The Meaning of OSS: Origin, Significance and Usage

    The word OSS

    If you are a practitioner of BJJ, then you’re probably very familiar with the term “OSS!”. All day everyday in BJJ you hear people say it, in class, in messages, and all over social media but you’re not sure what the meaning of OSS is.

    Well, what exactly does OSS mean? OSS means anything and everything. It’s a term used in BJJ and other martial arts circles that is a way of greeting and demonstrating respect to others.

    Although most BJJ practitioners can’t tell you what OSS means or what its origin is. For this article we are going to breakdown what the true meaning of OSS is. From its several alleged origins, the definitions, how to use it in a sentence, and if it’s overused.

    Where Did OSS Come From?

    There are multiple alleged origins for where the term OSS comes from and its true meaning. Here are some of the more known origins from where OSS may have come from.

    Onegai Shimasu

    The original term for OSS was actually OSU, but it is pronounced OSS. Hence why it eventually transitioned to OSS to match the pronunciation.

    OSS/OSU is the shortened version of “Onegai Shimasu.” In Japanese it is used as a greeting to start a game. Also it is used as an invitation or request for a partner to play a game with another person.

    The term may have not even started in martial arts. In many Japanese history books, the term OSU comes from the Officers Academy of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Members of the academy apparently greet each other with the term OSU.

    This is an expression that is commonly used in everyday speech in Japanese. Basically translated to English this to “do me a favor” or “hey, do me the pleasure of doing something for me.” When someone says this phrase in Japanese it is to show gratitude when asking for something.

    Onegai Shimasu is often used in Japanese Karate dojos. The instructor could say the phrase when they start class and ask for acknowledgement if the class understands a technique. Karate students may also say it to greet each other, partner up to practice the technique.

    Some students don’t waste time saying the entire phrase and will just say OSU. They do the same thing for the expression  that ends class Otsukaresama Deshita, shortening it to Tsukare.

    This theory for the meaning of OSS relates to the next origin theory.

    The Good Morning Theory

    OSS/OSU could’ve possibly came from a test Japanese linguistics Professor Mizutani Osamu did.  He did a test where he would greet random people in the morning.

    Professor Osamu would say a traditional term for good morning in Japan “ohayo gozaimasu” and note each response he received.

    The results of the responses showed many would return the greeting with the same phrase, but others would say something different.

    Many people would respond with a shorter term “OSU” to save time saying hello. Osamu noted that it was mostly masculine men that would say this phrase to return his greeting.

    This much like in BJJ that’s mostly made up of men and greet each other with OSS! Another possible theory for the origin of OSS.

    The Kyokushin Theory

    In Kyokushin Karate, they use the term OSU that comes from the longer phrase “osu no seishin.”

    For Kyokushin practitioners, the term OSU is a combination of two different kanji. The verb osu, which means “to push” and shinobi which means “to endure/to suffer” or “to hide.”

    Put together, they make a compound word that can mean many different things depending on the interpretation. It could mean these list of phrases below.

    Combat Spirit”

    “The Importance Of Effort”

    “The Necessity To Overcome All Obstacles By Pushing Them Aside”

    “Advancing With A Steady Positive Attitude”

    “Not Showing Suffering”

    “The Spirit of Perseverance”

    So basically in Kyokushin Karate, they use OSU/OSS to verbally remind themselves to keep pushing.

    Oshi Shinobu

    This theory for the origin and meaning of OSS is very similar to the one in Kyokushin Karate. It is a verbal way of manifesting “ki energy” or a different kai.(strength)

    In the book “Go rin no sho”(Book of Five Rings), the author Miyamoto Musashi explains shouts like OSS/OSU. Samurais in battle would shout phrases to muster inner strength on three occasions.

    One before combat, one when attacking, and another to celebrate victory or express sadness in defeat.

    Who Brought OSS To BJJ?

    The person that is generally credited with bringing the term OSS to BJJ is Grandmaster Carlson Gracie Sr. He is said to have taken the term from other Japanese martial arts like Karate and Judo.

    He meant for the term to be used as a sign of respect between BJJ practitioners. Also to show a sign of respect to the martial arts that came before BJJ.

    Meanings for OSS in BJJ

    For OSS, like with OSU in Karate, the expressing has different meaning and uses in BJJ. Here below are three meanings for the term OSS

    • Respect
    • Response
    • Encouragement

    Respect: Oss is a way to show respect to your coach and teammates in BJJ. When a class starts, the coach usually begins with a bow and saying Oss. In some schools, they might end class by also bowing and saying OSS before they get dismissed.

    You also use it to greet your teammates and say goodbye to them. It shows that you are their friend and respect them.

    Response: OSS is also used as a response. When a student is asked if they understand something, they sometimes respond with OSS. This means they understand or are ready to perform the technique or roll.

    Encouragement: The term OSS can be used as a term for encouragement. Telling a student or teammate to keep trying don’t give up. 

    Here’s an article on “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu etiquette, what to know when training BJJ”.

    Examples Of OSS Used In Conversation/Situations

    Below is a list of ways the term OSS is used in BJJ class. There are 3-4 specific times that the term gets used in BJJ class.

    Greetings/Class Intro and Outro: After all the students and teachers say hello to each other, the class is ready to begin. All of the students are lined up with the instructor up front. 

    He will talk to the students for a little bit before bowing the class in and everyone. Then after class is completed some schools will line back up, bow out and say OSS again.

    Acknowledgement and Understanding: OSS will also be used after the instructor performs and explains the technique for class that day. The coach will ask if they understood their explanation and if they did, they’ll respond with OSS.

    An example: So, that is how you do an armbar. Any questions? No? Okay Go! OSS!

    Partner Drills And Rolling: The other time you’d use Oss in class is when you’re communicating with your partner. It is common to hear the term during drilling and rolling.

    When teammates partner up and start drilling, you may hear OSS used along the lines of: “Wanna partner up? Cool. OSS!” or “Hey, good technique partner. OSS!” 

    In rolling, you can say OSS before the roll starts and after. “Good training(slap/bump) OSS! Also, something at the end of the roll like, “Hey, good roll man. OSS!”

    When Is It Okay And Not Okay To Use OSS

    There are some do’s and don’ts when using OSS. Here are some things to remember about using OSS in conversation.

    • Keep OSS At The Gym: The gym of BJJ school is just about the only place where it is okay to use OSS. Nobody wants to hear you saying Jiu Jitsu lingo outside of class. It’s for talking Jiu Jitsu only and not normal conversations.
    • Only Use OSS With BJJ People: Nobody outside of the gym is going to understand you if you say OSS. If you say OSS to your girlfriend/boyfriend, they’re going to roll their eyes and tell you to shut up.

    Is OSS Overused?

    There is a time and place to use OSS. At the BJJ school and with your training partners. That’s it.

    Some practitioners get way into saying OSS. These overzealous BJJ people will always try to insert OSS into everyday conversations.

    On social media it is a big joke in the BJJ community. There are many memes that have been made on BJJ people over using OSS.

    A common one shared on Instagram has a serial killer looking for his victim. When he can’t find him, the serial killer shouts OSS! And the victim shouts it back.

    But honestly does it really matter if OSS is overused? Not really. 

    Sure people who overuse it are kind of dorks. Putting it on every social media post and ending all of their conversations with it but who are they hurting? Nobody it’s just harmless fun.

    BJJ practitioners use words like OSS to demonstrate their camaraderie and show respect towards each other. If you use it that means you are part of the BJJ community and enjoy training.

    Hopefully this information gives you a better understanding of the meaning of OSS and where it comes from.

    Now train and use OSS correctly…



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