The Czech Republic’s Robert Keno On His Recent Double Gold at the Rio Masters & Seniors and The Right Strength Training Regimen For BJJ

1.Hi Robert, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ community of Eastern Europe 

Hi everyone, my name is Robert Keno, I’m 36 years old, I was born in Kyjov now living in Sobeslav, small town in Southern Bohemia. Brown belt, last time I’ve checked 190cm or 6‘3“, weight 123kg (270lb) with Gi. I train in Prague-JungleBJJ and in Ceske Budejovice –Budweis, where I’m the trainer in Fight Club gym. I’ve started with BJJ in 2005.

As white belt I got 3rd place at Pan Ams 2007. Blue belt 1st and 2nd at NAGA 2007 and 2008 (North America Grappling Association), 2010 European championship, purple belt 1st ultra heavy and 3rd open, and now in brown belt 2012 Masters and Seniors International in Rio de Janeiro, 1st in ultra heavy and 1st in open weight category. There were about 10 other tournaments where I placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

2.How did you start training Jiu Jitsu? Please guide us through your BJJ journey 

Winning the Super Heavy Weight Senior 1 Brown Belt Class

First time I have seen BJJ training was in 2002 or 2003 back then it felt weird; The second time my friends didn’t make the same mistake and they let me try. I was impressed. Back then I was 143-145kg somewhat strong and I got owned by a 65-70kg-light guy. I didn’t know what to do with him, he took my back and choked me or armbarred me as I say I was IMPRESSED.

I first started in Atlanta -USA with Roberto “Spider” Traven, Mundial champion 1998-99, the training was something different from what I’ve used to know. Lifting weights is way different, weight is dead-doesn’t move or push back, you can choose your phase, slow or slower or fast, if you cannot breath, you slow down… But your opponent is soooo different, he pushes harder and you cannot inhale or exhale enough… I liked that experience. I think sometimes you have to put yourself trough difficult experiences so you know yourself better. You never know how your brain and body react under attack when nobody ever tried to choke you, it gets tighter and tighter and you cannot defend.

I have moved back from the USA in 2008. The whole decision was not an easy one, but we had to do it. I started to look for some BJJ school in Czech republic. It looked like there were two wannabe ‘‘schools‘‘ , then I found Jungle BJJ, the first training was cool, the first roll with Fernando Araujo not so cool, lol. I was happy, cool guy, with awesome technique, strength and HIP PRESSURE, lol… Even though I had to travel from my city for training 125km there and 125back. So had to leave at 16:00, two hours drive then for two hours “smash and pass”, then quick shower and around 23:00 you are back home.

Now we have a branch in Budweis. And lucky me or us, another Brazilian black belt moved to Budweis so it looks like the sun rise of BJJ in Czech republic.

3.What can you tell us about the Jungle BJJ academy and about the most successful students? What does it offer students that other academies don’t?

Prague’s Jungle BJJ

We are friends there, it’s not just BJJ. After practise we go out to eat, party, we travel. Every tournament we go to it’s more about having fun with what you do. If you think it must be just drill and rules, sooner or later you’ll burn yourself. If you don`t understand what I`m talking about and you are a blue belt or so, try to “train” kids, show technique and then some game or something. If not, they will not like it and you’ll be there pretty soon by yourself.

The best example is when your coach competes too, Nando took 2nd place at the EU championship in 2011. There are so many more guys who prove our approach is right.

The best students? Who is the best? I will name few, those who are at the top of the food chain, lol. Jon, who now lives back in California, trains competing and doing fine; Andrej Spike- love to train with him; Roman –Pitbull hopefully overcame his injuries; Alex Kaiser, who now trains in Spain; Hedgehog- we’ll never say his real name, lol; Krystof is getting better every day and old dogs (like me) Jirka, Marek “Gracie” and Moscowsky… Everyone who trains on a regular basis is getting better, plus put their individualities to improve others.

4. You have a background in power lifting and strongman competition. Would you recommend power lifting as a good strength program for BJJ like working a Crossfit style training?

Well, as I said power lifting is good but not just that. Power lifting is actually lifting enormous weight in slow motion. Strong man-training, lifting weird shaped objects for as many reps as you can, carrying heavy objects, trowing things yes… for our sport I would go with a combination of Power lifting plus Weightlifting plus specific training ( jumps, runs-long-short, swimming-love it or bicycling and ETC.)

You can call it cross fit, BUT after you know basic technique of disciplines like- jerk, snatch, clean, rear squat-front squat, dead lift and you have to strengthen up your body torso-core. Plus I will tell you one secret, the best exercise to improve your grip (after training with Gi-of course, lol), it helped me a lot-climbing rope or pull ups with rope.

5. Please guide us through your success at this year’s Masters and Senior at Rio Open 

With training for Rio Open I started 10 weeks before, training went like this, three times a week (Mon, Wen and Fri) Prague in Jungle, then Tue and Thr in Budweis and when I couldn’t go to Prague I had one workout in Sobeslav or Budweis, that was BJJ, usually every third week I had only four BJJ classes, and in the end I felt tired all the time. 3-4times per week gym-we can call it lifting weights, swimming and some bicycling.

I spent two weeks in Brazil where I visited a number of academies but trained in two, with Igor Silva and Muzio de Angelis. Muzio I know from US and Igor I`ve met for the first time in my life. Rodrigo “Comprido” Madeiros –again, a friend from US, helped me make that happen. Training there was mostly specific and rolling.

… And the competition ??? In my weight I had three fights, the most difficult was the first, when you realize, if you lose it, all you’ve done goes down the drain…I didn`t feel well.

