This glossary has been compiled with children and new learners in mind. It is a list of common words and/or titles, and it is not intended to be a complete and exhaustive list of every word a student may hear or see written.
The majority of the terms described are universal to all traditional Japanese martial arts. In places however the descriptions will specify how a given term relates to the World Ju-Jitsu Federation (WJJF) specifically. For example, the belt system is described by WJJF standards and would not apply to other martial arts or governing bodies. Where readers wish to learn about those martial arts or their respective governing bodies, they may consult them for more information.
Each entry in this glossary is accompanied by the word(s) in Japanese Kanji displayed in dark blue.
For the translations of meanings, words before translation are displayed in light blue italics, while the translation is displayed in green italics. These are always in quotation marks.
Some words on this list will have links in either orange internal links (that will jump to the related entry in this glossary) or purple that will open a new tab to an external site.
For quick searching in your browser, press ‘Crtl+F’ to open a search bar, then type the word you are looking for.
Budō | 武道
“Bu” means “war” or “martial” and “dō” means “way” or “path“. Combined they come to mean “Way of war“. This is not a literal path, but your metaphorical journey towards something, in this case to becoming a warrior.
This is why the WJJF membership licence is called your ‘Budō Pass’. It is your record of all your learning!
Bushidō | 武士道
This builds on the previous word Budō, adding in “Shi“, which means “A well-respected man“. Put together the meaning becomes “Way of the Warrior“.
Bushidō is the way of the Samurai life, similar to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the Samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honour unto death.
The Bushidō code is typified by eight core virtues:
- Benevolence / Compassion | 仁 (jin)
- (Heroic) Courage | 勇 (yū)
- Duty and Loyalty | 忠義 (chūgi)
- Honesty | 誠 (makoto)
- Honour | 名誉 (meiyo)
- Righteousness | 義 (gi)
- Respect | 礼 (rei)
- Self-Control | 自制 (jisei)
Dan | 段
The word “Dan” translates to “rank”, while the first half of each title is the corresponding number. So “Shodan” is “1st rank“, “Nidan” is “2nd rank“, “Sandan” is “3rd rank“, and so forth.
The ‘dan’ grades are all the belts including and above black belt. The WJJF ranks are, in order (with corresponding colours):
- Shodan | 初段 (1st Dan) – Pure black.
- Nidan | 弐段 (2nd Dan) – Black with Green central stripe.
- Sandan | 参段 (3rd Dan) – Blue and White alternating blocks.
- Yondan | 四段 (4th Dan) – Black with Blue central stripe.
- Godan | 五段 (5th Dan) – Red and White alternating blocks.
- Rokudan | 六段 (6th Dan) – Black and Red twin stripe.
- Scichidan | 七段 (7th Dan) – Black and Red alternating blocks.
- Hachidan | 八段 (8th Dan) Black with Red central stripe.
- Kudan | 九段 (9th Dan) – Pure Red. (Same as Novice)
- Jūdan | 十段 (10th Dan) – Pure Red. (Same as novice and Kudan)
~ In English these are sometimes called ‘Degrees’. A 1st Dan may say they have a “1st degree black belt”, a 2nd Dan may say they have a “2nd degree black belt”, and so forth.
~ The word Yūdansha | 有段者 is a broader term that means “person holding a Dan rank“, and applies to anyone Shodan (1st Dan) or higher. “Yū” means “having“, and “Sha” generally means “person” or “people“.
~ Conversely a “Mudansha” is someone without a Dan rank as “Mu” is a prefix meaning “non-“, thus making it “non-dan person“.
~ Yūdansha who hold Nidan or above will actually have 2 belts, their formal belt and their practice belt. The formal belts are the coloured ones seen above and are often worn for gradings, seminars or other official functions. The practice belt is a plain black worn during normal training sessions with the addition of thin coloured stripes used to denote rank, starting with 2 stripes for 2nd dan, 3 stripes for 3rd, and so on.
~ Within the WJJF, once a person reaches Godan | 五段 (5th Dan) they may be addressed ‘Master’.
