The Meaning Of “OSS” Or “OSU”

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The use of “OSU!” or “OSS!” in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and other forms of martial art stems from traditional Japanese Okinawan karate. When looking at The meaning of “OSS” or “OSU”, it’s important to understand that the term has several uses ranging from a greeting to answering a question and acknowledging an opponent’s skill among other things. In fact, the term is quite versatile.

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The Meaning of “OSS” or “OSU”

Some ways to use “OSU!” or “OSS!” include:

• As a greeting: Many dojos use “Osu!” as a form of greeting. In fact, some dojos make it a standard practice for students to say “Osu!” while bowing when they enter the dojo. This is done again upon leaving.

• Response to a question or instruction: the term is often used in place of “I understand”, “understood” or “yes”.

• As a show of respect: When at tournaments, “Osu!” is said while bowing before as well as after a fight.

• As a compliment: A fighter may use the term to acknowledge the skill an opponent shows during the execution of a technique.

• Routine during techniques: “Osu!” is used in many dojos during the execution of basic techniques. The term is said as each technique is performed.
A commitment to continue

A student may also use the term to assure a master that he or she will continue pushing despite seeming tired, weak or in pain. This translation comes from the term “Osu no seishin” (the spirit of “Osu!”) which speaks to the strength of character that is born out of training hard.

This understanding comes from the concept that “Osu!” is a condensation of the Kanji symbols used to write “Oshi Shinobu”. “Osu!” is derived from the “Os” of the first word and the “u” at the end of the second word. In this case the meaning of “OSS” or “OSU” is essentially to preserve even under extreme duress.

54 COMMENTS

  1. Always great to see when people seek to understand the roots of anything so profound and universally powerful. On the other hand this article would benefit with a little more understand of Japanese word and syllabary structure. Still not enough to take away from how informative and great it is.

  2. About Osu. I have in my dojo the next explanation what I got form Sensei Ramon Veras' Dojo.
    Why do we say “OSU”?
    PRONOUNCED “OOS” IT MEANS ‘I WILL PERSEVER’

    TO PERSEVERE, WORK HARD AND NEVER GIVE UP TRYING, TO LEARN, IMPROVE AND REACH GOALS IN AN HONORABLE AND RESPECTUFUL WAY; IS THE TRAINING PHILOSOPHY OF KARATE.

    1. RESPECT
    Responding ‘Osu’ tells Sensei and everyone in the Dojo that you respect them. Respect is one way to show people that you care about them. A fun and safe karate school must have respectful teachers and students.

    2. PAY ATTENTION
    ‘Osu’ confirms that you are paying attention and you understand Sensei’s instructions, corrections and observations. ‘Osu’ says you are awake and ready to work. You will follow the Dojo rules.

    3. COMMITMENT
    ‘Osu’ states that you are committed to training and to the Dojo community. No matter your belt color, you will practice with commitment and focus.

    4. TRY YOUR BEST
    ‘Osu’ reminds everyone in the Dojo to try their best. No matter how tired we are, we work to improve our karate and our character so that we become honest and kind people.

    5. THANKFUL
    ‘Osu’ proclaims, “I am thankful for the Dojo, Karate, and my Sensei, I am thankful for my classmates who help me become a better person” Say ‘Thank you’ often to remind yourself of the fun and good in your life.

    • It is pronounced as O(h)s, not oos. If it were oos, then the romanizing would be us(u) (the u at the end of Japanese words is pretty much silent).

  3. i was training in Japan when a guy got a free OSSU gi from the company. the Japanese dudes laughed at the idea of a brand with this name for like 30 minutes

  4. Wow! As usual, non-Japanese don't have a single clue as to what the sam hell they're talking about. For the love of God, will SOMEBODY…PLEEEEASE read a freaking book?! Or better yet, PLEASE…JUST…GO…TO…JAPAN! These pseudo, wannabe explanations I've seen all over the internet as so incredibly far from accurate that it seems like the desire or lack of interest for intelligence as a whole is completely moot. And it's even sadder they're being propogated by the indoctrination community, ie – the Gracie kool-aid drinking liars and sheeple that really don't seem to even want to know the ACTUAL truth. "Osu" derives from the shortened version of "onegaishimasu" (お願いします) which 1.) Is not said before going into battle, 2) Is not something said concerning perserverance, 3) is a JAPANESE PHRASE AND NOT A PORTUGUESE one so there's no need for it to be used by the bjj community since they absolutely refuuuuse to recognize their true origins deriving from the Japanese, 4) does not mean "pay attention" or "commitment" and it definitely does not mean "ohayoo gozaimasu" as someone mentioned. "Ohayoo gozaimasu" means "good morning"…nothing else.

