The Oss-Controversy: A Reply by Michael Ehrenreich on Andreas Quast

The Starting Point of the Oss-Controversy


Ad: Okinawan Samurai: The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son translated by Andreas Quast & Naoki Motobu

Last weekend, we published the excellent article by Andreas Quast “To “Oss”, or Not to “Oss”? The Difficult History of Oss!“. It caused the Oss-Controversy. Andreas historically reconstructed in an impressive way the emergence of the term Oss. Due to his research he came to the conclusion that term has a ultra-nationalistic history and for him it is not question to use it.

Michael Ehrenreich wrote a likewise excellent and a little bit provocative comment about Andreas article and allowed us to share it with you. We wont deprive you about this fantastic dispute which – from our point of view – has long been overdue.

Michael Ehrenreich´s Answer in the Oss-Controversy

“Very interesting article. From a historic point of view. I don’t quite see the political or even ethical implication of it for me or for karate in general.

More then 70 (!) years ago the Japanese military held an important role in Japan. They had the power and set the rules. Not much different from many European powers in the past. It was at that time that the OSS movement started. We learn now from this article that they also did a lot of Kirikaeshi in kendo back then. When we skip OSS, does that mean that we also have to get rid of Kirikaeshi?

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“Oss is a Macho Thing”

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Yes, OSS is a macho thing. Always has been. Even though it’s being used by females as well. I’ve heard OSS a lot at Nittaidai, which is kind of a macho school. It came from Karateka and Kendoka of course. But also from soccer and rugby players. I don’t think any of them meant it as a political statement. (And even if, it’s their country. They should deal with their own history in their own way.) I heard it my alma mater Tsukubadai, which is a very liberal, Top 10 university. No nihonjinron here. And what’s more, it is pretty popular with the yakuza. And yes, those guys are rather nationalistic. So, it is being used by a variety of people in today’s society. Without a political statement, just because it so handy to use.

Well, how does that all affect me? Actually, not at all. See, Karate and especially the macho JKA had and still have a close affiliation with Shinto. That doesn’t mean that I need to believe in river ghosts (and mostly I don’t). But I’m still able to practice Karate. Which is actually all that I want to do: practice Karate. We use Japanese terms; count in Japanese; we love to call others (and especially ourselves) Sensei and we also use the abbreviation OSS. Like it or not. It’s about taste, NOT a political statement.

Oss in Okinawa

I’ve come across the issue OSS a few times in the past. Also in Okinawa. It was not so much the actual use of the word that people had a problem with. It was much more their dislike of the popular (at least in many western countries) and still fairly powerful JKA that led them to speak out against OSS. I always felt a little like dealing with a pubescent kid rebelling against her parents.

The True Oss-Controversy

By the way, I’m not going with OSS. Not for ethical reasons. But for the distaste I feel when I see many westerners putting more energy in yelling than effort in actual practice.

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