~ Also within the WJJF, once a person reaches Hachidan | 八段 (8th Dan) they may be address ‘Professor’
~ See also the Titles (Shōgō | 称号) section below
Dōjō | 道場
The term literally translates as “place of the way” from Japanese, though more often it roughly means “Martial Arts School“. This may be a dedicated building or room devoted to practising martial arts, or may be a temporary space. Some dōjōs may have multiple rooms where several classes can take place for different ability levels or skills being learnt.
Honbu Dōjō | 本部 道場
“Honbu” translates to “headquarters“, making a Honbu dōjō the central training facility and administrative headquarters of a particular martial arts style. For the WJJF this is ‘The Clark Centre’, located in Liverpool, UK.
Ju-Jitsu (aka ‘Jiu-Jitsu’, ‘Jiujitsu’, ‘Jujitsu’, ‘Ju-Jutsu’) | 柔術
“Jū” can be translated to mean “gentle” or “soft”, while “Jitsu” can be translated to mean “technique” or “art“. Put together and it becomes “The gentle art“.
~ Modern Ju-Jitsu is based on the unarmed combat techniques used by the Samurai of medieval Japan, which they might have used if they ever found themselves without a weapon. It was designed to counter attacks from enemies wearing armour (as striking techniques were ineffective against them) instead focusing on throwing, immobilizing, joint locks and choke holds.
~ There is no one correct spelling of the word when translating it from Japanese to English, which is why it is often written in various ways. It is quite common to see people who are referring to traditional Japanese Ju-Jitsu spell it “Ju-Jitsu” or “Jujitsu”, while people referring to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to spell it “Jiu-Jitsu” or “Jiujitsu”.
Neither are wrong, but the use of different spelling can help identify which type of Ju-Jitsu the author is referring to.
~ An older alternative name for Ju-Jitsu was Yawara | 柔, which is also the name of a handheld striking weapon.
Ju-Jitsuka (aka ‘Jiu-Jitsuka’, ‘Jiujitsuka’, ‘Jujitsuka’, ‘Ju-Jutsuka’) | 柔術家
“Ka” primarily means “house” or “home” but can also mean “expert” or “professional”. In this case we are using the latter meanings as a Ju-Jitsuka is “someone who practices Ju-Jitsu.”
“Jiu-jiteiro” might also be used when referring to someone who practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Kata | 型
This means “Form” or “Pattern“. These are usually exercises consisting of a sequence of the specific movements of a martial art, used in training and designed to show skill in a technique.
For example, ‘stance kata’ is a routine consisting of standing in the different attack stances used in Ju-Jitsu, and would be used to teach student the different stances.
Keikogi (aka ‘Gi’) | 稽古着
This is the full name of the uniform. “Keiko” means “practice” and “Gi” means “clothes“. In English the word ‘keikogi’ is almost always shortened to just ‘gi’, which would be incorrect when spoken in Japanese, but would be understood in context.
~ The Keikogi can be made from a variety of parts. The most common combination is that of an Uwagi | 上着, which is a jacket with overlapping sides, and the Shitabaki | 絝 which are a simple pair of trousers. These are tied together with the Obi | 帯, which is the belt itself. The colour of the belt is used to denote the wearers level of experience.
~ A possible addition to this is a Hakama | 袴 which is a men’s formal divided skirt. It is worn when performing certain Kata’s, and is worn over the top of the trousers and belt.
~ In the WJJF the Kyū grades wear a white Keikogi, while the Dan grades wear a dark blue Uwagi and a white Shitabaki that also has blue trimming on the sides. Very high ranking members of the WJJF may also wear a red Uwagi.
Kyū | 級
Like Dan, “Kyū” also translates to “rank” but can also mean “[school] class“.
The Kyū grades are the coloured belts taken prior to reaching Shodan (Black Belt). These are regarded as the ‘basic’ ranks, and traditionally are numbered in reverse order to indicate how far away the holder is from Shodan. Essentially, the kyū is the number of steps before reaching mastery whereas the Dan gives steps into mastery.
Within the WJJF the Kyū grade belts go as follows:
- Mukyū | 無級 (Ungraded) – Red belt.
- Kyūkyū | 九級 (9th Kyū) – White Belt.
- Hachikyū | 八級 (8th Kyū) – Yellow Belt.
- Nanakyū | 七級 (7th Kyū) – Orange belt.
- Rokkyū | 六級 (6th Kyū) – Green belt.
