Rob Hedrick! GTK Rob and “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & the Christian Life”

Jul 24, 2020


Getting To Know Rob Hedrick! 

Note from the editor: Today, we get another two-for-one! First, Rob participates in our series, “Getting to Know You,” in which we feature RCC members (and I’m always looking for people). Below that, Rob wrote a piece on “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & the Christian Life.” This will be discussed further as an unfolding ministry at Roosevelt. I’d encourage you to also read the blog by Kiara Howerzyl, because Kiara will be part of this valuable, new development. — Jennifer  


Where did I grow up?

I grew up in Menominee, WI but we moved to Tucson while I was in Junior High. My Dad moved my family to Arizona, looking for new job opportunities. 


What’s My Job?

I am a User Experience Designer for American Express.


Why are you at Roosevelt?

My wife and I lived in Belgium for 2 years, designing a multimedia Bible exhibition. When we returned to the States, we returned to Camelback Bible Church—but it didn’t feel right coming back to an established church that didn’t need us. During that time, Vermon was starting Roosevelt Community and we felt God calling us to be a part of this church. 


How long have you been at Roosevelt?

Sixteen years!


How long have you been a Christian?

Since my sophomore year in college, when someone shared the 4 spiritual laws with me on a bench on the ASU campus. 



  • Brazillian Jiu Jitsu

  • Roasting coffee (and drinking it)

  • Video games 


Two things on my Bucket List?

  1. Compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition 

  2. Travel back to Belgium with my entire family. We attempted to do this, but had to cancel when the pandemic hit. 


Favorite Book?

I really love reading fantasy and still read with my sons every night. The Lord of The Rings is probably at the top of the list, but another one I really enjoyed was The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. It’s a well-written fantasy that culminates in a beautiful picture of the Gospel.


Favorite Movie?

Band of Brothers (Not technically a movie)



Harder Than I Expected: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & the Christian Life 

I grew up during the 1980s, the golden age of martial art movies with Bloodsport, Karate Kid and American Ninja being some of my favorites. I even liked the really bad ones like Gymkata, with the tagline, “A new kind of martial arts combat! The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate.” I bought ninja-throwing stars at knife shops and practiced throwing them in the backyard. But it wasn’t until my “mid-life crisis” around the age of 40 that I became serious about trying a martial art that my kids and I could do together. 

Someone I worked with mentioned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), so I started researching this martial art I had never heard of before. Back in the 1990s, there was something called the UFC which was a “no rules” fight to see which martial art reigned supreme. The winner of those early fights was a small Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter named Royce Gracie. The idea behind this martial art was to take an opponent to the ground, in order to remove their striking power and submit them through chokes and joint locks. It sounded cool, but instead of signing myself up directly, I decided to use my kids as test subjects. And like all parents who don’t know what they are doing, I shouted directions from the sidelines with my vast expertise. I felt a bit like that guy from Karate Kid shouting, “Sweep the legs ,Johnny!”  But my kids just weren’t getting it. Instead of fighting back, they would discuss video games or Legos. And why not? It’s much easier talking your way out of a situation than fighting. 

After sitting on the sideline for a month, it was time for me to unleash my ”inner ninja.” Being a small guy, I was encouraged to learn this martial art, which was developed by a small Brazillian, Helio Gracie, to be effective against bigger and stronger opponents. What I imagined after watching tons of YouTube videos was that there were basically 4 easy steps:

  1. Learn a move

  2. Do the move

  3. Submit opponent 

  4. Brag about my achievements

 Soon after starting my classes, my eyes were opened to the reality of what I had just signed up for. One of the first moves I was on the receiving end of was something called “Knee on Belly.” True to its name, it’s a knee pressing into your torso causing “pain and compressive asphyxia.“  And believe me, it’s worse than it sounds. My other least favorite position was when my partner mounted me. A mounted position is when someone has you pinned on your back while sitting on your chest. It’s a humiliating and helpless position that would be deadly in a street fight. From this position, my only defense would be to play dead or flail around like a crazy person hoping for an escape. I remember in one of my panic attacks from the bottom, my partner saying, “Dude…relax.”  Yeah, easier said than done. I had to face the facts. I’m not that coordinated, I’m not that strong, and I’m far more helpless than I realized. This is the reason such a high percentage of people drop out in their first year of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. It’s way too humiliating for prideful people.

 Although it was hard, I stuck it out and I saw a lot of improvement over time. But it was a very slow progression and I wasn’t seeing the “successes” I was looking for. So I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” Is it really for just bragging rights or belt promotions? There was such a great divide between my expectations and reality. As it says in Proverbs, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I faced a crossroads: quit or change my mindset. 

 I started reassessing what “success” means for me. Instead of submitting my partner, it was getting a pass or finding the underhook. Sometimes it was just going 5 minutes without having to tap even if I was mounted.  Maybe it was simply teaching a white belt a new move. I started taking risks, not worrying about the outcome and being humble enough to lose and start over. I started leaning on the community and enjoyed those I trained with. As a result, I started to enjoy the sport again because I was finding “success” in the right things. And guess what, I started to get better. 

 Does the Christian life ever feel that way to you? You believe the facts of the Gospel. You are confident about what you believe but then your enthusiasm dampens when you feel unexpected resistance. You expect your friends and family to welcome your new faith, you expect to conquer your sins, you expect to turn into a good person, and you expect life to get easier. But the reality isn’t matching your expectations.  

Maybe, like Jiu Jitsu, it’s a matter of changing your mindset. Admitting the obvious, that you aren’t that strong, you’re not that smart, and you’re definitely not righteous on your own merit. Trying harder only makes it more apparent. Paul felt spiritually weak, crying out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). In addition, Paul feels physically weak as he pleaded 3 times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh. There was some medical ailment that was painful to Paul but God reminded him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’”

 Success for the Christian looks different than how the world defines success. It’s a recognition of our weakness, not a showcase of our strength. As we start to see our weakness, the more our faith grows and the more strength God provides. The more reliant we are, the more we cry out and we see God work. Giving Jesus our burdens now frees us up to enjoy God and love others. Paul goes on to say, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ). 

If you are frustrated with life not turning out like you wanted, maybe it’s time to change what success looks like for you. We don’t need to fight to succeed when Jesus has already won the fight.