Even to compete in the open category you have to place in the worst case 3rd. But it went ok, the guy was strong. My first take down was two points for HIM but the other take down was good, then I passed his guard, then mount and then cross choke, after three minutes I was much more happy. The second fight went in the same fashion, but this guy rolled to turtle instead and there was my clock choke waiting for me.

The final was actually the longest fight, at first my opponent acted like his knee is injured but after the first grip and few shakes I knew he is faking it. He was big and strong, so he didn’t want to go to the ground. Eventually it happened and after his turtle and my knee on his back , I went to the side and finished him with choke from the side control.

My category went from 12:00. At 13:00 it was over. My knee was badly hurt and I went to hotel, in that moment I made the decision that I WOULD NOT compete in open. Big guys know how it’s like, in that shape to fight against somebody who is 80-90kg, faster, better cardio and basically the same strenght, and my injured knee was “happy” in that moment too. At 14:00 I got my medal and was on my way back to the hotel. Of course I came back, the open was supposed to start at 19:30. I left and came back maybe three or four times. Then I came back at 19:00, put my wet, cold Gi on, send Sms text to Nando, saying “I’m going for Open, there is 26 people in it and, I’ll let you know tomorrow, now I`m turning off, wish me luck, bye”.

First fight went on 20:00 or something, there were only 16guys so, first fight-just shake, take down, passing guard, securing side control, little bit (actually) lot of knee on his belly to “break his spirit” and kimura. Second fight was nice, the guy tried to trow me so I took his back, set hooks, stretched him out, then he rolled and it was a really nice bow and arrow choke.

Semi-final, small guy – you know that if he got that far he must be good – it was a lot of dance, he didn’t make any mistake and was waiting for the throw, instead I grabbed his one leg, he rolled and clock choke again.

The final was a man something like 85-90kg (after the fight he told me his friends call him Quick Hip, lol) soon I’d find out why. He didn`t wait and started (really good grip) it took him like 40seconds and he threw me so pretty I had to thank him for that. I went like a bulldozer and ran trough him and took him down, after a minute or so I passed his guard then he turtled, I set one hook then the other, stretched him with all I got and rear naked choke, he tapped. Ref. called the doctor, he was smashed, but to my surprise the ref said “fix your gi, we’ll go on”. The ref said he didn`t see it and we should continue, I got a warning. But my opponent kneed and tapped on the mat so the ref. HAD to see it, I was happy for the display of fair play and for my second gold that day.

On the second day I felt pain in my whole body inside out…but it was worth it.

6.What are other BJJ players that you admire, and why? 

Robert’s BJJ trainer Fernando Araujo

There are so many, sometimes I watch on tournaments blue belt fights and I say “wow! that IS awesome, speed, technique and stamina”. But of course Roger, for his mount and cross choke, Kron for pushing and going for submission, Igor and his guard, Comprido, Andre Galvao, Rodolfo Vieira great take downs, unreal guard passing, great and simple jiu-jitsu. Every year there is two or three fighters, they show up and you are amazed and wondering where they’ve been???

7. How is the BJJ scene in the Czech Republic? 

I think growing, there is a lot that must be done, but we gain respect, mma guys know now there is much more than good stand-up and “some” ground. We are thinking about starting some real competitions some tournament worth going to. It`s going to be soon.

8. What are your favorite submissions? 

I have heard a saying: “rice with beans”, witch means, simple stuff works, so for me clock choke, bow and arrow choke lately I love more and more triangle choke or arm bar, sounds funny but big people are supposed to be slower and easily predictable, but now I am able to move better and quicker with my hips

9. What are your favorite guard passes?

Again, simple stuff – While standing, holding sleeve and pushing knee and passing, half guard passing with stretching your legs and holding bottom leg, lemon squeeze pass….every guy has some little tips here or there. I love to go to seminars you always see something useful for yourself.

10. Who are the toughest or most accomplished fighters that you have faced in competition?

No great names in competition , I have trained with top level guys in BJJ though, like Rodrigo “Comprido” Madeiros, Roberto Traven or Bruno Frazatto,Toughest and most accomplished fighter in MMA I’ve trained with- Brian Stann and Todd Duffee, I was his sparing partner in 2008 in Unit 2fitness, where he was getting ready for his fight in MMA with Assuerio Silva, he fought with Alistair Overeem too in 2010. They both had a great wrestling, it’s taught in US high schools, that is a big plus in MMA.

11.What is next for you and your team in 2012/2013?

We are thinking about Asia Open in Tokyo 12-13. October. For fall is going to be smaller tournaments in Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Chorvatia and Hungary maybe some Abu-Dhabi qualification and for sure European championship in Lisboa-Portugal. I think we need to compete more when possible.

12. What does Fernando Araujo represents for you? 

First of all that name means to me a Friend, who is able to tell you what you do wrong, sometimes is not easy, and most importantly, prove it. Guy who is strong but always tries to use technique over power. Jiu Jitsu –arte save-gentle art changes your approach to daily problems. I’m happy Nando is here with us and always stands behind his students.

12.If you want to thank somebody please feel free.

So thank you to my BBHB, Band of Brotherly Honey Badgers-Nando, Tiagao, Jon, Spike, Kaiser,Brona, Jirka, Pitbull, Dizzy, Hedgehog, Moscowsky, Marek`s, Peter`s, Andre, John, Honza, Jarda and all guys from Jungle.

And of course my family- Terezka and Hugo and I cannot forget this opportunity I have received from you guys in BJJ Eastern Europe, OSSSSSsssssssssss