I do not “oss” — on the contrary: the inflationary use of this little word hurts my poor ears. But why?
I have been practicing various martial arts since I was 12 years old. With Kempo I am now about 10 years old. But only recently I stumble more and more over the word “Oss”, also often written “Ossu”. When I hear it, then it happens umpteen times during a training. At every opportunity Oss is hummed, at every confirmation with Oss is confirmed, even at the greeting there is ossing.
Why does that get on my nerves? For one thing, I don’t speak Japanese during the training. I can’t speak Japanese. Only a few vocabulary words, namely those of the respective technique, I have laboriously pumiced into my head. So to speak professional Japanese. I do not speak English, French or Serbo-Croatian in the dojo. If I have a question, I ask it in German. I have some command of that. I get the answer in German too. So why should I give a Japanese confirmation phrase from me, and that all the time? Does that make me more “Japanese”? After all, I speak in my own language during normal interaction with my fellow human beings, and I don’t just give a snappy “Yes” or “Oui” every time I confirm or affirm.
So I first of all dealt with the meaning of this mysterious word, which is obviously very important for so many Kempo and Karateka people. Strangely enough, the word “Oss” is probably rarely used in Japan, not at all on Okinawa. Why? Because it’s a slang term, according to sources of the omniscient Internet, it only came into existence in the military environment after the Second World War. What was “Moin” to the East Frisian, was a mumbled form of “Onegaishimasu” to the drunk Japanese soldier. Which he would never say to a woman. Even women among themselves do not use this word. Therefore, it obviously has a sexual connotation, too. And not a very nice one at that.
If you take a closer look at the word, you will learn that Oss consists of the characters for “push”/“push” and “endure”/“suffer”/“suffer”. Hopefully this makes it clear that this term has no place in the normal communication between man and woman.
So what’s the point? Do I express my respect to a teacher when I smash a rather nasty slang expression at his ears? Actually, “hai” is the Japanese form of “yes.” And no one yells that out during practice either.
The combination of a completely exaggerated attempt to be as “original Japanese” as possible and the strange background of this term makes me fall silent when others try their hand at oss or osu. I hope that my teachers will not consider my silence as disrespectful. If necessary, I’ll be happy to greet them with the northern German “Moin”, though, because that’s a really nice welcome, which is quite original. 🙂
PS: Do you know that Oss is also a litte village somewhere in the Netherlands? 🙂 I bet you are welcome there by “ossing” around …
PPS: Another very nice explanation of Oss you can find here