If you have been doing BJJ for a while you will have surely come across the word “OSS”. It is often said during class and commonly written at the end of posts or messages to BJJ practitioners. But what is the true meaning of Oss?
The truth is that the meaning of Oss has evolved over time like all phrases and language.
In traditional Japanese martial arts the term is quite versatile. According to the history books, the expression “Osu” first appeared in the Officers Academy of the Imperial Japanese Navy. One theory is that the term is derived from an abbreviation of the phrase ‘Onegai shimasu’. Onegai Shimasu is a greeting that is commonly used before the start of a game. It can be used as an invite to play or a request to engage by a partner.
Mas Oyama – founder of Kyokushin Karate
There is another theory that it is derived from Kyokushin Karate. In Japanese the word “Osu!” is a combination of two different Kanji , namely the verb ‘Osu’ which means “to push”, and ‘shinobu’ “to suffer”. Together they symbolize the importance of pushing, striving and persevering while suffering through the pain, difficulty, and challenges that are typically encountered through the training and journey of the martial art.
Meaning in BJJ
It is thought that the term was first brought into Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu by Carlson Gracie. He first began by using the term at the end of every class as a a way of honouring the grand master and his own father Carlos Gracie while also acknowledging the Japanese roots of BJJ.
Today the term in used in number of different ways in BJJ. Depending on your school and region the word can have any of one the following meanings:
This is perhaps the most common use of Oss that I see in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When the a higher ranked belt gives an instruction or declaration, a student will often reply with “Oss”. In this way the student is confirming that they understand or have received the instruction. It could also be interpreted as a way of giving thanks to a higher ranked belt.
Similar to bowing, Oss can be used a term of respect at the beginning or end of the class. The term can be used by both teacher and student in this manner.
The phrase can also be used as way for the teacher to encourage their students. For example the teacher might use the term with a student before or during a competitive BJJ match.
Don’t Overdo it!
Ok we get it, you do BJJ. Saying Oss is perfectly acceptable but there is no need to overdo it. Writing it after every single message and post on social media is not necessary. When used in this way the word loses it’s meaning. Some traditionalists can be sensitive about the way the term is used so it is always a good idea to figure out the way that it is used in your own school or region before saying it yourself.