learn karate terms in Japanese

Looking to learn how to pronounce "karate" correctly--or at least how to pronounce it in Japanese? Want to know why dōjō has those lines over the vowels? Use this page to boost your martial arts Japanese vocabulary. Want more? Grab our Japanese Culture eBook Bundle for many more words and phrases.

About Dōjō

First, let's look at dōjō. You may wonder why there are lines above the “o.” That’s because, in Japanese, some vowels are elongated. You may also see dōjō written as doujou. So, you shouldn’t say, “dojo” like two quick jabs, but rather “do-jo-,” lingering somewhat after each vowel.

The characters (called kanji in Japanese) for dōjō look like this:


Let’s break that down:

  • 道  dō—meaning “way” or “path” or even “teachings”  
  • —meaning “place”

That’s neat, you might say, but did you know the 道   is also the found in the following arts:

  • 柔道 juudō—judo
  • 書道 shodō—calligraphy
  • 剣道 kendō—kendo; fencing
  • 茶道 chadō—the tea ceremony; the way of tea
  • 弓道 kyuudō—(Japanese) archery
  • 合気道 aikidō—Aikido
  • 武士道 bushidō—Bushido; way of the warrior

And many more…

道   is a very important kanji in the martial arts.

Ready to learn some martial arts vocabulary in Japanese?

Here are a bunch of essential words. As mentioned previously, buy our highly discounted culture bundle if you would like hundreds more with sound files too!


karate – karate

Literally, "empty hand." Pay attention to the pronunciation. The “te” does not sound like the word, “tea.”

kara – empty

This kanji, in other contexts, means “sky” but with karate it means empty, void, vacant.


karate kamartial artist

家 means “house,” but in this case it means a performer or expert.


budōmartial way

Literally, "way of warrior." This is the same kanji (道) we discussed in the introduction.



another name for "samurai."


bushidowarrior's code

The samurai code of conduct. Samurai code of chivalry.


bujutsu – martial arts

Literally, "technique of warrior."


dōjōdojo; school; training area

Literally, "place of the way."

gikarate uniform

Although common to just say "gi" in English, In Japanese, it is 道着 dōgi.


The obi is also the large "belt" around kimono.



The most common way to say “yes.”



Pronounce the ii long otherwise you will be saying “ie” which means “house.”



Literally, "alive before." (someone who comes before)  It is used to refer to teachers, doctors, pastors, and other people of authority.


sempaisomeone senior to oneself

We used a romanized "m" because that is the closer sound in this case, but Japanese ん is usually pronounced as "n."

katakata; form

Also written with this kanji, 型.

katana(long) sword


kenjutsuart of the sword; fencing

Literally, the art/technique of the blade.

kienergy; spirit

Ki is one of those kanji that has a multitude of meanings and usages. It can mean mind, spirit, intent, mood, feeling, atmosphere, and is found in a host of idiomatic expressions.


genkihealthy; spirited

To ask, "how are you?" say, "ogenki desu ka?"

wazatechnique; skill; craft

This can also be pronounced, "gi."

dandegree; grade

kyuuclass; rank

一級 ikkyuu—first class/top level


ibukibreathing techniques

息 breath + 吹 blow out

jutsuart (of combat)

 This can mean art, technique, skill, trick, and even magic.


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