10 Japanese Words Everyone Misunderstands in Karate

Karate can be tricky.

Especially when we use Japanese terms.jesse_enkamp_seminar_teaching

Just like Medicine has Latin, and Mathematics has numbers, Karate has Japanese.

Unfortunately, many people are confused by the Japanese words in Karate….

But if you don’t understand the terminology of Karate, you cannot learn or teach it optimally.

That’s why I want to explain 10 Japanese words everyone misunderstands in Karate today.

Hopefully this helps you understand Karate better.

Check it out:

#1: Uke

Misunderstood meaning: “Block.”

Real meaning: “Receive.”

Explanation: The word “uke” comes from the Japanese word “ukeru”, which means “to receive”.

But for some reason, the Western world has interpreted this as “to block”.

To me, that’s the opposite of receiving! This is detrimental to your advancement in Karate and doesn’t reflect the original intent of Karate’s defensive moves.

If you shift your mindset from “blocking” to “receiving”, your entire perception of how to apply Karate against a bigger or stronger opponent will change. Now you rely more on technique, and less on brute force.

This is something I teach at my international seminars.

Related reading: Your Karate “Blocks” Are Dysfunctional. Here’s Why.

#2: Ki

Misunderstood meaning: “Magic super power.”

Real meaning: “Energy.”

Explanation: The concept of “ki” (spelled “chi” or “qi” in Chinese) has gotten a bad reputation since McDojo charlatans started using it as an excuse to brainwash students into believing they had supernatural martial abilities – like the no-touch KO.

But it’s really nothing new. “Ki” – or “energy” as we call it in English – is what life is made up of. It constantly flows through your body, your surroundings, the wind, water, earth and sun.

According to the laws of physics, you cannot create it or destroy it, only transferred to other objects or convert into different forms (kinetic energy, potential energy, thermal energy, electrical energy etc…). Humans have been cultivating it for as long as we have been on earth.

I believe “Ki” is a beautiful thing – especially when you manifest it using the body mechanics of Karate.

After all, Karate is all about efficient energy management.

Related reading: “Use The Force”: Exploring The Secret of Ki Power

#3: Sensei

Misunderstood meaning: “Karate instructor.”

Real meaning: “One who has come before in life.”

Explanation: The word “sensei” consists of two parts:

  • The first is “sen”, which means “before”.
  • The second is “sei”, which means “life”.

In other words, a “sensei” is someone who is ahead of you in the journey of life. That’s why a sensei is not just a person who instructs Karate techniques.

A sensei is your mentor. Your life coach.

Your sensei can help you bridge the gap between self-protection and self-perfection.

Because ultimately, the Way of Karate is the Way of Life.

Your sensei knows this, because he/she has walked the path himself and is ready to guide you on the journey.

The question is, are you ready to follow?

Related reading: 3 Secrets to Being a Karate Instructor That Kids L-O-V-E (& Respect)

#4: Bunkai

Misunderstood meaning: “Practical application of kata.”

Real meaning: “To break down.”

Explanation: Many Karate people, including me, like to use kata techniques for self-defense.

Teaching my “bunkai” at KNX15. (Watch the videos)

(After all, that was their original intent.)

We usually call this aspect of Karate training “bunkai”.

But in reality, “bunkai” means to “to break down” – not “practical application of kata”.

“Bunkai” is actually just the first step of applying kata for practical self-defense.

After you “break down” the kata, you need to analyze the pieces and put it back together in the right context. I outlined this in my popular article titled The Bunkai Blueprint.

For most people, it seems the word “bunkai” represents this whole process though.

That’s why I use the word “bunkai” like this myself, even though I know it’s incorrect. After all, the purpose of terminology is to communicate – not prove a point.

However, when I’m in Japan or Okinawa, I rarely use the word “bunkai” if I want to know the application of a kata move.

I use the word “imi” instead (lit. the “meaning” of a movement).

Related reading: 10 Differences Between Okinawan Karate & Japanese Karate

#5: Dojo

Misunderstood meaning: “Karate studio.”

Real meaning: “The place of the Way.”

Explanation: Many instructors teach Karate in gyms, dance studios, community centers or other venues not dedicated solely to Karate.

But… no matter where you teach/learn Karate, that place is your “dojo”.

