I heard one of my students ask an assistant instructor here at our academy What does “OSS” mean? He responded saying it is a display of respect. While yes this is true I thought it would make for a good article because I think many people in the BJJ and MMA communities are using this as a show of respect, but do not fully understand its origins.
What does “OSS” mean?
Osu (押忍) “OSS” as used among martial artists was derived from the Japanese used as a greeting between close male friends kind of like saying “Yo” and it is considered rather rude. In the early 1920’s the Japanese Navy elite forces used the slang greeting for a short while and it was soon thought of as inappropriate and not tolerated among the Japanese Navy. There was a group of prisoners at Abashiri maximum security prison in Hokkaido that started using the greeting and then the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) used the greeting as a sign of masculinity and mental toughness.
From the Yakuza it spread to the martial arts mainly though Kyokushinkai Karate and Shotokan since there were many Yakuza that trained martial arts.
Another use of the word “OSS” is for an abbreviation of Onegai Shimasu which is like a request, a solicitation or invitation like “please”, “If you may” and “with your permission” used often when inviting a martial art practitioner to come train with you.
This next definition of the term “OSS”, also known as “OSSU” means Oshi Shinobu, which is the idea of “preserving when pushed”, or to never give up, have determination, grit and withstand the most intense training. Continuing on without giving up, under extreme amounts of pressure is the idea of inner strength among many people in the Asian culture. So often at the start of a fight the martial artist will shout the “OSS” sound as a way of letting his opponent know he believes his inner strength to be strong and powerful.
In yet other sources, “OSS” is defined as a manifestation of ki energy and internal strength indicating one is ready to fight. According to Miyamoto Musashhi, in the book “Go rin no sho” (The book of the five rings), the samurai would use three types of shouts: one before combat, the second during combat to generate strength and the third after the fight to celebrate victory or bemoan defeat.
“OSS”, as well as demonstrating a strong spirit and will before a fight, it is also used to confirm a piece of information. Thus, if your instructor asks or informs you of something the response is “OSS” this will confirm that you understand.
Many Brazilian Jiu jitsu practitioners use this as sign of respect it was used mostly in the linages under Grand Master Carlson Gracie as a sign of respect. It is not as commonly used by those who came up under Grand Master Helio Gracie.