4 Things I Learned From Getting My A** Kicked in MMA

3 stitches.

(No, that’s not my new rap name.)

jesse-mma-blood (214x400)
It looks worse than it was. 🙂

That’s what I see in the bathroom mirror, ever since last Saturday when I decided to fight in amateur MMA.

The doc said I could remove the stitches in a week.

And then he asked me why I did it.

“Why on earth would anybody step into a cage and fight?”

I told him, because I like challenging myself.

Just as your muscles grow when you place them under stress, your mind grows when you place it under stress.

And believe me; there’s no greater stress than staring into a 6’10” tattooed baldie on the other side of a tiny cage, ready to rip you a new butthole.


As I sat there, getting my eye stitched together, my mind started racing.

Why did I fight?

What could a Karate Nerd possibly learn from fighting in MMA?

Check this out:

#1. Put Up or Shut Up


Tons of Karate people talk about MMA.

Some love it, others hate it.

But, no matter their stance on it, they all seem to have one thing in common:

They’ve NEVER tried it.

And if they have, it’s probably been a beginners class in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

They’re what Japanese masters call “kuchi-bushi” (mouth warriors).

Needless to say, in order to have some credibility when speaking about full contact martial arts in general, and MMA in particular, I believe you should actually try it.

At least once.


Do I suddenly consider myself a hardcore Mixed Martial Arts fighter?

Not really.

Do I walk around in a black Tapout t-shirt and UFC hoodie?

Definitely not.

I’m still your good ol’ Karate Nerd!

But I don’t believe you should talk the talk, unless you walk the walk.

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Makes sense?

#2. Face Your Freakin’ Fears

Call me crazy, but I have this weird philosophy:

If something scares you, it’s a hint.

A hint from Universe that you have to do something about it.

I firmly believe that your mind, body and soul grows in correlation to the volume, type and intensity of the challenges you present it with.

(In a previous post, I referred to this as The Karate Compass.)


If there is something you constantly fear, avoid or dislike, it’s a pretty strong sign that you need to DO IT.

The sooner the better.

Your fear can range from the mundane (memorizing a new kata, hurting yourself in kumite, ripping your new gi pants) to the more esoterical (never reaching your true potential, not living up to your own/sensei’s expectations, allowing the status quo to dictate your life) etc.

But, no matter what it is, your action plan remains the same:

Grab fear by the balls and squeeze until it taps out.

It’s either that, or die trying.

Either I fought in MMA, or I remained a hypocritical wuss for the rest of my life.

It’s the same reason I once competed in triathlon (without practicing a single day), or learned surfing in Hawaii (without any lessons either) or moved to Okinawa (without speaking Japanese).

The less prepared you are, the less safe it feels.

And that’s the whole point.

Don’t prepare.

Just go.

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Face your fears.

PS. Read more about fighting fear in my interview with UFC fighter Alex ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson.

#3. It’s Only Failure if You Consider it One

There’s this popular saying:

“Failure is not an option”


Failure is often the most readily available option there is.

And life, with its quirks and twists, presents us with numerous opportunities to fail each and every day.

The difference between a loser and a winner, then, is the way you respond to these inevitable opportunities for failure… or greatness.

Personally, I try to think like a scientist.

What other people call “failure” or “success” is just another data point.

Cold, hard, facts.

Either something works, or it doesn’t. There’s no need to attach overly negative or positive emotions to it.

A scientist must remain objective at all times.

“I never failed. I just found 10 000 ways that didn’t work.”

– Thomas A. Edison

You know you’re on the right path when other people are more upset by your “failures” than you are.

It’s only a failure if you consider it one.

So don’t.

#4. Hakuna Matata

Remember The Lion King?

It’s one of my favorite Disney films.

In it, you’ll hear a song with the words Hakuna matata” – a Swahili phrase that can be translated as “don’t worry, be happy”.

The song was written by Elton John, and was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1995 Academy Awards. That’s how awesome it’s message is.

Here’s the thing:

Bad things WILL happen in life.

I guarantee it.

Somebody will knee you in the liver, scratch your Lamborghini or call you ugly.

Big deal.

Once you realize how little that matters in the grand scheme of things, you suddenly start feeling happier.

The trick is to find of method of emotional detachment.

At least in my case.

The less I care about a specific outcome, the less I limit my own potential.

I’ve written about this before, yet I’m constantly relearning it. It seems to be a universal law that lessons in life will be repeated until they’re learned, doesn’t it?

In any case, it’s all about letting go of attachment.

Even the old samurai knew this:

“Those who cling to life die. Those who defy death live.”

– Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578)



And that concludes these 4 lessons I learned from getting my a** kicked in MMA.

Luckily I survived…

…so I could share this with you.

