UAE Jiu-Jitsu stars thankful for ‘special experience’ at closed training camp


ABU DHABI — The UAE national Jiu-Jitsu team has given a resounding thumbs-up to the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) for organizing a recent training camp, describing it as a “special experience” with a number of “lessons”.

The UAEJFF, the governing body for Jiu-Jitsu in the Emirates, is the first sporting body in the Middle East to explore a return to competitive action since sport worldwide was halted in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 60 elite UAE Jiu-Jitsu athletes have now completed a three-week closed training camp, at the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Organized in line with Federal and global COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the program included stringent medical examinations for every athlete, coach, and member of support staff, isolation until test results were confirmed.

The camp included two competitions for the athletes: The Refresher Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge, giving the team confidence-boosting match practice and allowing the coaching team to identify areas of further improvement.

“Getting back to doing what I love doing the most, what I have done for most of my life, was a really special experience. It brought me peace of mind. All of us were training at home before the camp, but coming together as a group, inspiring each other to constantly better ourselves was incredibly special,” said four-time world champion Faisal Al Ketbi.

“This camp was quite different, and it came with a lot of lessons. It wasn’t just about preparing ourselves on the mat. There were challenges, limitations, but also the sense that we had to push ourselves, individually and as a group. The Federation has shown a lot of trust in us by organizing this camp and everyone felt from within that we had to repay this faith by working a little harder.”

The athletes were put through two daily training sessions during the camp ˗ a light session before Iftar and a longer, more intense session from 10 p.m. to midnight.

“Given that it was Ramadan, the UAEJJF helped adjust our training schedules that was helpful to everyone. The training camp also took into consideration that some of us have schoolwork to finish and we were able to continue to stay on top of things through e-learning,” said 2019 World Youth Championship bronze medalist, Salem Mubarak Zayed.

The athletes were also fulsome in their praise for the coaching staff, who were constantly assessing areas for development and reigniting competitive spirit in preparation for a return to international action later this year.

“Our coaches focused not only on making us better technically, but paid a lot of attention to our strength, movement, and cardiovascular conditioning. We started off the camp with a body-fat analysis, and we were given targets of what we needed to achieve physically by the end of the camp.

“I was a bit rusty during the first couple of days but with the constant encouragement of the coaching team, the UAEJJF, and the other fighters in camp, we managed to build momentum towards the end,” said Zayed Al Katheeri, the reigning 56kg world champion.

Mubarak Al Menhali, technical director, UAEJJF, added: “Training camps are crucial for improving fighters' technical levels and physical strengths. Getting them back on the mat in a competitive format enabled us to see their level of development.

“We wanted to ensure that our fighters do not break the habit of competing regularly even during these extraordinary circumstances and we believe that the experience of the closed training camp has prepared them to be at their best once the competitive season resumes.” — SG