Oss! It is one of the phrases most often associated with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although BJJ is a lot less ceremonial than eastern martial arts, bowing with an Oss remains a big staple. You’re going to hear “Oss” when you enter a BJJ academy almost everywhere in the world. It’s almost as certain as the fact that you’re going to tap during class. But, have you ever wondered what does Oss mean and what’s the OSS meaning?
The origins of Oss Meaning
Oss used today in most BJJ dojos around the planet is a clear reminder of BJJ’s Japanese roots. As most of you know, BJJ started in Brazil as a development of Mitsuyo Maeda’s Judo expertise. Since it all began with Japanese technique, it is logical why some Japanese formalities or “reiho” found fertile ground in Brazil.
Today, in every Japanese martial art gym or dojo in the world, when the teacher or sensei, bows to the kamiza (a shrine usually containing a Grandmaster’s photo) and then bows to the students, the students reply: “ONEGAI SHIMASU!” At the end of the lesson, while they bow to the teacher the students reply “DOMO ARIGATO ONEGAI SHIMASU!” “Onegai Shimasu” at the begging of the lessons demonstrates the students will to participate and learn, bluntly translated it would mean: „Please let’s do it“. The other, longer version, which also containing the words “Domo Arigato” (Translating as “thank you very much”) could translate as „Thank you very much for your teaching“. So, the root meaning of Oss in Japan is a demonstration of gratitude for knowledge shared by the instructor.
Because we westeners have a tendency to shorten the expressions, especially the ones we are not familiar with, in time, the expression „Onegai Shimasu“ slowly abbreviated into Oss, commonly used today.
What does Oss mean?
The meaning of Oss is a diverse one today. When looking to answer the question “what does oss mean?”, the phrase has less of a courteous and more of a social meaning. Oss is the go-to phrase used for greeting or an acknowledgment of understanding demonstrated techniques. It can also be shared as a compliment for a particularly impressive competition, or rolling performance. For example, you could hear an entire arena muttering “Oss” in admiration of berimbolos when they first appeared.
Although not as distinct as in Japanese culture, respect remains a huge part of Jiu Jitsu. Some schools, like Gracie Barra, have kept more of the traditional elements than others. In a GB academy, people bow before entering the dojo, often accompanied by Oss. This is meant as a token of respect towards Carlos Gracie Jr, the founder. Other schools, like Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet, do barely any bowing, but Oss is still muttered in respect. So, in general, OSS meaning is a mutual respect between to sides. No matter the philosophy of an academy, the meaning of Oss revolves mainly around respectful behavior on the mats.
Avoiding the phrase
Like mentioned above, BJJ academies are in general considerably more laid back than traditional Japanese schools. While you can get away with “Oss-ing” your way everywhere around a BJJ gym, you should take more care in the East.
First and foremost, avoid saying it to a Japanese person. In Japanese culture the term is an expression of assertiveness and may lead to miscommunication. Unless you’re addressing a younger person, and/or someone with a lower rank, you should avoid pronouncing it. This is particularly true if you are a female – avoiding Oss completely is your best bet.
While not as a big deal as in the East, there is the potential of overusing the phrase in the West. It is perfectly fine to use it in correct context, but avoid making it a meaningless repetitive syllable just for the sake of saying it.
The meaning of Oss is a multi purposeful one, ranging from “hi” to “excuse me” to “let’s roll”. So, next time someone asks “What does Oss mean?”, or “What’s the OSS meaning, know that there’s more than one correct answer. And no, it is not always appropriate to use it because you can misinterpret OSS meaning and look weird.