Martial Arts Sayings

11 Japanese Martial Arts Sayings and their Meanings

Learning martial arts involves more than just honing new techniques, as there are new terms and phrases to master as well. Here are a few martial arts sayings you will probably hear often and should therefore become very familiar with.

#1. Arigato Gozaimasu (ah-ree-gah-toh goh-zai-mas): Thank you very much.

In Japanese, arigatou is an informal way of saying “thank you”, and gozaimasu is added to make the word more formal as when talking with a superior or someone who is of a higher standing socially.

#2. Bushido (boo-shee-do): The way of the warrior.

This refers to the moral code adhered to by the Samurai. This code consisted of seven virtues that encompassed not only their fighting skill, but their daily living.

#3. Do Itashimas’te (doh-ee-tash-ee-ma-she-tay): You’re welcome.

Spoken in response whenever someone says arigato or arigato gozaimasu.

#4. Dojo (doe-jo): Martial arts studio or “place to learn the way”.

Traditionally, dojos were placed adjacent to temples, but are now found in a variety of settings. Dojos are highly respected and cared for, which is why shoes are removed prior to entering.

#5. Karate ni Sente (kah-ray-tay nee sen-tay): There is no first attack in karate.

This term is often misunderstood, as it does not actually indicate a person should never strike first. Rather, it means that karate students must never start a fight, and should always do whatever is possible to de-escalate a situation before using violence.

#6. Kata (kah-ta) Form.

This is a choreographed exercise similar to a dance move with pre-arranged patterns. Kata is used for training purposes, with each martial art form having its own core kata that students must learn in order to advance from one rank to the next.

#7. Kiai (ki-ai) Spirit shout.

This refers to the short, expressive yell let out by students just before making an attacking move. It may also be used to intimidate or startle an opponent during a real-life encounter.

#8. Kiotsuke (kee-oh-skay) Attention.

Often given as a loud call for everyone to line up and stand at attention, particularly at the beginning of a training session. The original meaning of the word is thought to have been “take care” or “be careful”, and experts are not quite sure how or when the meaning became altered.

#9. Mokuso (mo-koo-so) Quiet meditation.

This type of meditation is often performed just before a training session to clear one’s mind and help students better focus throughout. A more formal meaning is thought to be “warming up the mind for training hard.”

#10. Oss (Osu): Push on through difficulties.

Although its official use is intended to encourage students, Oss has nonetheless become a “catch-all” phrase that is often used to indicate gratitude or understanding.

#11. Sensei (sen-say) Teacher.

A term of respect, it is literally translated as “a person who is born before another.” It implies that wisdom is gained through age and experience.

These are just a few of the terms you will learn while practicing Japanese martial arts. Using these martial arts sayings may seem a little awkward at first, but in time will become second nature for you.

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