Keenan Cornelius BJJ

Grappler Profile: Keenan Cornelius

Keenan Cornelius is a 31 year old American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt that has come into prominence in recent years in the grappling scene. With the support of his father, Keenan trained in various gyms, including the BJ Penn academy and Lloyd Irvin’s camp, where his talent flourished and he became a force to be reckoned with in the Jiu-Jitsu world. In this biography, we’ll take a closer look at Keenan’s journey, from his early days in Hawaii to his rise as a Jiu-Jitsu phenom.


Keenan Cornelius was born in Hawaii on February 25th, 1992, to Tom Callos, a 6th degree Tae Kwon Do black belt. Keenan’s father introduced him to martial arts at a young age, but it wasn’t until he discovered Jiu-Jitsu that he found his true passion. He started training in Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 14 in a small gym that his father had opened for him and his friends. Keenan was graded by Carlos Valente to the green belt rank, and soon after, he started training at Cassio Werneck’s gym, where he met Andris Brunovskis, who pushed him to further develop his skills.

In his mid-teens, Keenan’s father took him to train at the BJ Penn academy in Hilo, where he spent time with BJ and his brother. Keenan liked it so much that he enrolled in a college in Hilo to train every day at Penn’s gym. However, Keenan eventually left BJ Penn’s gym to train at Lloyd Irvin’s camp in Maryland after hearing good things about Irvin’s training from his friend Andris Brunovskis. At Irvin’s academy, Keenan’s raw talent flourished, and he quickly became one of the most talented fighters of his generation, winning all major competitions on the IBJJF roster back-to-back as a purple belt and a brown belt.

Keenan’s career picked up quickly, and he became somewhat of a celebrity among BJJ enthusiasts in the United States. He was seen as the big US hope for a future shot at an absolute world title in the black belt division. In April 2019, Keenan severed ties with André Galvão and the Atos Jiu-Jitsu team, where he had been training for several years. The split took place weeks prior to the IBJJF World Championship, and Keenan prepared for the tournament in a few different gyms, namely the Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Academy in San Diego and Gracie Barra – Northridge, representing the BJJ Globetrotters banner at the tournament.

Keenan applying his famous “Worm guard” in competition (Source: Grappling-Italia)

During the later months of 2019, Keenan opened up his own gym in the San Diego region, which he named Legion Jiu-Jitsu. Today, Keenan is considered one of the top competitors in the Jiu-Jitsu world, known for his innovative techniques and dynamic style of grappling. His dedication to the sport and his unique approach to training have earned him a legion of fans and followers who look up to him as a role model.

Check out this awesome video about Keenan from BJJ film maker and blackbelt Stuart Cooper:

Competitive Success and Accomplishments

Here’s a list of Keenans competitive highlights in recent years. He has won multiple gold medals in IBJJF championships as well as placing on the podium multiple times at ADCC.

Note: * Absolute, **Weight class and absolute

Black Belt

1st Place IBJJF European Open2018**, 2020
1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship2018, 2015, 2014
1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship No-Gi2019*
1st Place IBJJF World Championship No-Gi2014
1st Place IBJJF Asian Open2018**
1st Place IBJJF Pro League2014
1st Place FIVE Grappling Grand Prix2013
1st Place IBJJF American Nationals2017**
1st Place IBJJF/JBJJF Japanese Nationals2017
1st Place IBJJF/JBJJF Asian Open2017**
1st Place IBJJF Boston Summer Open2017**
1st Place IBJJF Chicago Summer Open2017**
1st Place IBJJF Seattle Open2017**
2nd Place IBJJF European Open2020*
2nd Place ADCC World Championship2017
3rd Place ADCC World Championship2013**
3rd Place IBJJF World Championship2018
3rd Place IBJJF Pan Championship2018

Coloured Belts

1st Place IBJJF World Championship2013 brown, 2012** purple
1st Place IBJJF World No-Gi Championship2012** brown, 2011 purple
1st Place BJJ Kumite – Gi and No-Gi2012 brown
1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship2013** brown, 2012** purple
1st Place IBJJF European Open2013** brown, 2012** purple
1st Place CBJJ Brazilian National2012** purple
2nd Place IBJJF World Championship2013* brown

The Worm Guard

Of all of Keenans contributions to the BJJ world, he is probably most known for the Worm Guard. The worm guard was developed by Keenan in 2014 as a position and a system for guard players to maximise attacks using the Gi. In this position, the guard player uses the opponent’s lapel to wrap around their own shin and pass it underneath the passer’s opposite leg. This creates a grip with the guard player’s far hand, while their foot is usually placed past the opponent’s hip. This control gives the guard player leverage, restricting the passer’s movement and ability to apply pressure. This, in turn, creates opportunities for sweeps, reversals, and back takes.

Check out this video covering the basics of worm guard:

Social Links

If you want to stay up to date with Keenan check out his channels and social media:




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