Jiu-Jitsu Vocabulary

Jiu-Jitsu Vocabulary: Understanding BJJ’s Japanese Vocabulary

As you step onto the mats and embark on your journey in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you’re not just learning a martial art – you’re diving into a vibrant culture with its own unique language. For those learning English as a second language, deciphering the Japanese terms peppered throughout Jiu-Jitsu vocabulary can be as intriguing as mastering the techniques themselves. 

In this guide, we’ll be your linguistic compass, navigating the seas of BJJ’s common Japanese terms to ensure that you not only move skillfully but also converse confidently in the language of Jiu-Jitsu.

From “faixa branca” to “kimura,” understanding these terms adds depth to your connection with the art and its practitioners. So, whether you’re a seasoned grappler brushing up on your linguistic prowess or a newcomer just starting to wrap your mind around the terminology, this exploration of translating BJJ’s Japanese terms promises to be an illuminating journey.

The Slang of Jiu-Jitsu

Before we delve into the Japanese terms, it’s important to mention the slang used within the BJJ community. Terms like “rolling” (sparring), “guard pulling” (initiating a ground position), and “tapping out” (signaling submission) might sound puzzling to beginners. Familiarizing yourself with these informal expressions will help you communicate more effectively with your training partners.

How to Memorize Jiu-Jitsu Moves

The intricate web of BJJ techniques can be overwhelming, especially when trying to remember them all. Here are some strategies to aid your memorization process:

Deconstruct the Technique: Break down each move into its individual steps. Master one step before moving on to the next.

Visualize and Repeat: Close your eyes and visualize yourself performing the technique flawlessly. Repeated mental rehearsals can help solidify your understanding.

Hands-On Practice: Regularly practicing the techniques with a partner ingrains them in muscle memory.

Embrace Japanese Nomenclature: Learning the Japanese names of techniques adds an authentic touch to your BJJ journey and deepens your connection to its roots.

Translating Common BJJ Japanese Terms

Faixa Branca

“White Belt” is the translation of this term. In BJJ, practitioners wear belts of different colors to indicate their skill level, with the white belt symbolizing a beginner.


A term of respect, “Sensei” translates to “teacher” or “master” in Japanese. It’s used to address and refer to instructors in the BJJ community.


“Oss” is a versatile term used in Japanese martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s used as a sign of respect, encouragement, and acknowledgment. It signifies a deep understanding of the challenges faced in training and is often used to show support and camaraderie among practitioners.


The training ground for BJJ classes, “dojo” translates to “place of the way” in Japanese. It signifies the space where students embark on their martial arts journey.


The traditional BJJ uniform, comprising a jacket and pants, is called a “gi.” In Japanese, “gi” means “uniform” or “outfit.”


“Uke” refers to the person who receives or “takes” the technique in a practice or demonstration. In BJJ, the uke is the partner who cooperates with the person performing the technique, allowing them to practice and learn.


Named after Masahiko Kimura, a renowned Japanese judoka, this submission technique focuses on isolating and controlling the opponent’s arm.


“Randori” is a training method that involves practicing techniques in a dynamic and unpredictable situation. It often simulates real-world sparring scenarios, helping practitioners improve their adaptability and reflexes.

Ashi Garami

“Ashi Garami” is a leg entanglement technique in BJJ. It involves manipulating the opponent’s legs to achieve control or apply pressure on their joints, often targeting the knees or ankles.

Kani Basami

“Kani Basami” is a prohibited scissor takedown technique in BJJ and other combat sports due to its potential for causing serious injury. It involves using one’s legs to scissor the opponent’s legs in an attempt to trip or throw them.

Juji Gatame

“Juji Gatame,” commonly known as an armbar, is a fundamental submission technique in BJJ. It involves hyperextending the opponent’s arm by trapping it between the thighs and controlling the wrist and elbow joints.

Sumi Gaeshi 

“Sumi Gaeshi” is a sacrifice throw in BJJ. It involves using the opponent’s forward momentum to throw them over your back while falling to the ground yourself.

Juji Jime 

“Juji Jime” is a technique used to apply a cross-collar chokehold in BJJ. It involves using the fabric of the opponent’s gi to apply pressure to their neck and cut off blood flow to induce submission.


“Kohai” refers to a junior or lower-ranked member in a BJJ academy. It’s used to address someone who has joined the academy after you or holds a lower belt rank.

What is a Jiu-Jitsu Person Called?

A person who practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is commonly referred to as a “BJJ practitioner” or “BJJ student.” This term is not specific to Japanese language but is widely used in the BJJ community.

Let’s Practice!

In conclusion, familiarizing yourself with the Japanese terms used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can greatly enhance your understanding of the sport. Whether it’s learning the names of techniques or understanding the significance of certain terms, embracing these linguistic aspects can deepen your connection with BJJ. 

Remember, just like mastering BJJ techniques, learning the associated terminology takes time and consistent effort. So, keep practicing, keep learning, and enjoy your journey in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

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