Learning Japanese Through BJJ
One of the more interesting reasons why I like training at MY Team Okinawa is that the classes are taught in both English and Japanese due to the unique diversity of the gym. It’s a great situation for both beginners and advanced language learners. Beginners of both Japanese and English are able to learn and use simple phrases in real context because the same words are used all the time (ex. grab the sleeve, push the leg, etc.) and advanced learners are able to converse with native speakers in a low-key, completely no pressure environment.
So let’s start with the basics! Covered in this post are body parts, parts of the gi, and basic directional words and verbs.
*This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather an introduction to the most commonly used Japanese words in BJJ. If you would like to see something added to this list (or notice a mistake!), please feel free to write it in the comments.
Parts of the gi
Sleeve: 袖（そで）sode / Sleeve lining: 袖裏（そでうら）sode ura
Pants: ズボン zubon **Note: In Japan, the word “pants” does exist — but it refers to underwear (i.e. “panties”)
Basic directional words
Above/on top: 上[に]（うえ[に]）ue [ni]
Below/under: 下[に]（した[に]）shita [ni]
[In] front [of]: 前[に]（まえ[に]) mae [ni]
Beside/to the side/side-to-side: 横（よこ）yoko
Left: 左（ひだり）hidari / Left side: 左側（ひだりがわ）hidari gawa
Right: 右（みぎ）migi / Right side: 右側（みぎがわ）migi gawa
To lift/raise: 上がる（あがる）agaru
To lower: 下がる（さがる）sagaru
To grab/hold: 掴む（つかむ）tsukamu
To release/let go: 放す（はなす）hanasu ***Not to be confused with 話す（はなす）which is also pronounced “hanasu” but means “to speak/talk”
And the most important verb in BJJ…
To shrimp: エビする ebi suru (or just “ebi”)
– – – – –
Grab/Hold the lapel = 襟を掴む（えりをつかむ）eri o tsukamu
Push down on the head = 頭を下に押す（あたまをしたにおす）atama o shita ni osu