The word OSU
is considered by many karateka, both Japanese and non-Japanese to be
a crude word, not acceptable for use in the dojo. This is because it
is interpreted as a contraction of “Ohayo gozaimasu”, and
through its use in the docks and barracks it is therefore the Japanese
equivalent of “Waazzup man!”.
The OSU! in Kyokushin however does not have the same origin. It comes
for the expression “Oshi shinobu! ” which means to push
oneself to the limit of one's ability and yet to continue, to persevere
under pressure, and to endure.
It is used as a word of many meanings, expressing the willingness
to strive against all odds, to persevere on the road to physical, mental,
and spiritual strength, an expression of respect of ones seniors and
responsibility to ones juniors.
It is pronounced “OSS!”, with a long "O", and
not "Oosh" or "Oos" as is commonly heard outside
of Japan" and I'll be the first to admit that I'm usually guilty
of mispronouncing it myself!
In the Kyokushin school of Karate it is also a greeting and can be
used to replace words such as "yes", "alright",
"good", "I'll do it" and "excuse me".
It is also used to mean mean "hello", "goodbye",
"have patience with me", "I'm trying", "well
done!" and just about anything else. Fans of Robert Heinlein will
appreciate it when I say it has the same range of meaning as the word
"grok" in Stranger
in a Strange Land. Unlike many other karate styles, a student
is never expected to say "yes sir" (HAI!) when given a command
in the Kyokushin dojo but to use the word "OSU" instead.
As students of Karate, we are all expected to strive and develop this
positive attitude (spirit) of perseverance, determination and respect
for others in our training as well as in our daily life (i.e. business,
work, studies etc). But you don’t have to be a karateka to have
spirit of Osu! Any competitor in the Paralympics has it, probably more
than any karateka, simply for not letting their physical incompleteness
stop them from doing their best. A parent, doing three jobs to feed
his or her children has OSU! (but should probably have got an education
If it is at all possible to express the philosophy of Kyokushin Karate
in a single word, then "OSU" would be that word.