- Gokyū | 五級 (5th Kyū) – Blue and White belt.
- Yonkyū | 四級 (4th Kyū) – Blue belt.
- Sankyū | 三級 (3rd Kyū) – Purple belt.
- Nikyū | 二級 (2nd Kyū) – Brown and White belt.
- Ikkyū | 一級 (1st Kyū) Brown belt.
- Shodan | 初段 (1st Dan) – Black belt.
~ Unlike the Dan grades, in western speaking countries it is common to refer to the colour of the belt rather than the name of the rank, for example saying you are a “Green belt” rather than a “Rokkyū.”
~ The lowest Kyū belt (Red belt in the WJJF) is called the Mukyū | 無級 which roughly means “ungraded” as its more literal translation is “Non-grade“.
~ The word Yūkyūsha | 有級者 is a broader term that means “person holding a Kyū rank“, and applies to anyone who has completed at least one grading. A completely new student who had not completed a single grading and thus be on the lowest belt would be a Mukyūsha | 無級者.
Osu no Seishin (aka ‘Oss’ or ‘Osh’) | 押忍の精神
This means “to persevere while being pushed.” This is a symbolic phrase, used to remind students and yourself to keep trying, to push your limits. It might be used as a “Well done” or show of support to recognise the effort another person has put in. You might say this to your Uke after you have practiced with them.
~ It likely finds its way to Ju-Jitsu via Karate, where it likely gained popularity from the athletic mindset of early karate practitioners. A good analogue to this in English is the phrase “No pain, no gain.”
~ Over time however the phrase became shortened to just “Osu” or “Oss”, which both are pronounced “Oshh”.
Rei | 礼
This word for the most part means “respect”, “thanks” or “politeness”, as it is used to show respect to others. This is most often seen by bowing. The lower a person bows, the more respect they are showing to the person they are bowing towards. This can range from bending at the waist a short distance (around 20 degrees), a deep standing bow (around 90 degrees) to even kneeling on the floor and bending at the waist so that your head is just above the floor.
Common practices are to bow when entering and leaving the dōjō, at the beginning and end of classes, or before performing a Kata.
There are rules to how a proper rei should be performed:
- A rei should be done slowly and in a controlled manner, pausing for a moment at the bottom of the bow before returning to standing.
- You do not look up at the person you are bowing to until you have returned to normal standing. Instead you look at the ground in front of their feet.
- Most of the time a rei is done silently, but talking is allowed. When performing a kata you will often say the name of the Kata you are about to do as you bow. Shouting however is not allowed and is considered rude.
- Your hands stay beside your body unless you are doing a full kneeling rei.
- See also this video guide
Ryū | 流
This roughly means “style”, “system”, or “school”, and it is used as a suffix on the end of words. In English it is used to refer to schools of martial arts. This makes the dōjō the place of learning, while the Ryū is the content you learn.
The WJJF uses a modified version of Hontai Yōshin-ryū | 本體楊心流 which Sōke Robert Clark studied while in Japan.
Samurai | 侍
The word “Samurai” literally means “to serve”, though it is more synonymous with “Warrior“. The Samurai were warriors who were usually associated with a clan and their lord (the Daimyo | 大名), and were trained as officers in military tactics and grand strategy.
~ The Samurai were trained to use a wide range of weapons, including the katana (sword), naginata (glaive), Rokushakubō (staff), and Yumi (Longbow). The Samurai also used Ju-Jitsu as a method of unarmed combat.
~ A Samurai who didn’t serve a lord would be known as a Rōnin | 浪人, which itself means “masterless Samurai“.
Tatami | 畳
Floor mats. This word generally refers to traditional rice-straw mats that were placed on earth or wooden floors in Japanese homes, but it can also be used to refer to the training mats used in a dōjō.
Uke | 受け
“Uke” roughly means “receiver“. The uke is your training partner who provides an attack for you to practice defending against, ending up as the person who gets thrown. When you attack a training partner, you are their Uke.
~ The terms for the person practicing a move depends on what it is they actually do to defend from the attacking Uke. The main 3 terms used are Nage | 投げ which means “to throw“, tori | 取り which means “grabber” or shite | 仕手 which means “do-er“.
