5 Jul 2010

Fighter Profile: Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor is a BJJ purple belt from Gracie Barra Swansea. He is probably better known as the outspoken 'Rob T' on various internet forums. His posts on the subject of the 'BJJ Police' stand out as some of the most widely read forum threads of all time. Despite his heavy online presence, Rob is keen to assert his unwavering dedication to BJJ. To me, a thread without Rob posting on it is an empty thread. I hope you enjoy the interview:

Rob (left) competing at the ADCC-UK trials 2008

 Meerkatsu: Hey Rob, let me begin by asking you to give me a run down of your rank, length of training and tournament result stats please?

Rob Taylor: I’ve been training for 5 and a half years now, started right at the end of January 2005. Currently I’m a purple belt under Braulio Estima and although I haven’t competed as much as I’d have liked to (for various reasons) I have done alright in a few competitions. My last three competitions have all ended with a silver medal (Celtic Open 2009, British Open 2009 and European Championships 2010) so still waiting for an elusive gold at purple belt.

Meerkatsu: Where do you train and why does it rock?

Rob Taylor: I train at the Chris Rees Academy, mainly at Gracie Barra Swansea. Since I started it’s amazing how much the club has grown. It used to be around 12-15 people training twice a week, now there are classes 6 days a week in Swansea, 3 days in Cardiff and 1 in Bridgend, with class sizes regularly over 30 and up to 40. Everyone who trains is a good laugh and there is an excellent team spirit and friendly atmosphere.

Meerkatsu: Do you prefer teaching or training?

Rob Taylor: I love teaching but I always try to train as part of the class myself. The only thing I really miss out on is drilling techniques as I have to help others… but I can get that in on my own time anyway. The only times I don’t take part in each class are if I’m injured or there are a lot of new guys who need extra instruction. Saying that, it is nice to sometimes just train and not do any teaching, just for a change.

Rob (white gi) at the Celtic Open 2009
Meerkatsu: Tell me about your instructor Chris Rees - what is so good about him?

Rob Taylor: I have never trained with a better instructor. There have been three students who have trained with us who have travelled far and wide and they all said the same thing. Chris really wants to make everyone as good as they can possibly be, no matter how long it takes for them to pick up techniques. He also tries to coach people to help them train in better ways, rather than just showing techniques. When rolling with people he has a great ability to make it a proper fight for anyone regardless of their level, without just letting them do stuff… it means that some people get quite confused when they see him “struggling” with a white belt and possibly getting tapped, then next round tapping me out multiple times, haha. His dedication to the team can’t be beaten… how many people would be planning on driving home from holiday (Cornwall to Swansea) and then heading straight to London on the same day to corner one fighter? Finally, he is just a really nice guy and I am lucky to get to call him one of my best friends.

Meerkatsu: How much contact do you have with your academy head Braulio Estima? And what is it about Braulio's teaching style/content that you like so much?

Rob Taylor: As far as direct contact, not as much as I would like but I could always say that unless I got to personally train with him every day. My main contact with him is really through Chris as whenever he travels to Birmingham to train with Braulio he will always show me the stuff he learns straight away. I’d like to be able to travel up to train in Birmingham more often, but a full-time job and helping out with the academy in Swansea makes spare time a rare commodity.

Meerkatsu: Ok, let's talk about your online presence...how did you get started as a mod on EFN and how seriously do you take it?

Rob Taylor: Haha, my online presence! I can’t remember how I found the EFN forum but I’d guess via the usual; google. At first there were no mods and no need for it, but once the community grew it attracted spammers and a need for moderation. I guess as I spent so much time online (thanks to working at a computer 8 hours a day) I was an obvious pick. I don’t really see it as being a majorly important thing, but I think online communities are awesome resources and so it’s good to keep it free of spam and trolling (although EFN is thankfully pretty free of the latter).

Meerkatsu: You are most famous for your reactions on the BJJ Police threads, why do you get so outraged at so-called 'frauds' in the BJJ community?

