Training MMA / BJJ in Italian — Words / Vocabulary / Glossary

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While staying in Florence, Italy, I trained almost daily (when I wasn’t on a touristy trip) at a gym called Dog Eat Dog, led by Marco Santi. I trained in mostly grappling / wrestling, with some striking (boxing / general “MMA striking”) on some days to mix things up and broaden my skillset.

Before going, I had learned a lot of MMA / BJJ vocabulary. But I also learned a bunch of words while I was there.

So here are all the words that I’ve learned form my direct experience in training in MMA / BJJ / Grappling / Striking in Italian. Good luck… In bocca al lupo!

Andiamo a imparare alcune parole delle arti marziali e gli sport da combattimento!

Here are my latest posts on combat sports gym reviews from around the world, vocabulary for training in other languages, and other resources. If you’d like to have me visit and see your gym, please contact me — I love visiting new places and making new friends through combat sports.

MMA / BJJ in Italian — Borrowed vs Translated Vocabulary, and Variations

Something I’ve noticed in all the languages in which I’ve trained is that there’s rarely a set way of saying things that extends everywhere.

For example, I thought I knew how to say “hip escapes” before going to my first classes in Italy. Or “forward rolls”. They turned out to be different to the phrases with which I had prepared myself.

There are instances where a gym might use

  • A borrowed English term, like for “outside heel hook”
  • A Japanese term, particularly for attacks like “juji gatame” (arm bar)
  • A Portuguese word, like “omoplata” (a common attack)
  • Or an Italian word, of course

The reason for the imported words is that the culture of mixed martial arts, fighting sports, and jiu jitsu is global. People watch clips or instructional videos from around the world and focus on techniques, not vocabulary.

And when the vocab is difficult, like in more specialised terminology full of neologisms even in the language of origin, it becomes distracting to translate everything.

Anyway, that said, there’s definitely a lot of Italian words that I had to learn to survive in a gym in Italy. Starting with the word “gym”. If you’re coming from another romance language background and expecting it to be something like “gymnasium”… well, guess again!

Useful Expressions

Here are a bunch of useful expressions that I often need to use on the mats.

Warm-up firstFate dei riscaldamenti prima
Let’s roll!Giriamo!
Ready?Sei pronto / pronta?
One secondUn attimo
Let’s start.Iniziamo.
Good luck!In bocca al lupo!
Another round?Ancora un round?
Are you OK?Va bene? Stai bene?
My xxx hurtsMi fa male il / la …
Careful / Watch outAttento!
Stop!Fermo! / Fermate!
I’ll rest a round.Mi riposerò un round.
I’m going to the bathroom.Vado nel bagno.
I’m dead tired / exhaustedSono esausto!
Sono stanco morto / stanca morta!
Sono cotto / cotta!
I’ve got to go.Me ne devo andare.
Thanks for the training!Grazie per l’allenamento!
MMA training basic phrases

General BJJ / MMA Words in Italian

Below is a list of general words I’ve had to learn for places, equipment, and people. I’ll get more specific below.

Attacker / FighterUn combattente
BeltLa cintura
E.g. la cintura blu è la cintura più desiderata
Change rooms / locker roomsGli spogliatoi
Vado negli spogliatoi a cambiarmi.
CollarIl bavero
bisogna avere una buona presa al bavero
Ho tutta l’attrezzatura giusta
To escape / an escapeSfuggire / Una fuga
Come posso fare per sfuggire di questa posizione?
Questa posizione è difficile da sfuggire
A feint / to feintUna finta / fare una finta / fintare
Finta a sinistra, poi colpisci a destra.
To grip / a gripAferrare / una presa
A gymUna palestra
Pants (Compression style)Pantaloncini
Right-handed / Left-handedDestro / mancino
Il mancinismo non è un vantaggio
MouthguardUn paradenti (not a plural word)
Cerco il mio paradenti
To pass the guard / a guard passPassare la guardia / un passaggio di guardia
Rash guardUna maglia / magliette / rash guard
To rollLottare / Girare. (Have also read rotolare, rollare)
Sleeve (e.g. of jacket)La manica, le maniche
To spar / sparringLa lotta / lottare
Oggi si lotta!
To stretch / stretchingStretching (borrowed)
Facciamo un po di stretching
To submitSottomettere, una sottomissione
To take down / A take-downAbbattere, un abbattimento, un take-down
To take off your shoesTogliersi le scarpe
Togliti le scarpe.
To tapToccare
To train
I’d like to train here
Voglio allenarmi qua
General BJJ / MMA Words in Italian


Here are a bunch of warm-ups (riscaldamenti) common in MMA / jiu jitsu.

(There’s not much here because I just do whatever the coach is doing!)

Bridges / To bridge(Fare) Ponti
To hip escape / shrimp(Fare) Uscita / uscite di fianchi
To jump ropeSaltare alla corda
Pull-up(s)Una trazione, trazioni
Push-up(s)Una flessione, flessioni
Rolls (somersaults / forward rolls / Backward rolls)Una capriola / capriole
Sit-upsUna addominale / gli addominali
To warm up / a warm upRiscaldarsi / riscaldamento
Facciamo dei riscaldamenti

Boxing Vocab

I was surprised to learn that the main word for boxing in Italian is “pugilato”, related to “pugilism” of course — but which is a much more infrequently heard word in English. Of course, la boxe is also used in Italian, and I hear it more often.

