The new year brought with it a few questions. I’ve begun some simple questioning of what I’ve learned and one part of that is regarding supposedly Japanese ways: the use of “Osu!”
As it turns out, “osu” is the Japanese equivalent of “hey dude!”. It is not considered an especially respectful, motivational thing said to seniors or as a term of admiration. School children would never say it to their teachers, employees would never say it to their bosses, and karateka would never say it to their sensei. Why? It’s too informal.
Osu is reserved for testosterone-primed male athletes watching each other bench-press a small car. It is sometimes said in passing between joggers in a park.
This seems nit-picky, but I think it’s important if we insist on assimilating any portions of Japanese culture into our karate training. Pronunciation is not something I am personally worried about (although there are those that are), but we should at least be using terms in the way they are meant to be used.
I don’t say this to discourage readers or karate practitioners, but to get you to think in a different way. To get people to question (peacefully and respectfully) what they learn. I still say osu in class because it still feels right some times. That, and I have the utmost respect for my senseis and friends. What I’m getting at is that we can learn from the real Japanese culture and perhaps be a little discrete with how often we do use the word.
I first realized that we say “osu” a little too often in class when it almost slipped out during a meeting at work.
Supervisor: “so, everyone knows what they need done for Friday?”
Me: “O… uh… yes.”
I’m working on some self-help.