My A to Z of Karate

These are the words and ideas I have picked up in the few sessions of karate I have done. I hope I am accurate but please feel free to post and let me know if I have made a mistake (Be kind though, I’ve only done four sessions!)


Aspies – I think karate is great for Aspies because it is so structured. The grading system is structured and the lessons are structured. You are also not required to socialise during karate, in fact it is frowned upon to chat too much (if at all!)

Basics – these are the basic moves. The ones I’m learning are a punch to the middle, a punch with the opposite arm, a kick, a step kick and a stamp kick. I quite enjoy basics but they are hard work. You have to do them with both sides of the body but one side (my right) is always stronger and more accurate. Basics is a very structured part and we seem to do it each week.

Chudan – the middle of the body. Chudan usually follows the name of a punch or kick and tells you where to aim. I keep aiming too far to the side and not central enough but, as I was shown, this isn’t half as “strong”. It was much easier for the sesnei to push me back when I was off centre than when I was aiming centrally.

Dojo – the name of the room where you train. Ours is in a gym. It’s a dance studio with big mirrors. I don’t like looking in the mirror as I have put on a lot of weight with some medication, but there you go.

Etiquette – this plays a big part in a karate lesson from formal bows to the order of where you stand (for me I stand on the right as I have only just started and the black belts are on the left with everyone else in between, in order of course). I like knowing where to stand and what to do.

Future – I’m looking forward to grading in the future (once I have received my license). I like knowing exactly where I am and what I need to do.

Gi – the uniform you wear. A pair of white trousers and a wrap around jacket that fastens with little ties. Must remember that the side with the writing on goes on top!

Horse riding stance – a very uncomfortable position where you have equal weight on your legs but those legs are spread apart, a bit like you would be riding a horse, and you bend your knees.

Ichi – number one in Japanese (pronounced ichee).

Japan – the original home of karate and somewhere I would love to visit. Not sure if I’d cope with the food though! (Aspergers sensory issues to blame here)

Kata – a bit like a dance where you imagine opponents attacking you from all sides and you block and attack in a pre determined set of movements against these imaginary attackers. The first one I learn was Pinan Nidan and there are some good videos if you want to see what a kata looks like.

Left – knowing your left and right and knowing that in left fighting stance you are actually moving your right leg. It’s all very complicated. I’m glad my aspie brain picks up on little details. It definitely helps (not that I’m perfect just that I notice)

Mawatte – a Japanese term meaning to turn. During basics (see B) we go up and down the hall performing the move, turning at each end. Sometimes we just turn and other times we turn and block at the same time. Multitasking.

Noise – every now and again you will hear everybody make a strange noise. They call it kiai and it’s not really a shout. I asked Sensei about it last week and he said it’s releasing all the air from your body and there are several reasons including to startle your opponent, give you extra power and also to make sure you aren’t winded if someone is about to punch you. I feel embarrassed shouting but I’ve been told I’ll get used to it.

Obi – a belt. In karate they come in different colours to show how advanced you are. You start at white and finish at black but the colours in the middle are different depending on which style you are doing. Some places have tags where you get coloured tape wrapped around your belt to show smaller progressions. My belt is brand new and keeps coming undone.

Partner work – These are a bit like katas, in that they are set, but you complete them with a partner. One person defends and the other attacks in a set way. Unlike a kata this involves physical contact although you don’t intend to hurt your partner!

Quiet – I was watching two black belts performing a move and they were trying to land as quietly as they could. So not like a herd of elephants.

Rei – to bow, usually done at the start and end of the session to the instructors.

Sensei – the name we call the instructor (a Japanese word showing respect to the person who knows more).

Throwing – something I’ve seen but never done where one person throws the other person onto the floor – or a mat in the dojo when we are practising.

Uchi uke – a type of block with the arm I need for my first grading. I think it goes from outer to inner but I get confused, as there are two blocks. Ah well I’ve only been going a few weeks, I’ll get there at some point.

Violence – Karate certainly isn’t about violence. It is about defence. Even early on I was told that some things are only used to give you time to run away.

Warm up – an integral part of any karate session. Ours involve stretches, jumping jacks, press ups, squats, sit ups, running.

eXact – movements in karate have to be very exact otherwise you are likely to get hurt or hurt somebody else. Bad technique can result in injury (or a lot of corrections)

Yame – stop. Used at my dojo to tell you when to stop what you are doing and we are going to move on or change over.

Zuki – to punch. Junzuki, morote zuki etc. are all different types of punches.


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