Lexicon: warmup & suburi

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We continue our series of explanatory articles with words and phrases from warming up.

We will start with a list of common stretching positions, which you will hear every week when training in Amstelveen as large parts of class are conducted in Japanese. Funnily enough, in Japanese “stretching” is a loanword from english: ストレッチ (su-to-re-chi).

  • Koutai (交替) “Alternate”, “switch”, or “change”, this word is used in class to indicate you need to switch between left or right in stretching. You will also hear it in mawari geiko, when it’s time to move to another partner.
  • Te or tekubi (手首) Your hands and wrists.
  • Ashi (脚) Your feet. Make sure to loosen your ankles and toes.
  • Hiza (膝) Your knees. Bend your knees and make rotating movements, flexing and stretching your knees.
  • Suwaru (座る) Squat, by sitting in a crouching position.
  • Mae ni kagamu (前に屈む) Bow deeply touching the ground. First with feet together, then wide-legged.
  • Ushiro ni kagamu (後ろに屈む) Bend backwards.
  • Koshi wo mawasu (腰を回す) Make circles with your hips, like a hoolahoop.
  • Akiresu ken (アキレス腱) The Achilles’ tendon, at the back of your foot. Step forward and sink a bit through your knee while keeping the back leg straight. Goal is to stretch the tendons on the rear leg.
  • Shinkyaku (伸脚) Stretch your inner leg, by crouching down and putting one outstretched leg to the side.
  • Shinkyaku fukaku (伸脚 深く) Stretch your inner leg, by crouching down and putting one outstretched leg to the side and pointing your toes upwards.
  • Yoko ni nobasu (横に伸ばす) Bend sideways, with one or both arms above your head.
  • Ookiku mawasu (大きく回す) Make large circles using your upper body, by bowing front-side-back-side-front in a fluid motion.
  • Ude (腕) Your arms. Stretch arm and shoulder by holding one arm across your chest using the other.
  • Ude ushiro (腕 後ろ) Your arms again, this time stretch the shoulder by putting your arm behind your neck and pushing backwards gently.
  • Ue ni nobasu (上に伸ばす) Stretch your body’s full length, by stretching your arms over your head and standing on your toes.
  • Ude wo mawasu (腕を回す) Turn your arms in circles, to the side of your body.
  • Kubi mae ushiro (首前後ろ), or unazuki (頷き) Nod your head up and down
  • Sayuu (左右), or kubiwofuru (首を振る) Shake your head from side to side.
  • Yoko (横) Tilt your head and bring your ear towards your shoulder.
  • Atama wo mawasu (頭を回す) Rotate your head gently, rolling it over your shoulders, neck and chest.
  • Janpu (ジャンプ) Jumping in place. We usually do jumping, followed by jumping jacks, followed by front-to-back jumping jacks and ending with squatted landings.

After stretching, we proceed to suburi (素振り), lit. “practice swing“, from 素 (plain, natural) and 振り (swing). You will often also hear this called “empty strikes” as we are performing strikes without hitting any target. There are many kinds of suburi, where the following are the ones most often performed in our dojo.

  • Jōge suburi or joge-buri (上下素振り) Large strikes, where the upswing reaches your back and the downswing stops at knee height. In Amstelveen it is taught that the upswing should touch your buttocks, as this will tell you whether your swing went straight through the center.
  • Shōmen suburi (正面素振り) Large strikes where the upswing reaches your back (see above) and the downswing stops at head height, as if striking men.
  • Zenshin kōtai shōmen suburi (前進後退正面素振り) Like shomen suburi, but stepping forwards and backwards with each strike. This is the actual shomen suburi performed at our dojo.
  • Sayū men suburi (左右面素振り) Like shomen suburi, but alternating strikes between the right and left side of the head. Sayu men suburi is often incorporated in what we call the “vierkantje“/square, or “kruisje/plusje“/cross exercise where you move forward,backward,right and left.
  • Haya suburi (速素振り) Literally “fast practice swing“, where you make small jumps or fast slides while striking at men height. Depending on the exercise, the upswing either reaches your back/buttocks (slow haya suburi), or the upswing stops in jodan no kamae (fast haya suburi).
  • Dou suburi(胴素振り) Practice swings where you aim for the torso, dou. We alternate between oki dou and chiisai dou.
  • Naname suburi (斜め素振り) Like joge buri, but alternating between right and left diagonal strikes.
  • Katate suburi (片手素振り) Literally “one handed practice swing”, where you perform any of the above mentioned exercises but with only one hand.
  • Shin kokyuu (深呼吸) Literally “deep breath”, where you step in and perform a large upswing while breathing in, then you breathe out during a slow downswing into sonkyo.
As part of the instructions for suburi you will often hear additional commands.
  • Kamae to (構えと) Stand in chudan no kamae.
  • Mae & ushiromae (前 & 後ろ前) Respectively forwards and backwards. You will hear these in exercises like the square/box or cross.
  • Hidari & migi (左 & 右) Respectively left and right. You will hear these in exercises that incorporate sayu men strike, like the aforementioned square/box/cross.
  • Ni-ju pon, san-ju pon, yon-ju pon etc. Literally “20 count”, “30 count”, “40 count”. Basically, the amount of suburi you are expected to do. It is suggested that you learn to count to at least 100 in Japanese.

With many thanks to Kiwa-sempai for providing the list of stretching commands and to Zicarlo for providing more help on kanji on missing terms.


  1. raoul vollebergh

    warmup & suburi

    deze woordenschat is niet meer terug te vinden op de site?
    Een aantal thema’s wordt beschreven bij hoofdstuk beginners, doch bovenstaande is niet meer te zien. Maar ik kan mij ook vergissen een kijk met een half oog.



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