2014: My Karate Year in Review

2015 is almost here.

I’m stoked!

With a new year comes new possibilities for growth in Karate & life.

But in order to make the next year fantastic, it’s important to look back and learn from the current year.

“If you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

– George Santayana


Today I’d like to start a new annual tradition by reviewing the year.

“What went well? What did I learn? What can I improve for next year?”

These are the questions I ask myself, as I look back on my 2014.

I encourage you to do the same!

(Share your 2014 review in the comment section.)

Here we go:

2014: Year of the Horse

(Yup, it’s the year of the freakin’ horse. I was hoping for tiger, dragon, shark or something cool!)

The year started off with a surprise.

After being in the national team for many years, I was suddenly “cut off”. The reason was that, apparently, some people want to hear lies when they ask for the truth.

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I laughed because the certificate said “Mokwunye Hezekiah”.


Too bad they asked me. 

Although I didn’t get invited to national team training camps or tournaments anymore, I kept training hard and traveling alone. I placed first at Swedish Open, Banzai Cup (in Berlin) and the national championship.

Eventually, the old coach got replaced with a new one, and now I’m back.

Sometimes, not getting what you want can be a great motivation!

Then, as spring arrived, I had a wild idea:

Is it possible to create the best Karate seminar experience ever?

I wanted to gather a small group of likeminded Karate Nerds for an epic weekend of world-class Karate.

After months of planning, the result was KNX14.

The Karate Nerd Experience 2014.

Fans from 20+ countries came. We trained hard. We wore pink belts. We took the world’s fastest group photo. We shared knowledge. We danced ballet. We got bruises.

But above all, we had SUPER FUN & made new friends for life.

Teaching kata “Pachu” (Ryuei-ryu) at KNX14 – train smart, not just hard.

What a success!

Next year’s edition (more info coming 1st quarter 2015) will be even better, because I learned TONS OF SECRETS from this experience.

Here’s a cool video.

Funnily enough, after KNX14 I got many emails from people who wanted to buy/license “the KNX brand” and host their own versions in different countries.

Sadly, I had to turn down all offers because none of them understood the concept.

Speaking of KNX14, I also met sensei Shai Hai from Israel that weekend. He was the “secret sensei”. Although we’d never met before, it felt like we’d known each other for years. (Here’s a pic after he spanked me). I’m glad to have his friendship & mentoring.

He has the Okinawan spirit.

As mid-spring came around, I had the pleasure of training privately with sensei Inoue Yoshimi, the #1 coach in the Karate world.

What an incredible old man.

I still think daily about his teachings. Here’s the viral article I wrote, which was eventually picked up & published in a regional Karate magazine by the German Karate Federation. Thanks to Yrsa Lindqvist, Finnish Karate Federation, for the support.

My BJ Penn shorts. It wasn’t that bad!

Shortly after, summer came.

With a bang!

After practicing MMA exactly one time (video on my instagram), I decided to enter the cage and get my a** kicked.

Full contact – against a tattooed beast twice my height.

The fight was fun, and I wasn’t afraid or nervous a bit. I enjoyed the challenge!

Sadly, it ended abruptly when I got cut above the eye, probably due to an illegal elbow. Luckily, I managed to plant a fat head kick just before the doctor stopped me!

Cool memory for sure, and chicks digged the scar.

Here’s the article I wrote.

Thereafter, I flew to Italy to attend a summer camp hosted by Dr. Lucio Maurino (one of the instructors at KNX14) together with his top sport scientist friends.

I learned high-level teaching methods and pedagogy during this week, and late night discussions with sensei Maurino reinforced deep principles of immense value in me. We also took cool pictures. I’m grateful for his continued friendship & mentoring.

Then, after many years without visiting Okinawa (I used to live there back in 2009), I just HAD to go back. The nostalgia was unbearable!

So, 5 days after finishing KNX14, I jumped on a plane & headed for Oki.

During this month I made a lot of new Okinawan friends, like sensei Scot Mertz. He’s a huge Karate Nerd™ who took me to lots of places and masters. I’m happy to have such nice friends who constantly expose me to new opportunities and challenges.

Like they say in business; “your network is your net worth”.

The same goes for Karate.

Shortly before I flew home, I was also interviewed on NHK Japanese television. That was fun! Big thanks to James-san, owner of the world-famous DOJO Bar, for hooking me up & supporting my work.

I also learned a new kata during this time: Tomari Chinto. It’s insane!

TV interview in Naha, Okinawa.

By the way, during my Okinawa trip I randomly discovered something crazy: People like when I put pics of myself on social media.

Apparently, “the messenger” is as interesting as “the message”.

