If you’ve spent any time on the BJJ mats, you’ve likely heard somebody say “Oss,” and had no idea what it meant. I had no idea when I first heard that word, so I wanted to understand its origins and meaning.
BJJ athletes use the term OSS as a positive affirmation, this ranges from being used as a respectful greeting to preparing to spar or work on a technique. Generally speaking, Oss is used as a positive affirmation.
Let’s go over some of my findings on the use of the term “OSS” so that we can better understand the correct context for the word.
What are the Origins of the Word OSS?
The origins of the term OSS came from Japan and were probably first used by soldiers or martial artists.
Some believe it all started in the Imperial Navy. Japanese officers would salute each other with a loud OSS. According to this theory, OSS became popular in the early 20th century.
Others believe that OSS is short for “Osu no Seishin” (which, roughly translated to English, means “to endure”, “to push forward”, or “to keep going”), a way to encourage strength among Kyokushin Karate practitioners.
When it comes to BJJ, the history of the word OSS is a little clearer. Mitsuyo Maeda taught it (alongside BJJ) to Carlos and Helio Gracie – and they both used it during their classes.
Whether it was soldiers or martial artists, it didn’t matter. BJJ practitioners know OSS was used by the creators of their gentle art. It’s a tradition that’s as old as BJJ itself.
When Should I Use the Word OSS?
First, it is important to make sure that your martial arts school integrates the word OSS into its training culture. If it is a part of your school’s culture observe others and try to mimic how you see it being used. It can be used as a greeting, thanks, or affirmation.
I have trained in schools where the use of the term is commonplace and in schools in which using the term is somewhat of a joke, so try to be aware of the culture of your gym before you start using the term.
If you are here to learn about the norms of what to expect in your first BJJ class, check out my post here for more information.
Just keep in mind that in more informal schools that do not use the term, starting to use the term will run somewhat counter to the culture which is something that you will want to avoid.
Let’s look at a few simple examples to see how OSS is used in practical terms in training.
- Greeting: whenever you greet someone you can say OSS as you would say “hello” or “how are you”. This also works when you’re about to you spar or work techniques with somebody.
- Thanking Training Partners: If a higher belt shows you a specific technique for you to learn, you can say OSS after they’ve demonstrated. This is similar to saying “nice” or “that’s amazing” and “thank you.”
- Acknowledgment: if you are showing something to somebody and they get it right, you can say OSS as a way of saying “nice one” or “that’s it!”
OSS can be used in many ways, but hopefully, it is a bit clearer what applications the term can have in a martial arts environment.
When Should I Avoid Using the Word OSS?
There are two main reasons to avoid saying OSS: the first one is when something negative is happening; the second one is when you get overly enthusiastic and start saying it way too much.
OSS is a positive term. It has no place when things are not okay. Avoid it during tense arguments or bad moments. If you can’t use it in a respectful situation don’t use the term at all. For instance, breaking up a heated exchange or argument is not the time to use the term even after things are somewhat resolved.
Also, don’t use it every time you finish a sentence. It isn’t a form of punctuation. Beginner BJJ practitioners tend to become overly attached to this word. Try not to be that guy. Use OSS sparingly and respectfully and you will be more likely to be using it right.
OSS is a term that is very hit or miss depending on the type of BJJ school you are attending. Traditional schools will often use this term more frequently as a part of their training culture. MMA schools and competition-oriented BJJ schools will often be less formal and less likely to have it as a part of their culture.
If you are choosing to use the term try to mimic what you see from the upper belts at your school in order to use it in the correct way. If you are using the term, make sure you do not overuse it and make sure that it is only used in positive, respectful ways since that is where the term is supposed to be used.