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.
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”
- 場 jō—meaning “place”
That’s neat, you might say, but did you know the 道 dō is also the dō 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 dō 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 ka – martial artist
家 means “house,” but in this case it means a performer or expert.
budō – martial way
Literally, "way of warrior." This is the same kanji (道) we discussed in the introduction.
bushi – warrior
another name for "samurai."
bushido – warrior's code
The samurai code of conduct. Samurai code of chivalry.
bujutsu – martial arts
Literally, "technique of warrior."
dōjō – dojo; school; training area
Literally, "place of the way."
gi – karate uniform
Although common to just say "gi" in English, In Japanese, it is 道着 dōgi.
obi – belt
The obi is also the large "belt" around kimono.
hai – yes
The most common way to say “yes.”
iie – no
Pronounce the ii long otherwise you will be saying “ie” which means “house.”
sensei – teacher
Literally, "alive before." (someone who comes before) It is used to refer to teachers, doctors, pastors, and other people of authority.
sempai – someone 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."
kata – kata; form
Also written with this kanji, 型.
katana – (long) sword
kenjutsu – art of the sword; fencing
Literally, the art/technique of the blade.
ki – energy; 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.
genki – healthy; spirited
To ask, "how are you?" say, "ogenki desu ka?"
waza – technique; skill; craft
This can also be pronounced, "gi."
dan – degree; grade
kyuu – class; rank
一級 ikkyuu—first class/top level
ibuki – breathing techniques
息 breath + 吹 blow out
jutsu – art (of combat)
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