Every BJJ black belt has used kinesthetic and visual learning methods to develop technique, but what happens when a deaf person steps on the mats? This isn’t an abstract question either, as these particular modalities of learning are the sole focus for professional Jiu-Jitsu player and Bellator veteran, Garrett Scott, because he lives in a world of silence. Not muffled or quiet, but completely absent of sound.
Rarely do his teammates know sign language and he doesn’t read lips. But he likes the demonstrational format of Jiu-Jitsu instruction, seeing the movement of the technique and body positioning with enhanced visual attention, then feeling it through drilling and sparring.
He fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu after getting demolished by his first instructor Roberto Kaelin. The ease with which Kaelin dominated him blew his mind. He wrestled in high school and studied some judo but couldn’t escape Kaelin’s holds, getting submitted over and over. He had to figure out how this was happening and he became hooked.
Royce Gracie originally piqued his interest with overbearing wins in the early UFCs. No takedowns, no slams, just kind of tumbling and rolling over his opponents hunting joint-locks and chokes. He’d never seen technique like that and decided to look into it.
After a few years of training, he found a gym called Rubicon Fightsport in Austin, TX, where he began studying under NHB practitioner, Paul Nixon, and Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Ronny Lis. I owned the gym at that time and knew enough sign language to piece together details lost to spoken instruction. The combination of circumstances sharpened his game forging him into a solid competitor with a small undefeated pro MMA record and myriad championships from local tournaments.
At birth he could hear. But when he was 3 months old, he caught meningitis and was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he spent the next 25 days fighting for his life. Upon recovery, doctors discovered he was profoundly deaf.
At the age of 3, a doctor from a particular clinic in Texas told his parents their son would never be able to communicate or use language and had stunted intellect, genuinely upsetting them. His mom refused to accept the prognosis and told the doctor she appreciated everything he had done but didn’t believe him, and they left.
The way Garrett’s mom stood up for him deeply impacted his life. Her confidence in him inspired an internal fortitude and will strong enough to overrun all obstacles on a difficult path. He still carries a gritty toughness wherever he goes, working hard, training hard and always pushing himself to do a little bit more, to fight a little bit harder. He pays no attention to critics and spends no time burdened by setbacks. In this spirit, he drove himself to become America’s first Deaf BJJ black belt and one of a limited number of people around the world who’ve managed to overcome the loss of one of their senses to become a talented martial artist.
His message is, pursue your dreams. Set goals and don’t deviate from them. If you get off track, things can go bad. But if you stay on track, you get little surprises and gifts along the way. In life, anything can happen. With Garrett, what you see is what you get. He’s not fake and wears his heart on his sleeve, a great role model to any aspiring grappler.
I first met him back when Fight 2 Win held tournaments at a place called the Crockett Center in Austin–a giant gun-show warehouse with mats on the floor. Spectators stood around the edges like a schoolyard brawl; nostalgic to anyone who came up through the ranks in Austin at that time.
His nickname is “the Deaf Grappler,” with “Deaf” placed in front on purpose to self-identify–It’s who he is. Also, because he wanted to give people in the Deaf community someone to cheer for and look up to. His story is one of determination, perseverance and good will. He stands as a testament to honest living and the positive effect training can have on a person’s life.
Though retired from MMA, Garrett still trains with Alliance Jiu-Jitsu in Keller, TX under Sam Snow and Jean Petrik. His goal for 2022 is to compete at middleweight in bracketed Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and sub-only superfights.