JCS/The Great Enablers:
E.J. Harrison

 Japanese Terms Used in Judo

By E.J. Harrison

Copyright © 2000 all rights reserved. From Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, July 1951, 21-23. Copyright © 1951, the Budokwai http://www.budokwai.org. Reprinted by permission of Richard Bowen.

It is true to say that modern Japanese bears almost the same relation to the terminology of the martial arts (Bujutsu) in general, and for our own immediate purpose to judo in particular, as ancient Greek and Latin bear to the language of science and philosophy. And this impact may be extended to include the entire scope of the esotericism which is such a characteristic feature of Japanese specialisation in all the arts and crafts as well as in many other human activities. This traditional penchant for esotericism is reflected in words like "hiden" (secret tradition), "hijutsu" (secret art), "okugi" (inner mysteries or secret principles) among others. There is in the Kango or Sinico-Japanese style of composition an inexhaustible fund of symbols which in countless combinations, very largely though by no means solely, dissyllabic, lend themselves admirably to the conveyance of the most delicate and subtle shades of meaning in every sphere. In this respect and confining our survey to the martial arts, they are far and away more flexible, concise, euphonious and coherent than any available English substitutes. Realisation of this superiority doubtless accounts for the growing proneness of our judoka to prefer the Japanese names of methods to their cumbrous and harsh, literal English equivalents. It is, however, only natural that concurrently with this tendency judoka ignorant of Japanese -- necessarily the majority -- should wish to know a little about the construction of the original Japanese terms, sufficient at any rate to enable them to distinguish between their component parts. To satisfy that curiosity I have chosen below some of the more familiar Japanese terms and have added to their approximate English meanings a few notes on construction. It goes without saying that nothing like an exhaustive survey in this domain is possible, but perhaps the examples cited will suffice to elucidate the etymological principles upon which the system is based and to facilitate independent analysis of other items in the prolific judo nomenclature. For reasons of space there is room here only for a few hints on pronunciation. Thus the consonants may be pronounced as in English, save that the letter g in the body of a word and in the particle ga has the sound of ng in king. At the beginning of a word it has the hard sound of g in goat. The vowels may be pronounced much as in the Latin languages. Remember that e is never silent, whereas i and u are often slurred or almost mute and therefore quite unaccented. There are long and short vowels in Japanese, but there is no space available here for illustration of all such distinctions which have therefore been omitted from our list.

At the outset we have an apt exemplification of the ease with which the ideograph serves the needs of fusion and liaison in the words mudansha and yudansha, meaning respectively a judoka below the Dan grade and one possessing that grade. In the former case the syllable mu means literally "nothing," "nil," etc., while in the latter case the syllable yu means "possession." Now for some other Japanese terms known to most judoka in the West. Technical sequence has not been attempted.

SEIONAGE (Shoulder Throw) is derived from the verb seou meaning to carry on one's back or to shoulder, and the suffix nage, meaning a fall or a throw.

KATAGURUMA (Shoulder Wheel) is composed of two words, viz., kata, shoulder, and kuruma, a wheel, modified to guruma to facilitate fusion.

UKIGOSHI (Floating Loin), from the verb uku, to float, and koshi, loin or waist, also modified to goshi to facilitate fusion.

HARAIGOSHI (Sweeping Loin), from the verb harau, to sweep, and koshi, loin or waist.

TSURIKOMIGOSHI (Lift Pull Waist or Loin), from the verb tsurikomu, to draw into or attract, and koshi, as before.

UCHIMATA (Inner Thigh), from uchi, the inside or interior, and mata, thigh.

TOMOENAGE (Throwing in a Circle or Stomach Throw), from tomoe, an eddy, a whirl, and nage, a throw.

URANAGE (Rear Throw), from ura, the reverse or other side, and nage, a throw.

SUMIGAESHI (Corner Throw), from sumi, a corner, and the verb kaesu, meaning literally to overturn, to capsize. Again to facilitate fusion the initial letter k is modified into g.

YOKOGURUMA (Side Wheel), from yoko, side, and kuruma, a wheel, again modified to guruma.

TAIOTOSHI (Body Drop), from tai, the body, and the verb otosu, to drop, to let fall, etc.

OSOTOGARI (Major Exterior Reaping), from o (this is a long vowel and should properly be written with a stroke above it) meaning large, big, great; the noun soto, outside, with the verb karu, to shear, to reap, with the initial k modified to g.

DEASHIHARAI (Advanced Foot Sweep), from de, coming out, ashi, the foot, and harau, to sweep.

HANEGOSHI (Spring Hip Throw), from the verb haneru, to leap, to spring, and koshi, the waist or loin. Thus a more correct rendering of the Japanese term would be "Spring Loin."

SOTOMAKIKOMI (Outer Winding Throw), from soto, the outside, and the verb maki-komu, to roll up or wind.

OSOTO-OTOSHI (Major Drop), from o, large, great, soto, the outside, and the verb otosu, to let fall or drop.

ASHIGURUMA (Leg Wheel), from ashi, the leg, and kuruma, a wheel.

OSOTOGURUMA (Major Outer Wheel), from o, large, great, soto, the outside, and kuruma, a wheel.

Two examples culled from the branch of groundwork must complete our list.

KAMI-SHIHO-GATAME (Locking of Upper Four quarters), from kami, the top, the head, the upper part, shiho, four-quarters, and katameru, to tighten, to harden, or, as we might say, to lock. As before, the k is modified to g.

HADAKAJIME (Naked Chokelock), from hadaka, nakedness, and shimeru, to tighten, to strangle. The syllable shi is modified to ji in accordance with the rules of the Katakana and Hiragana syllabaries.

JCS Jan 2000