22-year-old martial artist opens jiu-jitsu studio, turns teacher | TheUnion.com

22-year-old martial artist opens jiu-jitsu studio, turns teacher

Garrett Pearson, 22, teaches his personal style of combat jiu-jitsu to adults and children in Grass Valley.
Submitted Photo |

After training for more than 10 years in various styles of jiu-jitsu, Garrett Pearson had earned a couple of black belts – a proud accomplishment for the 22-year-old.

But rather than sit back, satisfied with his success, he began to talk with his father about what the next phase of his martial arts career would look like.

“My dad and I decided that the next step is for me to teach the knowledge that I had passed to me,” Pearson said.

About a year ago, Pearson opened Pearson’s Combat Jiu Jitsu in Grass Valley. There, he teaches both children and adults his distinct style of jiu-jitsu – a martial art distinguished by grappling and ground fighting that is part combat, part self-defense – that he’s developed by putting his own personal spin on traditional moves that he’s studied.

His interest in martial arts, he said, grew out of his early training as a wrestler. When Pearson was about 12 years old, his father started teaching him the basic fundamentals of the sport. Pearson was a good wrestler, but wasn’t too fond of its rules.

“When we went to the ground, I wanted to continue, but that’s where it stops,” Pearson said.

So he started studying Sambo – a Russian martial art that mixes judo, jiu-jitsu and wrestling. After a while, he also took on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While he studied both martial arts styles concurrently, his father, who had an interest in martial arts but no formal training, was also teaching him moves.

Pearson said he began to better understand the differences between all the styles he was studying, and how to best alter the moves to make them work for him. For instance, he noted, his father would show him a particular move – but, his dad was twice Pearson’s size, so he would challenge Pearson to adapt the move.

“He just throws something at me and says, ‘Come back to me in a week, let me know what you can do with it,’” Pearson said.

Or Pearson would learn a particular kind of punching move, but realize that as he performed it, it worked best for him to add movement with his other arm, to put him in a better position for whatever his opponent might do next.

He began to develop a philosophy best described by a quote attributed to martial arts master Bruce Lee – “absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”

“It doesn’t mean that this style is no good, or this style is the best,” Pearson explained. “It’s learn as much as you can, practice the things you like, make sure that you take what works for you, and take the rest and put it to the side.”

Through the moves that he’s developed, Pearson stresses body movement and manipulation to his students, teaching them to understand how the mind and body work – and how to react in combat.

“If you can teach and train your body to understand how to look for weaknesses, you can eliminate a threat,” Pearson said.

The business, which originally opened in a small one-car garage on East Main Street before out-growing that space and moving to its current location on Joerschke Drive last September, serves about 50 students, most of whom heard about the classes through word-of-mouth. Pearson said the only advertising he’s really invested in are the 1,000 business cards he had printed and the banner that hangs outside the space. Pearson works full-time at an auto mechanic to help pay the rent and keep the business open.

A large part of his success, said Patti Southworth, Pearson’s girlfriend who also studies from him and assists during classes, is due to the fact that he loves what he does.

“You can tell it’s his livelihood, it’s his passion,” said Southworth, 20. “He loves being on the mat. That’s his home.”

Teaching ability, she noted, seems to come naturally to him.

“One of the most proud moments that I’ve had being a part of this is when I see him and the other students and how all the other students improve as classes go on, seeing how they soak up all the knowledge that he’s giving them,” Southworth said.

Pearson takes a lot of pride in passing that knowledge down – and in encouraging his students to improve on what he teaches them.

“I tell my students, ‘Please do not feel like you’re expected to do things exactly the way I do them,’” Pearson said. “Everybody puts their own flavor on every single technique that I show, and that’s why martial arts continues to grow.”

Pearson doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. In addition to teaching classes five nights a week, he’s also still competing as a martial artist – a great way, he noted, for him to continue to learn new moves to bring back to his students. Ultimately, he said, he’d like to own and operate a bigger space to bring his brand of combat jiu-jitsu to even more students.

“They say hard work pays off, but hard work only pays off if you continue to work hard,” Pearson said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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