Brooklyn Subway

As we start the New Year, I figured I’d take some time to reflect and look back on the various highs and lows we’ve personally experienced throughout the year. Technically, December of 2020 marked a full calendar year for the existence of BIJONARI, beginning with the initial idea for the brand and leading up to our very first sale on November 3rd, 2020.

It all started back in November of 2019, when I was in a cast and recovering from an injury I sustained in a jiu-jitsu match at the 2019 IBJJF Master Worlds Championship, which you may have already read about in “The Beginning” Bulletin. Being casted up and restricted from doing much for around 10 weeks left me with a lot of extra time on my hands. Without the ability to train jiu-jitsu I was in desperate need of finding another outlet to fill the void. This led me to picking up on an old hobby I had from when I was younger, art.


One night, while my parents were visiting, my Dad came across one of my art pads and said, “You ever think about putting your artwork on t-shirts?” At first, I didn’t really take the question all that seriously because I’ve never really felt like my artwork was on that sort of level to share. However, his question seemed to have stuck with me and I started bouncing the idea around in my head for the next few weeks. At that time, I had already been throwing around some ideas for a martial arts related business, as I was in a place of high inspiration after spending a good part of 2019 over in the Philippines. While in the Philippines I was fortunate enough to find a gym (Jiu-jitsu Manila) to train at and experienced first-hand how martial arts helped to break down many barriers and connect complete strangers.

Jiujitsu Manila

Initially, I was working on the idea solo for the first few months. I ended up downloading the Adobe Suite and attempted to learn some graphic design skills. However, I didn’t have to do this for too long. As time went on and I started to refine my ideas, I began reaching out to various contacts and eventually was able to connect with two guys who would eventually come to round out our team.

The on-boarding process of these guys was far from overnight and took quite a bit of time before both sides were fully committed. One of the best analogies I could relate the experience to is that of beginning to date someone, where you approach the relationship cautiously and take your time to feel out the landscape. This was definitely not a one-way street as these guys taught me a lot about myself, and continue to do so, in regard to leading a team, sharing and communicating a vision, and learning how to navigate the various waters we’ve gone through up to this point.

The first year for us was not all smooth sailing and we definitely experienced our fair share of some choppy waters. Our initial printing partner we were using suddenly went out of business, with zero notice, right before we were supposed to begin our production run. To almost throwing away a decent amount of marketing dollars we had put towards promoting our first event, which came close to getting shut down two weeks prior due to potential new COVID restrictions by Governor DeWine. Luckily, we were able to make some quick adjustments to get back on course and keep things moving forward, which would not have been possible without the support and perseverance of our entire team.

Ronin Training Center

Don’t get me wrong, we are still a small fish in a very large, fast moving body of water. However, I believe we can use this to our advantage by applying the same mindset we’ve forged through martial arts and continue to stay agile, scrappy, and on-point mentally to keep fighting the battle and continue to bring all our supporter’s fresh ideas, intriguing designs, and memorable experiences.

When I look back at how this all came about, it truly amazes me how far we’ve come and how natural and organic it all has felt. Some say luck is when preparation and opportunity meet, and if that’s the case, we’ll continue to do our best to put ourselves in a position to be as lucky as we can.


We're excited to keep the train moving into 2021 and have some new things in the works, so keep your eyes peeled over the next few months!

Cheers to the New Year!

With Love,