  5. It is also used in battle, strengthens the spirit.
    It can halt an opponent if done correctly.
    I used it in an altercation where I was attacked by some thugs, it helped strengthen me and weaken them…

  6. onegaishimasu is used as a polite way of asking your partner "please, lets do our best" if i recall. when I was in karate a while back, osu/oss was short for "osu no seishin", which is a term for fighting spirit or to persevere under hard conditions. i've used both, but i'm pretty sure that jitsu practitioners is using the "osu no seishin" meaning.

  7. Hi Shelly, I think that bringing light to something we be believe is always good but don't forget that words become more intensive in their daily use than the meaning enclosed in a dictionary. Osu, is a word like now everywhere in the world people use OK for everything without knowing the original meaning. OK = yes, OK = Accepted etc. And I'm pretty sure, even in America, people do not know the origin of the word nor the original meaning but they are not stupid or have to come to America to learn the significance of that phrase. I'm certain that in America, at least, OSS or OSU have a meaning in Karate like OK has in everyday life. OSU! By the way, I finished reading some books already, not just one. Which one in particular are you talking about? Thanks

  8. thanks sensei shelley (yeah im being sarcastic). you let your resentment against BJJ really take over. nobody is going to japan to find this out – thanks for the suggestions. but our man johny and google translate has cleared it up calmly and concisely. thanks.

  9. Actually OSU aka OSS aka "onegaishimasu" aka お願いします means — THANK YOU. People are thanking each other for training with them. It's a sign of respect.

    "Thank you for having this time with me."

  10. Shelly, you do not sound like a pleasant person to interract with. Annoying, judgemental know-it-all . Whatever truth you might offer gets buried behind your annoying personality and general elitest douche tone.

  11. This was added to BJJ in "America" the last few years to give guys a little tradition from traditional martial arts, adding a little more respect into the class. Plus the bowing. Originally that wasn't part of BJJ at all. This was popular in all the other arts of Japan since day one.

  12. This was added to BJJ in "America" the last few years to give guys a little tradition from traditional martial arts, adding a little more respect into the class. Plus the bowing. Originally that wasn't part of BJJ at all. This was popular in all the other arts of Japan since day one.

  13. Spent six years working in Japan, and training in judo and yoshinkan aikido when I could find the time. As someone with an interest in martial arts, I would sometimes visit other schools to learn a little of what and how they do things. I visited nearly two dozen schools in addition to my home schools in judo and yoshinkan.

    The author's explanation is consistent with my experience. "Osu" was used in the contexts described by Canaria, I have also heard "osu" used a contraction for "Ohayo gozaimasu" — though the meaning, of course, is quite different in this case.

    Canaria wrote a nice introduction to a complicated little phrase. It is also nice to see BJJ practitioners take an interest in some of the Japanese origins of their art. Thank you, Mr. Canaria.

  14. Shelley Sugiyama, I appreciate your clarification. However, when I first lived in Japan (Shingu-shi, Wakayama-ken) I was told that Osu was a informal masculine-familiar contraction for Ohayoo gozaimasu. All of the male teachers I worked with would use it as a greeting with their friends in the morning. It was definitely not used in formal settings or towards one's superiors.

    However, that may just be a vagary of Wakakyama-ben, because when I moved to Tokyo, no one used it in that context at all. I can't recall what the case was in Osaka, though. Seems like most of the Wakayma-ben/Kinki-ben that I learned in Shingu was applicable in Osaka as part of the broader Kansai-ben, but some of it just got me blank looks.

  15. The word Osu(押忍) was used at the Samurai academy around 1680. It means"Pushing forward with patience" in English.
    And the Osu was using at Dai Nippon Butoku Kai was established in 1895 under the authority of the Ministry of Education and sanction of the Emperor Meiji. Conde Koma's teacher and Judo Founder Kano Jigoro was making a program for all jiu-jitsu styles (records of jiu-jitsu history) at there. That's why Judo people use the word but I'm not sure Mitsuyo Maeda as Conde Koma was using the word Osu in Brazil… But some Gracie family member mentioned Grand Master Helio Gracie was saying "Oishhh".
    And Yes, People use also Osu as "What's up?" in Japan.(Coming from Ohayougozaimsu,meaning Good morning.)
    So I assumed there is two types of Osu words from Japan two societies.

