Disclaimer... this is a potentially subjective question, and I'm looking for answers to "why" with references. What is your experience and historical understanding of the use of the word?

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".

However, it is ubiquitous with my new school. At times, it is phrased as a question, "Oss?" To which we reply, "Oss." We greet, thank, and bow to each other with the word.

Generally, I realize it is an affirmative response, or sign of respect, but I presume there is more to it.

If I post a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu photo to Instagram, for example, some users will reply with "Oss!", which seems to be a show of support or camaraderie.

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

I have read a similar question on this forum, but this is in regard to when "Oss" is used in Karate (where the term seems to have deeper, ancestral roots1), but the answers have no references or citations.

I've done a fair amount of investi-googling. There are numerous articles, and the most compelling ones that I've discovered describe "Oss" as etymologically meaning to push and endure2, to acknowledge with respect3, or to convey understanding4. There are many other meanings associated with "Oss" that are less relevant to this question, such as abbreviated expressions of good morning, oh yeah5, or hey ya6,7.

Eastern Europe BJJ claims:

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 “Hoorah” that you will hear US marines use.

...but they have no reference or citation. And My MMA News makes similar, unreferenced claims.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school I began with neither bows nor uses the word "Oss", and I previously regarded the word as superfluous and corny. But in my new school, it is absolutely part of the culture, and I fully respect that.

However, if we're talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I am compelled to ask whether or not Helio Gracie ever used that word? This article seems to indicate absolutely not. But again, no references, other than hearsay.

That article talks about "Oss" being a recent evolution, as opposed to a long-standing, rooted tradition in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is interesting, because it is similar to the pop-interpretation found in the article at Karate by Jesse. And yet, a well-regarded champion's school has an article that claims that it is synonymous with BJJ itself.

If there was some clear lineage of its use in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, that would be pretty cool and understandable, but I'm at a loss to find it. In my opinion, and from my experience, it seems to have been glommed onto the art with a bit of whim, and then became widely used thereafter.

Can anyone give a compelling, historical reason why "Oss" should be used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

1FEY, B.R., 1994, To oss or not to oss: that is the question, Dojo Magazine, Winter 1994, p. 80-81
7Mizutani, Osamu, Japanese: The Spoken Language in Japanese Life, Tokyo, Sotakusha, Inc., 1981, p. 59-60

  • 3
    +1. Lots of research clearly done which might be better added to an answer iff none is forthcoming. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Oct 31 '17 at 8:14
  • It's impossible to say if it "should" be used. Every gym is different. I'm a Pedro Sauer affiliate, and we don't use it. This highlights one of the great things about BJJ; there is no governing body. All gyms may do as they please. – coinbird Nov 1 '17 at 13:57
  • I was tempted to answer but I don't have any references for you. I'm 1st dan in karate and when we train we use oss/osu a lot! I've however just started training in BJJ where I find it very hard not to resist the impules to bow and say oss! to everybody. I would guess that it's this very phenomenon that's led to the word's adoption in so many arts and styles than Kyokushin karate from which it originated (according to this article) – nettux Jun 9 '18 at 0:21
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    As a fairly new art to the world at large rising to popularity in the 1990s by way of defeating many martial arts masters and success in early UFC lots of people probably did as I have done and began to train in it as a second art. The oss! may have been carried from whatever these new students trained in before. This is mostly speculation but hopefully it's given you something to think about! – nettux Jun 9 '18 at 0:24

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