How To ‘Osu’

Summer School is fast on the approach, four days full of training, teaching and frustration.  At these events, proper respect and courtesy to everybody on the mat is so important.

Recently we have been talking to our adult students about the way we train (Focusing on things such as when should we bow, how hard should we focus, when should you talk etc.) in a effort to help us improve the quality of our training and boost the rewards we reap per lesson.

In short, we want to change the way we interact with each other on the mat.

Early last year we posted a piece written by Sensei Robert mustard about the meaning and origin of the word ‘Osu’. We use this little word so often that we can easily forget the reason that we say it in the first place.

Excerpt from post 24 Jan 2011.

The meaning of “OSU”

by Robert Mustard Sensei 7th Dan

All of us who practice Yoshinkan [style] Aikido are familiar with the word “Osu”. We use it when we enter the dojo, when we start class, when the Sensei show us a technique, when we pour beer for each other at parties and especially when [the] Sensei yell at us and we don’t know what they’re talking about! I even use it when I receive my dry cleaning or get my change at the 7-11, which usually results in strange looks from the respective cashiers. But what does “Osu” really mean? Does it have a deeper meaning?

In Japan, the only people who use “Osu” are usually the sports teams of the high schools and universities, and most karate styles. In most companies you will hear “Osu”, but it is usually a lazy man’s way of saying g “Ohayo Gozaimasu” (Good Morning). As far as I know, the only style of Aikido that uses this word is the Yoshinkan style of Gozo Shioda.

Kancho Sensei attended Takushoku University, which has a strong reputation for its hard training in Budo, and it also has a reputation as a stronghold for far right-wing sentiments. My former Kendo teacher was the captain of the Takushoku Kendo team, and he told me training stories that made my hair stand on end. In order to continue the Takudai and old style tradition of hard training (Shugyo), Yoshinkan Aikido continues the use of “Osu” while other styles do not.

If you look at the word “Osu” written in the original Chinese, it is comprised of two characters. The first character is “Osu”, which the dictionary defines as “push”. The second character is “Nin”, which the dictionary defines as “Shinobu”, which means endure, persevere, put up with. If you put them together you get – to push ourselves to endure any hardship, in training or in our daily lives.

Also, in the field of Budo it is used as a greeting or reply with the connotation as a sign of your willingness to follow a particular teacher or way of training.

The most important aspect of the word “Osu” is that we must not let the word, through repeated overuse with no feeling, lose its meaning of reminding ourselves to always train as hard as possible. It must come from our hearts and really have meaning. I have had the experience of showing some people techniques or correcting their techniques and their reply of “Osu” has left me feeling that they are not interested in what I have to say or teach and kind of telling me to go away. Needless to say, I refrained from showing or teaching these people further until they showed me by their actions that they wanted to learn.

Surely there can be no greater misrepresentation of Yoshinkan Aikido, than a person saying they practice Yoshinkan Aikido, but their “Osu” has no conviction or spirit. I don’t want to give the impression that we should always be screaming OSU at each other at the tops of our lungs, but let’s try to find ourselves the conviction to always do our best in our training and also in our daily lives. Kancho Sensei always said, “Aiki soku seikatsu” or “Aikido is life”.

To finish, I once asked our Cadets what they thought ‘Osu’ meant and to this day I have not heard a better and more succinct interpretation than this;

I have understood what you have said and I will do my best to do it.

Dojo Closure

Naturally the Dojo will be closed during Summer School. The last day of training will be Wednesday 27th June. We close for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And we re-open on Monday 2nd July.

"Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want."

Jim Rohn


Sensei Matt Thurman, Shudokan Black Belt Academy – Aikido Nottingham