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Terminology

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Jitsu is a Japanese martial art and has a large amount of terminology from that language. However, different people know different amounts and the translations from Japanese often leave a little to be desired (as do the accents).

But here's a list of Japanese terms commonly used in Jitsu (together with a rating of how likely someone will know what you mean if you use it!). There's also some Jitsu-slang thrown in for good measure.

Ratings:

Likely | Less common | Uncommon

A | B | C | D | E | G | H | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | W | Y |

Japanese numbers

Used for counting and numbering techniques. However, cannot be used for long objects, people, etc. since different words are used in Japanese

  1. Ichi Ichi
  2. Ni Ni
  3. San San
  4. Shi Shi
  5. Go Go
  6. Roku Roku
  7. Shichi Shichi
  8. Hachi Hachi
  9. Kyu Kyu
  10. Ju Ju

A

AGE
rising
ARIGATO
thank you. ‘Domo’ or even ‘sumimasen’ are usable alternatives
ASHI
leg, usually the lower part
ATEMI
body blows. Directed at vital points to incapacitate through pain or distraction

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B

BO
staff (approx. 6')
BOKKEN
wooden training sword

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C

CHIBURI
a sharp movement of the sword hand to shake off blood from a blade after a fight, before replacing it in the scabbard
CHUDAN
middle level (chest height)
CUTAWAY
A somersault in the air, usually over an obstacle, that ends in a back-breakfall position. Also known as "somersault with no-one there" and "handstand without hands"

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D

DACHI
stance
DOJO
training hall. Literally ‘place for studying the way'

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E

EMBU
Co-operation between partners

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G

GEDAN
low level (abdomen and below)
GERI
kick
GI
training uniform

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H

HAJIME
begin. An instruction from the sensei to begin attacking or defending as part of a demonstration
HAKAMA
split black skirt worn by sensei
HARA
area from bottom of stomach to groin (loins)
HIDARI
left
HIZA
knee

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J

JIME
choke or strangle. Collectively, chokes and strangles are ‘shime-waza’
JITSUKA
a practitioner of jitsu
JIU JITSU
gentle art
JO
short staff (approx. 4'). Also ‘principle’, the surface on which a contest takes place and ‘high/upper’
JODAN
upper level (head-level or higher)

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K

KATA
Form or shoulder. A form is a prearranged series of techniques designed to increase familiarity with the techniques, improve them and add fluidity. When perfected, a kata should come without thinking.
KATAME
grappling
KATANA
long sword of the Samurai
KI-AI
shout with vital energy. Used to give power and intent to a strike as well as to distract or frighten an opponent.
KIBA DACHI
horse stance. The instruction ‘kiba dach’ is used by the sensei at the beginning of the session and means ‘assume the horse stance’. The students must then, in unison, move their left feet away from their right feet so that they stand in a horse-riding position, their hands gripping the reins.
KIHON
basic/fundamental techniques. Most martial arts are composed of the three Ks— Kihon, Kata and Kumite (sparring). Jitsu has relatively little kumite.
KUZUSHI
unbalancing [nine directions]
KYU
coloured belt (degree)

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L

LOCKS
Techniques that apply pressure to an attacker's joint to immobilise or incapacitate.

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M

MATSUI
relaxation position. ‘Matsu’ is an instruction from the teacher for students to adopt this position. Breathing out through the mouth and in through the nose, the students sit in seiza, eyes-closed, considering the techniques they have learnt and practised.
MAWASHI
in a circle. Means ‘roundhouse’ when describing a kick or punch.
MIGI
right side

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N

NE WAZA
the Judo system used in competitions for holding opponents to the floor. Jitsu’s groundwork system includes more dangerous pins and defences that cannot be used in competitions
NUKITE
spear hand. The hand assumes a diamond-like shape and is used for attacking the larynx and other small targets.

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O

OBI
belt
OSAE-KOMI WAZA
immobilising techniques. Part of ne waza
OTAGI NI REI
bow to the dojo and all assembled. Used by the chief instructor to other club instructors in a dojo during the line-up in response to the students’ rei. It instructs them to return the bow.

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R

RANDORI
free practice/judo sparring
REI
to bow

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S

SAYA
a scabbard, usually for a katana
SEIZA
formal kneeling position
SEMPAI
A senior grade. Used by a junior grade when wishing to ask about a technique being taught or supervised by the senior grade. In a Japan, a sempai is an older man who guides and instructs a younger man he works with.
SENSEI
teacher. Used to refer to anyone of club-instructor rank or higher. A teacher who doesn’t have his or her own club is referred to as "sempai"
SENSEI NI REI
Instruction made by the senior grade during a line-up. Literally, it means "bow towards the teacher(s)". All grades then make a kneeling bow towards the instructor(s).
SEOI
literally ‘on the back’. Usually refers to the shoulder
SHIHAN
master. Refers to anyone of fifth dan or higher. The late Brian Graham was the only person in Europe referred to as shihan.
SHIKKO
knee walking/walking with square legs. When in the kneeling position, rather than stand then return to the kneeling position, Jitsuka use this ‘walk’ so they can remain kneeling.
SHIME-WAZA
choking techniques used in groundwork. Six are taught in Jitsu, all of which use the lapels of the gi
SODE
sleeve
SU DACHI
standing with feet together. The instruction ‘su dach’ to assume this position comes after ‘kiba dach’ in the lining up ceremony.
SUTEMI
sacrifice (literally ‘to risk one’s life in order to win). Used in reference to ‘sacrifice throws’ (sutemi-waza) in which the defender sacrifices his or her balance to throw the attacker.
SUWARU
to kneel down. Follows ‘su dach’ in the line-up ceremony.

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T

TANTO
a short, straight-bladed knife or shortsword. Used to describe any knife. Jitsuka practice knifework with rubber or plastic-bladed knives until purple belt when live blades are introduced into training (with swords as well)
TATAMI
mat(s)
TE
hand
throws
Techniques that involve grabbing an attacker and manipulating their balance so they fall over in a particular way.
TORI
defender/technique demonstrator

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U

UCHI
strike. Also, ‘inner’ when used in the name of a throw
UKE
attacker, or assistant. Also ‘floating’ when used in the name of a throw
UKEMI
breakfalling. A method of falling to prevent damage from a throw or push.

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W

WAZA
technique(s). Typically refers to a group or set of techniques. For example, ‘te waza’ meaning ‘hand techniques’ (a group of throws that focus principally on the hand) and ‘nage waza’ meaning ‘throwing techniques’ (the branch of Jitsu that deals with throws as a response to an attack).

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Y

YAME
An instruction to stop. For safety’s sake, students should stop as soon as is possible when they hear the command.
YOI
make ready. Used by an instructor to tell a student to guard him or herself for attacks in preparation for a demonstration of his or her knowledge.
YOSHIN
continue

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