What is "Osu" – short for "Osae Shinobu" and what does this mean:

OSU! You might have heard or even said it yourself, but do you know its origin, or that it is an abbreviation; chances are, probably not.

The word "osu" of Japanese origin has become an almost vernacular word in the world of Karate, understood and exchanged between numerous practitioners of many nationalities, not only on the occasion of everyday greetings but also in place of expression such as "Thank you", "Glad to meet you", "Good-bye", "Understood" and "I understand".

The OSU, a phonetic transcription, is in fact, written with two Chinese characters. The first character (Osae) meaning literally, "pushing", symbolizing the fighting spirit, the importance of effort, and facing all obstacles, pushing them away, with a positive and unchanging attitude (FudoShin). The second (Shinobu) meaning literally, "suffering", expresses the courage and spirit of perseverance; suffering pains and resisting depression with patience and without giving up, always keeping spirits high.

The Karateka must strive to possess these physical and moral qualities which enable him/her to face any ordeal. However, this "spirit of Osu" can only be maintained and developed with persistent daily effort. The key word "OSU" is used in order to encourage the karateka to make a resolution, to convey it to each other and to encourage each other along the path of Karate do. It is used as a word of many meanings, expressing the willingness to strive against all odds, to persevere on the road to physical, mental and spiritual strength, an expression of respect of ones seniors and responsibility to ones juniors. In GoJu Ryu Karate do, instead of OSU, practitioners have maintained the most formal or most polite greetings of Onegai Shimasu and Domo Arigato Gozaimashita. Some believe that this is over kill if used outside of a dojo or when meeting the Emperor of Japan.

Most Formal/polite - Domo Arigato Gozaimashita
Less formal/polite - Arigato Gozaimashita
Even less formal/polite - Arigato