The phonetic pronunciation is oooss. The “u” is silent. It’s like saying the word “loose” without the “L.”
“Osu is a word with many interpretations and purposes”
It can mean, “Yes, I understand,” when an instructor gives a command or demonstrates a technique. It can mean an acknowledgement when one enters the dojo. It can also mean a paid respect to the senseis and seniors in the dojo after a training session. When an instructor yells out for a student to execute a kata, the word osu can mean, “Yes I am ready!”
One can hear this cry throughout Japanese dojos. One could be studying judo, karate, kendo, aikido, or other numerous “do” disciplines. Osu is the contraction of two Japanese words, oshi shinobu. Oshi means to maintain, keep up, while shinobu means to bear, endure or persevere. The literal translation is to persevere in training with patience.
When one hears this cry from others and your seniors, it doesn’t have the same impact like when you experience it yourself. When one experiences difficulty in training, it would be very easy for one to let up or even quit. The individual should take the opportunity to mature through perseverance with patience.
In order to build strong minds and bodies, it is a necessity to undergo rigorous training. One may think they know their limit, but it is through the actual test of finding their physical limit is where you set the goal. The true test is being able to transcend your goals.
It is very easy to make an excuse not to train; it’s too cold; it’s too hot; I’m too tired; or it’s raining. I take the opposite approach and look at the perspective of it being an opportunity to improve myself. I’ve experienced countless times when I find myself feeling tired, but still go to class. By the end of class, I regret ever pondering not going. I feel re-energized and a sense of achievement. I feel self respect that I’ve allowed my body to heal and detoxify itself through the training I’ve endured. It’s through the hard training that one builds character, effort, sincerity, etiquette, discipline, and self control.
So, the next time you scream, ”Osu!” in class, it is the sound of character building. It may also be the sound of encouragement from your dojo. We are all constantly striving to improve ourselves. Building is what we do, we are all “a work in progress.” Osu!!