How did you begin to train BJJ?
Owen: I began training martial art in about 1994. I started doing Muai Thai and Tong Long (similar to praying mantis style kung fu). I saw a VHS video copy of UFC 1 in 1996.
After watching it I thought Jiu Jitsu is something that I should investigate and I found a place on the gold coast that taught BJJ. After my first class I was instantly hooked.
What were your goals as a white belt?
Owen: At that stage my coach was a blue belt and I’d only ever seen a purple belt once. I thought how cool is that guy, he rolls so smoothly and it’s like he known every single position.” At that point my goal was to one day become a good purple belt, which at the time seemed like a lofty goal.
What were your goals as a blue belt?
Owen: By the time I got to blue belt my goals had changed significantly. I’d realized that whilst belts are a good indicator of your progress they were not one of my aims. My aim was and still is, to simply get good at Jiu Jitsu. It is something I am still trying to do till this day.
What changes or developments did you go through as a blue belt to earn your purple?
Owen: As a blue belt I was just acquiring single techniques. There was a noticeable difference as I was rolling. As a blue belt I would stop after each technique and consider which technique would come up next. As a purple belt I had plans from nearly every position and my game started to flow without any hesitation. Sometimes this lead to good things, something not so good. One thing that I noticed at purple when I’d watch instructional rarely would I see something brand new that I hadn’t seen before. Most of the time I’d seem the techniques before or variations of it before.
What was the martial arts scene in Australia like as you were first training?
Owen: Martial arts in Australia has always been a minor sport never really taking the headlines apart from maybe Taekwondo. When I started I never told people that I did Jiu Jitsu as it usually resulted in long conversations about capoeira or the WWE. It was a very small crowd of people that knew Jiu Jitsu and even smaller crowd who participated.
When and what made you decide to practice BJJ full time?
Owen: Like many white and blue belts that wanted BJJ to be their full time job, but this was only really a possibility at brown belt. At purple belt and below my goal was just to compete, learn and train. Once I was a brown belt I wanted to head toward a BJJ lifestyle. I had several changes in my personal life too, I broke up with my girlfriend and sold my business allowing me to take some time off and focus on my training. Luckily enough Liam Resnekov offered me a role Managing VT1 in Chatswood, after a year there Bruno offered me a full time position at Gracie Humaitá Sydney HQ, which I still enjoy today! It was quite a long transition process from student to instructor. Just to give you an idea from the class I started with maybe 25 students, I know of only 2 others that are still training competing and doing BJJ and both of these guys are brown belts. The rest for one reason or another haven’t been able to stick with it.
What was your biggest struggle in Jiu Jitsu? Your biggest success?
Owen: When I started BJJ everyone wanted to be a guard player. I was one of the smaller guys and even if I wanted to try and play guard, I would get dragged into my opponents’ guard (sometimes kicking and screaming). From white to blue belt I had a very lop sided pass dominant game. I received a promotion at work and I couldn’t train so I ended up taking over 3 years off, when I came back I’d decided that I wanted to be more well-rounded so I forced myself to play guard for the next 9 months. That’s been my biggest challenge to date, as when I came back there were a whole heap of new guards to work that I had never seen before. But really it wasn’t that bad, I think BJJ is unlike most sports where it’s quite easy to embrace the grind and just enjoy your journey. It can actually be pretty fun.
My biggest success tournament wise is probably my 3rd place at the Worlds masters in Rio in 2010 at Brown belt. It was a pretty hard prep so to go to Rio and medal was a huge achievement for me. Besides that, just achieving my black belt. It really has been a culmination of my life following a dream that I never thought would be a reality. Since I’ve been teaching I must also add that it is extremely gratifying seeing our team of coaches and students train and compete and sharing in their success is a huge achievement for me also even down to seeing students just get a technique they have struggled with for a while.