4

I've moved to a new location, and have started training with a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school. My previous school made absolutely no use of the word "oss". It is, however, ubiquitous with my new school.

At times, it is phrased as a question, "Oss?" To which we reply, "Oss."

I realize it is a response, usually affirmative, or in agreement, basically meaning "yes", but I suspect there is more to it.

If I post a Jiu-Jitsu photo to Instagram, for example, some users will reply with "oss" indicating some show of support or camaraderie I presume.

It seems to be used for a variety of different reasons.

I have read the similar question / answer – When is it appropriate to respond with osu? – but the OP's question is specifically about when to say "osu" not what "oss" means. None of the answers given to that post provide any citations or references for their answers, and only one specifically answers the OP's original question of "when" to say "osu". I presume "osu" to be an ancestor of the presently used "oss". Or is "oss" some slang derivation?

What is the etymology and meaning of "oss"?

  • 3
    Have you seen this post with 3 theories about the origins/meaning of oss/osu? The Meaning of "OSS" / "OSU" – Hugo Ferreira Oct 22 '17 at 1:09
  • 2
    @HugoFerreira - Rather than point someone to an outside link, perhaps you could post an answer summarizing the information here, and use the link as a reference? – JohnP Oct 23 '17 at 0:25
  • 1
    @JohnP it's a very obvious 3rd place result in a simple Google search for “meaning of oss”… checking first if the OP thinks it addresses his question – Hugo Ferreira Oct 23 '17 at 8:41
  • 1
    @HugoFerreira Thanks for the suggested link. There are a lot of articles out there, but few, if any, have citations or references to legitimize their claims or opinions. A lot of them are copy-cat articles as well. I will continue to dig and share as I have time. – jacefarm Oct 23 '17 at 12:23
  • 1
    @mattm - I am reluctant to mark it as a duplicate where the primary answer to the question is a non referenced opinion from a user that removed their account. – JohnP Oct 23 '17 at 18:54
3

We don't use the phrase in my school, Karate or Aikido. But I know of some who do; and not being a part of them, I admit ignorance on the subject.

However, this article might be helpful:

The History & Origins of “Osu!”

Yes, it does discuss "when", but it also discusses the etymology. And there is the implication that there isn't a definitive source out there. I like KarateByJesse and his articles; but he doesn't source this one, and so, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

  • Thank you for your response. Yes, a definitive resource does seem hard to come by... The article you mention is now a part of my research. – jacefarm Oct 23 '17 at 21:15
  • 1
    Wigwam - Since links decay, could you summarize the pertinent points here? – JohnP Oct 27 '17 at 14:15
3

Oss is...

Also known as

Osu or Ossu (オッス)

The Meaning of Oss

From Kyokushin Karate:

This strength of character develops in hard training and is known as Osu no Seishin 押忍の精神 (the Spirit of Osu). The word Osu comes from Oshi Shinobu 押し忍ぶ, which means "to persevere whilst being pushed". It implies a willingness to push oneself to the limits of endurance, to persevere under any kind of pressure.

From Carlson Gracie's philosophy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

In BJJ, Carslon Gracie introduced the use of the word “Oss” and it rightly fits the mentality of Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: Brave, determined, strong, smashing. It’s a bit similar to the war cry “Hoo-ah” that you will hear U.S. Marines use.

The Etymology of Oss, Osu, and Ossu

Osaku

Meaning, good morning.

Osu-ni

Meaning, to push on and endure while also holding back the ego.

Oshi Shinobu

Meaning, patience, determination, and perseverance.

Onegaishimasu

Meaning, a polite or honorific way of requesting something from another, of saying "please".

Ohayossu, Ohayoosu, and Oossu

From Jesse Enkamp of Karate by Jesse, who quotes Dr. Mizutani Osamu4:

  • オハヨス :: "Ohayossu!”, “Ohayoosu!”, “Oossu!” meaning "Hey ya!"

Meaning, "hey ya", by male runners in the midst of jogging, responding in rougher, masculine ways to Dr. Mizutani's greeting to them of "Ohayo gozaimasu!" (good morning).4

Conclusion

The term oss, which is derived from osu or ossu, has a variety of interpretations and meanings.

But there is a common essence shared among them all.

Oss means having humility and an acknowledgement of respect for the person to whom it is being spoken. It means to have a perspective of strength and perseverance towards a challenge that is being addressed, or, that is to be endured. And in more general or colloquial contexts, it operates as an affirmative acknowledgment, a greeting, or a polite request.

1FEY, B.R., 1994, To oss or not to oss: that is the question, Dojo Magazine, Winter 1994, p. 80-81
2Tsunetomo, Yamamoto, Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai, ~ 1709-1716
3These are general impressions from training, class, and, sigh, bro-jitsu experiences.
4Mizutani, Osamu, Japanese: The Spoken Language in Japanese Life, Tokyo, Sotakusha, Inc., 1981, p. 59-60

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.