BoxingIl pugilato / la boxe
Boxing bagIl sacco da boxe
CrossDiretto di destra
To dodge / a dodgeSchivare / una schivata
Elbow (strike)Un colpo di gomito, una gomitata
Front foot / Rear footIl piede davanti / il piede di dietro
MMA gloves
I guantoni (big gloves!) da boxe / i guanti
Mezzi guanti
Body hook
Un gancio
Un gancio di corpo
A straight (jab or cross)Un diretto
To kick / a kickCalciare / Un calcio / una
Knee (strike)Un colpo al ginocchio, una ginocchiata
Punch / strike / blowUn colpo / un pugno
Shadow boxLa boxe ombra
Shin guardsUn parastinchi / i parastinchi
Straight punches (Jabs, Crosses)Diritti
SwitchCambio de guardia
UppercutUn montante
(Boxing) WrapsLe fasce da boxe / i bendaggi
Italian Boxing Vocabulary

BJJ / Grappling Positions

The backLa schiena
Prendere la schiena
Butterfly guardFarfalla
Closed guardGuardia chiusa
CrucifixIl crocifisso
Half guard, deep halfMezza guardia
Knee on bellyGinocchio sulla pancia
MountLa monta
Open guardGuardia aperta
North-SouthIl nord-sud
Side control / 100 kilosControllo laterale / Cento chili
TurtleLa tartaruga / il quattro poggi (four legs)
X guardGuardia X (iks)
BJJ / Grappling position terminology in Italian

Grappling / BJJ Attacks

In Italian, more than in other major romance languages, I’ve noticed that a lot of attack names (submissions: sottomissioni are borrowed from English and Japanese. It could be because Italy is a smaller place, of course.

I spent days with my coach working on leg locks and we tended to use Japanese or standard Jiu Jitsu terms, like “outside ashi garami”, “inside sankaku”, “heel hook”, and so on, even when speaking Italian. He has a vast library of English-language training material which is untranslated, so the language carries over. With smaller languages, I’m sure this becomes more and more common.

Anyway, here are the ones I’ve seen most frequently used in Italian.

Ankle lockUna leva alla caviglia
Arm lock / arm barUna leva al braccio
Arm triangleSoffocamento a triangolo
Carotid arteryl’arteria carotidea
la carotide
ChokeUn soffocamento / uno strangolamento
GuillotineUna ghigliottina
KimuraLa kimura (just to highlight it’s a “feminine” noun)
Rear-naked jokeUn mata leone / mata leão (from Portuguese.)
TriangleUn triangolo
BJJ attacks in Italian

Body parts

I had to learn a lot of body parts in Italian! Here are all the parts of the body (il corpo) that you’ll have to attack or defend in Italian.

Rather than make a bunch of tables, I’ve put this by section — head, torso, arms, and so on.

HeadLa testa
NeckIl collo
JawLa mascella
ChinIl mento
NoseIl naso
MouthLa bocca
LipsIl labro, le labbra
EarUn orecchio, le orecchie
A tooth, teethUn dente, denti
Arm, armsIl braccio, le braccia
BicepIl bicipite
ElbowIl gomito
Finger, fingersUn dito/le dita (irregular plural)
FingernailsLe unghie
Hand / sLa mano / le mani(irregular plural)
ShoulderLa spalla, le spalle
Shoulder bladeLa scapola, le scapole
ThumbIl pollice
Grab the wrist
Il polso
Aferra il polso
TorsoIl busto
ChestIl petto
HipsI fianchi
PelvisIl bacino
Ribla costola
WaistLa vita
KneeUn ginocchio, le ginocchia
LegLa gamba
AnkleLa caviglia, le caviglie
Ball of the footLa punta del piede
Calf, shinIl polpaccio, lo stinco
FootIl piede
First the ball of the foot, then the heel
Il tallone
Prima punta, poi tallone.
ThighLa coscia, le cosce
ToesLe dita dei piedi
Italian vocabulary for body parts

Injuries / First aid

Finally, stuff does tend to go wrong. In every roll or sparring session, I get hurt somewhere! Every damn day!

Here are a few things I’ve had to learn how to say in Italian for MMA / Boxing / Jiu Jitsu. Hopefully they help you.

There’s blood on the mat
Il sangue
C’è del sangue sul tappetto
You’re bleeding
Stai sanguinando
I have a bruise on my rib
Un livido
Ho un livido sulla costola
To be dizzy
I’m dizzy after doing all those somersaults
Girare la testa
Mi gira la testa dopo tutte quelle capriole
You hit me in the nose / face / head
Mi hai colpito al naso/faccia/testa
To hurt
My neck / arm / foot hurts
I won’t hurt you
Fare del male
Mi fa male il collo
Non ti farò del male
Do you have an injury?
Are you injured?
Un infortunio
Hai un infortunio?
Sei ferito?
To pass out / to black out
I think he has passed out
Penso che sia svenuto.
To be sick
I can’t train, as I’m a bit sick
Essere malato / raffreddato (mildly ill)
Non posso allenarmi, sono un po’ raffreddato
I have a sprained ankle
Una distorsione
Ho una caviglia slogata / distorsione della caviglia
Injury terminology in Italian for Jiu Jitsu / MMA

Of course, you can just say “Wait a minute… OK, I’m fine”, which is Aspetta un attimo… OK sto bene, continuiamo. And keep going!

Find any errors? I make mistakes sometimes. If you find some, feel free to write in, or let me know in comments.

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7 months ago

Thanks for this article! I’ve recently started MMA lessons and I want to be able to discuss them with my Italian conversation partners. Your lists will be very helpful!