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
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.