Why Do Martial Artists Say OSS?

When watching a martial arts session or watching a movie the sounds and noises that are made can often seem random, however, everything done in martial arts serves a purpose and nothing is done for the sake of it.

Here we look at one sound and word you will hear across most martial arts, oss. Below we look at what the word means, why it is said, and when it is said.

Why Do Martial Artists Say OSS

Meaning Of Oss 

Oss comes from ancient Japanese martial arts. It is believed to be an abbreviated version of the Japanese for inviting or asking someone to do something.

Onegai Shimasu is usually said at the end of a request of sorts and the ‘o’ and ‘s’ in oss stem from this phrase.

This word also has strong links to ossu. Ossu is similar to oss and it too is an abbreviated form of a Japanese phrase, Oshi Shinobu, which loosely translates to the concept of persevering and pushing forward, or never giving up. 

Thanks to its linkages to both of the above phrasings it makes sense how this word is often used, by a Sensei while teaching, by students as confirmation of instructions, and more.

Oss is seen to be a respectful yet quick way of communicating within martial arts and those that need to will understand what context the word is being used in at different times.

Why Oss Is Said 

In martial arts, there is always a huge amount of respect shown to the origins of a particular art form.

Most martial arts stem from Asian countries and regardless of where they are taught, you can expect to hear several words that are a sign of respect for the native language of the martial art.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was founded in Brazil by the Gracie brothers yet you will still hear terminology linked to the main influence behind this form of martial arts, which was Kodokan Judo. 

In certain Karate Dojos around the world, a lot of Japanese is used,  counting may be done in Japanese, each movement is referred to as its original Japanese name, and so on.

The sprinkling of native languages and Asian terminology is a great way of fusing martial art to wherever in the world it is being taught.

Oss is said as it represents respect, and fighting spirit, and is also quick and simple to say no matter where you are from. It is not known which martial art that oss was first used but now you will hear this word used in most martial arts.

Oss can also sometimes be used to work on breathing control, repeated slowly with the s sound focused on as students and the Sensei exhale slowly, learning how to control and manage their breathing. 

In some martial arts, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, oss is linked to the ki energy which is linked to the strength of a martial artist. Going back to Samurai warriors there have always been words used to show ki energy before going into battle. 

There were three types of shouts one would hear from a Samurai, one to prepare and focus before combat, one to muster strength during combat, and a final shout would be heard to celebrate victory or to mourn defeat.

Saying oss is also an homage to the shouts and roars that could once be heard on battlefields across Japan as Samurai fought for their people.

When Oss Is Said 

There are certain points in a martial arts session when you will always hear students and practitioners say, Oss. 

At The Beginning And End Of A Session 

Oss is usually said at the beginning of a session to show enthusiasm and the effort that is going to be put into a session. Often the Sensei will first say oss and the participants will then return an enthusiastic oss.

At the end of the session, oss is used as a way for a Sensei to recognize the hard work that has been put into a training session. Students then respond by saying oss as if to say thank you for the Sensei’s efforts.

After An Instruction Is Given To A Group Or Single Student  

When the Sensei gives instructions as to what the participants in a session will be doing next, for example asking for a Kata to be performed or giving instructions about a drill, the Sensei will say oss instead of asking if students understand what has been explained.

This is said regardless of whether the Sensei is giving a single-person instruction, a  group, or the entire class.

Confirming Instruction Is Understood 

After receiving the instructions and hearing the Sensei say oss, those to whom the instruction was directed will respond by saying oss also.

This is a way of showing that they understand what they are expected to do and that they are ready to begin this exercise or movement. 

Between Opponents 

In a sparring session, drill, or other partner or group-based training partners or opponents will say oss to one another, usually while bowing as a sign of respect to the person they will be working with.

Oss also signifies that the person is ready to begin and ready to work hard. 

Final Thoughts 

Now that you understand why martial artists say oss you will now be able to follow along what may be happening in a session or movie from whom the oss is said and the level of intensity it is said with.

Often in competitions, oss is said with such strength and determination it can be extremely loud. Martial artists do not shout for no reason, they use their strength to project their voice in the hope of scaring an opponent into submission. 

Oss holds a lot of power within the world of martial arts and although it can be said for many different things and situations the main thing oss represents is respect. Respect for the martial arts a person is partaking in and respect for those around them.

Christopher Anderson
Latest posts by Christopher Anderson (see all)