Thanks for reading! ; -)


  • Carlos
    Please post a video of the fight if you have it ! I love watching MMA but I would not jump into a cage, at least not without the safety of wkf rules! I agree with the part of " don't prepare, just go", although it is usually disruptive, it teaches you much more out of any situation.
    • Carlos-san, thanks for your comment. It's not much to see, really. The fight starts off with a side kick from me, that my opponent checks. He delivers a right cross, I duck under, spinning to his back. He turns around and I shove him to the cage. We hug for half a minute against the cage before I back up to bang. He hits me with a long uppercut as we separate, then closes the gap with a Thai clinch. We proceed by dancing in circles like two drunk polar bears for a minute or so, before I get him with a dirty uppercut, which releases his clinch enough for me to back a few steps and plant a mawashi-geri in his face. He catches my leg and we get stuck against the cage again, and somewhere around this point (1:16) he grinds his elbow against my face which opens up the cut that stops the fight. TKO to him. The End.
      • Ross
        Was he really a 6'10" bald, tattooed monstrosity or did it just feel like he was when you stepped in to the cage? :p In any case, congrats for trying to compete. Would you ever do it again? How were the nerves when you stepped in? Has this been something you've been thinking about for a while or did you just wake up one morning and go "I wanna step in and try!"?
        • Ross-san, that was exactly how he looked. Sure, I'd do it again. Maybe next year. My nerves? They're used to competing, I've participated in a few European (& World) Karate Championships before. Obviously, I was still excited! I thought about it for a month or so, but I only went to MMA class once (to try the rules and protectors). I'd like to try Thai boxing too.
          • Ihaveaquestion
            Jesse-san, I don't want to be one of those "Karate is only for the street, sport fighting is unrealistic" people, but I need to understand something. Would you say training MMA develops you into a better fighter in a physical confrontation than training traditional, Okinawan karate? Or does it not matter as long as you train well?
          • Carlos Garcia
            Jesse san. Why on earth would you start a fight throwing a side kick.That is simply a no no and a bit amateurish of your part. I know its a big guy you went up against but you should of sized things up a bit ..keeping distance etc. You must never grapple a grappler. That was your mistake on my sincere opinion. Personally as a karateka i would never throw kicks against an mma dude or on the streets . And if i did they would be below the waist..
          • Don
            I applaud your courage, Jesse. Fifty years ago a Japanese karate sensei told the class I was attending that every session should have within it an element of fear. There is an old saying that the hero and the coward both experience fear, it is how they react to it which separates them. However, I am concerned by your lack of preparation. As a much younger man, dissatisfied with the competition element of karate I took up boxing. I sought out a good club and trained for six months before my first bout. I boxed with some success in the amateur ranks and after moving country I decided I would take up kick boxing, or contact karate as it was called. Again I trained for six months before my first bout and was fortunate to spar with world and European champions. Throughout these experiences I felt not to prepare and train, for these lengths of time as diligently as I could, would do a disservice to these disciplines that were new to me. I returned to karate with a new prospective. In my seventh decade a look back fondly but there is a small part of me that wishes MMA was around in my youth. Enjoy the journey and remember fear is fleeting but satisfaction in your achievements when overcoming it will last for many years.
          • Michael Brooks
            Very interesting turn of events. It seems like you both actually were around evenly-matched, and the only reason you lost the match was due to rules. In either case, you took your defeat with massive humility and I’d love to see what would’ve happened has the fight not been stopped. I used to do MMA alongside Karate myself.
      • pj
        yet, we still want to see the video :)
        • Charles
          Yup. ^^That :)
      • Norman R. Bueno
        Great Article. Its simple truth and applicability extend way beyond the martial arts. The precepts actually are for real life, whatever it may present itself to be. Read aloud this article of yours to my teenage son, (but leaving out all the fighting or martial arts stuff) (Not that he is apathetic to them, he practices kali/escrima/arnis). He thought I was reading and quoting from a self-help book. Thank you Sempai Jesse
      • Norman R. Bueno
        ..and I am not going to delete this article from my email. Will keep it on the other hand
  • eduardo
    Awesome article Jesse, one of your best articles ever!
  • Nedim
