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The Oss-ome History of the Word “Oss!”

The Oss-ome History of the Word “Oss!”

Authored By Victor Ochoa 0 Comment(s)

If you have spent time in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school then you have probably heard the term “Oss!” thrown around on the mats and off the mats.

Just what exactly does this term mean and where did it originate from?

It turns out that there are several answers to those questions. Let's dive into a few of the meanings and a bit of the history behind this commonly used Brazilian jiu-jitsu term.

There are Japanese martial arts roots when it comes to the interpretation of the word “Oss!”. One such concept is that Oss could be considered as Chi or qi energy. According to these traditional martial arts, Ki or Chi is an internal energy that gives strength and power to martial arts techniques. Combatants or fighters were trained to shout out the words “Oss” or “kiai” to communicate their desire to fight and to generate internal strength, according to their training methods.

Another perspective on the term Oss also has Japanese martial arts origins. Oss or Ossu were both shorthand terms to communicate Oshi shinobu, which roughly translates to “persevering when pushed”. In this context, fighters were taught to scream out “Oss!” in the face of fear to remind themselves to push through whatever difficulties that they currently faced. In this context you could consider this BJJ term to be a reminder to oneself to not give up in the face of fear or intimidation.

In traditional Japanese Okinawan karate “Oss” was also used as shorthand for “onegai shimasu” and translates into an invitation or request. In this context, there were several ways that the term could be used. It could be used when accepting or requesting a sparring or training session. “Oss!” was also used in this context when learning technique from a teacher. In modern Japan the term “Oss!” or “Ossu” has a different context and it's not always appropriate to use outside of a martial arts or Jiu-Jitsu setting.

There are a variety of ways that the term “Oss” is currently utilized in modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Many locations will use it as a greeting. More traditional BJJ schools will often request that you bow to the instructor, and/or the mats, as you loudly declare “Oss!” shortly after first arriving to the school.

The culture varies greatly between one BJJ school and the next. There are other locations that use the term “Oss!” in the context of affirmation. This means that if you understand what your teacher or coach is saying or grasping the technique that is being displayed you confirm so by declaring “Oss!”. Consider it a different way of saying “got it”, “understood”, or “yes sir”.

The term “Oss!” is also utilized as one of respect for a teacher, sparring partner, or opponent. Traditional Brazilian jiu jitsu teachers will often encourage students to bow to their upper belts, instructors, the mats, pictures of training lineage teachers, and the mats while saying “Oss!”. This procedure or protocol is used to infer respect for your teammates and Jiu Jitsu school.

You will often find the term “Oss!” to be used as a compliment or expression of appreciation when it comes to a display of fine technique. If you are watching an exciting match, whether at a school, during class, or at a tournament, it is likely that someone will shout out “Oss!” when someone performs an exemplary Jiu-Jitsu technique.

As you go further and deeper into your Brazilian jiu-jitsu journey you can now have a finer appreciation and understanding of the history and deeper meaning behind the term “Oss!” each time you hear it or use it yourself.

Jiu Jitsu is an incredibly fascinating martial art that is rich in history while also constantly evolving. It is incredibly interesting to learn more about the history and culture of BJJ as we all strive to hone our techniques.

Next time you hit the mats remember one of the meanings of the term us, to persevere or push past difficulty.


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