What Does OSS Mean In BJJ? (Terms Defined)

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most popular (and intense) martial arts in the world. It has a huge following of dedicated fans, players, and practitioners, and for those on the outside, the hype around BJJ could even be described as cult-like.

What Does OSS Mean In BJJ

Like any other martial art, BJJ has its own sets of rules and customs, from match etiquette to appropriate greetings.

There are plenty of words and phrases associated with the sport that you’ll hear in almost every corner of the world, and oss is one of the most popular. So, what exactly does this mean, and do you need to know before you start your first BJJ class?

What Is BJJ? 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a largely ground-based martial art. BJJ focuses on building the skill of resisting your opponent in ways that force them to submit completely. Most of this happens on the ground, where BJJ techniques are used to wrestle the opponent for dominance. 

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, students gain a deep understanding of the limitations and working of the human body.

Despite its focus on submission and floor combat, BJJ is widely known as a ‘gentle art’ because, often, a smaller and weaker opponent can use submission techniques to defend themselves against a larger opponent. 

‘OSS’ – What Is It?

If we asked you to think of words or phrases most commonly associated with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the word ‘Oss’ may come to mind. If you enter a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy almost anywhere in the world, ‘oss’ is something you’ll undoubtedly hear.  

Depending on the class you’re in and your coach, ‘oss’ may be pronounced differently. However, it’s usually pronounced in one of two ways: (oh-ss) or with a long ‘s’ (oh-ssss). Some academies and gyms also pronounce oss as ‘oh-su’. 

Oss has a rather diverse meaning. In most classes, it’s the go-to phrase for a greeting or acknowledgment. It can also be used to express an understanding of the techniques used in a class.

If you’ve just witnessed an incredible BJJ competition, the crowd may also start muttering ‘oss’ as a display of admiration. 

We’ll delve into the history of this phrase a little later, but one thing’s for sure, it’s been a huge part of BJJ for decades.

Oss revolves mainly around displaying respectful behavior during a BJJ training session or competition, and regardless of an academy’s philosophy, it’s used almost everywhere. 

The History Of OSS 

‘Oss’ has an eclectic meaning and a rich history. 

It’s suspected that the word first appeared in the Imperial Japanese Navy during the early part of the 20th century. It’s thought that ‘oss’ was first said among officers as a greeting. However, this hasn’t been proven. 

The Abbreviation Theory

There’s also a theory that may have become slowly abbreviated from the common Japanese martial art gym greeting “onegai shimasu”. This greeting is used when the teacher or sensei bows to the kamiza and the students.

At the end of a lesson, the students bow to the teacher and reply “domo arigato onegai shimasu”. These phrases demonstrate the student’s willingness to learn and participate in the art. 

There is also another longer version of this phrase, “domo arigato” which means ‘thank you very much’ or ‘thank you very much for your teaching.’

The word ‘oss’ may be a simple abbreviation of these terms, meaning it’s a way to demonstrate gratitude and appreciation to a BJJ instructor. 

The Kyokushin Theory

It’s also theorized that ‘oss’ may have derived from a phrase used by Kyokushin Karate dojos, ‘osu no seishin’. This phrase can vary a variety of meanings. 

‘Osu’, the verb’, means “to push” and the latter part of the phrase can mean “to endure” or “to suffer”. When these words are put together, they could mean any of the following: 

  • Advance with a steady and positive attitude
  • Not showing is suffering
  • The importance of effort 
  • Combat spirit 
  • Overcome obstacles by going through them 
  • The power of will

If ‘oss’ became an abbreviation of this term, this means it also has connotations with perseverance, willingness, and determination. 

OSS In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Today’s Meanings 

The term ‘oss’ was first introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Grandmaster Carlson Gracie. Initially, Carlson’s idea was to use oss as a way to display respect for practitioners and students, as well as the martial arts in general.

Although oss has a diverse range of meanings, there are five main meanings used today. These are: 

  • Encouragement
  • Compliment
  • Response
  • Greeting
  • Respect 

Let’s take a closer look at what these mean. 

Oss As A Greeting

In most BJJ academies and gyms, oss is used as a way to greet each other. 

Oss As A Response

In BJJ, if you want to say that you acknowledge or understand something, you can use the word oss. 

Oss As Respect

Saying ‘oss’ is also a way to display respect for your instructor or teammates. In this instance, oss is usually accompanied by a bow. 

Oss As A Compliment

If you’ve seen someone pull a good move at the BJJ gym, pronouncing oss loudly and deeply can be a way to complement their technique. This is also used at tournaments, too. 

Oss As An Encouragement 

Oss can also be used as a word of encouragement. If you want to encourage your teammates during a training session or tournament, or you’re just trying to tell them they did something well, saying ‘oss’ is a great way to display encouragement. 

If you’re in Japan, the word ‘oss’ is only used in special occasions, and it shouldn’t be said casually. In Japan, ‘oss’ is only said to someone when: 

  • They’re younger than you
  • They’re lower in rank
  • They demand you to say it

The Bottom Line 

Like most sports and martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has its own words and phrases used to express respect, encouragement, and affection. Oss is the most popular. 

When you next set foot in a BJJ academy or competition, you’ll now know how oss is used and when you should be saying it back to your fellow team members or instructors!

Christopher Anderson
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