Ukemi | 受身
“Ukemi” means “the art of falling safely“. In English this might be known as a ‘Breakfall practice’ or ‘tumbling’. The Ukemi is the action an Uke will take to prevent injury to themselves. It is the art of knowing how to respond correctly to an attack and often incorporates skills to allow one to do so safely. Ukemi practice is a valid exercise in itself.
Titles (Shōgō | 称号)
~ These titles are primarily used relation to martial arts classes, and not used outside of the dōjō. For example imagine a person, “Mr John Smith“. Once they enter the dōjō they may be addressed as “Sensei John Smith“, “Sensei John“, “Sensei Smith” or even simply “Sensei”.
~ Many of these titles overlap as some refer to a persons rank or skill as a coach/teacher, while others refer to their rank within a wider organisaion. For example, a person could be both Sōke and Hanshi. In this situation you refer to them by their higher title which in this example would be Sōke.
~ In western dojo’s different people will have their own preferences for how they prefer to be addressed, but it is a polite formality to address them as their title or simply as “Sensei” if you are unsure of their exact title. In traditional Japanese dojo’s however you would always address a person by their family name followed by their title, as in “Smith Sensei”
Uchi-deshi | 内弟子
~ Literally meaning “inside student“, this is a Japanese term for a live-in student or apprentice who lives with, assists and trains under a sensei at their Dōjō on a full-time basis. They would help the sensei carry out tasks such as sweeping the floors, opening the dojo to students or other tasks that a Sensei might have done, as well as training in all classes that Sensei runs.
~ A person might typically do this for 2-3 years prior to earning their Shodan belt though in many martial arts it is not a requirement.
~ In contrast to Uchi-deshi, students who live outside of the dojo are referred to as Soto-deshi | 外弟子, which literrally means “outside student“.
~ The WJJF recognises the position of Uchi-deshi, but nobody in the WJJF currently holds this title.
Sensei | 先生
The term literally means “one who has gone before”. Within the martials arts it is generally used to mean “instructor” or “teacher“, though in Japan this is a more general term for “someone more experienced” and as such ‘Sensei’ is an not a protected word in the same way ‘Doctor’ is.
Renshi | 錬士
This can be translated to “Polished Instructor”. This title can be awarded to Senseis of Nidan (2nd Dan) and above.
Kyōshi / Kyoushi | 教師
In Japan this is a classification of a job, like a bank clerk or a secretary. In this case it most commonly translates to “teacher” or “educator“. The word may also be written as “Kyoushi” and carries the same meaning.
This title can be awarded to Senseis of Yondan (4th Dan) and above, though it is not a requirement.
Shihan | 師範
This word refers to an “expert teacher“, though the individual Kanji that make up the word directly translate to “expert” and “example” or “model“.
As such, it is synonymous with a “good example” or a “role model“. In this case, it would be a expert teacher who is considered a good role model to other teachers, though not specifically a ‘teacher of teachers’.
Hanshi | 範士
Hanshi translates literally as “exemplary gentlemen“, though it is more synonymous with “teacher of teachers“. This person is deemed so experienced as a teacher that they will teach other dan grades how to be Sensei’s. Because of this, many English speaking martial artists will use the term “Professor” interchangeably with hanshi, in a similar way to how some people refer to a dan belt as a ‘degree‘.
Kanchō | 館長
The most accurate translation of “Kanchō” is “superintendent” or “director“, though in essence it generally means “Head of School“.
Within the WJJF, this is Kanchō Robert Hart, who is the current managing director.
Sōke | 宗家
The English translation of “Sōke” can be “grand master“. It can mean one person who is the leader of any school or the master of a style, but it is most commonly used as a highest level Japanese title, referring to the singular leader of a school or style of martial art.
Within the WJJF, this is Sōke Robert Clark (2nd February 1946 – 9th February 2012) who founded the WJJF in 1976 after studying Hontai Yōshin-ryū in Japan.
Shodai Sōke | 初代 宗家
“Sho” means “first” while “dai” means “subject“, “theme” or “topic“, when combined with sōke it comes to specifically denotes the founding sōke of a martial art. This is the one person who first created a new style and begun teaching it by opening a new dōjō.
