BE YON D PI XELS Bryan Hickey ex­plains how jiu-jitsu helped him be­come a cham­pion web de­signer

Bryan Hickey ex­plains how jiu-jitsu helped him gain hu­mil­ity and be­come a cham­pion web de­signer

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started Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) ac­ci­den­tally. A friend in­vited me for a weights ses­sion at his gym, which was a mixed mar­tial arts academy – Rene­gade MMA. I ex­pected to meet al­pha males, hun­gry for blood and vic­tory. But what I saw fas­ci­nated me and would end up chang­ing my life.

BJJ is a mar­tial art that teaches you to con­trol and sub­due an op­po­nent while seek­ing joint locks and choke holds un­til your op­po­nent con­cedes de­feat (tap­ping). In my first class I grap­pled against peo­ple who I thought I should have dom­i­nated but I failed re­peat­edly. BJJ is not what it seems. Its founder, Hélio Gra­cie, was a small man who taught that a smaller/weaker op­po­nent could de­feat a larger/stronger op­po­nent us­ing lever­age and tech­nique rather than brute force.

My ca­reer had taken a nose dive around the time I started train­ing. I was burnt out, bro­ken and de­pressed. In those mo­ments when I grap­pled, the strangest thing hap­pened. I for­got about the de­pres­sion. While grasp­ing for air and des­per­ately try­ing to keep my limbs safe, there was no time to ru­mi­nate on the trauma of the past. BJJ got me out of my head and al­lowed me to live an em­bod­ied life, a bal­anced life. I was be­ing re­stored through grap­pling (with the help of en­dor­phins – glo­ri­ous en­dor­phins!).

Unique friend­ships de­vel­oped too. Some­thing about your op­po­nent try­ing to choke you or break your arm builds friend­ships that are hard to quan­tify but in­her­ently valu­able. Real trust­ing friend­ships were vi­tal for my work as a free­lancer. They are an an­ti­dote for the iso­la­tion.

I think we all know the hap­pi­ness that arises from over­com­ing chal­lenges. BJJ con­stantly chal­lenges and its re­wards are grat­i­fy­ing. The real joy of jui-jitsu is striv­ing to learn by sac­ri­fic­ing small wins each day so you grow over the course of months and years. Tap­ping fre­quently breeds hu­mil­ity and self-aware­ness. It is an ad­mis­sion that on this oc­ca­sion I was bested.

The path to black belt is nor­mally a 15-year jour­ney; I’m get­ting to­wards the end of my blue belt af­ter six years, so I have a while to go. The phys­i­cal strug­gles of train­ing have brought clar­ity to the strug­gles of work­ing in an evolv­ing in­dus­try. Prac­tis­ing BJJ gives me con­fi­dence to face ev­ery­day chal­lenges. Bryan Hickey is the founder of Happy Wid­get, a web de­sign stu­dio. Code, cof­fee and Je­sus are his ad­dic­tions.

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