So, I changed my social media approach and uploaded more behind-the-scenes pics. 

My social media following quickly grew to 13,859 fans on Facebook, 4,020 on Twitter and 15,901 on Youtube.

Who would have known?

When I came home from Okinawa, it was time for a huge moment for me; the launch of Seishin.

After developing the gi for almost 3 years, it was time to let the world know that the “Karate uniform market” (writing that word makes me cringe) is fundamentally flawed and totally disconnected from the true spirit of Karate (“Seishin” is Japanese for “Spirit”).

The problem lies in the fact that the Karate world is being ruled by greedy gatekeepers, not passionate Karate enthusiasts, like you and me.

Seishin changes that

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Seishin in Bremen. I love my job!

The movement is growing quickly, with distributors in Canada and North America already – and the gi is used by instructors, masters, athletes and “regular” Karate fans all over the world.

Launching Seishin taught me TONS about entrepreneurship.

Starting a company is basically like jumping out of an airplane and figuring out how to assemble your parachute on the way down.

Luckily, I enjoy challenges.

The act of overcoming struggle makes life seem more meaningful and important.

My favorite part about the Seishin launch was when we went to the WKF World Karate Championship in Bremen (see pics here), to meet fans and athletes.

Thanks guys – that was fun!

A few weeks later, I conducted my first dojo seminar of the fall.

It was a big camp together with the renshi J. Backteman, 6 dan shito-ryu & former national team trainer. I think it was the best seminar I’ve ever held on the topic of applied biomechanics for optimizing Karate performance. I wish I’d filmed it!

Thanks to everyone who already booked me for seminars next year.

Looking forward to the UK especially!

By the way, somewhere around this time I saw the Lego movie. It. Blew. My. Mind.

Teaching seminar in my dojo, Sweden.

Seriously. Watch it!

While I’m off topic, I might also mention that my habit of eating Questbars was turning into a minor addiction here. They work so well with my bulletproof coffee!


Mid-fall, I flew to a seminar with sensei Yukimitsu Hasegawa (here’s our interview).

This time, I was invited as a guest.

It was a great experience.

Not only because we ate the world’s best gelato and danced salsa, but because sensei Hasegawa is a brilliant mover with great character, and, despite his numerous world titles, he has an incredible thirst for constantly learning and improving. Here’s a video of him teaching kids.

I’m grateful for Yukimitsu Hasegawa’s feedback, friendship and supportHe inspires me. Thanks to Sportivart for the hospitality!

After this period, things calmed down a bit.

That was nice.

The intensely extrovert nature of my numerous projects, seminars and events had left me feeling unfulfilled or anxious at times during the year. I needed some quiet moments for reading, writing and reflecting. I had tons of books unread!

When I stop reading, I stop having ideas.

To me, breaks of solitude are energizing and essential.

Lastly, I want to mention something that made me proud recently:

For the past year, I’ve been been working privately with a few students who want to become better at “competition kata”. As you know, Karate is not a sport for me, but I enjoy the challenge of helping others who want to improve. These youngsters recently changed style, so we’ve been working hard on technique, fine-tuning many details.

Guess what?

Two weeks ago, at their FIRST national championships ever, both of my students kicked everyone’s butt and went to the final – against each other!

That was almost more exciting than my own gold!

National championship finalists! Coincidence? I think not… 🙂

The story was later picked up by the local newspaper.

And that brings us to today.

During the year, I’ve also written many articles here on KARATEbyJesse.com.

In 2014 my website visits went up to three and a half million hits (3,444,775), with 28,674 visits on the busiest day. I actually had to upgrade my server because KbJ grew so much in popularity this year. Wow!

Thanks for reading & sharing my articles – your support means a LOT to me!

Here’s some of what I wrote:

The Best KbJ Blog Posts of 2014

And that’s it.karatebyjesse-dot-com

Thank you making my year so incredible!

2015 will be bigger & better. I’m thinking about writing a new book, or maybe doing a podcast or vlog. Thoughts?

How was your 2014?

