Judo Terminology and Pedigogy

Judo Terminology by Trey Murray

Judo terminology can be confusing for some. The Japanese language features words that express ideals more than specific things like English does. It is for this reason that many of my students have a hard time memorizing the names for moves and vocabulary items in both Japanese and English.

The first bit of Judo terminology that I teach is the word Judo itself. It comes from two ideals in Japanese. The first is ‘ju’ which means gentle or softness. The second is ‘do’ which means way or path. This varies from Jiu-Jutsu in that ‘jiu’ still means gentle or softness, but ‘jutsu’ means art. Jiu-Jutsu is therefor a collection of moves comprising an art, and Judo is a way of living through the art.

Another part of Judo terminology that confuses students is the three parts of a throw. Those parts are kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake. Kuzushi means to take balance (of your opponent). That is to move the opponent in such a way that they are unstable. Tsukuri means to enter (your opponent’s space). Once balance is taken, you must replace it with your balance to control the throw. Kake means to complete the action. Completing the action entails either throwing or sweeping the opponent. Breaking each action down into three parts makes it easier for students to grasp the concept and effectively learn the technique.

The next Judo terminology that I teach is Uke and Torii. The Uki is the person receiving the action (being thrown, choked, etc.). The Torii is the person doing the action. When your instructor asks for uke, they are in effect asking for a demonstration partner to throw.

The Judo term Kata can be really confusing. It means both a demonstration like the Nage no Kata and also shoulder as in Kata Guruma (shoulder wheel). Used alone, it’s usually referring to the demonstration, however.

You can find individual throw names and translations on the Judo page.