Gentle giant punches his way into Ripley’s Believe It or Not! book

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 18, 2013

 Kevin Taylor throws a mean punch into a stack of bricks in front of a crowd. Taylor is featured in the new Ripley’s Believe It or Not! book titled “Dare to Look!”

Kevin Taylor throws a mean punch into a stack of bricks in front of a crowd. Taylor is featured in the new Ripley’s Believe It or Not! book titled “Dare to Look!”

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — To say Kevin Taylor is a strong man is quite the understatement.

Taylor, who has earned a fourth-degree black belt, is one of about 1,000 people to be recognized in the tenth installment of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! book series, “Dare to Look!” Taylor made the cut after breaking 584 cement bricks in 57.5 seconds — all with his hand — in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township.

To be inserted into a culturally relevant publication that was created by a franchise that has shocked and awed people is an honor for Taylor. But this isn’t the first time his strength has led to recognition.

“It feels really good,” said Taylor, who is 45 years old and currently resides in Warren. He lived in Clinton Township at the time this particular feat occurred, in 2008. “It was really a shock, and I’m in the Guinness (World Records book), too. So, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m in Ripley’s, too.’

“Every time I break (bricks), I get stronger and stronger and stronger. I’m a really fast breaker. I started karate when I was 20 years old.”

Taylor is no stranger to obliterating objects.

Along with breaking bricks, he has broken car door windows with nothing but the flesh and bones of his hands. One time, he punched a five-foot steel garbage can so hard that only six inches of undented steel remained.

He was also a contestant on NBC’s reality program “America’s Got Talent” in the summer of 2008, where he punched through a series of cement bricks that were engulfed in flames.

Ripley’s books and museums are a distinct part of Americana, inspiring people from all walks of life with tales of lore and bizarre feats. The first book was released in 1929, while the first museum opened in 1933 in Chicago. Now, there are 32 museums in 10 countries on four continents.

When these types of books are created by those at Ripley’s, it takes a team of people who are continuously on the move to find unusual things from all over the world. The newest book featuring Taylor was released in hardcover on Sept. 10.

“We have a team of researchers in Orlando, Fla., and London,” said Edward Myer, vice president of exhibits and archives for Ripley’s. “We ultimately want a story that makes a reader go, ‘Wow! That is the most unusual thing I have ever heard.’ Our teams of people see a lot of unusual stuff and walk away and say, ‘I’ve never seen that before.’

“It’s been 90 years of freaking people out.”

The 6-foot, 300-pound Taylor can impose his will when he wants to, but he doesn’t use his phenomenal strength in a negative fashion. His method of freaking people out involves showing the psychological power that is connected to his physical attributes.

“I don’t like hurting people,” Taylor said. “My master told me, ‘You should start breaking bricks. You’re a very powerful man.’ I broke bricks and the cinder block base, as well.

“It’s something positive and gives confidence to kids. We break wood and bricks (in the karate class that Taylor instructs) and they learn not to put their hands on other people. (Kids) don’t think like we think; they are more aggressive and don’t understand their abilities. Keep your hands to yourself — respect and honor.”

Taylor’s skills tend to defy the power of the human body. For every brick he demolishes with his hands, he wants to break one more. He enjoys beating his own records. He said he could beat his Ripley’s record by almost 20 seconds in the present day.

And if you are wondering whether this is for everyone, it can be. Sort of. You just need to harness the power and be productive with the results.

“It’s a full psychological (thing),” Taylor said. “It takes 339 pounds of pressure to break a brick. If you know you’re breaking bricks, you keep your hands to yourself and don’t do damage to anyone else. You could kill someone.”

In between karate sessions and making appearances on various television programs, Taylor continues to fine-tune his craft. Every effort is just another brick in the wall.