(This holds true for all traditional Japanese martial arts.)

And the word “dojo” is deeper than most people think:

  • “Do” means “Way”
  • “Jo” means “Place”.

In other words, a “dojo” is a place where you embark on the journey to self-discovery – through the means of Karate training.

The “dojo” is a Place where you are guided on the Way, by someone who has “come before” ( = “sensei”), using Karate as tool for transmitting the knowledge necessary to spark personal progress.

Not just a “Karate studio”.

Related reading: 59 Signs Your Dojo is Awesome

#6: Geri

Misunderstood meaning: “Kick.”

Real meaning: “Diarrhea.”

Explanation: Those of you who subscribe to my weekly videos (Karate Nerd Insider™) probably choked on your coffee when you first heard this.

But it’s true!

Japanese is a funny language…

If you want to say “kick”, it’s pronounced “keri”.

But if you put another word in front of it, (like “mawashi”, “mae”, “yoko” etc.) it changes it to “-geri”


  • “Keri” = “Kick”
  • “Mawashi-geri” = “Round Kick”
  • “Mae-geri” = “Front Kick”
  • “Yoko-geri” = “Side Kick”
  • “Geri” = “Diarrhea”

Of course, this is not a problem when you write in Japanese, because it’s written with a different Sino-Japanese ideogram (known as “kanji”.)

But if you don’t write Japanese, you should learn the difference between “keri” and “geri”.

Otherwise… you might end up in deep shit. ; -)

Related reading: Karate Nerd Insider™

#7: Kiai

Misunderstood meaning: “Battle scream.”

Real meaning: “Unified energy.”

Explanation: Sometimes it seems people scream “kiai” for the sake of screaming.

But “kiai” is not about screaming. It’s not about exercising your vocal chords.

  • “Ki” literally means “energy” (like we discussed in #2).
  • “Ai” literally means to “unify“.

This helps explains what the purpose of kiai truly is:

Unifying the total energy of your mind, body and technique (“shin-gi-tai”), in a split-second moment of intense culmination.

To some people, kiai is just a “battle scream”. And that’s fine. I honestly think people need to scream more in their daily life.

But to me, “kiai” it’s an essential expression of your unification within your Self.

Show me your “kiai”

…and I will tell you who you are.

Related reading: What Every Karate-ka Should Know About “Kiai!”

#8: Rei

Misunderstood meaning: “Bow.”

Real meaning: “Respect.”

Explanation: Karate contains a lot of Japanese etiquette and culture.

One of the most important things is the bow – commonly known as “rei”.

The word “rei” comes from the Japanese word “reigi”, which means “respect, courtesy, manners”.

But the bow seems to have lost much of it’s respectful intention these days, especially when you look at people who compete in kumite. It looks more like a sloppy head nod.

I believe “rei” is an integral part of dojo etiquette. It’s a physical manifestation of your gratitude for those helping you on the Way.

That’s why we bow to both the dojo itself, as well as the people in it.

(Often we say “onegaishimasu” at the same time too.)

Without respect, you cannot progress in Karate.

Karate begins and ends with the bow.

Related reading: The Meaning of Onegaishimasu

#9: Kumite

Misunderstood meaning: “Sparring/fighting.”

Real meaning: “Entangled hands.”

Explanation: The modern concept of “kumite” has lost much of it’s essence.

When you look at the way we practice “kumite” today, it seems like a game of tag.

Distant, jerky & disconnected.

But the original intent of Karate’s two person combative exchange was very different.

You see, the word “kumite” actually means “entangled” or “intertwined” (“kumi”) + “hands” (“te”). Not “fighting”, “sparring” or “jumping around trying to score points”.

The concept of entangling/intertwining arms with your opponent sounds like you’re at a much closer distance, doesn’t it?

Interestingly enough, if you look at the way old masters taught Karate, it was often close distance. The combination of grabbing your opponent while delivering strikes, kicks, punches, knees, elbows, joint locks and takedowns was simply much more practical than our modern interpretation of “kumite”.

Of course, this all changed when Karate was modernized and we started competing.

What used to be a great fighting technique can now get you disqualified.

