Aikenite Represents USA

In 2008, Mike Hess represented the USA and took the "Grand Champion" title at the Aloha Good Will Games.  Below is the article published in the Aiken Standard.

                Full Contact                                     Karate Beach

Published in the          Aiken Standard
Date January 22, 2008
Byline Photo and Article by Staff Writer Kenton Makin

     Staff writer


Aikenite to represent USA at Aloha Goodwill Games

Aiken's Mike Hess will represent Team USA at the Aloha Goodwill Games this February, but Hess is not the type to let his accomplishments define him.

In fact, Hess, a ninth-degree black belt who has trained in the martial arts for 40 years and also serves as a police officer in Jackson, lives a life that's more about giving than receiving.

Hess, who started training in the Zenshotokai system under the late Master Virgil Kimmey, said he wasn't always that way.

"I used to fight full-contact in the mid-'70s," Hess said. "I was young, stupid ... felt like I wanted to get away from the world. I (came to my senses), well, I got beat up. My instructor there told me to go back and fight, and in my last fight in Vegas, I knocked the guy out. I've been back in South Carolina ever since."

Hess came back and operated Mike Hess Karate as Kimmey's senior student and has taught the class for 35 years.

Hess' karate schools are located in Aiken, North Augusta and Williston, and he offers the classes at an affordable price, citing that "if it were easy, anyone could do it."

"We're not a traditional school ... we're the real deal," Hess said. "We're not one of those fly-by-night schools, meaning one of those schools with the 110 per month contracts for your kids. I don't believe in contracts, and because my school is 40 a month, I've been told that my karate can't be any good. That (price) is enough to keep the doors open, and I'm not in it for the money."

Hess won't be the only South Carolina representative making the trip to the Goodwill Games. Brian Lee and Marty Knight will also head from the Palmetto State to the Aloha State, and the three will compete in international competition, something in which Hess said Knight is very adept.

"He gives a new name to point fighting," Hess said. "As for me, I'll be in full-contact matches."

The fact that Hess will be surrounded by fellow black belts is nothing new. In fact, he allows unique teachers and styles to come into his classes and teach, saying that "I can't know it all ... I can learn from other people."

He teaches his students to keep an open mind when it comes to learning and servitude, only allowing them to compete in tournaments that promote helping others.

"Every year our school holds a Lions Club tournament out of Jackson to help the blind," Hess said. "I have a hard time going to a tournament for cash, because I don't believe in making somebody rich. My classes are told they can go to any tournament as long as it's about helping people. On Feb. 23, the school is heading to a goodwill tournament in Beaufort."

Seeing Hess' practices, it makes sense that he would be someone designated to serve and protect the community.

His mother got him started at a young age, and he promised her that he would take care of her when he got older - and as it turned out, he has helped many more.

"My mom put me in karate when I was real young," Hess said. "I told her once I got a black belt, I'd be a police officer."

Hess seems much more at peace off the streets and in his classes, though, where he teaches a unique blend of students, which range in ages and varying situations.

Hess also welcomes women who have been in adverse relationships and is touched by the way that karate affects their lives, especially since he and his mother experienced physical abuse during Hess' younger years.

"Women come to our classes that have been abused, and it's special to watch them change as well," Hess said. "You see someone that came in scared learn to stand up for themselves because of the martial arts."

Karate, by nature, promotes completeness and discipline, an experience that should be cyclical. So naturally, it was Hess' class that did fundraisers to help him raise the money to make the trip to Hawaii.

It was the students' way of taking Hess from a small town to compete on an international stage, something that Hess' master did for a young kid almost 40 years ago.

"Mr. Kimmey was a great man ... he took me under his wing," Hess said. "I snuck in to one of the tournaments (as a kid) and hid under the bleachers ... he saw me and pulled me out. He (accepted me), and I've been hooked every since."