A Look Inside the Mind of Keenan Cornelius


Recently Keenan was a guest on FloGrappling’s “A Fist Full of Collars” podcast, where they covered a wide array of interesting topics. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:




Coming from the unbiased perspective of a 2x black belt world champion and seasoned ADCC veteran, Keenan breaks down how no gi is less technical and more athletic based due to the limited options caused by not being able to form grips, as well as explaining how leg locks have changed the competitive no gi scene. He goes on to explain how the traditional guard play>sweep>pass route of no gi jiu-jitsu has been rendered less effective by the inherent advantage of gravity the top player has, and thus replaced by attacking leg locks and coming up for wrestling style sweeps from the bottom, such as single and double legs.

•KEENAN ON MMA(21:20-31:22)

Keenan talks about how he, and many others are exposed to and thus begin their jiu-jitsu journey due to the popularity of MMA. The first 3 years of Keenan’s jiu-jitsu training were exclusively no gi, and he first picked up training in the gi because of a Marcelo Garcia quote about how training in the gi makes you more technical for no gi. It was this that opened up his eyes to how expansive jiu-jitsu is and how much there truly is to learn. He then left his MMA training behind to pursue a more jiu-jitsu oriented career path and how the brutal training in MMA was damaging to his most precious asset to succeeding in jiu-jitsu; his brain.


Keenan reveals how the lapel system started to develop in his purple belt days as a necessity to survive against teammate JT Torres, who prevented Keenan from mounting any offense from open guard by immediately stripping and shutting down all grips. It was here that Keenan discovered the unique properties of the lapel and how hard it was for the lapel grips to be shut down. Then after moving to Atos, he had much more success using the lapel system on people who have never been exposed to it. He purposely kept it a secret until black belt where he made a splash in his division, defeating Leandro Lo in his division and sweeping Buchecha in the open class.

•TEMPO IN JIU-JITSU(38:28-45:42)

Here Keenan breaks his obsession with the technique and goes over one of the key concepts of high-level competitive jiu-jitsu: “tempo”. He explains how by being properly on the offensive, your opponent must properly defend and thus is unable to attack you in return, which opens up even further opportunities for you to attack. Only by breaking this tempo and resetting to a neutral position can your opponent start mounting an offensive.


Keenan goes over how he’s refrained from the traditional style of “hard training”(2-3 training sessions a day) and how that style of training is unsustainable when training in such a high-level environment. He points out that everyone is different and has to find what works best for them, but for him putting too much effort into something causes diminishing returns and tends to focus on quality over quantity.


Keenan further delves into his training a little and explains how injuries occur in training when you train too much to the point where your reflexes, timing, awareness, etc. start to suffer. You need to find a balance in your training and find how much you train in optimal conditions. This ties into his strength training routine, which is sometimes referred to as “meathead style” of lifting, and how doing bodybuilder style workouts that put muscle in small specific areas compliment the many weird and unorthodox positions you find yourself in when doing jiu-jitsu, and help him stay injury free.

Watch the full interview above, where they discuss additional topics such as:

•Cycles of Competitive Jiu-Jits

•Jiu-jitsu for Self-Defense

•Keenan’s Life Outside Jiu-Jitsu

•Keenan on Basic Worm and Closed Guard Control

•Keenan’s Mission in Jiu-Jitsu

•Learning Jiu-jitsu Systematically

•Inconsistency From IBJJF

•Best Things From Jiu-jitsu

•Competitive Pressure

•Next Trends in Jiu-jitsu

•Studying Footage