Related reading: Why Modern Karate Is Broken (& How You Can Fix It)

#10: Osu/Oss

Misunderstood meanings: ““hi”, “hello”, “goodbye”, “okay”, “thanks”, “excuse me”, “hey there”, “come here”, “go there”, “what’s up”, “look at me”, “do it this way”, “that way”, “do you understand?”, “I understand” and “train harder”.

Real meaning: “A rough, masculine Japanese cultural expression that many Westerners abuse.”

Explanation: First of all, you should know that “Osu/Oss” is a very touchy subject.

Second, the correct spelling is “Osu”. But since the “u” is silent, some people think it’s spelled “Oss”.

Third, no matter how you want to spell it, you should understand that “Oss/Osu” expresses a very strong assertiveness, masculinity and “let’s-kick-butt” spirit in Japanese. It’s not a word you should use carelessly.

For example, you should never say it to a Japanese person unless he is younger than you, lower in rank, or wants you to say it. And if you’re a woman, don’t say it at all. Japanese society is hierarchical and strict with proper etiquette when it comes to language.

I learned these things the hard way, when I lived in Okinawa – the birthplace of Karate.

(For the record, I’ve never heard anyone say “Osu/Oss” in Okinawa. Ever.)

That said, this expression seems to have gone viral in the Western martial arts world – including BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) communities.

For a traditionalist like me, it’s bizarre to hear “Osu/Oss” being used by everyone and their grandma. Especially when they don’t know the real meaning of it.

But at the same time, I understand the need for having an all-purpose word like that for comradery and collective belonging. I sometimes use it myself!

Just make sure you know when & why to use it.

Related reading: The Meaning of “OSS”/“OSU” (+ When You Should NEVER Say It)


That’s it!

My top 10 Japanese words everyone misunderstands in Karate.

(On spot #11 I would have included “kime”, but I’ve written so much about it already.)

In the end, I believe we often we cheat ourselves by not fully understanding the Japanese words used in Karate.

Good communication is the foundation of learning and teaching.

Pay more attention to the words you use in Karate.

A few words can go a long way…

Good luck! ; -)


