Surviving Training in Japan: A Practical Word & Phrase Guide

By Jesse | 3 Comments

Training in Japan (or anywhere in the world with a Japanese teacher) can sometimes be both fun and frustrating. Fun because you learn so much and experience a different culture, while at the same time frustrating because you don’t understand everything, or very little!

I am about to help you with the last part.

Let me introduce my Basic Practical Word and Phrase Guide for Surviving Training in Japan (or what I would like to call the B.P.W.P.G.S.T.J)

Here I have collected the 20 most frequently used basic words (10) and phrases (10) that you can expect to hear (from the Japanese instructor) during a normal training session. Nothing is made up or fabricated, these are phrases from the real world!

Straight from the dojo!

Of course you don’t absolutely need this list to be able to train in Japan, or with a Japanese instructor for that matter. But… believe me when I say that a whole new world will open up when you actually begin to understand a few words. A few simple words make a big difference. And if you are afraid your “brain ain’t what it used to be”, just print the list and hide it in your gi! Or simply pick the ones you feel are most important, and remember those.

But I guarantee you, all are important – you will hear them all the time!

So here is the list. Notice that I have skipped obvious (and boring) words and phrases like “Hai = Yes” or “Hajime = Begin“. I am sure that you know those already. And every word/phrase ends with a “!” because in 9 times out of 10 the teacher will be screaming!

Ikimashou! (let’s go!)

The Basic Practical Word and Phrase Guide for Surviving Training in Japan (B.P.W.P.G.S.T.J):

Let’s start with phrases:

1. “Koshi o hineru!” = “Twist your hips!”

2. “Koshi o otosu!” = “Lower your hips!”

3. “Ashi o mageru!” = “Bend your leg!”

4. “Ashi o nobosu!” = “Straighten your leg!”

5. “O tsukare sama desu!” = This is always said when you leave training. It is hard to translate… but it means something along the lines of “We have worked hard together and now we are tired together, so I respect and acknowledge your honorful tiredness”. I said it was hard to translate! You also use this when you leave work/school etc. Never say this to the sensei though, only to “equals”.

6. “Motto hayaku!” = “Faster!”

7. “Waki o shimeru!” = “Close the armpits!”

8. “Kore kara owarimasu!” = “Now it’s time to stop/quit”

9. “Mo ikkai!/ichido!” = “One more time!”

10. “Mite kudasai! = “Please look/watch!”


Okay, that was the phrases. Let’s go to the words.

1. “Zenryoku!” = “Full body power, use all (your) strength/ability!”

2. “Kusshin!” = “Stretch!”

3. “Wakaru?!” = “Do you understand?!”

4. “Jozu!” = “Good/skillful!”

5. “Massugu!” = Straight!

6. “Naname!” = “Diagonal!” (like 45 degrees)

7. “Abunai!” = “Dangerous!”

8. “Ko!” = “This way/Like this!”

9. “Sagaru!” = “Step back!”

10. “Yarou!” = “Let’s do it!”


And that’s it! There you have it!

Of course there are many more, but they are not as important (or frequently used), as these. In fact, if I don’t hear at least half of the list tonight, I promise to eat my laptop.


About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.


  1. deera bazooka

    August 26, 2009 at 9:36 am

    haha hey jesse everything ends with “!” haha screaming all day long would be 10 times much more tired than training. haha and wake up the next morning with a sore throat :-P

    anyway cool guide! thanks :-)

  2. warrioress

    August 20, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Very helpful. (Iknow you wrote this a million years ago, but…whatever!)

  3. Aryanna Bullen

    January 15, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I really enjoy the blog article.Thanks Again.

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