x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Right now it's all 'for better' for Brazilian couple and jiu-jitsu

Any show called "Crying At The Adnec" might sound unhinged. People do not cry at convention centres.

Faisal Al Ketbi took the gold Saturday night at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi. And with so many Emirati youth taking up the sport it is likely the UAE will see more success in jiu-jitsu down the road.
Faisal Al Ketbi took the gold Saturday night at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi. And with so many Emirati youth taking up the sport it is likely the UAE will see more success in jiu-jitsu down the road.

Any show called "Crying At The Adnec" might sound unhinged.

People don't cry at convention centres.

Yet in October 2010, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre staged a doozy of a Friday night when the Brazilian mixed-martial artist Marcos Oliveira won an Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship semi-final, went to the fence, sobbed, keeled over and soon, in the ring, proposed marriage to Caroline De Lazzer, herself a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter and coach.

She accepted, and what relief. Anything else would made a thud.

Well, in April 2012, through the parking area on the other side of the Adnec, the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship just wrapped up three days showing how a sport has sprouted in the desert.

On Thursday came the kids, with witnesses including both an Abu Dhabi school coach and a UAE women's coach, the groom-to-be and bride-to-be from October 2010.

De Lazzer marvelled to her husband: "The first times, the kids didn't know what they were doing. They were just playing. And now you see jiu-jitsu fighters. I said, 'Marco, they guard! They know what they are doing'."

At schools way back in 2009, Oliveira said: "All those kids looked at us as a strange person. I'm a Brazilian, and I'm not Muslim, and I don't speak Arabic. So at first they thought I was strange.

"Now the kids want to coach. Now they start wearing the jiu-jitsu pants. Now they start to think about eating healthy. Now they realise if they don't eat well, the next day they can't train."

He has worked at two schools pondering this unlikely connection between two cultures.

"Totally different cultures, like Brazilian and Arabic, and now they're connected just because of one sport, you know," he said.

"It's crazy."

At his debut in this world event in 2009, he said: "There were no kids. And Thursday there were 400 kids competing at a high level. It was amazing. Imagine this in five more years, 10 more years."

At a dinner with the dynastic black belt champion Rodolfo Vieira, Vieira had said: "Man, Thursday was crazy, those kids fighting like, you know, real jiu-jitsu players."

Oliveira: "And this country's going to be very strong in five to 10 years. There are going to be a hundred Faisals, a hundred Mohameds, because 20,000 kids are training today."

He meant Faisal Al Ketbi and Mohamed Al Qubaisi, the former winning gold Saturday and hugging Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in another emotional moment at Adnec.

Hours before that came another pinnacle. This time, the Emirati Shamsa Hassan had just finished winning gold against the Emirati Najla Mohammed in the women's white belts.

Another transformation had hit fruition. Again, bride and groom stood together, watching.

For one thing Hassan, 29, had finished a leap from her former self.

"When she started training, Caroline said she only looked on the floor, never looked in the eyes," Oliveira said. "And now, she does interviews, man!"

For another, De Lazzer had just finished six weeks in which she could not get her mind to stop thinking about her five pupils, even during sleep where they would turn up in dreams needing guidance.

"Six weeks of hard training, five-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week," she said.

"So I know what the girls, what they did, you know, and I'm so proud of them. They cross obstacles. They change."

Her husband knew also.

"Every day I come home, she talks about those women," he said.

"We're having dinner, she's talking about those women. For that last two months, she only lives for those women."

Hassan, 29, "didn't miss one single day," De Lazzer said. "She used to come alone to the class to do with just me, when the others could not come. She didn't miss one training. She focused so much."

So yesterday afternoon, De Lazzer would end up saying to Hassan: "Remember who you were and then remember who you are right now. You are a completely different woman."

And soon, De Lazzer would say: "She is really shy, but when she steps onto the mat, she becomes a giant. Jiu-jitsu, I don't know. Jiu-jitsu has this power."

And soon, De Lazzer would say: "I am so happy, my happiness cannot fit inside myself."

But back at this one moment, just as the match concluded, De Lazzer knew what Hassan and Mohammed had endured, and Oliveira knew what De Lazzer and Hassan and Mohammed had endured.

So wife and husband looked at each other, and they cried at the Adnec. They knew a worthy show when they saw one.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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