    Now the BJJ is the universal art for everyone. Japanese Jiu Jitsu was traveled all over the word by Conde Koma. And it was evolved by the Gracie family in Brazil and introduced to the all of words again.

    We don't want to be abused The word "Osu" but If some people want to use it as a greeting and and answer with respect. BJJ community could have the new meaning for Osu.
    Now there are the so many ways to enjoy Jiu Jitsu.

  16. Not sure why use this word in BJJ. It has nothing to do with the Brazilian martial arts and I've met 3 Gracie's none of them use this terminology. Must been included by some fellow coming from Japanese Jiu jitsu and everybody tought it was nice to say.
    Also I've trained judo over 10 years never heard no one say OSS. Where also some Brazilians put as ossssssssss.
    Must be a Kinawan and karate respect as mentioned by some friends.

  17. I've heard many variations of what osu or oss really means and where it comes from, but one version that I found really interesting was that it was actually a slang used by the yakuza, as a short form of "ohayo gozaimasu". Can anyone confirm this?

  18. The term comes from the Japanese naval academy…yoshinkan aikido adopted the term..many of the prewar students were apart of the academy…mas oyama also adopted the use…as did petet urban and others…btw..no such thing as Japanese okinawan karate…either one or yhr other. We could argue that thete is really no such thing in genrral as Japanese karate..

  19. Mas Oyama started the fad with Kyokushin when he de looped that style. Another awesome fact is .99% of people don't even know he wasn't even Japanese but a Korean who ended up staying in Japan. After WWII ended.

  20. Shelley I agree with you! And those who talk down like Shelley is whatever you say she is you are just wrong and ignorant to knowing or wanting to know the truth and buy in to all the latest fads! And when someone like Shelley tells you more of the truth you just shoot them down and chose to ignore it because you feel they are being an ass when your the one being the ignorant ass not listening!

  21. Stephen Powell Japanese ancestry does not grant one any special knowledge about Japanese cultural activities. Though I am an American, I have very little knowledge of the history of baseball. If you wanted to know something about the game, instead of asking me, you would be better off asking one of the many thousands of Japanese people who play and study the game seriously. That I would presume to know more about a subject simply by virtue of my citizenship is rather silly.

    In addition to being rude, Shelley's definition of the word is inconsistent with the definitions offered by those offering well considered and informed interpretation — not vehemence, caps lock, and the authority that a Japanese surname imparts.

  22. osu is not just a new term used in bjj. it has spread to [american] kickboxing, which has roots in karate. watch many top level kickboxing organizations, GLORY, the fighters use the term oss often

  23. To clarify, the Japanese wiki does not mention Okinawan karate but does mention the old Japanese navy and a pre-war martial arts society in Kyoto. “Ossu” is derived from shortening “ohayou gozaimasu” and is commonly used in all regions of Japan as a familiar (non-formal) masculine greeting. It is said that the kanji “押忍” was later fitted to the pronunciation and is meant to mean “suppressing one’s ego.”
    I have never studied Brazilian ju-jitsu but from the article it seems that outside Japan, “ossu” is used as a catch-all for “ohayou gozaimasu,” “arigatou gozaimasu,” “onegaishimasu,” and “ryokai.” In Japan it is not used this way in martial arts.
    In particular “onegaishimasu” is frequently said in sports and martial arts between newly formed pairs of opponents and practice partners. Similarly “arigatou gozaimasu/mashita” is said at the end of partner practice, training, or a trainer’s explanation. It is often said very quickly and sounds like “arisss.” To an untrained ear it may sound like “oss.” Like a game of telephone, all these things probably evolved simply to “ossu” among people who did not have a deep understanding of Japanese. Like “jutsu” became “jitsu” outside of Japan.

    Language evolves over time and region.

    My source: Japanese wiki and a decade living in Japan, though I am a gaijin. (fyi, “ohayou gozaimasuam” is colloquially used at any time of the day so “ossu” is essentially just a masculine “hello” in Japan today.)
    Cheers ^^

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