Unlock the Secrets: 10 Must-Know Martial Arts Terms in English UK

Martial arts is a diverse and ancient discipline that has been practiced for centuries across the globe. Its traditions, techniques, and terminology vary widely among different styles and regions. Whether you are a seasoned martial artist or simply someone interested in learning more about this fascinating world, unlocking the secrets of martial arts terminology can help deepen your understanding and appreciation of the discipline.

1. Dojo

In the world of martial arts, the term “dojo” refers to a training hall or school where martial arts are practiced. It can be a physical space dedicated to the practice of martial arts, such as a gym or studio, or the concept of a training environment in general. The word “dojo” originates from Japanese and is commonly used in martial arts styles such as karate, judo, and aikido.

2. Sensei

The term “sensei” is a Japanese honorific title that is used to address or refer to a teacher or instructor in martial arts. It is a term of respect and signifies the level of expertise and experience held by the individual. In some martial arts, the title “sensei” is used to address any instructor, while in others it is reserved for the highest-ranking teacher.

3. Gi

The term “gi” refers to the traditional uniform worn in many martial arts disciplines, such as karate, judo, and jiu-jitsu. It typically consists of a jacket and pants, and is often made of a durable, heavyweight cotton fabric. The gi serves both practical and symbolic purposes, providing freedom of movement during training and representing the practitioner’s commitment to the martial art.

4. Kata

“Kata” is a term used to describe a choreographed sequence of movements and techniques in martial arts. It is a fundamental aspect of training in many traditional martial arts styles, serving as a way to practice and refine techniques in a structured and repetitive manner. Kata is an integral part of grading and examinations in many martial arts disciplines, and often holds deep philosophical and historical significance.

5. Dan and Kyu

In many martial arts, practitioners are ranked according to their level of skill and experience. The terms “dan” and “kyu” are used to denote these ranks. “Kyu” ranks are typically held by beginners and are represented by colored belts, while “dan” ranks are held by more advanced practitioners and are often indicated by black belts. Advancement through these ranks is usually determined through testing and evaluation by qualified instructors.

6. Dojang

Similar to the Japanese concept of a dojo, the term “dojang” is used in Korean martial arts, such as taekwondo and hapkido, to refer to a training hall or school. While the word “dojo” is associated with Japanese martial arts, “dojang” is the equivalent term in Korean martial arts and serves as a dedicated space for training and learning.

7. Waza

In Japanese martial arts, the term “waza” is used to describe a specific technique or skill. It can refer to a wide range of movements and abilities, from strikes and kicks to throws and joint locks. Mastering waza is an essential part of training in many martial arts, and practitioners often spend years honing their skills and perfecting their techniques.

8. Kumite

“Kumite” is a Japanese term that is used to describe the practice of sparring or engaging in controlled combat with an opponent. It is a common training method in many martial arts, particularly styles that focus on self-defense and practical application of techniques. Kumite allows practitioners to test their skills in a dynamic and interactive setting, sharpening their reflexes and timing.

9. Sifu

The term “sifu” is used in Chinese martial arts, such as kung fu and Wing Chun, to address a teacher or instructor. It is a title of respect and signifies the individual’s proficiency and authority in their martial arts style. The relationship between a student and their sifu is often deeply rooted in tradition, respect, and dedication.

10. Tameshiwari

“Tameshiwari” is a Japanese term that translates to “test cutting” and is used to describe the practice of breaking objects, such as boards or bricks, with striking techniques. It is a common demonstration of power, focus, and technique in many martial arts, serving as a way to showcase a practitioner’s proficiency and skill. Tameshiwari is often a part of belt testing and public demonstrations in martial arts schools.


Understanding the terminology of martial arts is key to appreciating the depth and complexity of this ancient discipline. The terms mentioned above represent just a small sample of the rich vocabulary found in the world of martial arts, each with its own history, significance, and cultural context.

Learning these terms not only provides insight into the technical aspects of martial arts, but also offers a glimpse into the traditions, philosophies, and customs that have been passed down through generations of practitioners. Whether you are a martial artist yourself or simply an enthusiast seeking to expand your knowledge, delving into the world of martial arts terminology can open up a world of understanding and appreciation for this timeless art form.

By familiarizing yourself with these essential martial arts terms, you can gain a deeper understanding of the history and culture behind the techniques and traditions, and further enrich your experience as a practitioner or spectator of this fascinating discipline.