View Full Version : History of Osu?

2nd November 2009, 12:04
I am trying to get an understanding of a few things concerning the use of the term "osu":

1. Is it common among karate styles?

2. What styles use osu?

3. Is it used in Japan?

4. Its origin?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

2nd November 2009, 15:27
I was told by Nakamoto Masahiro Sensei that it is an abbreviated form of Ohaiyo Gozaimasu. Which is like saying good morning, or it's early.

Bob Blackburn
2nd November 2009, 16:12
Here are some good links on this.

Origin: http://www.24fightingchickens.com/2008/12/30/the-origins-of-osu/

overuse: http://www.24fightingchickens.com/2008/12/31/do-you-say-osu-too-much/

Guy Buyens
2nd November 2009, 16:40
I think the origin of “osu” is not so clear at all, although I also have been given the explanation that it comes from “Ohayo gozai masu”.

Ohayo gozai masu

or O…SU, OSU

When I used to live and train in Japan some 20 years ago, I saw it being used very often, but mainly restricted to members of competitive (mainly University related) dojo’s. somewhat like an adrenaline boosting effect in a kumite context.

Although I occasionally trained in University clubs at that time, I mainly trained in Mabuni’s dojo in Bentencho, Osaka and there we were supposed to use a much more respectful way of speaking. "Konbanwa" when entering the dojo in the evening, "Onegai shimasu" at the beginning of something, "Arigato gozaimashita" at the end and "shitsurei shimasu" upon leaving the dojo.

Osu can be regarded as a male (yes even macho) expression, not only used by karateka in a competitive setting but also used for example in yakuza circles when lower rank members salute their superiors. It is typical Japanese and not restricted to one style (I heard it in different styles like shotokan, shito-ryu,…), but rather to a group of younger competitive boys in mainland Japan.

In Japan, when I started to be involved in koryu, osu was never part of the vocabulary. I have only spent very little time in Okinawa but there I didn’t hear it either.

Ellis Amdur
3rd November 2009, 03:10
When I trained in the Koei Gym (kickboxing), the phrase was "Ohaiyus"

"Osu" was for the rubes.

3rd November 2009, 12:50
A discussion from over at GojuRyu.net


6th November 2009, 11:51
Here's another one you might wanna ck out, that has another theory as well:

len mccoy
10th April 2010, 00:05
All the systems derived and related to Mas Oyama Sensei (like World Oyama, Seido, Kyokushinkai etc) love the word osu, and they definitely use the second definition on 24fighting chicken a contraction of the words for push and suffer. Not saying it is good Japanese language but it certainly fit the outlook of those excellent karate schools. There is a nice essay on it in Nakamura Sensei's book Karate: Technique and Spirit.

I also read an article a number of years ago saying Japanese instructors of other styles use it as a way around teaching gaijin the class conciousness of the Japanese langauge. For example most of use learn hai is yes pretty quickly, but in a lot of situations it's like say Yah to your military superior instead of yes sir. (Wish I could dig out the article because if it was by who I think it was he is very much the expert, but I have no sound frame of reference myself).
Respectfully Osu,
Len McCoy

Simon Keegan
10th April 2010, 21:08
Like most of you I've had dozens of western instructors oosing, ossing and osuing at me. But I've also heard it used by Japanese masters.

I was on an IMAF course in Belgium. We were doing the opening ceremony, bowing on and so on, a few certificates being presented etc and immediately before beginning training Shizuya Sato (10th Dan) shouted Osu!

It definitely wasn't done as a solemn respectful bow, it was done as a kind of sporty "Yo!"

I took it to be a cheerful, rousing proclamation along the lines of "Come on guys, let's go and do some good training" Kind of like a verbal team High-Five!

Kim Taylor
11th April 2010, 16:22
I was always told that you should answer with a very loud "MES"


12th April 2010, 01:53
Here is a link from the dojo I used to train at for 4 years (2003-2007). Mori Sensei gives his thoughts in this article:


Kind regards,

Jeremy Hagop

Lance Gatling
12th April 2010, 13:49
I was always told that you should answer with a very loud "MES"

Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck....

9th January 2011, 05:47
Ohayo gozai masu

In Kyokushin osu is a short form of "oshi shinobu" which means "to endure the pressure". They sell stuff with the kanji for oshi shinobu on it.

Todd Schweinhart
10th January 2011, 11:52
Hello everyone,

I haven't done much in terms of styles of Karate but have been around it a lot while being involved in Japanese martial arts. As FireFlea also pointed out, during a late night conversation I was told by the current soke of Hontai Yoshin Ryu, Inoue Kyoichi, that "OSU" usually had the connotation of "pushing patience" or enduring the hardship. It obviously has many other meanings these days as it is said for just about everything in some of the karate dojo.


Todd Schweinhart


Martin H
11th January 2011, 11:29
Osu has several different origins&meanings depending on who you ask.
One of the meanings is as a abbreviation of "Ohaiyo Gozaimasu" meaning "good morning.
This is the most commonly seen one, and the one used in shotokan and, admittedly in most of Japan. In effect is used as the slang word "Yo!" in english.
But it is not the only explanation.
Some, ,mostly kyokushin related groups, use OSU as a abbreviation of "Oshi Shinobu" meaning to endure under pressure (basically "hang in there!"). In kyokushin there is no bad "slang" associations with the word.
Other (Ive seen it in some shorinji kempo dojos) use OSU as a abbreviation for "Onegai shimasu" =I request/please.

So meaning, origin and useage depends on who you ask.

Andrew S
20th February 2011, 19:48
I've heard that the word originated in the Japanese Imperial Navy.
The abbreviation theory for "ohayogozaimasu", "onegaishimasu" etc don't seem out of place, particularly in a military/nationalist setting. (Apparently the Takushoku University Aikido club also used the word)
There is a page dedicated to the form and function of the word in Kanazawa's SKI Kumite Kyohan (p.24), but the author claims not to know its origins.

3rd May 2011, 15:27
When I was growing up during the 70's, I only knew it as oss, not ossu.
Osae means to push or press on. The idea was to push your body to the limit and endure through the pressure.

Dave Gallagher
4th August 2013, 16:12
Just noticed this thread so I am a bit late to the gate. I began Karate training in the mid 1970's. Everyone in my dojo used oss including our sensei and every visiting JKA instructor. Over the years I have heard many explainations as to it's true origins and meaning. The truth is no one knows anything for sure.
It is however a great word for showing strong spirit. It has a great number of uses including yes, thank you, hello, I agree, I understand, goodbye etc. To me it's the hallmark of great karate spirit. Use it with spirit and you won't go wrong no matter what anyone says.

Dave Gallagher
4th August 2013, 16:15
When I was growing up during the 70's, I only knew it as oss, not ossu.
Osae means to push or press on. The idea was to push your body to the limit and endure through the pressure.

That would not be oss, the word would be gambatte. Meaning "to push through", "use all your strength to the end". Still used in Kendo and other budo.

Cady Goldfield
4th August 2013, 17:05
I remember being told, back in my karate days, that "Osu" and "oss" were considered "low level," almost a grunt, and that it was seldom used in Japanese dojo. If one wanted to respond to an instruction, especially to be polite and to show that one was listening and paying attention, "Hai" or "Hai, Sensei," was the more desired term.

Can anyone verify this?