” Keep in mind, at one point or another we were all beginners. Even now, I learn something new about my primary Budo styles every day. We shouldn’t be too surprised how many students and even instructors do not know what commands and terms apply, when and where. So every now and then we need to write terminology down for those haven’t yet written it down. Yes, I know we live in the westernized world and have the internet however may I quote myself, “the language of Karatedo and all Budo is Japanese.” A simple rule to follow is, if you call the kata by it’s Japanese name then you should use and teach the remaining terminology.


The following should help:

  • Haitte: Move forward.1

    • Sagatte: move backward.

    • also Zenshin: Forward.

  • Hajime: Begin.

  • Hantai: Perform on opposite side [switch feet]

    • Instructors / Sensei; Pronunciation is important. An incorrect pronunciation of ‘hentai’ (n) is very mature and has a completely different meaning.

  • Hansa: Sit natural style.

  • Hayaku: Faster / Quickly.

    • Yukkuri: Slow / Slowly.

  • Hidari: Left.

    • Migi: Right.

  • Hikite: Pulling hand [chambered hand].

    • High chamber at the pectoral muscles for all Naha-te styles and Gojuryu.

  • Keiotsuke: Stand at attention.

  • Magatte: Turn 90 degrees.

  • Mawatte: Turn 180 degrees / turn around [in stance].

    • Magatte and mawatte are often mixed up by non Japanese speakers.

    • ‘Kawatte’ is sometimes used in Okinawan dialect for ‘Mawatte’.

  • Matte: Stop, wait.

  • Migi: Right.

    • Hidari: Left.

  • Mokuso: Meditation.

    • Mokuso yame: Stop meditation.

  • Naotte [or Naore]: Return to ready position at end of drills or kata.

    • Moto no ichi: Is ‘go back to first position’ and although primarily for competition the terms are loosely interchangeable.

  • Otaigai ni rei: bow to each other [partner].

  • Rei: bow.

    • Ritsu Rei: Standing bow.

    • Za Rei: Kneeling bow [Saikeirei].

      • Use both hands at the same time.

      • Until only recently [2013] we bowed with left hand first.

      • Today [2014-] we should use both hands at the same time.

        • This is now uniform for Kendo, Judo and Karatedo in Japan.

  • Renzoku: Continuous.

  • Sagatte: Get back [go backwards].1

    • Haitte: Forward.

    • Zenshin: Forward.

  • Sensei ni rei: Bow to instructor.

  • Seiza: Sit [kneel].

    • Kneel with the left leg first then the right leg.

    • Kneel with toes bent [Kiza] on the floor for a moment before laying them flat.

  • Shomen ni rei: Bow to the front [point farthest from the door / top of training area].

    • or Shinzen ni rei: Bow to shinzen.

      • located at Kamidana / kamiza.

  • Stepping:

    • Ayumi ashi: Stepping forward switching legs [natural stepping].

    • Suri ashi [also Okuri]: Lifting the heels slightly up, move forward with the lead foot first.

      • The trailing foot never passes the leading foot.

      • if moving backwards, the rear foot becomes the lead foot.

    • Tsugi ashi: The back foot moves forward however stops before it passes the front foot, then the front foot moves forward.

  • Tatte: Stand [from Hansa or Seiza].

    • Rise first onto toes bent [kiza] on the floor for a moment before standing.

    • Raise the right leg first then the left leg coming into Musubi dachi.

  • Yame: Stop.

    • Yasume: Relax.

    • Dame: Don’t or no.

  • Yoi: Get ready [into ready stance].

    • Beginning from Musubi dachi, cross both hands in front of you.

      • Left hand over right. Right hand is one fist distance from your groin.

    • Lift your heels only enough for a paper to slide underneath.

    • Rotate on the balls of your feet so both feet are now parallel in Heiko dachi.

    • Turn your open hands into fists pointing straight down at your side.

  • Yoko: Side [direction].

  • Yukkuri: Slow / Slowly.

    • Hayaku: Faster / Quickly.

1 I polled 75 people for the most universal answer to “What terminology do you say to students, giving commands to go backwards, such as with kihon ido [basics with movements] and exercises that come forward and backward with no turn?” The pollsters consisted of 15 native Japanese non karate people. Of the 60 remaining all were Sensei, 25 either Hapa or Japanese and the other 25 not. The final 10 from the group were Kendo and Judo Sensei. Of the respondents [61%], the most overwhelming terms were:

  • Sagatte for go back (x9).

  • Zenshin for go forward (x7).

  • Haitte for go forward (x5).

The final analysis answering the question for ‘go backwards’ and come forward included in order of popularity were: “go backward” (bx12) & “move forward” in English (fx12) these included non English as a 1st language speakers, Sagatte (bx9), Zenshin (fx7), Haitte (fx5), Koutai (bx3), Ushiro e (bx2), Susunde (fx2), Mae e (fx2), Modoru (bx2), Koshin (bx1), Koho (bx1), Koho Ni Iku (bx1), Ushiro e sagatte (bx1), Mae e susund (fx1), Torikaesu (bx1), Tachikaeru (bx1), Ushiro Ni Ite (bx1), Mae Ni Kite (fx1), Ushiro ni (bx1), Ura ni (bx1), Omote ni (fx1), Kotai ni (bx1), Shintai ni (fx1), Emote (bx1), Modotte (bx1), Moto e (bx1).



Johnpaul Williams

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