Weapons (Buki | 武器)
These weapons are all taught and used within the WJJF, starting with Nidan (2nd Dan). The WJJF does not permit the use of sharp or ‘live’ blades, so when buying a weapon it is better to choose a training version. These will usually have modifications such as dull edges, foam padding or being made of a flexible material such as rubber.
Jō | 杖
The word “Jō” translates to “cane“, “walking stick“, or “staff“. It may also be called a “Jo Staff” but this would be incorrect as that would be like calling it a “staff staff.”
The Jō itself is a short wooden weapon, usually around 1.3m (50 in / 4’2″) in length and around 1 inch thick. It is often taught and/or used as a defence to other weapons, in particular sword attacks.
As such, it is a sort of ‘generic’ practice weapon as the techniques used can be transfered to other items, such as walking sticks, canes or other shorter pole-like items so that should someone find themself with a traditional weapon they can use makeshift weapons instead.
Kama | 鎌
The Kama is a farming tool used for reaping crops. In fact the word “Kama” translates to “Sickle.”
This makes it an improvised weapon which has been formalised through the use of Kata. In particular it may be used to defend against traditional weapons.
They are often used in pairs when used as weapons, but they can be used as individuals.
Katana | 刀
The Katana is actual name of the iconic curved swords used by the Samurai of ancient Japan. These are sharpened on one edge and blunt on the other. An Iaitō | 居合刀 is a metal training version that has a blunt edge, white a Bokken | 木剣 is a wooden training version.
A Kubotan is a small rod on a key-chain, usually around 5-6 inches long and half an inch thick, made out of aluminium or high-impact plastic. This is a modern weapon developed in the late 1960’s by Japanese Karate master Takayuki Kubota who originally designed it as a tool for female police officers in Los Angeles.
The Kubotan is a modern version of a Yawara and is used in a very similar manner, notably by using it to attack pressure points or to add leverage for joint manipulation.
Naginata | 薙刀
A naginata consists of a wooden or metal pole with a curved single-edged blade on the end, similar to a European glaive. The name roughly translates to “mowing sword”.
Nunchuku | 双節棍
These are a two short batons connected at one end by a short chain or rope. The two batons commonly made out of wood or lightweight metal, while the link is a cord or a metal chain. The batons may also feature metal studs or be wrapped in cord/fabric for extra grip.
In English they are often known as “Nun-chucks“, which is not the correct name.
Rokushakubō (aka ‘Bō’) | 六尺棒
This means “six foot pole”, as “Roku” is “Six”, “Shaku” is a unit of measurement that is equal to 30.3cm (just under 1ft) and “Bō” means “pole”. However because of the long name, it is often shortened to just “Bō”. This means that calling it a “Bō Staff” is not correct as that is like calling it a “pole pole”
As the name implies, the Bō is a long wooden polearm that are typically around 1.8 m (71 in / 5’11”) tall and about 1-1.5 inches thick.
Sai | 釵
The sai is a traditional piercing melee weapon used in Okinawa. The basic form of the weapon is that of a pointed, prong shaped metal baton, with two curved prongs projecting from the handle. There are many different types of sai with varying prongs for trapping and blocking.
Tonfa | 旋棍
The Tonfa is a stick with a handle attached roughly a third of the way down, and the name means “rotation stick“, which reflects the origin of the weapon. Like the Kama it was a tool that was repurposed to be a weapon.
In this case, the Tonfa was used to grind rice and wheat into flour. The underside of the stick is flat under the handle, but rounded at the other end. This is from where the user would grind the flour.
They would hold the handle with the stick under their forearm, pressing it against a hard surface. As they worked they would lift the flat end of the stick to grind the flour while still leaning on the other end, which resulted in it becoming worn away and rounded.
Yawara | 柔
The Yawara takes the form of one or two small thick sticks that protrude about an inch from each side of the hand. They are usually used in pairs to initiate throws, bone breaks, and pressure point strikes, in a similar way to how a Kubotan may also be used.
~ An interesting note is the kanji for Yawara is 柔 (meaning “Soft“) which is the same as the 1st kanji in Ju-Jitsu | 柔術 or Judo | 柔道. “Yawara” was also an older term for Ju-Jitsu that was used interchangeably until “Ju-Jitsu” became the favoured term.