by Glen Smith

People who study Karate can often be heard saying the word OSU. Sometimes they will say it in a normal speaking voice, but just as often, they will loudly shout this word, which can substitute for “hello”, “good bye”, “yes”, “okay”, or “I understand.” No matter how or when it is said, however, OSU reaffirms one of the most important lessons of Karate.

The first character, O, means to push, and symbolizes one hundred percent effort. The second Character, SU, means to endure. Combined, OSU, is a pledge to do one’s very best and to endure. However, SU by itself can also mean “to be silent,” and the character is made up of one of the radicals meaning “blade” and “heart.” The Japanese idea of endurance, therefore, encompasses being silent, even if your heart is cut with a blade.

It is very natural for people to seek positive reinforcement in return for their efforts. This is the very principal by which our society operates, after all. Professionals are paid for their work. Teachers reward hard-working students with high marks. Parents pay children compliments for their efforts.

But Karate is a discipline which involves a great deal of self-reflection.  And; self-reflection is more concerned with irrefutable truths than with rewards.

Unfortunately, there are some Karate students who pretend to work hard only when they believe their instructor is watching. These types of students devote more energy toward attracting their teacher’s attention than to learning Karate. In other words, their efforts are not “silent.”

What these students do not realise is that they are in class to learn Karate, not to impress the teacher. And how much they learn depends solely on how hard they work. If they give their best efforts only when the instructor is watching and are lazy the rest of the time, this will inevitably be reflected in their technique.

On the other hand, true Karate masters are usually humble and reserved. They realize their expertise in Karate and the amount of effort they have devoted to it are irrefutable, independent of the recognition of others. After all, a flower blossoming deep in a secluded forest is no less beautiful than one growing in a garden where everyone can see. In fact many great Karate masters have spent time training on scheduled mountains in Japan, where they had to continually challenge themselves to work hard even though there was no one there to provide encouragement or reinforcement.

Each time you say OSU during Karate class, remember that is a pledge to work hard and to endure. If you can say it honestly and with pride each time, you can be confident you are doing well.

My very best wishes for your Karate endeavors!


Source: Original author “unknown” – provided by SOKE; Bubishi Martial Arts in hope for a better karateka future.

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