  • Danielle CT
    This article is amazing for my thesis! I loved it! Thank you for publishing it! I hope in the future you'll write one with 20 Japanese words! Thank you again!
    • Thank you Danielle-san! Good luck weith your thesis. Glad I could help.
      • Mark Mahanets
        For a nerd ... you are doing well, I had a few chuckles to myself as I was reading your "10 most misunderstood words in Karate", I always take martial arts seriously and with respect, but you made me laugh, in a good way, and some respect...
  • Nick
    I remember the point in karate which I first took interest in translating the language - trying to convince others of #6, "Geri" meaning Diarrhea, usually got you some funny looks and people straight out not believing you. Luckily, I carried a English/Japanese dictionary with me! Fun article - Thank you Jesse-san!
    • Haha! Thanks Nick-san! Glad I'm not the only one who figured it out.
  • Shaun Emery
    I learned #6 the hard way. I was teaching a younger Japanese student and I wrote on the schedule that we were going to be practising GERI-WAZA that day. I'll never forget the look on his face.
  • Alex
    It seems that in Kyokushin karate is a cultural thing, you are expected to use it almost in everything. I have seen this in kyokushin in a lot of countries.
  • Ricky Adams
    I was once corrected for using Osu at a seminar, so I went to Soke Shogo Kuniba and asked him what Osu meant....His explanation was, "Osu comes from O-Nin (positive/negative)... that Osu had no direct translation, however, it could mean... "It's no trouble, I can do it"....further research showed it to be a "military" term used by the Japanese navy and was first used by University karate students.....Your thoughts please?
  • I'm so glad you gave a detailed explanation of oss/osu. I've heard it from other martial artists and wondered what it meant. When you google it, you don't find too much in terms of its origination. I definitely prefer to be more of a traditionalist so thank you for that information.
  • Nice! Keep up the good work, I particularly like your attittude. Serious but not sanctimonious!
  • Ramses Hernandez
    Dear Sensei Enkamp First of all, let me introduce myself and I apologize because my english is not good. My name is Ramsés Hernández of the country of Panama, and Shotokan Karate instructor with several years practicing this beautiful art, that I try to take as a lifestyle, not to win trophies or money. I am very happy and grateful to receive your emails, which has valuable tips and arguments that have helped me a lot to improve my Karate. I also shared with my fellow students and instructors about what you write and their contributions also contribute a lot with them. I have a question regarding the translation of the word "kick" as always in translation both books as web pages, as you know, it always have been presented as "Geri". I am definitely not for you, but because I've seen some videos where the Japanese pronunciation sometimes hear "Keri" and other "Geri" and the idea is to have hard evidence to share this information with my other colleagues and initiate a change in the mindset of all. If you can explain to me if there is any kanji in particular that sets the terms or why a japanese instuctor mention the word "Geri" in a karate class of a youtube video to explain a kick. Attached are two example videos of what I hear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1umITWfsW4I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ukTr8-kfWE Trusting in your great knowledge, patiently waiting for your response. My best wishes Sensei Ramses Hernandez Golden Karate Club Shotokan Center Panama
    • JZ
      Keri is the standard reading and is always said this way when it's on it's own, or is beginning a noun. geri when on it's own, or starting a noun, means diarrhea. (ewww DX ) however, due to Japanese phonetics sometime the k sound changes to the g sound, when it is not the initial part of a compound noun. so, when in the secondary position (behind for example, mawashi~ "round") keri in round-kick become mawashi-geri. so, using the japanese phonetic rule with english words as substitues: kick - "kick" round - "round" round-kick - "round-gick" kick-round - "kick-round" kick-athon - "kick-athon" side-kick - "side-gick" (note: sometimes there is the option to ignore the phonetic change, so it's possible someone might say something without changing the sound)
  • Great article. Just wanted to add a thought somewhat related. I started my training in Isshinryu Karate so I am familiar with the Japanese/Okinawan terminology but later transitioned to Tae Kwon Do and then Soo Bahk Do. The Korean equivalent of Dojo is Dojang, often translated like Dojo as a training studio. Dojang comes from the contraction of two terms - Do meaning "way" and Jang (a contraction of two other words) meaning a "place to change". So a Do Jang is a place to change your way (life). Similar thought process as Dojo. Once I "discovered" that, it really changed my thoughts on training and teaching. I just wish I had learned that lesson many years earlier. I think people would be well served to understand the "real" meaning of basic terms as it would greatly enhance their understanding and application of the martial arts. Keep up the GREAT work!
  • I like the clarification. You always seem to have something unique to learn. Thanks
