Saturday, October 10, 2009

The words we use....Our gangwords

As of this morning, I'm putting myself on the injured list for awhile and staying off the floor. Just too much recurring back pain. Since routine classes have been leaving by back in agony, I think I'll cool it for a few weeks. Sadly, no bugo for me today.
Vince Pratico

While I was NOT in class this morning, one of the instructors said he spent some time reading this blog and noted some questions that I had asked (he must have been reading some
old posts) and some errors on how I'm writing the words. I'm grateful that he took the time to help. Thanks Mr. Vince (now the Sensei of Five Rings Elite Martial Arts Academy in Plantation Florida, this update in July 2014).

jonathan weeks
Jonathan Weeks Visiting
Vkidz World HQ
It's Three Set Kumite (not kuma tai as I've long had listed on the left menu bar) . Oops, I'll fix it soon. Thanks for the correction. He also told me that all of our words are Japanese in origin, not Chinese or Korean.
On another note, Jonathan Weeks explained to me the spelling and background of the standard greeting that we use in the dojo: "Ous" (which is how it is said) is really spelled OSU. While the definition/origin is actually unknown, "OSU" typically means "YES"!! Or "ALRIGHT" and/or "YOU-ROCK" amongst our Martial Arts "home-ies". It is most appropriately used ONLY by those practicing in the arenas of Karate or MMA. Kinda like a "gang-word" that only the gang can understand.

Update from July 2014: I just read a great article by a self-proclaimed "karate nerd" and "handsome elite athlete" (I'm directly quoting him, I personally have no oinion as to his handsomeness, athleticism, or intellectual obsessions) about the term OSU and how it shouldn't and should be used:


Josie said...

Ah yes, the old linguistics game. I completely understand you on that one. Imagine what it was like for me- having learned the Japanese language before I started karate! There were words spelled wrong in the manual, words terribly mispronounced to the point of nonrecognition, and words that were incredibly archaic compared to colloquial speech. The "osu" reminds me of one of my students, whom after 6 years, I finally had to tell him "It's 'osu', not 'ice'!

I try to refrain from being the language police, but I believe language is very important for helping us study the art. And while nobody has to be fluent per se, an attempt at correct pronunciation is not such a bad thing.

Nice blog. Regards :)

KarateBob said...

Did you have any running or fitness requirements for your Black Belt Test? Does it depend on your age? For example younger kids have somewhat easier requirements than adults?

BBat50 said...

The requirements for our junior and adult belt levels including black belt are pretty much identical. (There's a little kids program that's different).

Our black belt requirement is a combination of fitness (under 16 minute two mile run, 125 push ups & sit ups in batches of 25); attitude and attendance; and skills with kata and bugo.

My impression is that they are more demanding of the teenagers.

Karen Newcombe said...

Here are a few more observations on our "lingo":

I frequently watch old samurai movies on Saturday morning before bugo - it's "Samurai Saturday" on the IFC channel (International Film Channel). I have often seen the characters in these (usually) old black and white films from Japan saying "Osu!" to each other.

Also, in Hiyao Miyazaki's recently released animated film "Ponyo", there is a scene of people rowing around in boats after a flood. In one of the boats in the background the men are rowing in time and yelling "Osu! Osu!"

I continue to enjoy your blog!

-Karen Newcombe

BBat50 said...

Karen. Thanks. I'll set my DVR to record and have some more martial arts to watch just in case I ever get bored of watching my huge supply of UFC Unleashed. It's the only TV I watch these days.

One one term that eludes me and annoys me the most is Kewsahl. We use it in bookset and while I've asked around, I've never found anyone who could spell it or found any other reference to it online.

But, this morning, Kyoshi was talking to the Candidate Class and mentioned Kewsahl is both a hand position and a breathing technique. We use it in bookset kata. It's derivative of...and the name now escapes me...a Chinese boxing or martial art discipline... I'll chase it down.

BTW - This was my first class in 8 days. I felt great going in. My back hurt a lot by the end. Durn.

BBat50 said...

I just read a great article by a self-proclaimed "karate nerd" and "handsome elite athlete" (I'm just quoting him) about the term OSU and how it shouldn't and should be used:

BBat50 said...

I love a good workout. Physical or otherwise. I just revisited the Karate Nerd's, KaratebyJesse, blog article on the term "Osu". It's inspired a long chain of interesting comments. I took a look and had a little mental writing work-out adding my own.

I thought I'd repeat it here:

I don’t believe that people should be responsible for the hidden historical overtones of a word. Example:

“Goodbye” -- I believe that it derived from “God be with you.” This is the historical hidden implication of the word. As an atheist, should I avoid the term and take umbrage when my well-meaning friends mark by departure with a well-intentioned: “Goodbye”? I don’t think so.

But, as a contrasting example which illustrates another point. There are terms in our language which convey current significant biases and these should be avoided at all costs. For instance, “boy” used the wrong way. And terms like, “run like a girl” or you “hit like a girl.”

BTW, I love the way this has become a bumper sticker using irony to make a point. The best clarification of the put-down inherent in the term is:
(if you haven’t seen it, watch it).

So I'm saying that there are terms that we are using which reinforce some very negative stereotypes. These we should seek to identify, understand, and purge from our daily use. But in contrast, the historical context and issues in a term like "Osu" are so obscure that no harm is done by using them in the US.

Jesse, Thanks for the well researched historical and cultural insight into the term. Of course, in some places in the world, be careful of its use. But for those of us who have enormously enjoyed and benefited from training in American karate schools, derivative of foreign martial art schools, I don’t think we need to shoulder any social responsibility for the somewhat minor affectation of using a few foreign terms as our "gangwords."

I would like, as long as some of you are willing to engage in a nerdy discussion of the implications of language and hidden overtones, to raise the question of throwing around the word “McDojo.”
I mean, in a discussion on the implications of language, seriously? Aren’t you being a lot more overtly “judgy” in the use of that term than the innocuous “Osu”?

Respectfully but with perhaps my tongue in cheek,
John --- a Black Belt at 50