Being somewhat familiar with Japanese culture and language, I've encountered the word "osu!" many times...but for some reason, I never thought to research its meaning. Whenever 'osu!' is used, it's usually a short, loud cry that suggests something positive, kind of like the Army's 'Hooah'. I just assumed that 'osu!' was some sort of agreement...and then I said it out loud a few times and realized that it sounds a lot like sensei's "ICE!" kiai. And then I thought, "Wait a minute...'osu!' kind of IS a kiai..."
So, with interest, I typed 'the meaning of osu!' in the Google search box and, low and behold, the first webpage that I found was a page for Kyokushin karate explaining what 'osu!' means...in karate terms. Needless to say, my interest-meter went up about thirty notches. Here's what I found out.
Apparently 'osu!' is more than a kiai. Much more. The website's author first explains the practical uses of 'osu!' while in class:
["...in Kyokushin, every single question is answered with 'osu'. Every greeting is osu...when performing basics in class, every technique is often accompanied by a loud 'osu!'. When practicing free sparring and your opponent lands a good, solid technique, you say 'osu' to acknowledge their skill. As a measure of respect, knockdown fighters at a tournament bow and say 'osu' to the front, to the refferee, and to each other, before and after the fight..."]So, 'osu!' is used in greeting and in parting, in reverence and encouragement, as a kiai, as a way of saying, "I understand", and in every positive demonstration of the indomitable spirit. Wow. That's a lot of meaning to place on one word!
And if that weren't enough, the writer goes on to explain the spiritual meaning of 'osu!', of which I will paraphrase in order to keep from quoting the entire webpage.
Basically, 'Osu!' is THE word to represent and explain, in very short terms, every facet of the indomitable spirit. The word itself is made up of the Japanese words 'oshi', which means 'push' and 'shinobu', which means 'endure'. According to the writer, 'osu' means, ["...patience, determination, appreciation, respect, and perseverance."].
'Osu' means pushing through the pain. It means giving everything you have, and then giving just a little bit more. It means bettering yourself by searching for the deeper meaning of martial arts; in matters of both technique and spirit. It means finding the courage to get back up after you've been thrown, and finding the courage to land a good hit in sparring instead of running away.
My sister once asked me, "Gosh, Becky! Is everything about martial arts?!" I told her that no, not everything is about martial arts...but martial arts is about everything. 'Osu' is too, I think.
If you really look hard, you will find that any lesson which can be learned, can be learned on the mat. Of course, that's a very in-your-face and straightforward way of learning, but while a good reverse-punch is thrown with strength and power, it is equally thrown with control and grace. It's powerful but gentle at the same time.
'Osu' means that the phrase, "Perhaps I will get there someday..." becomes, "I will get there in time." The words, "I can't" become "I will".
'Osu' is martial arts. It is a one-word description of everything that martial arts is.
Finding my inner "osu" will definitely be a journey.