    Well, kudos! I would be scared shitless! Not that I am afraid of coming out of my comfort zone, it's just that I'm not that good of a fighter to dare to step into a full contact cage fight. I'm also bad at wrestling, so I would be a sitting duck. Now, maybe that's the fear that I should try to break through, fear and rationalzining that you're talking about. Like moving to Okinawa without knowing the language. How to find a job, a room, for how long to stay there, where to practice and what to do? I'm sure it would be an amazing experience, and we humans are capable of making it anywhere (especially if we've made it in New York). What I want to say is, even though your experiences are a bit "extreme" and difficult to do (especially if one is caught in the web of having studied and then getting a job - the existential thing in this societal system), the sense of the set challenges is the point: everyone has to find his/her own path. My personal dream was going to China to train with the Shaolin monks and live there for a while. But as a 20-21 year old I almost gave up karate and was lost for 10 years, only practicing a few times a year, just to remember katas. 2011 was a turning point. After the World Championships 2012 I started training regularely (and following your blog), I started competing again in 2013, for the first time since a walk-over victory in team kata in 2001, so now, a year and a half after the world championships of 2012 (which I followed live online), I feel that I have come a long way, even though I will never be able to make up for lost time. I received my shodan almost a year ago, way overdo, but at least now I can say that I am diserving it every day. Or at least I'm trying. I've stepped out of my comfort zone, I like to try other karate styles but my own, I'm sometimes sparring (including wrestling) with a stronger and heavier fighter that's both a karateka and an MMA fighter, etc. Even in life outside of the dojo, meeting people and just doing different things, traveling and discovering myself through who am I in different situations... That's what karate is all about. It's life.
  • Congratulations, Jesse! Just be careful about taking too many shots to the head. Karate Nerds shouldn't drool when they speak.
  • Gilles Lavigne
    Congratulations, you have succeeded in finding out what it is to fight out of a Dojo. A Karate-Ka does not street fight (hopefully) so this is the closest to the real thing. Hats off Jesse-San.
  • Mark A
    Well done young lion. Takes real courage to step in a ring or cage and engage in full contact combat sports. I have heard karate friends and acquaintances make dismissive or even disparaging remarks about combat sports. As you pointed out, "talk is cheap; "put up or shut up." So stoked to read you say that. Because all of their stories of dojo wars and such amount to jacksh*t, and jack left town. That is, the ones that even have stories like that. Until you have to walk to the ring/cage with a bunch of people watching. Then get in with another person intent on ending your night violently, you have no clue what you are talking about. I have not fought MMA. I did do ammy PKA kickboxing in the late 80's when I was a punk kid though. And I did train hard for a considerable time in kickboxing and boxing before stepping in the ring. So, much respect for jumping in without the prep. And my experience reflects your own, in that the people talking trash do not train in mma gyms. And may have rolled a little at most. I ran into a couple of TKD guys, one gung fu guy, and one girl and guy from Aikido in the BJJ classes. None stayed long. And I saw none of them in the boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai classes.
  • Manuel
    This comes absolutely on time 'cause I started taking MMA lessons just yesterday evening! and I LOVE it! I'm still the karate guy, but it has already taught me a lot of things!
  • Chris Collins
    Thanks for sharing...but you should have already learned that lesson while in Okinawa (think "full contact" which is nonexistent. Also Gandhi slept with very young girls to "test" his ability to resist them (reports from his followers vary on whether he was successful)...at any rate it is not a wise action to follow.
  • Thanks for sharing your story, Jesse! I bet during the whole experience you never felt more alive. There's nothing like walking the talk... OSU!
  • Lucas
    i always wondered how MMA stacked up against Karate... I asked my sensei once and he laughed when i asked who would win. He stated that he is older now and could not win even with all of the training and wisdom he has been given. He said he could dance around and get some good hits in....but those men are trained to give and take blows where he is not. one of those men hits him once and he would go down and more than likely not get back up. he even went to the point that he could break an arm or a leg of the opponent and still does not feel he could win... because they are trained differently. He did say that he would never willingly get into a ring and fight... that our way is for self defense, defending the innocent... not to prove anything to others or show how strong we are or how good we are.
    • Mark A
      Well Lucas, Most of us do not do it for any of those reasons. It is about testing yourself, conquering your fear and learning to deal with the fight or flight chemicals that get dumped in your system. In my mind, all of that is very relevant to self defense.
      • Lucas
        I did not mean to imply that anyone here does these things for the reasons i mentioned. Sensei is almost 60 so his perspective may be different than yours or mine. The only reason i asked sensei the questions is that as a martial artist in his late 50's he is still scary good. I have friends that do amateur MMA that have sponsors (nothing big, and not like the ones we watch on TV) and would not hold a candle to him ... it is hard to perceive just how you need to be both mentally and physically to be able to walk into something like that and be able to walk away. And just to clarify, when he was younger he did participate in these types of matches.... but they were not the MMA we know today... in his comments he was more speaking for himself and at the present moment and with his age.