Rob Taylor: I wouldn’t say outraged, I just think it’s good to keep everything legit (in any part of life) and stop unsuspecting people from getting ripped off. I guess it all ties in with the fact that I’m naturally skeptical as well. Luckily, the UK is pretty small so I think it gives the community a good chance to keep any frauds out. It’s hard to train jiu-jitsu, and very hard to get promoted, so why let someone just make up their own rank and start teaching?

Meerkatsu: Can you explain, perhaps to people not familiar with these threads, your feelings and thoughts on lineage in BJJ and why it is important?

Rob Taylor: I feel lineage is important because jiu-jitsu isn’t just a set of techniques. You can’t just read a BJJ book, roll with your mates and then claim to be teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu… even if you do get to a good level of ability. There are methods of training and teaching which are passed down from instructors, as well as the need to learn the small details and transitions. Jiu-jitsu also has a large element of personal style, and although it always varies from teacher to instructor there will be a definite influence. To be a part of all that, and to really be training BJJ you have to be able to trace your lineage back to the original instructors.

As far as another view of lineage goes, I don’t think it matters who your instructor is as long as they’re legit. I know some people seem to think because they train under a multiple world champion or a legend it somehow makes their jiu-jitsu better than someone else, but you have to fight your own battles.

Rob with Marcelo Garcia

Meerkatsu: Do you think maybe you lack a bit of tact or diplomacy, or do you think maybe sometimes you go too far in your online posts?

Rob Taylor: Haha, I definitely lack tact… but I really think adults shouldn’t get annoyed by reading stuff posted on the internet. Isn’t “sticks and stones” one of the first lessons parents teach kids about school? My major problem is that I never get offended by anything people say, so I have no real empathy for those that do. Obviously, another problem online is that it is really tough to understand how something is meant when just reading the typed word. Basically, 90% of what I post is tongue-in-cheek or is some sort of stupid joke that no-one else will find funny or even realise is a joke. Things aren’t helped by the sort of humour I like either; Brass Eye, South Park, Jimmy Carr etc…

Meerkatsu: What is your most memorable online post or thread? (maybe something that got a positive happy result or helped someone in a big way, or just simply caused an immense reaction)

Rob Taylor: The most memorable, and funniest, is definitely the Bridlington Karate one. The fact that they could have stopped anything from happening by giving a straight answer at the start makes it all the more funny. Then it just descended into them making some insane claims (a “Grandmaster” in BJJ!!) and became obvious that they were lying to their students. Although, I do find it pretty sad that those students are being lied to and are either unable or unwilling to realise.

My favourites are those which result in a positive outcome. Where people see the error of their ways are join a legit team to earn the belts the proper way. I don’t think there is a need to name specific examples as once they sort themselves out the past should be forgotten.

Meerkatsu: What happened to your so-called challenge match with the Bridlington Karate Club instructor? [see the video of Rob accepting his challenge here]

Rob Taylor: They basically chickened out. It seemed likely they would anyway; they issued the challenge on a forum but when numerous people accepted in the same thread they said someone had to ring them to accept. Well, I rung them and they agreed to sort out details on the forum… then nothing.

Meerkatsu: Would you really have gone through with it?

Rob Taylor: Yeah, why not, it would have been a good laugh. I’d agreed to it so wouldn’t have gone back on my word. Worst that could have happened is I’d have taken a beating, lol.

Meerkatsu: You sometimes get threatened online, do you ever take them seriously or are worried by these?

Rob Taylor: Nope, I mean, who threatens people online? Surely these people are not adults? It’s nearly always anonymous posters anyway. I post under my real name and have the club I train at linked in my signature, I’m not hiding from anyone.

Meerkatsu: How important is BJJ to you in the spectrum of things in your life?

Rob Taylor: Very important, I absolutely love it. It develops so much; technical ability, cardio, muscular endurance, flexibility, strength, agility, toughness, mental strength, character… and it’s fun at the same time. It’s such a creative art, you look at the top guys and they all fight differently, they all have different techniques they favour or different variations on the same techniques.

When I started training I was an out-of-shape 92kg, now I’m 77kg, faster, stronger and much more flexible. I had tried going to the gym before but never stuck with it because I had no clear goals, but with jiu-jitsu there is always another step to take, always the next person you want to get better than, always the next level of competition to reach. It has enhanced my life in more ways than I thought possible before I started training.