    Jessie-san,Your program is a karate ambassadorship! after 30 yrs in the Japanese/Korean dojo's we finally see the true basics of Japansee karate (old-sytle) recognized. That makes me most humble remembering my Soshu telling me at 4th Dan, satisfaction is "one's own", which I interpreted as karate has no ending to achievement. Perhaps that's why I'm still holding karate interest at age 69! Perhaps publishing a karate translation dictionary would be a future item. It certainly would assist karatesta to better learn the Japansee language the right way, and it would increase Japanese use in American dojo's. Do-Mo, Paul Reynolds, Shotokan Yondan
  • Jim Davis
    I call bullshit on # 3! "Your sense I can help you bridge the gap between self protection and self perfection". You are joking right? Most of the senseis I have met in the last 25 years could use a huge amount of remedial guidance themselves and are the ones responsible for ruining the beautiful art of Shotokan. I have problems with the remaining list, but will hold comments on them.
  • I respectfully think Jim Davis, you may have misunderstood the article and thus read more into the words he used than intended. Jesse was trying to give a simple, more accurate description of what these words actually mean and their original intention. I believe he kept it simple for clarity and easy digestion. I think you were actually supposed to be focusing on the part that says: The word “sensei” consists of two parts: The first is “sen”, which means “before”. The second is “sei”, which means “life”. In other words, a “sensei” is someone who is ahead of you in the journey of life. That’s why a sensei is not just a person who instructs Karate techniques. Maybe it would have been clearer or more acceptable to you if he used: A sensei is SUPPOSED to be your mentor. Your life coach. Your sensei is SUPPOSED to be able to help you bridge the gap between self-protection and self-perfection. Because ultimately, the Way of Karate is the Way of Life. Your sensei is SUPPOSED to knows this, because he/she has SUPPOSEDLY walked the path himself and is ready to guide you on the journey. To add to the definition, sensei is not a title give to oneself nor is one supposed to refer to themselves as sensei. Unfortunately its only in the west that people introduce themselves as sensei Bob etc. It is a title bestowed on one by others as a sign of respect. This title in Japan is given to people who hold high positions within Japanese society, so doctors, architects, lawyers, judges, politicians, and of course teachers among others are referred to by this title. Whether the individual receiving this title is worthy of it is a different matter. Would be interesting to hear your further comments that you are holding back on (once you've re-read the article in the frame of what it was intended to convey).
    • jim davis
      Who says or where is it written that a karate sensei is "SUPPOSED" be your mentor? Shotokan training in the United States "jumped the shark" long ago, it did not really make it past the second generation of instructors. Way too much talking, too much talking about it, way too many so called senseis really believing the sensei baloney, too many ridiculous seminars, too many PHD's. You know you are in trouble when there are books and seminars titled "Street Fighting Statistics & Medical Outcomes linked to Karate & Bunkai Selection". The essence of karate or any martial arts is sweat, pain and hard work, it is not a religion, you cannot teach it, it must be suffered. Karate is nothing more than punching and kicking. The ones that pretend to be the holders of all knowledge in Shotokan are the ones destroying it. Please don't allow it to happen wherever you train. Stop talking about it and train! Stop instructing and train! I started training Shotokan in the early seventies, I loved Shotokan training, because we trained, no ridiculous sensei baloney, no "Life Coaching", just sweat, pain and suffering. If I could find a dojo that trained like that I would be there. I train in another non-traditional martial art now because we train without all of the absurd and ridiculous things that Shotokan has become. Too many words already.
      • Hi Jim, When I used "supposed to", I meant by the original definition of the word sensei and the meaning which it has in relation to Japan and Japanese culture. I was then attempting to further clarify Jesse's words by sticking to them. The Japanese meaning of the honorific "sensei" as Jesse pointed out is that of someone who has already walked that path or life and has experienced it and can thereby pass on that knowledge and/or experience gained. If someone is bestowed this title by others (remember it cannot be given to oneself) then the reason is because there is an expectation to pass on that knowledge / experience to the people who are giving them that honorific. (simply put, We are giving you this title to teach us what you know) Here in Japan, traditionally this would be a great honor as well as a great burden and responsibility (which some refuse), not confined in anyway to the martial arts. It could be any art form or even legal, medical etc. So, actually it would mean that the person would be expected to act as a role model and mentor. "Where is it written?" you asked. The answer is in the intricate complexities of Japanese culture and etiquette and the fabric of Japanese society and how it has functioned for centuries. The big problem is that Japanese words are used in karate around the world without any cultural background or context or understanding, and direct translations are pretty much useless. especially in the US where everything is Americanized to the extreme to fit the culture, people's own needs, wants, purposes and understanding.Perhaps English should be used instead. ( I do not mean this disrespectfully in any way.) Despite the situation you have experienced over the years which is no way unique to the States, and your contention to basically "shut up and train" which I agree with 110%, it does not change the meaning of the word sensei in Japanese or what it means culturally in Japan. And I think that was the point of the article. I hope that my message is clearer.