    • Brian
      Well said.
  • How important to actually practice what we preach! Bloggers write lots of things, but when it comes down to it, if we haven't experienced it, we can't understand the whole picture....so I know I'll never be writing about MMA, but I will read it from those, like you, who give it a go and share their experiences with honesty. And, I may just find one of my own fears and conquer it, thanks to your insight. Thanks Jesse!
  • Brian
    Good article with much to consider. But...like all sport martial arts, even MMA has its rules. Rules that remove much that makes karate the self defense art it is. Small joint grappling, finger strikes to the throat, putting out eyes...still, I admire you for making the effort.
  • Good...........on.............you! In this day and age of litigation and political correctness there are not many avenues left open to legitimately test yourself. And lets face it, not everyone wants to become a doorman/bouncer or cop.
  • FunaBuniYagi
    Good job sir! Has Oli shaved his head and been to a tattoo parlor recently? =b
  • Mike Addison-Saipe
    Jesse-san ! Well done! We all,at some stage,have to step up and prove ourselves. If we are genuine about our study of the martial arts. I am 58 and have trained for 51 years. In my younger days I stepped into the ring boxing,kick-boxing,and limited rules karate tournaments (as there used to be in the late 1970's and early '80's). Also went on the mat in judo competitions. It's hard. You did so well going into the cage. Maybe your byline could now be "3 stitches-Karate Nerd". We would all know who it was…Respect.
  • Danni
    Hi Jesse-San. Amazing post, I am terrified about compete in Kumite and I dislike MMA, maybe I have to try it someday. Really didn't you prepare or train to this match? You just went into the cage with your usual training? Kind greets.
  • Nic
    Hi Jesse-san! Thank you for sharing your experience! I found it really interesting because I'm constantly thinking, what it would be like. I'm practising karate my whole life and in the last few years my focus changed to a more practical, more rude approach of the fine art (which of led into harsh discussions with my shotokan collegues). Now, I guess your in good physical condition but still, the risk of getting really harmed is quite remarkable (I mean OUCH). I have my right knee operated twice and the time while I was forced to do nothing was more panefull for me than the actual hurt. Have thought about this, I mean to get really hurt? Or is just thinking about getting hurt the first step for failure (sorry, the way that it won't work). Now my knee is fine again and I can kick like a mule, but still... I have the expression, that I lost something due to my fear (somewhere in the darkest spots of my soul) So how did you handle the fear of getting really hurt? Greatings from Germany and keep going. I'm your biggest fan! Nic
  • Ian
    There is a certain mindset among those who train MMA ... a mindset of wanting to develop the skills needed to walk into the octagon and lay a better beating on the other guy than the beating he lays on you. It's kind of a prerequisite, everyone shares the same vision, and they all work toward it. Not everyone who trains karate ... even if they train well and hard ... has that mindset. I'd say most do not. There seem to be a lot of different mindsets and motivations among karateka, some of which are far more attuned to a regular dose of "rough and tumble" training and competition. Not many karateka arrive at the dojo expecting to be punched, hard, in the face a few times that evening, let alone think nothing of it. MMA, like WKF kumite, is a sport, with rules in place to protect the athletes from certain dangerous and injury-causing techniques, and to stop things before they get out of hand. Yes, there is a lot more heavy contact, and a lot more "available" techniques, in MMA, but ultimately neither is a "real fight" in the "fight for your life on the street" sense. The athletes train specifically for their sports, and the unique rules and scoring systems of those sports, for the best shot at a "win". In either sport, sport-specific preparation is essential to have a chance to do well. That said, kudos to Jesse-San and any other karateka who trains for and then steps into the octagon for a bit of heavy hitting! Yes, too much MMA is going to lead to head injury issues ... ugh!! ... but once or twice to see if you can "take it" when a guy really wallops you and keeps on coming ... well done!
    • alex
      Exactly. Rules make everything an uneven ground. Even the fictional Thunderdome was not even close to reality.
  • Peter G.N. GRIFFIN
    Konbanwa Jesse Sempai, Osu ! I pray my personal email found you well – regardless of what, when, where, why, and how, the remarks you field here on this particular forum, I assure you, your attitude and application is very much on the RIGHT PATH ! Keep doing what you are doing and stay the course with facing each and everyday something that gives you considerable anxiety and or stress / fear. Always look for solutions; no matter what the odds. For other folks reading, it’s called “living!” Now, I’ll narrow this response down to your excellent article. 