Garth Taylor: One Seriously Inspiring Individual


You wouldn’t know it from looking at him or by hanging out with him, but he’s one of the most recognized Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world.  Two days ago, Garth Taylor, co-owner of Kaijin Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Westside Santa Cruz took the gold medal at the 2012 Pan American Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  The Santa Cruz native described the win as, “one of the most emotional and fulfilling tournaments I’ve ever had,” and by the look in his eyes (one of them blackened) it was clear that he was completely sincere.


His studio is on Delaware Avenue, just off of Swift Street, and directly across the street from Noe’s Surfboard Shop.  It’s a large, clean, and open space, which around five p.m. trains a group of eager kids around the age of ten.   There was a feeling of calm concentration coming from each person there, and even though they all had smiles on their faces it was clear that each of them had a great sense of discipline.  Not knowing much about the sport prior to talking with Garth, I asked a few simple questions in hopes of learning the basics.  With the most genuine smile and the friendliest of personalities, he eagerly answered my questions.  


SCW:  How did you get your start in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?


GT:  I did a Rickson Gracie seminar in Watsonville of all places, and he is one of the greatest of all time.  At the time, I was coaching wrestling at Santa Cruz High School, and I’d wrestled in college for a couple of years.


SCW:  Whenever I hear about Jiu Jitsu, it’s usually attached to the word “Gracie.”  What’s that all about?  How is it different from the other types of Jiu Jitsu?


GT:  Gracie is a sub-section of Jiu Jitsu.  Mitsuyo Maeda was one of the world’s great Judo experts.  Gastao Gracie assisted Maeda with his immigration into Brazil, and as a form of gratitude he taught Gracie’s sons the art.  I can’t speak to the other types, but they are more formal, whereas Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is more open to new forms and is more practical- always evolving.  Even since 1994 when I became involved, all of the world’s Jiu Jitsu’s have evolved and stayed current in martial arts.  BJJ is challenging and stimulating.


SCW:  Is BJJ much different than wrestling and UFC?  How would you say they are different or similar?


GT:  Jiu Jitsu is taught in three parts; most schools just teach the first two.  The first part is the sport, which is the kind that I especially enjoy.  It’s beautiful, fun, safe and very effective for self-defense.   The second part is Defense- that is teaching punches and blocks and stuff.  The last part is the “No Rules” Jiu Jitsu.  Very few people actually want to learn this kind, but if they do, I teach them.



SCW:  What do you call the uniform you wear?


GT:  It’s called a “Gi” or a Kimono.


SCW:  You train adults and children alike.  What would you say is the single most important lesson you want them to walk away with after a session with you?


GT:  Belief in themselves!


SCW:  You just took the gold medal at the 2012 Pan American Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  How big of a deal was that?


GT:  It was a very big deal for me.  I’ve suffered some major injuries within the last two years, had two major surgeries on my ankle and knee reconstruction; it was a really emotional win.  I had a long way to come back.  I love the fighting and the competition, so I didn’t want to simply coach for the rest of my life.  This was one of the most fulfilling tournaments I’ve ever had.


SCW:  I’ve got a couple of little groms myself; what kind of benefits will they get when I sign them up for your classes?


GT:  They really develop socially- especially the younger kids.  No one can learn Jiu Jitsu alone, so they have to work together as a team in order to grow.  They also learn skills like balance and discipline.  They learn how to process all of the information and put it into action; and of course they learn respect for their teachers and their parents.



SCW:  Any one you’d like to give a shout out to?


GT:  Thank you to all of my teammates, new and old.  A special thanks to Claudio Franca for being such a great teacher.  Thank you to everyone who gives BJJ a try because there’s a wealth of really good Jiu Jitsu here.  Being a part of Jiu Jitsu is a lot like being a surfer, but the waves are always good.


SCW:  Ha!  Well Garth, thank you so much for taking the time to chat and for schooling us on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  We wish you a HUGE congratulations on your recent gold medal and look forward to hearing more about your imminent success in the future.  I know that after seeing your studio and students today, you’ve found at least three new students in us! (Did I mention that his rates are ridiculously reasonable!?)


You can watch Garth take the gold in this YouTube video:



{Photos: Sarah Blincoe}


One comment on “Garth Taylor: One Seriously Inspiring Individual

  1. Did you know that tomorrow, December 22nd, is GARTH TAYLOR Day!!?!!?!?! I’m serious!!! I just found this out. Best thing ever.

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