Adam Wardzinski, European athlete of the year at the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards, fears that if the sport is included in the Olympic Games, the rules could be changed just like judo that would affect the quality of matches.
Jiu-Jitsu continues to grow rapidly with the sport practised by thousands around the world, especially here in the UAE. However the International Olympic Committee are yet to be convinced that it’s worthy of a place on their programme roster.
That is despite the sport making its debut at the Asian Beach Games in 2014 and then the Asian Indoor Games, as well as the inaugural 2017 World Beach Games in San Diego.
Jiu-jitsu will take another step forward when it makes its debut at this year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, which UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation chairman Abdulmunam Al Hashemi is hopeful that a strong competition can boost their bid of making the Olympics one day.
If jiu-jitsu is accepted by the IOC, it would join judo and karate on the programme. Judo has been on the Olympic roster since the 1964 edition in Tokyo but their sport’s governing body have set out new rules for the 2020 Games. It’s part of their goal in trying “to promote the rules of judo and make them easier to understand, as well as to simplify them”.
For Wardzinski, he believes that with so many elite competitions taking place across the world, it’s not essential for jiu-jitsu to be accepted by the IOC, but would be concerned if rules are implemented to make it more spectator friendly.
“It can be included in the roster and there’s nothing that jiu-jitsu doesn’t have that Olympic sports have,” the 27-year-old, who finished runner-up in the 94kg final at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, told Sport360.
“I think the Asian Games is good for viewers but to be honest, I don’t think it’s highly needed for us athletes to bring jiu-jitsu into Olympics.
“Changes are mostly done to make jiu-jitsu safe for the white belts and same for black belts, but to be honest, if jiu-jitsu is included in the Olympics, it will mess up with the rules and could end up like judo. It would be less options in fighting, like no ripping down the pants and all that stuff. That’s what I’m afraid, but we’ll see.
“Maybe it will go in a good way. For me, I’m enjoying the phase of jiu-jitsu that it is today and right now it’s good for jiu-jitsu. If it goes to Olympics, then it goes.”
He might have had to settle for silver but UAE’s top-ranked Faisal Al Ketbi believes he’s ‘taken a few steps closer’ in his bid of winning a black belt gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship one day.
The 31-year-old was beaten by Brazil’s Isaque Braz in Saturday’s 85kg final as the Emirati’s quest to clinch a maiden black belt gold in the competition continues for another 12 months.
Although it was a disappointing end to the season, Al Ketbi can reflect back on a promising 2017-2018 campaign. Back in July, he won gold and silver at the World Games in Poland before winning double at the Asian Indoor Martial and Arts Games in Indonesia. He also clinched gold and silver in elite UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation competitions.
But despite coming so close on his home patch at the Mubadala Arena last weekend, he believes he’s not too far off achieving one of his major objectives.
“The final was very close and I feel I have taken a few steps closer (to winning a World Pro),” the 31-year-old told Sport360 on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu World Awards at Emirates Palace.
“The match was tight and it was one mistake from me that my opponent took advantage of. In sport that happens. Sometimes you think about what you want to do during the fight and your opponent is also thinking what he wants to do, so that means you have to change your strategies during the match which isn’t easy.
“At the same time, the clock is ticking so you don’t have much time. Overall, it was a close game and I lost by two points. Hopefully I can win next time and learn from my mistakes.”
Al Ketbi is competing in the highest tier of jiu-jitsu since being elevated from brown in 2015. It was a division where he had a lot of success in especially at the World Pro.
Skills and determination go head to head as the players show that they deserve to be at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2018#ChampionWithin #ADWPJJC18 pic.twitter.com/jPDgouD8Xg— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) April 27, 2018
Yet in his short time at the top, he quickly found out that success in black belt is not purely down to agility or skill but using your mind.
“I knew when I started jiu-jitsu that getting black belt is the pinnacle of jiu-jitsu,” he said. “There is so many people who have been competing in black belt for 10 or 15 years so there’s a lot people who are well experienced.
“When you come from brown belt, you are up against new opponents and you think you know how good they are but that’s not always the case. I feel that I’m not less better than them as we have the same techniques and skill. It’s about being calm and focused.
“Whenever I go into my matches, I try to fix a position and be in that position for as long as I can. It’s more about having a plan and making that work.
“Previously, it was all about fighting, but in black belt it’s about strategies and not just jumping around. It’s about focusing and I learnt that with just one game, the match can end with an disadvantage. It can be quite frustrating especially if you’ve worked so many months for that competition but that’s the harsh reality of being a black belt athlete.”
Al Ketbi will have a few weeks rest before turning his focus on the Asian Games in Indonesia. Al Ketbi will step up his preparations during a month-long training camp in Los Angeles with the UAE national team and the Emirati has vowed he will do all he can to raise the national flag high.
“This is one of the most important competitions for the UAE,” he said. “Jiu-Jitsu is making its debut at the Games and our federation (UAEJJF) are showing a lot of support to the national team to ensure they can be at their best. They put their trust in us and that trust will not go away. Our players know the responsibility and we will push ourselves for this competition.”
For the third consecutive year, the end-of-season gala organised by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation recognised the best Emirati and international athletes during the 2017-18 season at Emirates Palace across 26 categories.
Al Ketbi was beaten by Isaque Braz in Saturday’s 85kg final at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. However, that didn’t stop him picking up the Best Emirati Black Belt Award.
During the season, Al Ketbi won gold and silver at the World Games in Poland before clinching double gold at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games at Indonesia.
Meanwhile, there was a double celebration in the Al Hinaai household. Sisters Maha and Mahra, won the Best Emirati Purple Belt Player of the Year and Best Emirati Blue Belt Youth Player of the Year awards. After a busy campaign, even they cannot remember how many medals they won this season.
“We don’t really count how many medals we have because there are so many,” said Maha, 18, who is a member of the UAE national team. “It’s an amazing feeling to win this prestigious award because it shows you can be rewarded if you work hard. We were both nominated last year but finished second. Inshallah, hopefully we can win again in the future.”
After a year filled with great moments of passion, skill, and celebration, the season has finally come to an end. Let's look back at some of this season's highlights!#ADWJJA #TheHeroes #UAEJJF#Jiujitsulife #jiujitsu #AbuDhabi #UAE #YearofZayed #Oss pic.twitter.com/zHl2LNPznz— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) April 29, 2018
For Igor Silva, he picked up two personal accolades. The Brazilian topped the world rankings to win the Best Player of the Year and South American Player of the Year respectively having won a tally of 18 medals (13 golds, three silvers and two bronzes).
Silva finished ahead of Adam Wardzinski in the world rankings but despite the latter losing his 94kg final at the World Pro on Saturday, he still walked away with the Best European Player of the Year award thanks to his 16 medal tally (eight golds, six silvers and two bronzes).
“It was a tough and busy season for me but the organisation of the UAE competitions are really high in standard,” said the 27-year-old. “It was just a pleasure to compete during the season and it’s great to be part of this. It was a fantastic season for me and to be the top-ranked European athlete while also finishing runner-up in the world rankings. I’m now looking forward to the next season.”
Meanwhile, UAE-based Larissa Paes clinched the Female Player of the Year accolade after a dominant 10 months which saw her claim 19 medals (11 golds, six silvers and two bronze).