        • Syed
          It would appear Mr. Davis simply doesn’t like the idea of Karate being Karate Do and is only interested in Karate Jutsu, so to speak. I don’t get the impression he doesn’t understand, he just wishes it wasn’t so. ( I hope I have not misrepresented you, Mr. Davis, and no disrespect intended)
      • Gerry Lilley
        I do agree somewhat with Jim's comments. As a 'traditionalist' generally, I feel torn between the traditions/cultures in Goju-ryu on the one hand and normal western traditions on the other. We are not Japanese and we do not generally share their culture. I have often felt irritated by the imposition of being made to learn Japanese words and phrases in order to practice karate. Karate has become sensationalized, romanticized and is almost a religion to some people. We as westerners shake hands or nod our heads in acknowledgement of greetings - no disrespect intended - we do not bow, kneel and say words we barely understand and don't really mean. Karate is self defense, the defence of of loved ones and of possessions. It should not be defence/pursuance of Japanese cultures in western training. Karate should be pragmatic, practical and enjoyable training for the student. If 'uke' means receive', not 'block' then the various techniques employing it should, in English, be labled as such. 'Mawashi' should be labled 'round' or 'roundhouse' etc, whilst still being taught and practised correctly.
        • Adrian
          To a certain I agree, however as Karate is practiced all over the world if we all use the same words then when a great teacher comes to do a seminar or we go to them whether in France, England or where ever we can all understand, hidari gedan barrai We don’t have to wait for an interprature to say it in every language. Just be be funny we are supposed to bow to the queen or if you are on stage you bow the the audience. If you study medicine then so many words are Latin but you accept that is the way we don’t re name the bicep and call it the 2 head etc.
      • deodato
        You are emotional, not logical in your statement. The problem is when someone learned the syllabus of a certain Karate style and become proficient with it by having engaged in tournaments, and further training, they establish their on Karate club and teach their karate. But a Sensie, in its Japanese senseis not just any instructor of a physical activity but a mentor. One who has gained wisdom about karate and its related disciplined. For instance does your instructor taught you how to develop kime, and explain why it is done that way? Only one who has the wisdom, not only knowledge, is a Sensie. All endeavors in life, Karate or not, is best gained by hard work and fortitude. When I trained for a few weeks in Shotokan 30 plus years ago, the way for us in sparring is, to say it in Pilipino- sumabay ka sa atake(go with the attack). Once your opponent attack with a kick or punch, go in and punch or kick, do not retreat but attack also. I think this is foolishness especially when your opponent is bigger, but that was the concept then of that Shotokan style. There must be a wisdom behind that concept unexplained by the instructor. He was still a newbie instructor and have not yet gained further refinement in his knowledge of his karate to have already the wisdom of a real sensie.
  • For Mr Ramses Hernandez, Regarding the noun "keri" for kick, as Jesse explained, when it is conjugated with other nouns before it known as noun modifiers, the sound of the "ke" at the beginning becomes "ge". this is not just for the word keri but for other Japanese words beginning with the phonetic sounds of ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, which are often (but not necessarily all) changed to ga,gi,gu,ge,go. This is simply because it is easier and smoother to say. Mawashikeri for example is not as easy to say as mawashigeri which is less sticking in the throat. This incidentally is not only for ka, ki, ku, ke, ko but also for ha,hi,fu,he,ho (changed to ba,bi,bu,be ,bo) and sa,shi,su,se,so (changed to za,ji,zu,ze,zo) etc. It does not occur if the modifier is after it as in keri waza. If you study the Japanese language a little further you can get more information on this. If you hear a sensei just saying geri without a noun modifier before, then they are either saying it wrong or you are mishearing if they are Japanese. I hope this helps.
  • Ramses Hernandez
    Dear Enkamp Sensei In short, as I had said in my previous comment, my english is not good, and reading the article again, you yourself said that if the word "Geri" says alone the meaning changes, not if preceded by a word . Mr. Hamid Abassalty explains with details why this variation, very good collaboration. I apologize again for not having understood the article from the beginning. Thank you for your explanations.
  • Gilles Lavigne
