I recently had the honor to speak with Prof. Keith Owen about some of his philosophy about BJJ and other related topics. For those who do not know, Prof Owen runs a school in Idaho and has been a great Pillar of BJJ for many years. He is a 3rd degree black belt under the living legend Prof. Sauer . If you are in Idaho ever, i would recommend checking out his academy. The Website is idahoujj.com
Why/when/where did you originally begin training?–
I think I started about 93-94 and I can’t remember exactly but probably 94, there was no Jiu-Jitsu except the Gracies really and professor Sauer. I started in with professor in Utah. I was in Idaho and I would drive down and stay weeks with him and train in Utah. I was so blessed to be able to that. I was a black belt in stand up martial arts. I loved to grapple when I was a kid. And then I started wrestling and I hated it because they were trying to kill me every day in practice. They would make me train with the super huge guys which ended up killing my love of grappling for a few years. Then I saw Royce and saw black belt magazine on Royler Gracie and I was like holy crap they’re badass. I thought it was something I should check out. I ended up walking into a local electronics store and I was standing there when out of nowhere some guy asked if I had heard of the Gracies and then he showed me this video and “these guys were kicking ***” and right there I made my decision that I have got to go learn this. I told him that I was going to go learn this and his name was Dean Heileman and he went on to also get his Blackbelt, although he passed away after.
What has been the defining moment for you in BJJ-
one of the most defining moments was when I first met Prof. Sauer and he put me against a girl the first time and I was already a black belt in other arts and she arm-bared me and I was like “wow that’s amazing,” that I was significantly bigger and she still arm-bared me. So then I knew that a smaller person could use this to beat a bigger un-trained guy.
What are the most important things you look for in a Black-Belt-
I’m just looking for awesomeness! If you are going to be one of my Black belts you have to have good character. If you don’t have that, ill run you off long before that. And of course you have to be really technical and I’m not talking about world championship status, but you have to be able to grapple with very little energy. And it’s not just about submissions, you can tap me with a triangle but that doesn’t mean I’ll give you a black belt. You have to have really good teaching skills as well; I really value the aspect of teaching. I have 6 Black belts now and it has taken between 10-14 year to get their Black belts. I want to be the ivy league of Jiu-Jitsu .
Why do you think so many people quit at blue belt?
My big feeling is that our society has engrained itself in instant gratification. White to blue can be fairly quick, but blue belt can be a lot longer to get your purple belt. A lot of schools also don’t give strips either, plus your still in a place where you’re still kind of a newbie and in the gauntlet it might take 5 year as a blue belt on top of everyday life that can stop you from training. A lot of instructors also have the attitude that “ if you don’t come than that’s your choice”, but I know, if you miss a week at my school I’ll call you and make sure you are alright, so you should let me know. We want people to continue training and I think this can affect a lot of schools when people end up not feeling like they can go back. “ you don’t get a week with me before I’ll call you”.
Do you follow Sport BJJ, if so who is your favorite competitor to watch-
I do follow the sport, man Gary Tonnon I love that dude, Keenan Cornielious is fantastic too! Gordon Ryan Is awesome too I’m liking him a lot now! Eddie Cummmings has awesome Jiu Jitsu too! Love Roger !
Why are you the Rhino and how did you get the name?
The reason I’m the Rhino is because I was called one in training one day and boy I’m glad they didn’t call me a Hippo! Rhinos have no natural enemies in nature and they are very slow until the find the right angle and then the will go for it. They are big, but never attack strait on. That’s what I do! Rhinos also have thick skin and I think that’s what we need in life to deal with criticism. I also end up using my head a lot in grappling as another hand which is similar to the Rhino!