1. Put Up or Shut Up ! The moral here is “If you can’t handle the heat in the kitchen, get out !” – in other words, WHY complain, bitch and moan (grumble) if you can’t change things to the way you would like them to be ?? Therefore, one simply has to tolerate the discomfort or annoyance of whatever it may be that’s upsetting them. Either way, the core here is to build ‘Emotional Resilience’ – for without this Key trait – life will become almost unbearable with insurmountable odds. As for your final comment by Gandhi, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” This is absolutely true – Being honest with yourself by keeping it REAL, and staying REAL, by surrounding one’s self with REAL people (e.g. Mark DIVINE, Judd REID, Gary ONEILL, Itay Gil, Lyoto MACHIDA, Rhonda ROUSEY, to name a few specific to the Warrior Code) – this is the ticket to true happiness, and success. By being HONEST with ourselves and others, we develop INTEGRITY, and from this comes COURAGE, the ability to do the RIGHT thing, not just some of the time, but all of the time which then allows us to be known as HONOURABLE! 2. Face Your Freakin’ Fears ! Fear is a huge topic nowadays; maybe it always has been – but right now with UFC / MMA being all over television certainly has created much debate and seen a sh%t tin of ‘Kuchi Bushi’ or ‘Mouth Warriors’ (as Jesse Sempai so mentioned in this aforementioned article) surface their ugly heads. I also have noticed that quite a few people on these forums carry on about what belt they have, what art form they do, etc, etc, etc. All in all people, NO ONE CARES ! Either you BANG in training for REAL, or you DON’T !, but please do not insult those of us where all we do is place ourselves in art forms whose primary focus is to FIGHT ! One, winner, one loser, Survival vs Death !, Yes, many things are frightening, however for those of you who are scared of UFC / MMA, use this time to ask Jesse all that you will, to make the same plunge – you only need do it once; however remember, YOU WILL GROW !; if everything in life were easy we’d all be wealthy, we’d all be driving Ferrari’s and we’d all live in gold plated mansions with a Million Dollar paycheck every financial year. But this just isn’t the case. The more things you face, and challenge yourself to do; the less people there are around you who are doing them as well. Because the 2nd Secret to Success – is DON’T QUIT !, Human Nature easily gives up – it is natural for Human beings to quit – one can merely succeed through attrition alone. For those of you whom have been selected to to attend something like BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition Selection Training in the US will know, as each day passes, more and more people ring that bell, and withdraw from the course of becoming a US Navy SEAL. Again, if any of you have low Emotional Resilience, I assure you , YOU WILL QUIT !, No one fails you, but yourself ! Just Remember , when Jesus Christ himself was mounted to the cross – HE DIDN’T TAP OUT ! – hence one cannot claim Victory without Sacrifice ! 3. It’s Only Failure if You Consider it One This is also true as earlier mentioned in the above paragraph. There are those of use that see it not as failure, but merely another opportunity to do what you previously did better the next time. The main objective is to keep moving forward in your mind, then the body WILL follow. There was this one guy on a SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) selection course some almost twenty years ago who was 19 years old (quite young). He passed everything on this Selection Course with flying colours, and at the end was informed by one of the DS (Directing Staff) to attend a formal meeting. This candidate was told he was unsuccessful this time and to re-apply in two years. When faced with this situation, he responded with some disappointment however this was an opportunity not a failure. The candidate was informed of being unsuccessful and to re-apply in the next two years because he was simply immature (a little too young). And so by being told “YES” you have all the skills, his mind was still in need of some polishing. Two years later this candidate returned and 12 months later was badged with his Sandy Beret, which bears the Motto, “Who Dares Wins”. 4. Hakuna Matata “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, .. another fantastic saying. And yes, the Lion King was brilliant, I remember seeing it with my parents, and my three younger brothers in the US whilst on vacation in 1994. For those of you out there with cancer, or some awful disease, illness, sickness, depression, I understand, I do - life is hard enough without all the other complications made predominantly by other people who simply are either oblivious to others misfortunes, and or pains, or are quite simply “Ars#Hol#s “!, at least that is WHAT I label them as being. Stay the course, be strong, but be positive. Say positive affirmations to yourselves each and every day; it helps, it really does, and surround yourself with like-minded people who do this also; because their positive energy will be a far better pick me up than that cup of coffee in the morning. As for your final quote Jesse, ““Those who cling to life die. Those who defy death live.” – this brings back memories of gratitude; the feeling of being grateful to be alive right now. My peers and I were told these exact words at one specific point in time by the most respected and most honourable instructor we’d ever had. We were forced throughout training to really think about these words, as some would leave early, some would stay, but only those that accepted they were already dead would be the only one’s to survive. I shall not say any more than that ! An excellent article Jesse !, Stand Proud as your MMA experience has made you grow – those of us who KNOW can see it too ; so well done for placing yourself in a situation that 99% of people simply will never ever do, regardless of whether they study an Art form or not is irrelevant – so again, well done ! If you anyone is looking for extra inspiration email Commander Mark DIVINE, and or get a copy of Judd REID’s 100 Man Kumite completed in JAPAN. Also look into Gary ONEILL and his journey; all are incredible.
