About Us

Garth Taylor

Head Instructor

A wrestler in his youth, Garth Taylor began his journey in Jiu-Jitsu in 1994. He soon became a local legend by winning the US Open in Santa Cruz five times in the Ultra Heavy and Absolute divisions at Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black Belt. Garth has also achieved international fame as a five-time adult division medalist at the World Championships, which made him the first non-Brazilian athlete to medal in all belt divisions at the World Championships. Some of Garth’s other achievements include:

  • 2012 1st place Pan American Championships, Master 3, Ultra Heavy, Irvine, California
  • 2009 1st place International Master and Senior Championships, Master 2, Ultra Heavy, Rio, Brazil
  • 2006 3rd place Pan American Championships, Master 1, Ultra Heavy, Irvine, California
  • 2003 1st place European Championships, Master 1, Ultra Heavy, Lisbon, Portugul
  • 2001 2nd place Pan American Championships, Adult, Ultra Heavy, Orlando, Florida
  • 2000 1st place International Master and Senior Championships, Master 1, Ultra Heavy, Rio, Brazil
  • 2000 1st place International Master and Senior Championships, Master 1, Ultra Heavy, Rio, Brazil
  • 1999 4th Abu Dahbi Submission Grappling World Championships, Absolute Division, Abu Dahbi, U.A.E.
  • 1998 1st place Pan American Championships, Adult, Ultra Heavy, Waikiki, Hawaii
  • 1997 2nd place Pan American Championships, Adult, Ultra Heavy, Waikiki, Hawaii
  • 1996 2nd place Pan American Championships, Adult, Ultra Heavy, Redondo Beach, California

Christian Buron-Navarro

Kickboxing Instructor

Chris started practicing Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 16. Three years later, he had his first MMA fight under the StrikeForce banner. By the age of 22, he had become a pro, and at 25 began fighting for Bellator MMA.

During his career, Chris beat UFC prospects and Combate America’s title contenders. After more than a decade of training, Chris has learned some boxing and hybrid styles of kickboxing from Kaijin MMA, The Last Stand Fight Team, Wanderlei Silva’s fight team, Ryan Bader, and CB Dollaway’s Power MMA. Chris has learned and trained with notable UFC and Bellator title contenders and challengers such as Grey Maynard and Michael McDonald.

As a kickboxing instructor Chris’s goal is to make the art of kickboxing easy and fun to learn. He teaches concepts, drills, and techniques that he implemented as an MMA competitor. His goal, each and every class, is to help you push yourself mentally and physically. In the same fashion as Sam Radetsky, his most recent kickboxing coach, you’ll be sweating with a smile as you master practical, and fast-hitting combinations.

Aaron “Stout” Thompson

Assistant Instructor

Stout lives for his son, his wife, and Jiu-Jitsu. Living on the Westside, he appreciates being close to the ocean and loves the small town feel and sense of community in Santa Cruz. Stout started training Jiu-Jitsu with Garth Taylor and Paul Schreiner in October 2009 as a guy in his early 30s who was interested in focusing on his health. Garth’s continued mentorship has given Stout an appreciation for the collaborative, mutually supportive nature of Jiu-Jitsu.

Starting Jiu-Jitsu later in life, Stout has never been keen on competing, but the first time he helped a white belt, he found his passion for teaching. He has been teaching since 2016 and it continues to be immensely gratifying for him whether it’s a comprehensive class or a beginning fundamentals class. The Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle has taught Stout about incremental growth, which he applies to many elements in his life like raising a child, and has certainly improved his fitness and mental outlook. As he explains, “Jiu-Jitsu increases one’s sense of self-worth and improves mind and body health overall. The cool thing about Jiu-Jitsu is that literally anyone can learn it and improve through practice; it’s an adaptable and inclusive martial art. I love teaching Jiu-Jitsu, especially being able to help others find confidence, improve their skills, and feel a sense of community with those they train with. My promise is that I’ll always give 100% and hopefully brighten the day of those around me.”

Brandon Kahl

Kids’ Coach

Brandon was raised in a small town in North Dakota with two older brothers and began wrestling at the age of four. His grandfather was also very influential in his love for boxing. Brandon moved to Santa Cruz in the summer of 2001, at the age of 17, and began training himself in boxing. After an amateur fight in Oakland in 2008, Brandon began to search for an academy to train boxing and found Westside Jiu-Jitsu Club in 2010 where he trained with Dion Edge and George Pascal. During this time he would watch the Jiu-Jitsu classes and thought to himself “I wrestled for 11 years, I betcha I would be really good at that.” He was hooked after his very first class.

Jiu-Jitsu began to change his behaviors and attitudes on and off the mat and he hoped to share that same peace of mind he had found with others, especially kids and youth. He began helping coach the Westside youth program in 2016 and has never wanted to do anything else since. Helping kids and youth in his community to find self confidence in who they are and becoming compassionate human beings for the rest of their lives is his overall goal. His wife, family and friends, his community, and his academy continue to be the most loved and cherished things in his life.