As the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Jiu-Jitsu World Tour returns, we find out how the discipline is more gentle than it seems, and why more girls should take up the national sport of the UAE
Billed as one of the most prestigious international jiu-jitsu tours in the world, the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Jiu-Jitsu World Tour journeys the globe, stopping at some of the top cities in the world to celebrate the sport and witness top-class competition.
Following stops in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro, the Grand Slam is now coming to Abu Dhabi on 12th and 13th January, bringing some of the world’s best players as well as UAE talent for a two-day competition before |the tour moves on for the final round in London in March.
Competing in divisions split by ages – juvenile, adults and masters – as well as belts – white, blue, purple, brown and black – medallists of each division will earn points for the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) World Rankings as well as cash prizes, so there’s plenty to play for.
“This is the fourth leg of the Grand Slam, and very important for this region, as more athletes from the Middle East can participate, so we are looking forward to bring the best jiu-jitsu players to Abu Dhabi and put on an excellent show for the fans,” says HE Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of UAEJJF, president of Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union and senior vice president of Jiu-Jitsu International Federation.
“Our aim and mission is to transform the UAE into a world leader when it comes to jiu-jitsu; we as a nation always strive for perfection, and that is what we work towards to achieve.”
Speaking about the tour, Brazilian black belt champion Ricardo Evangelista adds: “I have seen this tournament grow from the start; it has really become the most prestigious jiu-jitsu world tour in the world. It’s a pleasure and honour to compete in Abu Dhabi; I am looking forward to putting on a show for the fans.”
While jiu-jitsu may seem like an aggressive sport, the players say it’s actually the opposite.
When she began training two years ago, 32-year-old Emirati white belt Fatima Hussain admits she thought it was all about coming onto the mat and taking on your opponent with as much power as possible.
“When I first started to play, I could see you have to fight. Then when I started to train, I see it’s more about control, because I’m a bit of an angry person,” she laughs. “Now, I need to think before I do anything that gives some power and some technique.”
After competing in several competitions, Fatima now understands the amount of tactics and preparation involved in a match. Besides training for six hours every day ahead of big championships like the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, Fatima receives briefs from her coach that will help her understand her opponents’ style and techniques so she can tailor her tactics.
While she loves the sport, there’s no doubt that being a female Emirati jiu-jitsu player has had its challenges. Fatima admits that her family was apprehensive at first, claiming the sport wasn’t part of the culture. Today, her family are her biggest fans, cheering her on from the sidelines.
Fatima hopes more girls and women will take up the sport and discover its benefits.
“Now jiu-jitsu is starting in schools and loads of people when they come [to try it] they like it. They want to know why we can’t do it – it’s not only for Brazilians or other nationalities,” she says.
“If you start to play at ten or 15 [years old], it’s different. [When] you reach 30, you know you will be perfect in this.
“I think it will give [girls] good behaviour, [and teach them] how to respect.
“They have to start soon, work very hard and do their best to reach what they want. If they continue training, they will be the best girls in the world.”
Need to know:
What: Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Jiu-Jitsu World Tour 2017-18
When: 12th Jan 2pm-7pm, 13th Jan 10am-6pm
Where: Mubadala Arena, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, next to Zayed Sports City
Tickets: Free entry
WORDS Rachael Perrett