Jiu-jitsu Times is excited to announce a new feature: Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt where we feature a short interview with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts from different academies around the planet.
This week we feature Jack Taufer who has some interesting points about WHY students are studying jiu-jitsu, Rickson Gracie and using bjj in a scrap with a famous musician.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us how and why you got started in bjj?
Jack Taufer: As a teenager, I was a skateboarder. We were always looking for new places to skate and sometimes we would end up in some not so nice parts of town. There were gang members and bullies around. I really started to have anxiety. I even got picked on and into a couple of fights. I was able to make it out ok but I was scared. Sometimes my friends and I would go to concerts and I would get really nervous about the crowds and wonder if I was going to be safe.
Back in 1994 or 1995 my Cousin Steve had me watch UFC 4. This was back in the day when the only rules were no biting or poking the eyes. The fight he showed me was Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock 2. I saw that he was able to defend himself against a huge monster. I got my hands on UFC 1,2 and 3 and watched them over and over. My friends and I tried to figure out how he was doing all the moves.
I ended meeting a Blue Belt who gave me a couple of private lessons. I decided I HAD to learn this stuff! I was very very lucky. I looked in the phone book (this was before the internet) and found a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school. It was run by the legendary Pedro Sauer. I think at this time in the USA, the only places in the entire country to learn Ju-Jitsu was in Torrance, CA, New York with Renzo and Salt Lake City, UT with Pedro Sauer.
I would hop on the bus and go to his school. Then I would skate board home. What got me hooked on Jiu-Jitsu was that I was now confident. I had more self-respect and less fear… and it was FUN!!! 20 year after my first class, I am still in love with the art and I am getting better and better.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Who have been the biggest influences on your jiu-jitsu and what did you learn from each of your professors?
I have to say that David Kama has easily been my biggest influence in my Jiu-Jitsu. I got my Blue belt from Pedro Sauer in ‘97 or ‘98 but then I moved to Sothern California. I started training with David Kama. He was the head instructor of Rickson Gracie Orange County. David Kama has given me my Purple, Brown, Black belts, my Professor Bars and my First Degree. He is a little known gem in the Jiu-Jitsu world. David was Rickson Gracie’s 2nd American Black Belt and one of the Dirty Dozen. (The first 12 American’s to get a Black Belt.) I was really lucky to find him. There was no website and no listed phone number.
One time when I was 16 (1996) I attended a Rickson Gracie Seminar in Tampa, FL. David Kama was assisting Rickson run the seminar. He was a brown belt. After the seminar, he rolled with me. YEARS later I was at a competition in Sothern California just to watch and I recognized him. I introduced myself and told him I moved to Orange County. He invited me to train… I have been with him for 15 years.
Pedro Sauer taught me that technique can conquer size, speed and strength. David Kama taught me posture and weigh distribution. I got to spend 6 months training with Saulo and Xande Riberio and I learned about conditioning and drilling. The last 2 years I have got to train with Rickson since he has been back teaching. He has taken everything I learned and tightened it, making me more precise, more accurate with my weight distribution, even clearer understanding of posture, and added two invisible layers of Jiu-Jitsu on top of everything I had learned before – Connection and being in The Middle.
Jiu-jitsu Times: What is the place of jiu-jitsu in your life?
Currently I am not a competitor. I teach at Kama Jiu-Jitsu in Laguna Niguel, CA on Monday and Weds. I travel and teach seminars occasionally as well. I try to train 2 to 4 times a week.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for students of jiu-jitsu that worked for you in your training?
I think it is very important for a student to determine WHY he is studying Jiu-Jitsu. Is it a hobby? A place to get in shape? Do you want to learn Self Defense? Do you want to be a fighter? Do you want to be a world champion? Whatever the reason, you need to evaluate the information given to you to see if it aligns with YOUR purpose. We are lucky in this day and age to have many options of places to train. I would recommend that you find a school that will help you achieve your goal.
For me Ju-Jitsu has always been about defending myself. In a perfect world every technique you learn will work in a Self Defense situation, Gi and No-Gi. If someone shows me a move that would work in a competition but not a fight, I don’t use it I won’t really spend a lot of time on it. I am not saying to close your mind, but focus on your purpose. Personally I don’t care if a move is legal in a tournament, if it works, it works.
A principle you can apply when training is to never go harder than 60%. This will force you to develop good technique. Relying on strength or speed will work for a while but eventually you will get tired, older, weaker, etc. You might get tapped out a lot in the beginning, but soon you get sharper and sharper and you will be tapping out others. Jiu-Jitsu takes time to get good at, there is a lot to learn. You will get there too if you keep at it. There is a nice psychological benefit about never training harder than 60%… in the back of your mind you KNOW you have more… and if there was an emergency, you know you can go 100%.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of brazilian jiu-jitsu – training and life?
Jiu-Jitsu naturally has the Microcosm/Macrocosm built into it. Every little battle that happens on the mat is a little learning experience that applies to the larger picture of life. You have to pick and choose your battles. Is winning this little battle really worth it, or is saving your energy for later a better idea? If you fight now, you can relax later… you learn a lot on the mats.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Who is your favorite bjj fighter?
Rickson Gracie is my favorite Jiu-Jitsu fighter. He is a very nice and knowledgeable person and very passionate in his teaching. In the UFC, I am big fan of Demian Maia, BJ Penn, GSP, and Josh Barnett.
I don’t follow Jiu-Jitsu tournaments so I don’t know all the names of the current top guys, but I am a Fan of Kron, Roger, Saulo, Marcelo Garcia.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most Jiu-jitsu Times readers would not know?
This is a funny little story. I used to live in the same building as Skrillex. One time a friend of mine got drunk and was mouthing off to me trying to start a fight. It was getting really heated, we were in the hallway of my apartment building. All of the sudden someone grabs me from behind. I thought I was being jumped. So I did a beautiful Judo throw and got free of who ever it was… It turns out it was Skrillex. He was just trying to separate us! I FELT HORRIBLE.
Thank you very much for reading.