  • Patrick
    Thanks for the article. While I understand your sentiment of jumping in head first without preparation to face your fears (e.g., triathlons, surfing, moving to Okinawa), this isn't good advice. As someone who trains daily for triathlons, I've seen many people enter unprepared and almost drown. It's foolish and insulting when people brag about it. There is a certain amount of respect that needs to be shown towards any sport or martial art. Yes face your fears, that's great, but train for it like you would a karate competition.
    • Thanks for your comment Patrick-san. I didn't intend to disrespect your sport. I'm simply sharing what I've done and how it has worked out for me (so far). Take it or leave it, no hard feelings.
      • Patrick
        No hard feelings. Hakuna Matata.
    • ShotoNoob
      @Patrick: I had the same reaction as you about Jesse's 1-day training "camp." The question (obvious) of insufficient preparation came to mind, or some could even wonder whether Jesse was serious (respect?) about karate being effective in MMA. At the same time, I also held the counter view of Jesse's major accomplishments in the traditional karate arena, in my mind, which should carry over & apply in the martial experience of MMA. From that vantage-point IMO, Jesse was well prepared. Where the respect issue came to mind for me, was the pitting of an out-sized opponent against Jesse. Doesn't MMA claim to be safe & modernized? Doesn't MMA have weight classes that match competitors of the same general physical stature? I also thought the latter was especially an issue, since Jesse coming from outside the formal MMA arena, it was his very first time. Anyway, I thought your comment was very relevant & focused, the advice of a very good MMA coach's advice if you will....
      • ShotoNoob
        Strike "advice" following "coach." Typo.
  • GJ
    Hi Jesse, This is great. I was wondering recently if would be prepared for a SD situation, I have a wadokai background and we do a lot of practical defence techniques but our sparring is light. Would you see an advantage in cross training MMA for short periods to pressure test what we know or would you think as it is also only a sport it will not prepare you any better for an SD situation than light sparring? Great article.
    • Thanks GJ-san. You'd benefit from MMA. No doubt.
  • Paula
    OSU!!!! Jesse, glad to have found your website and give it credit. Damn pleasant it is to identify these feelings through karate and through some other practices I wouldn´t give a penny at first, until I decided to try to do and understand them. It´s a great massage, cause I´ve recently risked on it, over marriage subjects, and its incredible how the matter becomes lighter. Not sorry I started in Karate only two years ago and almost at "thirty years young", but freaking excited to rediscover it in this life.
  • Dave Giles
    As I read this it touched a nerve.. I have been training Shotokan karate for 25 years on and off but last year at the age of 43 I decided I needed to test myself so I joined a kickboxing club & for 6 months I trained and sparred with 18 to 30 somethings and I really enjoyed the training and sparring and could hold my own with some of the experienced fighters I learned a lot from my 6 months and taken many of the training routines and incorporated them into my club. I would recommend all Karate students should take time to explore other Martial arts and always test themselves to the level they wish to obtain I have renewed my interest in Karate since finding both your website and Iain Abernethy's site I wish this information was widely available 25 years ago keep up the good work.....
  • Andy Moorhouse
    Well done Jesse.
  • João Filipe di Mantova
    Wow. Balls of steel! Osu!!!
  • Hey Jesse, I just recently found your blog through a social media link and I absolutely love what you're doing. I'll be honest, I used to look at karate as an inferior combative martial art until I met an MMA karate-ka who showed me just how bad-ass karate is. Now I've completely changed the way I look at karate, and am trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible to improve my own karate training. I am absolutely fascinated with all aspects of karate now (mentally, physically, as well as the spiritual growth that can be gained from practicing karate). BTW, the karate-ka who showed me the true effectiveness of karate is a guy named Justin "Tank" Scoggins. I've trained with him at an MMA gym and he now fights in the UFC flyweight division. I look forward to reading more of your articles. This is really great stuff. Thanks!
  • Although I practice karate, this comment is not related to it (or is it?). I like to take karate lessons and principles and apply to life. Several times reading about karate comes an idea that I should apply to life and now it's no different: “If there is something you constantly fear, avoid or dislike, it’s a pretty strong sign that you need to DO IT.” Thanks, there are some technical aspects in my profession that I'll study now, although not directly related to my work. This was the trigger I needed.
  • Your point about grabbing fear by the balls and squeezing really resonated with me. (Having said that, just because it resonates doesn't mean I'm about to jump up and do it - it's freaking scary, man!) It reminded me very strongly of this excellent quote by Brene Brown about daring to be vulnerable, because no matter how much you try and prepare, you will never prepare enough to be perfect. I thought you might like it if you haven't seen it already! http://zenpencils.com/comic/139-brene-brown-the-woman-in-the-arena/
