What does OSS (especially in BJJ) mean?

For those of you training in BJJ, you've probably heard OSS plenty of times.

It is used in other forms of martial arts, but there's no denying the OSS BJJ usage.

When first heard, it may leave you confused, especially if you aren't caught up in your eastern martial arts traditions and history.

So, we're here to help clear up any uncertainty you still have.

Definition of OSS (OSU)

Well, what exactly is the notion of OSS?

It's used so much to the point that it's a borderline generic term for "yes" or acknowledgement similar to how a marine may shout out "ooh-rah".

It's purely expression of perseverence, grit and 'never give up' attitude.

Below, we get into more detail about the many origins of the term and its use in BJJ.

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History of OSS

The true origin of OSS is difficult to nail down. Due to that, we'll focus more on the theories of its history according to historians.

One theory claims its roots are found in traditional martial arts from the east.

Some say it came from Japanese Okinawan martial arts.

Others say that it's more likely to have come from the Imperial Japanese Navy under the spelling "OSU", though many still pronounce it as "OSS".

Some see the meaning behind it as an abbreviation of Oshi Shinobu. This definition deals with perseverance through tough times or adversities, something largely found in Kyokushin Karate. The martial art requires extreme physical conditioning and pushing your limitations in order to succeed.

Another theory about the history of OSS is that it comes from Onegai Shimasu. Translating it is difficult though. However, it can loosely see connections with an invitation or a feeling of gratitude amongst students.

It is a common expression used the Japanese language, so for those of you who may have studied karate, you probably hear OSS more often than not.

There does not appear to be any clear reason why the Japanese term would be shortened to OSS other than students simply being unwilling to say the longer term.

How OSS is Used

More than frequently, if you train in traditional Japanese martial art classes, you may have heard the term.

Used in this fashion, it is typically seen in the form of a greeting.

Some of the dojos that focus on training traditional Japanese martial arts require students to use it before they enter and when they leave. In this fashion, it is said while the student is bowing.

OSS is also used in the place of phrases such as "I understand" or other acknowledgements. Taken this way, it is seen more as a compliment. This is truer during training sessions when an opponent demonstrates exceptional technique.

Furthermore, some dojos may use the term when instructors demonstrate a new technique to students.

There is also a large amount of respect that is found within the term OSS. It is why the term is heard so often before and after a fight in a tournament.

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When it comes to OSS BJJ usage, Grandmaster Carlson Gracie originally borrowed the term from traditional Japanese martial arts.

It is because the idea of perseverance is something that greatly coincides with the mentality of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

The BJJ philosophy does not only focus on physical strength. Rather, your mental wellbeing is just as important, with instructors placing emphasis on discipline and integrity. It is the ideology that without those and other similar traits, one training in BJJ cannot become as proficient and great as they strive to be.

So, with OSS BJJ use, it is more likely that you will hear the term when someone is inviting another to train with them.

In addition, you may also hear it used similar to that of a war cry. It indicates personal strength when used in this manner.

Because of that, it is why you can hear it during competitive bouts. In the Gracie BJJ teachings, competition is seen as a way to improve upon your own skills more than it is a chance to beat a competitor.

The Wrong Way to Use OSS

With such a variance in historical roots and meanings, it may benefit you to take some caution in using it.

For one thing, it does tend to be a rather masculine term, so women don't often make regular use of it.

It also expresses a good deal of assertiveness, which is why it is often frowned upon to use it toward a Japanese mater or anyone that holds a higher rank than yourself.

A good way to understand how to use it is to go by the teachings in your specific dojo. If your instructor teaches you to use the term, then do so. If it is not taught, then perhaps ask or withhold from it.

Wrap Up

It is unclear exactly where OSS can trace its roots to, but in many cases, it goes back to traditional eastern martial arts and culture in general.

Because of the various theories surrounding its history, there are different meanings to it such as acknowledgment, understanding, and personal resolve no matter what trials you may face.

OSS BJJ use tends to focus largely on the determination aspect of the term. Truth be told, it does appear to fit almost seamlessly with the teachings of BJJ from the Gracie family that deal with respect, strength, and self-resolve.

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