    Hi Jesse, love it when you put the dots on the i and cross the t's. You never got back to me regarding my book that I have sent you ( The Endless search for absolute Kime) I would realy like your opinion on it. Keep up with the good work. I am looking to have you come to Quebec/Gatineau this year.Send me you agenda. Thank you, see you soon Gilles
  • Gavin J Poffley
    Great article. As a professional Japanese translator as well as a dedicated karateka I see these kinds of misunderstandings all the time. From now on I can just send people a link here rather than going into long winded explanations! I have a few other insights. The usage of "sensei" has been touched on above but I think the most important thing to remember is that in Japanese social situations nobody actually "is" a sensei but that people can be "considered" a sensei by others. It is in no way a formal title or qualification and one person's sensei is very likely to be just some guy to other people. I can remember talking to the son of a highly revered karate teacher in Kyoto once and he told me how weird it was for loads of foreign karate people to call his dad "sensei" when to him he was just "a normal belligerent old dude"! The osu issue is a massive can of worms and there are many theories as to the etymology of the expression. My personal linguistic research at Hiroshima University pointed to the likelihood of it starting out as contractions of both "onegaishimasu" and "arigatou gozaimasu" that soon got mashed together into one macho sounding all purpose term. The "push on and endure" kanji rendering is thought to have come later and be an example of the "ateji" phenomenon where new characters are assigned to a pre-existing word to change it's nuance or meaning slightly. As for usage, I would say you really have to look at the culture of the dojo you train in. Where I was training in Hiroshima it was much loved and used all the time, probably because most of the students there were rough young guys, it had pretensions of the old military academy system and Hiroshima is a bit like that. I agree that it is highly frowned upon in Okinawa though, due to the word's history with the Imperial military culture (which is often considered the main reason Okinawa suffered so badly during WW2). Keep up the good work!
  • Daniel Yooaratwat
    Great article : ) Loved it
  • Jesse Isakunt
    Cool! Thanks for sharing!
  • Humberto Paz
    Very good article, i love your web page. So, Jesse San, can you teach us what does mean shihan ?
  • Alberto Friedmann
    Thank you, Sir. The overuse and misuse of Osu drives me nuts. Also, a side thought for you. When I trained in Tokyo my instructor translated Bunkai as "To disassemble." This also holds with your concept. You disassemble a machine to understand how it works and the uses. You disassemble something to gain insight and also see what is and is not working. With this in mind, Bunkai becomes a completely different concept. Cheers!
  • Hemal
    Hello Nice collection xtra ordinary From Senpai Hemal Shitoryu Karate Comilla, Bangladesh
  • Hemal
    karate = confidence + defense + entertainment + fitness
    • almud
      well said Bangladesh is the most beautiful country in the world Dear Jesse Enkamp, We invite you to come our country
  • Hemal
    hey jesse oss! i m 1 of ur followers. we dont have any access to use your world famous gi seishin in our country. its not available here. can you send a sample set for us which will motivate ourselves. address; hemal C/o, masud dhaka bakery ranir bazar, comilla city corporation, Comilla, Bangladesh +8801913002771
  • Kick (keri) is, on the grammar, before word (noun) is attached when the sound is turbidity in, you become geri. By chance, the sound of the kick (keri · geri) and diarrhea (geri) is just the same. In terms of English, I like the son and the sun Viewpoints is interesting, a big fan eager research
  • rizky
    your blog so inspiring
  • Rohit Kanojiya
    I learned alot from this article. Few of meanings which I knew were wrong. Thank you Sensei Jesse Enkamp.
  • Roberto Alemán
    Thank you sensei, in our dojo sensei thought us to "hai" to confirm you understand. Besides in Masutatau Oyama sensei they used to say "osu" to be imponent in front everybody. Grretings from México...
  • Russell Bianca
    For another take on Osu — Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, founder of Seido Karate, in his excellent book "Technique & Spirit", explains "Osu" in this way: "Osu" is an abbreviated form of the Japanese phrase "oshi shinobu", which means "to have patience" or "to persevere". It can have several layers of meaning in different contexts, but in Seido it can be used to mean "yes", "I understand", "hello", "goodbye", and most importantly, "I'll try my best". (It is pronounced something like "oh-sue" without the "oo" at the end -- "oh-ss". Note that the use of "osu" is not universal across martial arts schools.)
  • Teguh
    No. 9 is spot on. To be honest with you, I somewhat hate how Karate have changed. Everytime I'm being taught the "tip-tap" kumite for competition purpose, I often thought "will this really help me in real fights?". Same goes with "bunkai-less" katas for grading and competition purpose.
  • Dan M
    Jesse, Are "shomen geri" and "mae geri" interchangeable?
  • Mamadou L Jallow
    Interested in articles. Master Jesse Thanks 4 the Courses RGD Mamadou L Jallow
  • Ranjith kumar
    Can you tell me the right term for karate student
  • Boris
