There are many phrases associated with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There is OSS, or OSU, even OSSS, as something you will hear frequently. BJJ is not as ceremonial as other martial arts, but you will still hear “OSS” as a staple when entering the academy. It is surprising to know that many BJJ instructors don’t even know what they mean. It doesn’t matter where in the world your BJJ academy is situated, but you are going to here “OSS” every time you enter. So, are you ready to learn the meaning meaning of OSS?
“OSS” is used in the modern-day BJJ academy anywhere across the globe as a reminder of the roots of the sport in Japan. BJJ was developed in Brazil from the Judo expertise of Mitsuyo Maeda, and applied some Japanese techniques. “OSS” is a Japanese formality, also known as a “reiho” one that has found ground back in Brazil..
Today, in every dojo or gym that has Japanese origins, the sensei or teacher will bow to the kamiza. The kamiza is a shrine that will generally contain a photo of the grandmaster. After bowing to the kamiza, he will then bow to his students. The students will reply in chorus, “ONEGAI SHIMASU”. The master will bow again to his students at the end of the class. This time, his students will reply “DOMO ARIGATO ONEGAI SHIMASU”. A rough translation of Onegai Shimasu at the beginning of class would be “let’s do it please”. The chant at the end of the class from the students to the master is roughly translated as “thank you very much for your teaching”. So, from this we can see that OSS is a Japanese-routed demonstration of gratitude for the instructor from his students.
In the Western World, we have a tendency to shorten words and expressions. This is an even familiar practice when we use expressions that we are not familiar with. So, over the passing of time, the expression “Onegai Simasu” has been abbreviated to the very much shortened version used today, OSS.
Meaning of OSS
In the modern world of BJJ, “OSS” has a diverse meaning. In fact, the once courteous phrase used now has a social meaning. “OSS” is now commonly used as a go-to phrase. It is used for both greeting the master and the acknowledgment of the comprehension of techniques demonstrated to the students. It is also used as a complement following an impressive rolling performance or competition. In this way, it is not uncommon to hear the entire arena muttering “OSS”.
Respect remains a really large and important part of Jiu-Jitsu, although perhaps not as distinct as it is in Japan. The amounts of traditional elements you find vary from school to school. The Gracie Barra School for example, has kept a lot of traditional elements. At any GB academy, people will bow upon entering the dojo, and this is more than often still accompanied by an OSS. The OSS here is a token of respect being paid to the founder of the school, Carlos Gracie Junior.
In contrast, Eddie Bravo’s school still mutter OSS in respect, but you will find barely any bowing upon entering the dojo. OSS is therefore used as a sign of mutual respect, its meaning and philosophy staying the same no matter where the BJJ School is. With so many schools now open all over the globe, it is easy to understand how each has evolved in its own way.
The failure to say OSS or bow when entering an academy has no reflection on how good the school is. Each school has developed its own practices over time, some being more formal than others. Overall, Western Schools are far less likely to bow and say OSS upon entering, compared to their Eastern counterparts.
How to Avoid the Phrase
As we already mentioned, BJJ academies are a lot less formal than Japanese schools. In a BJJ gym you can say “OSS” whenever you like it without the fear of offending anyone. This is not the case in the East. There are huge differences between the Eastern and Western culture. The East being more formal, while in the West, attitudes are far more relaxed.
Most importantly, avoid saying it to any Japanese person. In Japan, the phrase is a way to express assertiveness. This can therefore lead to confusion and misunderstanding. You might offend a Japanese local if you say “OSS” to them out of context, or even at an academy or school. So, unless you are addressing someone of a lower rank or someone younger than yourself, you should avoid using it. As a female, it is best to avoid using the term at all.
There is also the potential to start overusing the term in the West; something that is not a big deal in the East. It is perfectly acceptable to say “OSS” but within the correct context. Avoid saying it, just because you know what it means, and certainly avoid repeating it in a meaningless manner. The young in the Western culture have a tendency to overuse phrases that are meaningless. These often come from things they have seen on the television, or from cult-based origins.
There are many different meaning to OSS in the Western World. It could mean “excuse me”, “let’s roll”, or simply “hello”. So, now you know what to say the next time someone asks you what OSS means. It has more than one meaning, and should always be used meaningfully and within the correct context if you want to avoid looking weird. There’s nothing worse than feeling big and important and going up to someone to say OSS, only to be looked back as though you are the weirdest person on the planet.
So, Let’s Keep on Rolling!