You will hear it in the dojo, you will hear it outside of  the dojo, you will hear it as a sign of recognition, or just a simple hello. But do you actually know what “OSS” means?

Some associate it with a simple greeting. Well it’s more than that. It is a personal and unequivocal commitment that forces you to give everything you can, to strive and to overcome your limits. It is pronounced short “oss!”.

Oss means respect, patience and appreciation at the same time. To develop a strong body and mind, continuous and rigorous training is required. It is very important to train and overcome your limits. To give up does not stand in the character of a good karateka.

The term “OSS!” or “OSU!” in karate isn’t exactly exclusive to the art. It is a term that is used quite a lot throughout the world of martial arts. The term actually comes from the traditional Japanese Okinawan Karate and is actually a solicitation or an invitation.

In other sources “OSS” can be defined as manifestation of “Ki” energy, in karate instead of the phrase “OSS”, fighters will shout “KIAI”, meaning Strength, this is also an indication that someone is ready to fight. The Samurai would use three types of shouts: One before, One during and One after fighting to celebrate victory or accept defeat.

The term “OSS” has several uses and it’s important to understand when to use the phrase. It can be used as an acknowledgement of an instructor, a term of endearment to another training partner when they pull off some good moves at a tournament. In karate, OSS is a sign of respect.

So What Does “OSS” Mean?

These are just a few of the ways you can use the phrase “OSS” or “OSU”:


Many karate practicants use “OSS!” as a greeting form. In traditional karate, the class will bow to the instructor while saying “OSS!” at the start and end of a lesson.


Saying “OSS” after a professor has demonstrated a technique is also common practice in many dojos. The term is regularly used as a way of saying “I Understand”, “Understood”, or “Yes”.


Like the bowing to the instructor, “OSS” is also said when bowing onto a tatami at a tournament and at the start of a performance. You can also use it as a response to the referee when he asks if you are ready.


The term can also be used as a sign of respect and acknowledgement of a performer’s skills on the tatami.

General routine

The phrase can be said after each technique is performed.