    Sensei, Kon'nichiwa Would you happen to know how to say the techniques from kickboxing in japanese? Below I included in parenthesis the way I have been using them adapted from Karate Jab ( Jun-zuki or maete?) Cross (gyaku zuki) Uppercut (Ura-zuki) Hook (Kagi-zuki) Also knee, (Hiza-geri) elbow (Empi-uchi)
  • Jaron
    Hi Jesse, great article as usual. I have two little things though. A dojo is not just the place to train. Dojo is derived from Buddhism and has specific aspects of his contents. So a dojo can be a place to study Judo, but not every place where you train is dojo. It would be a keikojo. When I train on the beach or woods that is a keiko jo. In addition to the part of kiai. Because it is unified energy, it isn't necessary to actually yell. You can have a silent kiwi and that is perfectly fine.... Keep up training and studying!!!
  • camu233
    Very interesting and cultural. Thanks. Can you tell us wich word can be use to replace osu when you want to confirm that you understand what the sensei just said ?
    • "Hai" is most common. "Wakarimashita" literally means "I understood" but can be seen as slightly arrogant. Best is often to just nod and bow.
  • Shashank sharma
    Thank you sensei for this knowledge this is very helpfull for us
    what is the meaning of the FOUR Japanese letters written in ASHIHARA KARATE. please describe
  • I used the word when I entered the quarter for a respected instructor when I was in my 8th grade. He took offence and wondered why I said it. But I had no answer and didnt understand his reaction up to this very day. Over 10yrs later I get an idea what this means from your article. It has been a way of life which brings new things all the time. But it all goes with purity of mind.
  • Travis
    So in the West osu is basically used like marines incessantly use oorah? Lol
  • Ani
    Thank you Jesse, This is very good. I find there is so many misunderstandings with words in Martial arts. Can I ask you ? In Okinawa do they use the term Master? or Grand master? I find these to be very westernised titles. I know in Korean they have titles for someone who is your mentor or like a father figure to you. Not really a name for Master? Is it the same in Okinawa ?
    • I've googled this subject because i was interested in it myself, so take my google search based knowledge with a grain of salt i guess lol. as best as i can tell titles like master and grandmaster are 100% western titles used for marketing purposes. googling it appears there's no term that literally translates to master in japanese that is used in karate.
  • Josep Maria Carmona Domingo
    Very interesting article! Thanks for sharing!
  • My instructor always said a word that was used before a bow. It was similar to a militaristic "ATTENTION!" That would shoot us straight. The word sounds like Ku/qu-skate. have you ever heard this?
  • Its really uninformative.... https://youtu.be/QbvbQ6RmxCM
  • So what does "Osu" really mean? ?? This is the kanji for "Osu". The first kanji means to push and the second kanji means to endure/tolerate. Together it means "to push through one's tolerance" or "I won't give up even if I suffer". http://japaneseinkarate.blogspot.com/search/label/02%20%22osu%22
  • Gerald
    I didn't know I was diarreah-ing all these years!
  • "Osu" is generally considered as an abbreviation (shortened form) for Ohayo-gozai-masu (Good morning!). It was said to have first used among the students of the Budo Senmon Gakko (Budo Specialized School) established in 1905 within the Kyoto's Butoku-den facility. Japanese navy then adapted the word. (I dislike the military way so I don't teach my students to use it.) I actually have a slightly different theory. My wife is from Kyoto and she often ends her sentences with "...dosu." which is a part of Kyoto's local accent (dialect) for female. Kyoto men would use "...osu." instead. Students who came to Kyoto from all over Japan to attend the Budo Senmon Gakko might have been making some fun of the accent which then became the "Osu" reply to anyone who asked them favors or made requests. Once again, this is just my personal theory (I once taught linguistics in an American college). No offence intended to anyone including my wife.
  • Doug Topham
    Jesse, I enjoyed your article. I lived in Japan for five years and have a BA in Japanese. So I know more about Japanese than karate. My son-in~law is a black belt, and I overheard him talking to his karate friends about doing a “Mae Geri.” I laughed to myself, because to me it meant “front diarrhea.” Afterwards I asked him what that was supposed to mean, and he explained that it was “front kick” which made sense. He thought I was kidding him about my definition, so I looked it up on line and found your articled. Not only was I vindicated, but you also explained it well. I’ve often heard karate terms, and wondered if they really knew what they mean. (I appreciate you sharing the actual meaning of “sensei” which is much more than “teacher.”). I also enjoy asking the people with kanji tattoos what they mean, especially the ones that have them upside down or backwards.
  • Rob
    Thanks for this. We never say Osu / Oss in WIKF Wado-ryu. I once asked my sensei why, since I hear it so much elsewhere. He said that he once asked Master Suzuki the same question, and he said he didn't like it because it was very common and crude. We simply say "hai" or "hai Sensei" to acknowledge instructions.

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