Leave a comment! ; -)


  • Nicole Siaw
    This year is the year of the horse. Last year was the snake, and the year before that was the dragon. I didn't know you were interested in Chinese horoscopes! :D
  • What a year, well done for inspiring and teaching so many of us from afar! Best wishes from Dubai for 2015 :-)
  • Jesse-san. Great article. It was really nice to see your accomplishments from the past year, and I'm sure that once you saw all that you did, you were probably pretty amazed that you fit it all into a single year. I know I am :) I have been a reader of KbJ for a long time now, and it has been so amazing watching the site (and YouTube channel, and Twitter stream, and Facebook page, and Instragram profile) grow in popularity, and I look forward to seeing things continue to grow in the near future. I want to thank you, Jesse, for being a positive influence in my karate training, and the training of so many others around the world. You have helped bring clarity to topics, and words of wisdom from people far outside of the normal students network, and that has only improved them as a student, and leaves them wanting more. I will forever be a fan, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet you someday. Arigatou gozaimasu Jesse-san. Happy Holidays, and I wish you all the best in 2015.
    • Thanks a lot Terry-san, I appreciate your comment and encouragement! Makes me glad to hear :-) Keep keepin' it real amigo!
  • Awesome. Freakin' awesome. Continued blessings and prosperity to you, sir!
    • Likewise, Ando-san! Thanks for your support & keep blogging!
  • Osu! [bow] What a freakin' awesome year you had! My accomplishments are far more humble. I've posted them on my blog because I wrote a ton. http://abeginnersjourney.bloggersonline.com/?p=258 I've really enjoyed reading your blog and someday I'd absolutely love to attend a Karate Nerd Experience. Rock on! [bow]
    • Thanks KarateMama-san! Good idea with the blog link. Hope to see you at a future KNX! :-)
  • Mark Z
    Really a great article. I have to admit your 2014 was full of awesome moments. I joined the site this year and read a lot of your articles. I hope that your good work will continue in 2015! Greetings from Germany Mark
  • Big congrats Jesse-san on a very successful year! Here's hoping for many more. Happy Christmas and New Year to you. Brad
  • Rach
    I started karate in March this year. Why? No idea. It was the best decision my husband made for me. He'd decided our son should go and I thought that would be good based on the little I knew of it I thought it would help him with respect / discipline etc. I took Mr 5 to his second class and the Sensei asked if I would like to join in. Partly out of interest, partly out of wanting to demonstrate to my son good intentions but mostly because when an authoritative 6 foot 4 bloke with a black belt asks you to do something you kind of feel you probably should (yes I was a bit scared). Since then I have never looked back. I went pretty quickly from just going for the fist session (one hour of warm ups / kihon) to 2 sessions (next in sparring / kumite drills and kumite and kata / bunkai) to 3 (extra practice for the dedicated few) religiously every Sunday morning. It became my favourite time in the week. In about July / August I started attending an affiliated dojo an hours drive away initially to meet some other people training (albeit a different style - I had only just worked out what style was even about) ahead of a visiting 6th Degree Black belt coming to give us some seminars. I attended the kata seminar there which was awesome.....especially since he taught (by bunkai mostly and breaking it down) Kararunfa.....to a white belt who had barely started sanchin dai ichi this was mindblowing. I can't say I can execute the kata but at least I can recognise it and the bunkai!! I kept attending classes there at least weekly after since I had made some friends there and there were a lot of dan ranks that were helping me learn more and more (even if all the kata were different!!). It was from this point I really started taking things more seriously, reading a lot of books / thinking about various concepts etc. In September my Sensei (who was less scary now) suggested I go for my first grading. I worked hard and achieved 10th Kyu. It was a proud moment for me to get some colour. My son also got his yellow (probational / junior). Shortly after that we practiced hard for a tournament which occurred just before a significant birthday for me. I entered everything I could which meant me learning more kata and bunkai and working hard on kumite. In the end I placed 2nd in Kata, 3rd in team kata and 3rd in kumite (the bunkai wasn't scored as they were trialling a new event). I thought that was it for the year and I could just keep working on basics for a bit but 2 weeks ago Sensei suggested I should grade again (another kata to polish) so that is what I will be doing on Sunday!! I have been working really hard so hopefully it will go ok. The last week of training (both clubs) should be fun and quite social with the final training for the year on the beach! Looking back on my year in general I would have to say that karate has influenced my whole outlook. I am a whole lot happier, more focussed and have a lot more confidence (I am not even scared of my Sensei - in fact I would consider we are friends; our sons are friends too as well as training partners). I find myself surrounded by a group of interesting and supportive people who share a love of karate and a general love of life I suspect (probably inter-related).
    • @Rach - You rock! We have similar stories, except I trained as a teenager and only recently got back on the mats :-) Click on the picture of my smiling mug for my blog - and you should start a blog too :-) Happy training!!!
      • Rach
