For everyone being part of the martial arts world, especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the word OSS must sound familiar. However, rarely do people in general and even BJJ practitioners know what it means. So, if you’ve heard it when stepping onto the mat, when ending a class, and in various other instances, it’s probably time you know what it means and its origin. Hence, we decided to share our knowledge about this commonly used word in the Jiu-Jitsu community.

Where Does OSS Come From?

There are several different theories on where the term OSS came from. However, it is certain that it was introduced to the world of martial arts through Kyokushin Karate. This term is written and pronounced in various different ways. Hence, you can see it spelled as OSU or OSS and both of them are correct.  

Dr. Mizutani Osamu, the language expert and linguistics professor at the University of Nagoya, came up with a theory that this term is probably a contraction of the more formal expression “Ohayo gozaimasu”. This is a polite way of saying “good morning’’ and it probably means “Hey Ya!” in English.

Another theory claims that it was invented by the samurai of the Saga clan, Yamamoto Tsunetomo. According to his book Hagakure (葉隠), the young warriors of the Saga clan in 18th and 19th centuries greeted each other with “Osu!” when traveling to school in the morning.

Yet another theory says that it is a shortened version of Onegaishimasu which means “please take care of me” or “please have patience with me”. This is a commonly used word in Japan when asking for instructions and is essentially a polite way of saying ‘please.’

Moreover, the Kyokushin Karate version states that Osu is a contraction of two words “Osu no Seishin”.  ‘Osu’ means “push”, and ‘shinobu’ means “to endure”.

However, the real origin of the term OSS is, in fact, an abbreviation of Onegai Shimasu. Onegai Shimasu in Japanese roughly translates to an invitation or a request. Hence, OSS is something like ‘with your permission’. Thus, it is often used when inviting someone to roll with you.

The Meaning of OSS

If you know the term OSS nowadays, it’s mainly because Carlson Gracie made it popular. He considered this term to denote a sign of respect. In short, OSS is a generic term used in Japanese martial arts to acknowledge something. For instance, you can say OSS when you want to acknowledge your opponent’s skill. Likewise, OSS can be used to show greeting, respect, response, compliment, or simply, a routine.

When to Use OSS?

There are several instances when you should use OSS. Some of them are the following:

  • When greeting, like when coming and leaving the class.
  • It is also used as a response, meaning “I understand’’ or “yes”.
  • When you want to show respect. For example, at tournaments before and after a fight.
  • As a compliment to acknowledge your opponent’s skills.
  • As a routine during the execution of basic techniques.

Note: Never say OSS to a Japanese person if he’s younger and lower in rank than you.

Now when you know the origin and the meaning of this term, feel free to use it with confidence!