Meaning of Oss

There is a meaning and consequence to everything we do in a dojo. Karatekas value tradition of martial arts, hence we use many terminology passed down to students since generations.

A word used often is "Oss".

Most of us write the word as "Oss" or "Osu". They are just different spellings and both are acceptable. The word "Osu" is pronounced phonetically as "Oss". An accurate pronounication would be "Ohss".

Oss is a Japanese word derived from the phrase “Oshi Shinobu.” Here, "Oshi" means to push and "Shinobu" means to endure. When these words are conjoined, the phrase Oshi Sinobu means “to endure even when being pushed.” 

All martial artists have to train their body, mind and spirit to withstand all adversities and push forward. In the dojo, we push ourselves and our opponents, so as to learn and grow. Proverbially, we push ourselves in life in general - private, professional and social. So to persevere under pressure is to truly be a martial artist.

So we endure not only against our opponents but against life's varied circumstances.

Students may wonder, when should the word "Oss" be used?

  • At the beginning and end of each Lesson – a loud enthusiastic Oss is employed.

  • A Sensei will use the word "Oss" after teaching a skill or technique or any instruction. If the students understand their Sensei, they should respond with the word "Oss" or raise their hand to clarify their doubts.
  • In a dojo, being attentive is essential to learning and practice of martial arts. Students should reply with the word "Oss" if they understand the command given by their Sensei. It also means the student agrees with the command and undertakes the task at their own freewill. It can also mean the student knows he is responsible for his own safety, for e.g. during a Kumite or Kobudo activity. 
  • Karatekas use the word "Oss" among each other during self-defence and sparring sessions. This develops respect for fellow students as well as an understanding of one's decision, for e.g. to practice a particular technique for the first time.

This clarifies that Oss is not just spoken out of respect but also for encouragement to the students and all fellow Karatekas. We are all on a journey of self-discovery and a warrior is one who endures under duress. No matter how big the adversity, we can develop a greater spirit to overcome it all.

So Oss to all our readers.

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If you are curious about terminology used in various martial arts, do write in to us by email