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June 5, 2023

Putting the “OSS” in Glossary

Sarah Maureen

Putting the “OSS” in Glossary

Editor’s note: Easton Training Center and its leadership place a large emphasis on the power of reading as a necessary part of any growth journey. In addition to our Easton reading list, we’ll be sharing other books which have helped our students and coaches grow, succeed, and improve their relationships with themselves and with others.

A man grew up obsessed with combat. For the first few decades of his life he focused almost exclusively on becoming as deadly as possible. He killed people. He didn’t wash himself. He didn’t brush his hair. He spent his life alone.

He walled himself off from society and wrote a book coaching others how to develop the mindset required to defeat anyone with as little stress as possible.

This may not sound like the bio of a man you’d seek out for life advice. Yet this, in unapologetic language, describes Miyamoto Musashi’s life in a way that’s consistent with his own account.

It’s always useful to receive the thoughts and advice of another person from their lens, even if only to know where you stand with it as you contemplate why parts intrigue or upset you.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

Image: Forrest Bishop.

Miyamoto Musashi began writing The Book of Five Rings in 1643, and readers continue to uphold this book as an essential reference guide for life even centuries later. Musashi was a lifelong martial artist who dedicated his life to the science of war strategy. Maybe that’s exactly why he was so undeniably successful at developing doctrine that has spoken to so many about the path to self-mastery.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. – Laozi

In his 50s, he began to contemplate martial arts through what could be described as a Zen Buddhist lens — though I suspect he’d reject the suggestion of an external philosophy. The Musashi’s message states we’re all on our own paths. While they may run parallel with others at some points and in some spaces, they must be regarded and owned as individual.

One line from Musashi’s book has stayed foundational as I read it:

“Study this book; read a word then ponder on it. If you interpret the meaning loosely you will mistake the Way.”

[Resistance: Defining What Stands In The Way (Usually Us)]

The power of language

Language isn’t accidental. Our words can be powerful or confusing based on how we attend to them. By taking a closer look at the words, we can hone our ability to connect with, or understand our response to, an idea.

Here are some words we commonly hear associated with both training Jiu Jitsu and self-mastery:

Discipline: We associate this word with working hard at a worthy goal even when we don’t feel like it. Disciple – student. When we see ourselves as students of the task or of ourselves within the task, we are interested, curious and engaged. If not, we may lack motivation which in turn, might cue us to re-evaluate the goal. Is it worth our time? Would a different motive align more with our values and reality?

Motivation: When we are not motivated, it feels like we’re coming up short. Motive-ation. Instead of feeling like we aren’t enough, perhaps we can examine our motive. We know we need to complete a task – but if our “why” isn’t resonating with us, we can try out different motives. Or perhaps when we look at the motive, we find the whole goal may not actually align with our values.

Responsible: We have a sense of duty to uphold something. Respond-able. We must have the ability to respond to needs rather than purely react. By honoring responsibility, we make it our duty to stay present in a situation. We respond to current conditions as they unfold and make decisions or take action.

Reactive: Re-act; acting to the same or similar situation in a way that we previously learned. If that reaction is effective, great! If not, the word can feel negative. We drill good technique in Jiu Jitsu to build muscle memory. This allows for certain movements to become so ingrained that they’re reactive, and it frees up our minds to focus on other complexities. If we drill in a way that’s unhelpful, we build bad habits or unhelpful reactions.

Sacrifice: To make sacred. Sacred means dedicated for service or worship. Are we dedicating our time and energy to things that align with our values and keep us healthy? Did we sacrifice a good position for a risky submission attempt? Did we sacrifice our desire for that mid-afternoon treat to allow ourselves to train in the evening without a full stomach?

Attrition: To rub against, to wear down. Spending time and energy on something until it breaks. It also makes a useful concept for overcoming obstacles, like how we may tire out an opponent in Jiu Jitsu. Religion utilizes this word to indicate struggle caused by acting out of motive to serve something other than a love of God or higher purpose. In a more secular context, sacrificing time and energy on unproductive causes can be exhausting and unhealthy.

Surrender: Giving up. This can sound negative if we give up to something or someone. However, it is also represent a positive movement upward – a shift of our motives from self-serving to focused on a higher purpose. We can also focus on surrendering those things that aren’t productive or healthy for us. Let them go. When caught in a submission, surrendering our ego can allow us to learn from it. What can we learn from that tap?

Oss: I saved this Japanese word, popular in martial arts, for a reason. It does not have a clear meaning or a known definite origin. This brings me back to the thought: our words can be powerful or confusing based on how we attend to them. Used with different inflections on the mat, the word can mean different things. Some helpful origin stories for the word:

  1. Abbreviation for Osu no Seishin which roughly translates to “persevere” or “endure.”
  2. A casual abbreviation for Ohago Gozaimasu, “good morning.” Maybe after a humbling Jiu Jitsu class checks our ego, we can move forward and restart the day.
  3. Abbreviation for Onegaishimasu which translates to “it’s been my pleasure” or “thank you for the pleasure.” This feels similar to how we use the fist bump when we line up at the end of class but with a reverent weight to it.

Respect! Word! That’s what’s up!

My definition: I see you and I’m here for it, and thanks for seeing me and being here, and let’s give some respect for what just happened.

Image: Forrest Bishop.

The study of words

Exercises in etymology, the study of the origin of words, can become a bit of a rabbit hole. Musashi knew that by examining the words we read and use, we can reflect on our perspective and turn things around in a way that adds to our understanding of ourselves and the world.

If helpful, we can flip the script; challenge our initial understanding and unveil our own lenses by rooting in the origin of language used.

In fact, this may be why Musashi, in isolation after a lifetime of fighting, came to write this book that so many still hold sacred.

We don’t always battle others in the field; often the opponent sits deep within ourselves. Reading The Book of Five Rings with that in mind, the advice hits in an entirely different way.

Finally facing himself as his own opponent after a lifetime of battling others gave Miyamoto Musashi an invaluable perspective that he memorialized by writing this book. Oss.

Image: Greg Streech.

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