  • Bucksmallsy
    Dear Xin, I hear you and empathise however to assist you rather than be silent try looking at Lieutenant Commander Mark DIVINE (U.S. Navy Seal) on his website SEALFIT.com. Mark is a HUGE believer in the Power of the Mind. He too holds belts in Seidokan Karate under Nakamura Hanshi (New York Honbu USA ), and Nin-Jitsu. Having served 9 years of his service as a US Navy Seal, fear is something I am without any doubt sure HE can assist you with. Hope you make contact with Mark. He of ALL people WILL transform your life showing things you thought were impossible are very possible. Osu !
  • Bucksmallsy
    Xin, my posting was somewhat deleted for some reason - interesting ! Anyway to re-clarify, Mark DIVINE served active duty 9 years in the Seal Teams, and 11 years in the reserves. His honourable discharge rank as Lt. Commander IS quite impressive to say the least along with what he's doing now is helping people overcome their deepest darkest fears, and achieve the life everyone deserves. Osu !
  • Hey Jesse Congratulations on stepping in to the cage. I fought in MMA a few years ago and had a great experience. I ended up loosing to an arm bar but held my own quite well standing. I learnt so much from that experience and I hope to do it again. I have been working my ground a lot more and once I have done a few white belt level BJJ comps maybe I will once again go for a full MMA bout. I really hope you and this post will help inspire other to do the same. I very much agree with you when you say most Karate-ka who talk about MMA have one thing in common they have never tried it. For the few I know who have tried it they all respect the sport and to be honest if we want Karate to continue to grow we need to be more open and respectful to other modalities of training. Ganbatte - Kyle Duske
  • Sandi
    Great article. I found it in doing a search that I did using "what I learned from MMA" because I'm writing an article about what I've learned from WATCHING mixed martial arts. I have a boss who is all Buddhist-y and mindful, and we had a conversation in which he was obviously so sure of himself that HE had taught me about non-attachment, he was quite miffed when I said that watching MMA had taught me not to be attached to any outcome. LOL. That got me thinking about the philosophical implications of just observing MMA fights. I'll let you know when I publish it. Thanks for the inspiration and I think it's great that you entered the cage.
    • Thanks Sandi, looking forward to it! :-)
  • css1971
    Good for you! I used to do things like this when I was young and stupid too. ;) While I don't recommend training for MMA, bringing similar levels of intensity to the dojo would be beneficial I think for many karate teachers and students. Maybe use some padding to prevent injuries. Fear, adrenalin are integral parts of fighting and therefore essential for any real self defence. Geoff Thomson has a concept he calls Animal Days. You may have come across them. It predates MMA (90s) but is basically what I'm talking about. Some clips from his dojo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKLN1_e4fPI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtU8oELe7cY BTW, failure is a fundamental part of success. It's how we learn.
  • Jim
    Sensei: I seriously choked up while thinking about how I'm at a crossroads in both my karate training and my personal life. At Nationals I will be facing seasoned black belts, one who even fought my Sensei back in 1998. In my personal life, my future (and my marriage) relies on my ability to stand up and fight my personal demons - to face things about myself that I've never had the guts to face and stand accountable for all the mistakes I've made. I may get eliminated first round at Nationals, but in my mind I've already won. I will stand up and leave every fiber of my being on that tatami. I will do the same as I dispose of my personal demons.
  • Paul
    Dear Jesse, Sounds like you did pretty awesome! Congratulations on doing this and thanks for posting and sharing. : ) Where is your grappling from? -Paul PS I love your blog :) I do Taekwondo (aka Sportified Shotokan) but your articles are incredible and I feel people can learn a lot by reading your blog ( I know I have) : )
  • Mark Laderwarg
    Great article. But, where did you get the idea that Elton John wrote "Don't worry, be Happy?" Bobby McFerrin wrote it.
    • Keith
      You are correct. The song "Don't Worry Be Happy" was written by Bobby McFerrin. But, I think you got confused because Jesse said that Elton John wrote the "Hakuna Matata" song from The Lion King and that Hakuna Matata translates to "Don't Worry Be Happy" (which happens to be the song by Bobby McFerrin.)
      • Mark Laderwarg
        So I did. ML
  • Henri
    The source of human being is the frog. We evolve from the animal stage. We fight for survival. Some of us are still in a little of 'that' stage, so we fight (war/warcrime/crime/rape etc.) and in other cases we make rules to cover it up (from the most brutal fights to karate point system). The only thing I like to say is..."try to control your animal urge and try to be the being you are...your real being...you are divine/spirit". You have a lesson to learn here on earth...we all together...! If you are drawn to martial arts, you now know why! So the less you want to hurt your 'brother', the more you are evolved in mind and spirit..the more you understand your brethern and life! Warriors and Samurais are extinguished and for a reason...violence never survive...you are for ever! So in my training I seriously train, but don't hurt others..that is why my karate training is an 'art' to me...and not a fighting system...! Much love and cheers in yours, Henri,
