x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Organisers in UAE say martial art has strong future after curtain-raiser for jiu jitsu's Arabian Gulf Cup season sees over 400 children compete.

Gold medal winner Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi gets a hand from the silver and bronze medallists in displaying the UAE flag on the podium. Abdullateef Al Marzouqi / Al Ittihad
Gold medal winner Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi gets a hand from the silver and bronze medallists in displaying the UAE flag on the podium. Abdullateef Al Marzouqi / Al Ittihad

ABU DHABI // Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi has projected a bright future for Emirates jiu jitsu after the Emirati collected his biggest medal haul in a single competition.

He followed up his double gold in the No Gi with two more golds in the Arabian Gulf Jiu Jitsu Cup at the UAE Judo Wrestling and Kick Boxing Federation headquarters yesterday.

“With more than 20,000 registered pupils in the sport from various national schools, just imagine the strength of the competitions five years from now,” Al Ketbi said.

“Jiu jitsu enjoys a high-profile patronage, too. The sport has already developed leaps and bounds in the country in terms of quality and quantity of competitions.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is the main patron for the sport in the country.

“Everyone practicing the art would want to participate in competitions, and more competitions are definitely the way forward,” Al Ketbi said.

“For me, when there are more competitions, it is an opportunity to compete, whether you win or lose. If you win, you gain. If not, you will be rich by the experience.

“The way I see it, there will be a sharp increase in the numbers and naturally the bar will be raised.”

Al Ketbi completed his medal haul with victory over the American Mark Brooks in the purple-belt Masters Open.

“Winning four gold medals in one competition is the best medal haul I have won, and I feel pretty excited about it, as this is the first competition for the season,” he said.

He plans to compete in the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi next month.

Al Ketbi has won his weight class in the purple-belt category in the World Professional, European, Asian, Middle East and Arab championships.

He took his medal tally to 40, including the four he won over the past two days.

Ali Salem Al Darai has ambitions of turning professional, and he enjoyed a fine double, too, winning the No Gi and the Gi in the 80kg since his elevation to purple belt.

“I have been in jiu jitsu for more than 10 years and winning the first time in the new division is a huge step up for me,” he said. “Obviously, I am expecting tougher tasks ahead, but this definitely is a good start. I train seven days a week and I’m working hard to achieve my objectives.”

Al Darai, 25, has transferred his skills from judo and wrestling to concentrate on jiu jitsu.

He is a black belt in judo and represented the UAE in the 2006 Asian Cup in South Korea, and won three gold medals in the Gulf Championship and silver in the Arab Games. Al Darai even tried his hand in the Mixed Martial Arts and won his weight class in the amateur division in Dubai in 2011.

“I didn’t want to continue with the MMA because hurting the opponent is not in our culture,” he said. “I have transferred all my energy towards jiu jitsu.

“It is a sport that I enjoy immensely.”

The curtain-raiser event for the season saw more than 400 children compete, followed by the No Gi and the Gi for both men and women, which drew more than 200 competitors each day.

“The competition for the kids was simply huge, and I would expect this number to double for our next event,” said Wesley Fernandes, the Brazilian project supervisor for the UAE Jiu Jitsu Schools.

“The development at the grassroots in the past five years has been massive and I am pleased to work on this high-profile project and live in this country.”

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UAE winners

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Men – White belt

82kg Mohammed Haitham Radhi

Purple belt

76kg Hassan Al Rumaithi 82kg Ali Salem Al Darai

Brown belt 76kg Tarek Al Ketbi

Masters – White belt 76kg Adel Ahmed Al Falasi 82kg Rashid Hasan Al Shakawi

Masters – Blue belt

100kg and above Abdullah Rashid

Masters – Purple belt 76kg Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi 100kg and above Eid Rehan

Open Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi

Female – Blue belt

58kg Shamsa Hasan

apassela@thenational.ae