        Thanks. I have often thought of starting a blog but am too busy living. Let me know if you have Facebook though as that is my compromise. I like to post about healthy lifestyle and karate and life with little ones. Your blog looks great. I will be following it.
        • @Rach - thanks for the compliments! I hear you about busy :-) So sorry, I don't have Facebook. Thanks for following my blog :-)
  • James Coulter
    Congratulations on a very successful year, Jesse-san. You deserve it for all your hard work and dedication. Your past year shows that perseverance leads to success. This year was a milestone in my own karate journey and is also a lesson in perseverance. After 31 years, I finally reached shodan. I started karate at the age of 15, but stopped when I went to university. Years later I started again but an injury forced me to stop. I started again 4 years ago and now here I am, a shodan at the age of 46. I look forward to following your journey in 2015. God Jul till dig!
    • Thanks James-san, I appreciate it! Have a kick-ass 2015! :-)
  • Henry Bergen
    Thank-you for sharing your exciting highlights for 2014 Jesse-san. They are both awesome and inspiring! Happy New Year and I wish you all the Best in 2015!
  • Henry Jones
    I will tell you, you Rock. Thank you for leaping out and bringing Karate to the four front. I have studied Isshinryu Karate for the last 29 years. I started with one of the 3 Main Marines that brought it over, Harold Long. He was among the group I believe, that held one of the first tournaments in the US and along with himself and Joon Rhee and many others came up with the rules for Kumite today. While studying under a Marine was challenging, he was what I needed at that age and I am grateful he came along when he did. I have had the opportunity to study under Greats in the Isshinryu System and look forward to many others. What you have done is awesome.. I hope you keep it up because your attitude and energy for the Martial Arts is infectious. Don't stop keep going. Thanks for all you do and Happy New Year
  • All the best for the new year Jesse. I think the podcast idea is great! Go for it! Oss Si
  • Shpend
    Hi Jesse, I knew you had a very busy year but I had no idea it was that busy! You have achieved and done so many great things this year. Well done and keep up the good work. During this year I started reading your blog and became hooked. I realised that I was a karate nerd! Reading your articles I decided to change my karate club (after two and a half years) and enjoyed every minute of it. In December I graded for the first time in the new club. I also made one of the most difficult decisions of my life to quit my job of 12 years! I hope I've made a good decision; we'll see in the new year. Happy new year and all the best. P. S. Try posting some videos of kata bunkai.
  • Re: Shpend Bunkai! Bunkai! Bunkai! Bunkai! Oh pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease can we see videos of bunkai? (I love bunkai - can't you tell?)
    • Rach
      lol....yes....me too
  • joanna
    So,truthfully,how do you feel about someone who started karate in their upper 40's who is desperately striving for a black belt now that they are in their 50's and not necessarily in top medical condition? If someone starting older will never have the physicality of a teen or twenty something,is the Black Belt they are working towards the same as the Black Belt the young person gets? If their body doesn't work the same as a young person,does it still count as a real Black Belt? I am a Brown Belt working so very hard to achieve Black but worry that my body doesn't move quite like the youngsters. I WILL achieve it but I really want someones opinion if it means the same for someone my age. Does that make sense?
    • KarateMama
      @joanna I'll be in your shoes in about 10 years. I was wondering the same thing, but I recently saw a gentleman who's probably in his 70's promote to black. No, some things didn't look the same as his younger peers. But I saw in kumite (I think he fought three or four black belts) that he knows how to compensate for whatever rebellious things his body wants to do. I'm only a beginner and I saw all that in the new Sensei, so I'm sure your own Senseis can fill you in on more details about what they expect from you. I also saw a young guy give a demonstration of application of techniques with a partner - there was some sort of medical issue, so this demonstration was accepted in lieu of kumite. Hope this helps!
    • Rach
      following this with interest. I started at 39 and am 9th kyu (have graded twice since starting March last year). I hope to continue. I am in reasonable shape but don't heal as well as the teens I train with. I am aiming high although ultimately it's about just doing it for me.
  • joanna
    Thanks for responding Rach.I am 54 now with a brown belt. Since having a lung tumor removed my body is no longer capable of what it used to be. I am working very hard to get closer to my black belt,and my Sensei feels that I will definitely do it if I keep working as hard as I can.He has made some adjustments to how he instructs me since things don't move like they once did.What I want to know is how a student's perspective is if they are not learning EXACTLY how the other students are. Does the belt still count for the same thing or does some of it feel like a free ride. Is it still a real black belt?
  • Shpend
    Hi Joanna, I don't think you should worry too much about that. Becoming a black belt is all about your attitude and not about a piece of cloth around your waist! As long as you train hard every day and you become a humble person, I think everyone would regard you as black belt (regardless of what belt you are actually wearing). So, train hard, listen to your sensei and don't worry about your belt colour. Best regards Shpend
  • joanna
    Thank you so very much!!
  • I think you are doing okay. Karate is really about hard work, keep on practicing and you would get that black belt.

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