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Top 5 Terms We Need to Know When Training in a Dojo

Updated: May 30, 2023

Have you frequently heard some Japanese terms in the Dojo and felt like Alice in Wonderland? This article is just for you. And even if you know these terms, knowing additional details will always help, so read on.

Japan has significantly influenced martial arts by developing and popularising disciplines like Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and Aikido. Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern Karate, is just one example of Japanese martial arts' impact on the world. The emphasis on discipline, respect, and self-improvement that Funakoshi and his teacher Itosu Anko taught has become a cornerstone of many martial arts practices around the world, and the techniques and philosophies of Japanese martial arts have been adopted and adapted by practitioners in many different countries.

Even if you are learning Kickboxing, BJJ or MMA in a traditional dojo, the lineage might come from traditional martial arts with roots in Japanese martial arts. Here are the top 5 terms one needs to know.

1. Sensei

Sensei is a term commonly used in Karate training, and it refers to a teacher or mentor who guides students in their martial arts journey. The concept of Sensei has been an integral part of Japanese martial arts for centuries, and it has helped shape how students approach their training.

Over time, the role of Sensei has evolved, but the fundamental principles remain the same. Today, a Sensei is still a teacher and mentor, but they also act as a guide, helping students to develop their skills and overcome challenges in their training. They provide guidance and support, pushing students to reach their full potential.

With the guidance of a Sensei, students reach their potential, and the art of Karate retains its essential values and teachings.

Sensei and Student in Action
Sensei and Student in Action

2. Shomen Ni Rei

Shomen Ni Rei refers to the bow one makes towards the front of the dojo or training hall as a sign of respect towards the space and the art of Karate. It is a way of acknowledging the history and tradition of Karate and the importance of maintaining discipline and etiquette in the Dojo.

Dojo Front at Kombat Hall
Dojo Front: Sanshinkan Logo, Itosu Anko, Kenwa Mabuni, Tamas Weber, Yashpal Singh Kalsi and Anamika Singh Kalsi

3. Sensei Ni Rei

Sensei Ni Rei refers to the bow one makes towards their instructor or teacher as a sign of respect and gratitude for their guidance and teachings. The instructor is a crucial part of the Karate training journey, and this bow expresses appreciation for their efforts.

Sensei ni Rei
Students wishing Sensei at Extreme 3.0

4. Otaga Ni Rei

Otaga Ni Rei refers to the bow one makes towards their training partner as a sign of respect and acknowledgement of their shared journey towards improvement and growth. Karate is not just a unique art but one that emphasises the importance of teamwork and cooperation.

Wishing each other in a Martial Arts Class
Wishing each other in a Martial Arts Class

5. Oss

The word "Oss" or "Osu" is commonly used in Karate and has a special meaning. As per the most common theory, it originated from the Japanese language derived from the word "Oshi Shinobu," which means "to push" or "to persevere." In Karate, "Oss" is a term of respect and acknowledgement. It is often said as a greeting or in response to instruction from a teacher or senior student. "Oss" represents the spirit of perseverance, determination, and respect essential in the practice of Karate. It is a way of showing humility and gratitude towards one's teacher, fellow students, and the art of Karate itself.

Some traditional Japanese Dojos might not use the word, and people often say it's more common outside Japan.

Bonus Term: Dojo

We have used the term Dojo in this article liberally. However, if you are new to Dojo, here's what you need to know.

Dojo is a term that is associated with martial arts, particularly in Japan. It refers to a training hall or studio where students learn and practice their martial arts skills. "Dojo" literally means "place of the way" or "place of enlightenment." It is a place where individuals come not only to learn self-defence techniques but also to cultivate discipline, respect, and personal growth. Dojo is a community of individuals who share a passion for martial arts and are committed to improving themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Students helping maintain the Dojo
Students helping maintain the Dojo

These terms hold immense significance at Karate classes in Gurgaon or MMA training in Gurgaon at Kombat Hall, as they remind us of the values that Karate instils in its practitioners - respect, discipline, humility, and teamwork. By incorporating these practices into their training, students learn not just the physical aspects of Karate but also the mental and emotional elements that are equally important in their development as martial artists and individuals.

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