  • Tony
    You fought a 6’10” guy. He's an inch taller than The Mountain from Game of Thrones! Who was this beast of a man that you fought?
    • I know! He totally won the genetic lottery. The reason I met a bigger guy was because I didn't cut any weight, but he obviously did. ;-)
      • Tony
        That doesn't answer my question. Who did you fight?
        • Sorry I don't remember, but I think he was from Denmark.
  • Keith
    Hey Jesse, So if he was 6'10", how tall are YOU? Are their any limits on height differences? I think MMA is a brutal thing and don't care for it. I think blood-letting belongs on the street in the dark alleys when you need to survive, not as a "sport". I suppose within the ring and within their rules a stand-up fighter (Karateka) could get in trouble, although it sounds to me like you did pretty well even though you lost due to a TKO. But, if you take out the rules (back to that dark alley I mentioned) I think Karate' is more effective than MMA from what I have seen simply because Karate' doesn't require beastly size and strength; the effectiveness is in the techniques themselves. Anyway, I ramble. But congratulations! You are very brave.
  • HZs
    Congratulation for your win over yourself! It is a great and inspiring article, thank you very much. Could you write about how do you feel the differents between the karate kumite movements and the cage movements? What type of technics are effectives or weaks? How do you feel yourself in the middle of a full contact fight?
  • Matthew Dear
    Watch Lyoto Machida...he's the only one that made Karate (my style which is Shotokan) to work in MMA. Tbh he's a living Karate legend in the MMA world. Which had put the nay sayers of Karate in MMA to silence.
  • Jesse san - hakuna matata literally means "no worries" - your version is close but, as the saying goes, no cigar. Keep writing though - this 52yr old journeyman loves your approach.
  • Carlos
    Ous Sensei Jesse, is being two years since you've writing this article, I have to say it was really good I like it a lot. I was wondering if you try MMA once more, and if so did you train for it? Reason for asking, is that I truly believe that karate is a very powerful martial arts. "One hit One kill, One block One break" is a philosophy that was thought to me in karate. Please don't misunderstand my quote, I believe a true KARATEKA learns for Humility and Self-Defense. But with fortifications, discipline, training and commitment, we know the outcome... My point I'm getting at is that, I believe karate has technics that the MMA world is not ready for, if a train KARATEKA was to step in the cage....again great article and appreciate your blogs and knowledge you share with us...OUS!!!
  • This was an inspiring story. I had my first MMA match here too. I have been doing martial arts about 20 years, (started judo when I was 5). My match up: I was 105 kg, and my opponent 129 kg. :') The first round was somewhat good, then the rest we was on ground him laying on top of me. Only thing I could to was wait for him to try a lock/choke or something, but he only tried to hammer me with one hand. Needless to say I lost the match, but it was an amazing experience. Through that loss I gained much and can evolve as a martial artist/fighter.
  • Fernando Gaona
    Hi Jesse, I could not agree more with you, I like your "philosophy" and also your sense of humor. I discovered you through the Hanshi Patrick McCarthy and now I enjoy your published stories. In a world full of people with "esoteric halos", closed minds and feelings of rejection of everything other than what they do, it's fantastic to meet people like you. Wishing you the best! Regards, Fernando
  • I would like to start MMA but as a hobby. Are there any age restrictions?
  • J
    Karate is worthless in a fight. If it weren't, you would've won. Go take up a real style and stop passing around this nonsense, loser.
  • Rachit Bharadwaj
    Your life is an inspiration for me Sensei?.Nothing in the world seems to have the potential to stop you!Oss!!
  • Thank you for sharing your experience with playing with MMA.
  • james
    Hakuna matata actually translates to None (Hakuna) and trouble (matata). So it means no trouble exists. But your translation is similar in meaning i guess.
  • People rarely win the first time at anything. I suggest you decide whether you want to succeed at MMA or not, and practice accordingly. Our dojo went into MMA competition for about 10 years. We had some champions, fought in some big arenas, I coached some pros etc. Then, I got out! We really had to face our weaknesses and those lessons have left a lasting, helpful, impression on me and my dojo. Then I got out. Why? It just didn’t match with the spirit of karate as I see it. The swearing, chest pounding, promoter’s games, vomiting, etc. just didn’t fit. I couldn’t even have the two groups (karate and MMA) train during the same hours. I now have a full contact karate team and a WKF team. Both of these teams fit our karate culture. Can a karateka do well in MMA? Sure, but it takes a lot of different training, a ground coach, great stand up skills, a decent sized team, a willingness to change from a dojo culture to a gym culture, political connections, gyms who will support your teams effort and train with you, and a real will to do it. Best of luck, I enjoy reading about your journey

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