UAE develops jiujitsu as national sport, holds major event in Tokyo
TOKYO — A major international jiujitsu competition was held Sunday in Tokyo under the auspices of the United Arab Emirates’ federation for the sport, as the wealthy Gulf state is increasingly committed to promoting the martial art to help promote such values as discipline, self-defense and health in its society.
Despite the intense heat in the capital, about 900 male and female jiujitsu practitioners from 44 nations gathered at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Ota Ward.
“Tokyo is not hot at all compared to my country,” said Ashwaq Al Khoori, a 20-year-old participant from the UAE.
The Tokyo competition was the first leg of the 2018-19 season’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Jiu Jitsu World Tour, the annual series organized by the UAE federation in cities including Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi and London.
At the venue — which displayed huge national flags of both the UAE and Japan — bouts were held in categories divided by gender, weight and belt. Athletes demonstrated skillful techniques that forced their opponents into admitting defeat.
The UAE’s focus on the sport has been led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan — the powerful crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi — for more than 10 years. Jiujitsu has been officially designated as the national sport of the emirates.
The crown prince appreciates jiujitsu’s educational values, such as respect for others, self-confidence, health and self-discipline, according to Mansour Al Dhaheri, a board member of the federation. “Sometimes in the Arab world, people are not [necessarily] time-conscious. Jiujitsu can help [promote] discipline” in the UAE, he said.
Having introduced the sport to the public school curriculum, Abu Dhabi has more than 76,000 students — ranging from grades 6 to 12 — learning jiujitsu, the federation said.
Al Khoori started jiujitsu about nine years ago at school and has acquired a blue belt. “I can concentrate on studying more after practice. I cannot spend a day without jiujitsu training,” the female university student said.
Al Khoori also values the health benefits. “In our country, obesity is a big issue for women, particularly after marriage and pregnancy,” she said, stressing she is determined to keep fit by continuing practicing jiujitsu after marriage.
Saud Al Naqbi, a 20-year-old male athlete with a white belt from the UAE, loves the spiritual aspect of the sport. “Jiujitsu is a competition of minds, not bodies. What matters is how you use your mind.”
The UAE federation is considering interacting with the Japanese government and Olympic authorities in the hope that jiujitsu will be accepted as a demonstration sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.