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.

Why can’t I grade?

by Glen Smith


Over more than two decades of instructing Shukokai Karate in Hervey Bay Queensland; perhaps the most asked question put to me over those many years would have to be:

“why can’t I grade”

Quite often students are disappointed when not selected to grade at a particular grading and indeed, in some instances, that disappointment has been so great that students have decided it’s all too hard and they end up either; training on a less regular basis, training with less enthusiasm, not looking to improve skills or take on board instruction, they treat fellow “grading” students with envy, and, in some instances; leaving karate is the preferred option to resolving that initial disappointment.

From my perspective these types of reactions are clear reinforcement that the student is not ready to progress to the next level and therefore the decision not to grade is appropriate.  I base this view on the following thought.

Each step of any traditional Karate grading syllabus is not just designed to ensure that students can perform certain techniques, if we were to adopt such an approach to advancement within traditional Karate that would, in my opinion, greatly reduce the value of the grading process.

Over the years my approach has been to assess each student throughout each class they attend looking at the student’s progress on the following fronts:

  1. Effort,
  2. Patience,
  3. Temperance,
  4. Respect, and;
  5. Creativity

Naturally the higher a student is graded, the harder it is for that student to move onto the next level with each grading level requiring an improvement on the above points, coupled with the need to ensure that the application of acquired skills is also progressing in line with the grading requirements.

Students not selected to grade must ignore what others are doing and take a moment to look closely at what THEY are doing.  The proceeding months to the next grading should be viewed as a window of opportunity for the student to reflect on past efforts and attainments and then to concentrate on ALL of the aspects of their next grading level.

In essence being invited to grade and then to attend a grading is NOT a student’s right but a return given to students who have appropriately applied themselves in accordance with instruction.

Some advice I provide to all of my students:

If given a Grading Invitation;

  • Decide if you want to grade, remember this is only an invitation; you do not have to accept the invitation if you are unable to grade.
  •  Students are NOT permitted to grade unless they; return this acceptance note with your full payment and Student Handbook (if applicable), BY THE DUE DATE,   
  •  Train regularly with the intent of wanting to improve your karate so that you will grade well, and,
  •  Turn up on time to the grading.

Special note from Soke;

The awarding of a graded belt has always solely rested with myself, not just as a mark of individual achievement for students but as my personal endowment. All students are made aware that as well as having the right to present a belt to a student, I also reserve the right to request a belt be returned to me should circumstances warrant it.

My best wishes for all of your Karateka efforts, OSU.



by Glen Smith, Bubishi Martial Arts