Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, Vice President of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), has predicted a spurt in the popularity of the sport following its successful debut in the Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament.
With competition for gold medals in 29 different categories, the first edition of the NAS Jiu-Jitsu Championship attracted more than 400 participants from many different nationalities and Al Dhaheri was impressed with the quality of the competition and turnout.
“The Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament, organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, has risen from the local stage to become a truly international event,” said Al Dhaheri.
“It keeps growing stronger and stronger with every passing year and we, the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, are proud to be a part of this tournament and I believe our partnership with the Organising Committee of NAS will give Jiu-Jitsu a boost, expanding the base of the sport and increasing the number of participants.
“This year we had more than 400 participants and I am confident we will see bigger numbers in the next edition because the number of people joining this sport keeps increasing significantly every year.
“So we are looking forward to the next edition of the NAS Sports Tournament. Participating in this tournament has been and will continue to be on the agenda of the UAEJJF. We at the Federation want to take Jiu-Jitsu to every home and every family in the UAE, and the NAS Sports Tournament will be one of our main partners in this endeavour.”
Meanwhile, in the NAS Padel Championship, the pair of Mohammed Al Mansouri and Saeed Al Marri will take on Abdullah Ahli and Mohammed Ahli in the final of the UAE Nationals category.
In the semi-finals on Friday night, Al Mansouri and Al Marri defeated Abdullah Amiri and Majed Al Falasi 6-0, 6-1, while Abdullah and Mohammed Ahli qualified at the expense of Sheikh Saeed Hasher and Omar Sharif, winning 6-1, 6-1.
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.”