Participants in action during the opening day of the Challenge Jiu-Jitsu Festival at UAE University in Al Ain on Saturday.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
The Challenge Jiu-Jitsu Festival got under way on Saturday at Al Ain’s UAE University amid a carnivalesque atmosphere as hundreds of children from a variety of nationalities came out to show their skills and future potential across five mats.
The infant-level championship is key within the agenda of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation as it represents an initial step towards developing and expanding the base of participants. Shedding light on future generations of talent and champions, it is regarded as one of the UAEJJF’s most important base-level championships.
Hoping to help set young Emiratis on the path towards professional careers, the tournament adopts similar rules to the adult and masters competitions.
Sharjah Self-Defence Sports Club (SSDSC) took first place on day one with 901 points, ahead of Al-Ain Club in second with 846 points, while Team Gladiators came third with 508 points.
In the national rankings, UAE finished top of the table on day one with 2,456 points, with Brazil and Kuwait second and third capturing 47- and 328, respectively.
Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, vice-chairman of the UAEJJF, said: “The Challenge Jiu-Jitsu Festival represents more than just a sporting event, but rather, a pioneering and essential platform adopted by the Federation’s agenda with the aim of developing youth in a sporting event that combines a family and sports environment.
“Families play a key role in pushing children to become professional jiu-jitsu athletes. They believe not only that their kids can become professionals in the future, competing at the highest level, but also that the infrastructure exists to enable that journey.
“The Federation’s efforts to provide all the necessary elements for players to progress and the opportunities that clubs and academies are offering to the new generation bodes well for that belief to grow even more.”
Sultan Salem Al Naqbi, a father who has three children competing in this weekend’s two-day event, added: “We were eagerly waiting for this championship as it boosts the performance of our children and refines their talent. I have three sons competing here: Zayed won today, so now we are hoping his siblings Salem and Ghala can also shine in tomorrow’s competitions.”
Faisal Abdullah Al Khoury, father of five children participating in the championship, said this year’s festival is “distinguished from previous years” because of the strong turnout.
“This confirms the growth of this sport, for me,” he said. “It contributes to building a healthy and sports-loving society, so special thanks to the UAEJJF for organising the championship in the summer season and bringing these great benefits to our children.”
Zeina Sibles is the mother of Mateen, a six-year-old competitor from the United States. She says her son has been practising jiu-jitsu for three years. “The reason for my son’s continuity lies in the ideal and friendly environment the UAE provides for those wishing to develop in combat games,” she said. “That and the high quality of tournaments when it comes to organisation and atmosphere.”
The festival ends on Sunday, when spectators will see juniors and teens competing in the white, grey, yellow, orange, and green categories.