Why do we say Osu?

Osu – Osu No Seishin!

The word Osu is taken from the saying “Osu no Seishin” which means to persevere whilst being pushed, to endure, etc. Osu is made up of two characters. The second character conveys the idea of Shinobu, patience. The first character means to keep, or to maintain. Therefore, Osu can also mean to be patient, in this context. The Japanese spirit is one of perseverance. Whereas it is easy for the untrained person to stop when things get tough, traditionally the serious budoka knows only that they must persevere even whilst pushed. It implies a willingness to persevere under any kind of pressure.

The aim of the budoka is to manifest in him/herself the Spirit of Osu. It is the means by which he or she can purify his/her character. There is no other way. One cannot achieve depth of character by relying on natural talents, on education, or luck. One must face trials to gain in strength and wisdom. One must be prepared to fight on in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Even those people who do not pursue a Martial Art, yet achieves greatness in life, manifest the qualities of a warrior, the qualities of Osu, by being prepared to look trials squarely in the face and never bow to the weight of adversity. Osu Shinobu implies a willingness to push oneself to the limits of endurance, to persevere under any kind of pressure. This strength of character develops with hard training.

Each time we use the word Osu we should be reminding ourselves to have patience, or Shinobu. It is very easy to allow ourselves to lose patience. When the weather is hot and uncomfortable, some students arrive at the dojo feeling irritated; it is very easy to say to ourselves, “Today, I have no patience because I’m feeling uncomfortable and pressured.” Then, we allow ourselves to treat our fellows with disrespect. This is wrong, and we say Osu to remind ourselves that we should not let this happen.

Patience applies to the correct concept of training, the one that we want all our students to follow. The purpose of karate training is to train the body – to make it strong and powerful. This is not approached in isolation. The body is trained by training the mind. When the mind and body are strong, this leads to a unification that produces a strong spirit, which is the real goal of karate training. A strong spirit produces a harmonious individual. Achieving this goal, through the right training, requires patience. Each time we say Osu we are reaffirming our determination to achieve the real purpose of karate.

It is common to hear people talk about chance in life. Some people complain about the lack of opportunity and feel sorry for themselves, while others wait passively for the right chance or opportunity. We do not want our students to wait for opportunity or chance in their lives. If we are patient and strong, we shall perceive many more chances and opportunities than we ever did before, and we should take these. This applies to all our students, those who are scholars, teachers, labourers, nurses, or other specialists. If we are patient, we can better assess what life is offering us. Many times, opportunities to advance and grow are offered to us, but we turn them down, not recognising them for what they are.

Be patient with yourself and others.. Let yourself grow and develop, and allow your training to have time to take effect. Remind yourself of these ideas constantly. Each time that you greet your Sensei, your Senpai, your seniors and your fellow students with Osu, remember that there is a message there for you.