Meerkatsu: Which tournament or fight is your most memorable (win or lose)?

Rob Taylor: Tough question as so many stand out for different reasons. My memories of the European Championships at the start of this year are brilliant, probably my best. The whole trip was awesome due to the guys I travelled with and I was so happy with my performance. I’d been ill leading up to the competition and was sick the morning I fought, so to win two fights quickly and by submission was awesome. Getting submitted in the final, not so much, but overall I was happy.

I loved my fight with Oli Geddes from the Celtic Open at the start of 2009. Although I got submitted I really enjoyed the fight – it was fast pace with both of us attacking all the time. Lots of sweeps and constant action.

My funniest memory of competition was the nogi British Submission Championships in Worcester back in 2007. My strategy was to pull guard every fight but for my third fight my opponent was much taller than me so as I stepped on to the mat I decided double-legging him would be a good idea… sadly I found out making last second decisions is not a good idea as I basically just ended up kneeling down in front of him!! Luckily I recovered and submitted him though, otherwise I would have felt like a right idiot.

Meerkatsu: What fighters do you admire the most, here or around the world?

Rob Taylor: There are many fighters who’s style I love… both Braulio and Victor Estima, just the aggression they fight with is amazing to see, especially as they are both such relaxed guys. Roger Gracie is obvious, to be that far ahead of the rest of the elite is hard to understand. I love Marcelo Garcia’s style of jiu-jitsu and have picked up a lot of techniques from watching him fight.

In the UK, I think everyone can learn a lot from Oli Geddes’ perspective on competition. It’s insane how many competition fights he has had; the only limiting factor on it seems to be the number of competitions available to enter. I really hope he does medal at the Mundials next year (and/or at black belt eventually) as he definitely deserves it for the work he has put in.

Meerkatsu: What are your personal BJJ goals for the future?

Rob Taylor: Obviously I want to keep improving and so I hope achieving black belt will be a natural side-effect of that. I want to keep building the Chris Rees Academy and will soon be teaching full-time at a few locations, eventually it would be awesome to have my own academy.

As far as competition goes, I love it but it doesn’t really feature in my goals. I find I get more enjoyment out of coaching others to success so going forward I hope to get more of our blue belts on the top of the podium and then look to start building a purple belt competition team.

I hope to be involved in BJJ until I die, and actively teaching/training until I am physically unable to.

Meerkatsu: Cheers mate.

Rob Taylor: No problem! :-)  Can I be cheeky and give a shout out to a few people?

Chris Rees, Braulio and Victor Estima for teaching me so much and being great friends. Faixa Rua for supplying with some awesome gis. All the members of the Chris Rees Academy for making it such an enjoyable place to train at and giving me such tough, but friendly, sparring, and most importantly… my missus, for putting up with this crazy & addictive art even when I turn up at home with cauliflower ears, bruised face and bent fingers!

My thanks to Rob for taking the time to answer my pestering questions. Catch Rob online at the EFN or Cagewarriors forums. Here's a coupla videos of Rob in action at the Europeans ealier this year where he won silver:

(Rob wearing the white gi)


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Liam H Wandi said...

What a great interview!

Matt said...

good stuff dude!
and I am loving the karate / bjj MEGA THREAD!

Two Seperate Gorillas said...

Nice work Seymour. Thoughts on the whole 'BJJ police' thing - BJJ is so fashionable right now that there's a lot of financial motivation for people to claim to be able to teach it.

Given how easy it is for a legit instructor to satisfy Rob's questions ('I got my x belt from y instructor, e-mail him if you don't believe me') it can only set off alarm bells when people get on their high horse and start saying 'I'm a 17th Dan in Ultimate Death-Ninja Babe-Magnet Kung Fu, how dare you question me?'

Good luck to him in his MA journey and in helping defend the integrity of his chosen art.

Anonymous said...

Well done Rob...a man who stands up 4 what he believes in and not afraid 2 voice it!!! Known Rob before he even began BJJ and am so happy to see a friend do so much 4 a community many forgot!!!


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