I'd like to introduce BJJ-ASIA's first guest writer, Mr. Daniel Faggella, a brown-belt under Alexandre Soca and owner of Black Diamond Mixed Martial Arts Academy. Daniel's work has appeared in such publications/sites as Jiu Jitsu Magazine and OnTheMat. Hopefully this is just the beginning for more to come from Daniel and other guest writers. Please kindly welcome Daniel the SEABJJ community. -Luke
|photo taken from: www.bjjee.com|
Keenan Cornelius- The Journey
These days all eyes are on Keenan Cornelius. Recently, he has won double gold medals at the four largest tournaments in the world at the brown belt level. In an interview with Stephan Kesting from Grapplearts, I was able to gain a bit of an inside look of Keenan’s beginnings from a novice Jiu Jitsu player with mostly losses on his record, to where he is now- undefeated at the brown belt level.
Keenan was born in Kona, Hawaii and grew up in Hilo as a young child. He was there for seven years and then moved around to California, Nevada and Florida.
Keenan began learning Jiu Jitsu with his stepfather, Tom Callos when he was 14. Callas had owned several martial arts schools and held a 6th degree blackbelt in Taekwondo and blue belt in Jiu Jitsu. The two mostly learned out of their garage in California utilizing local high school wrestlers and YouTube videos. He trained like this for about two years with sporadic visits to gyms near Sacramento.
After some success at some white belt competitions, Keenan had a breakthrough moment when he decided he wanted to do Jiu Jitsu for the rest of his life. At the age of 16, Keenan took the GED, dropped out of high school, and moved back to Hilo, Hawaii to train with BJ Penn and to pursue Jiu Jitsu full time. He stayed and trained there for three years.
At 18 years of age, Keenan made another bold decision. He decided he wanted to be in a more Jiu Jitsu competition-focused environment because at the time in Hawaii, training was more MMA focused and the Jiu Jitsu training seemed to be too laid back for his goals. It was because of this desire to take his career even more seriously that Keenan moved to Maryland in 2011 to train with Team Lloyd Irvin. He would be there for nearly two years.
The training environment at Team Lloyd Irvin was catered towards athletes wishing to pursue competitive Jiu Jitsu full time. Keenan was surrounded by great trainers and training partners who were all passionate about the sport and driven to improve and succeed.
The type of class environment was different for Keenan as well. Instead of a typical styled class of warm ups, technique display and learning, followed by some live sparring, the Team could practice the way they saw fit. With supervision, Keenan and the team would drill what they wanted to for a period of time followed by intensive live rolling for an extended amount of time.
Being surrounded by determined and focused athletes all looking to improve, having a more structured and instructional class wasn’t needed. In fact, through utilizing YouTube Keenan and the others could consistently watch the best competitors and study them. They saw what worked and what could be improved on. This sort of active learning and searching for information lead each person in the gym to find their own specific style of Jiu Jitsu game play.
Keenan believes that this sort of practice and training is very important because it gave him the freedom to grow in his own way. It would be interesting to see if this is how most of the other top level competitors in world also train each day. It certainly has moved Keenan from his days competing in the lower belts and securing a moderate win-loss ratio, to being undefeated at the brown belt level.