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What does “OSS” mean? – NAGA Fighter

November 29, 2023

In the vibrant world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), where respect, discipline, and camaraderie form the backbone of the training experience, a seemingly simple term echoes through the dojo: “oss.” Uttered with a nod, a bow, or even a spirited shout during a grueling roll, oss serves as a unique expression that carries diverse meanings for practitioners.

Newcomers stepping onto the mats might find themselves intrigued by the rhythmic exchanges of this three-letter word. The modern use of oss in BJJ is multifaceted, with cultural roots that intertwine with the essence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. From the gym to competitions, oss is more than just a vocalized gesture; it symbolizes respect, resilience, and the unspoken language that binds the BJJ community together.

What does Oss mean?

Oss is a term commonly used in BJJ as a form of expression. It doesn’t have one definition or usage but is a versatile term that can be used several ways. Oss can be a greeting to other BJJ practitioners or a way to show respect, acknowledgment, or agreement between martial artists. Other times, oss is more of an exclamation for motivating fighters while they are training. It expresses determination, perseverance, or a positive attitude and can be an alternative way of saying “well done.”

When to use “oss”

BJJ fighters say oss to an opponent or sparring partner while they bow to each other, such as at the beginning and end of a fight or training session. You say oss to show respect to your training partners, instructors, and the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu itself.

Here are a few examples of when you would say (or shot) oss in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym:

  • After someone completed a successful takedown or submission and you want to acknowledge they did a good move.
  • When you enter or leave the mat, you can say oss as a greeting or farewell. 
  • During a training session, when a teacher gives instruction, you would acknowledge what they say by replying with “oss!”

What are the origins of the word?

The term oss as it is used in BJJ does not have a clear and universally agreed-upon origin. It is believed to have Japanese roots, as BJJ originates in Japanese martial arts, particularly Judo. In Japanese martial arts culture, “Osu” or “Ossu” are similar expressions often used to signify acknowledgment, respect, or determination. The Kyokushin Karate schools in Japan use the phrase “Osu no Seishin.” In these Karate schools, you bow and say “Osu!” whenever you enter or leave the dojo. It is also used as a greeting to fellow Kyokushin Karateka or as a response and acknowledgment to directions from the instructor. In the latter case, “Osu!” means “I understand.”

As you can see, there are many similarities between how oss is used today in BJJ schools and the usage of osu. Therefore, oss likely made its way into the culture through the influence of Japanese martial arts traditions.

How to pronounce “oss”

Oss is easy to pronounce, and anyone who spends a few minutes in a BJJ gym will pick it up quickly. Oss rhymes with the word “boss.” Because it is rooted in Japanese martial arts, practitioners who also train in Karate might pronounce it osu (oh-suuu) instead. Oss is a highly versatile word in the modern-day martial arts community. From the dojo to the competition scene, oss is more than just a vocalized gesture; it symbolizes respect, resilience, and the unspoken language that binds the BJJ community together.