Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

Faisal Al Ketbi and UAE jiu-jitsu squad embrace new challenges during coronavirus pandemic

Emirati fighter believes the high performance resident camp provided the team with an invaluable life experience

Fighters celebrate at the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge. Courtesy of UAEJJF
Fighters celebrate at the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge. Courtesy of UAEJJF

Faisal Al Ketbi believes the high performance resident camp for the national jiu-jitsu squad, taking place during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, has given them the confidence to meet new challenges in life head-on.

The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (UAEJJF) camp concluded with a challenge competition between two teams involving 50 of the country’s best aspiring young adult fighters at the Mubadala Arena late on Wednesday night.

“We have had many camps over the past years but this one was different and a new experience for all of us who never experienced a pandemic,” Al Ketbi, the most decorated Emirati jiu-jitsu fighter, told The National.

“None of us, including our technical staff, had experienced a pandemic before. In this camp, we learnt many new lessons and above all how to embrace the challenges not only on the mat but the challenges in life.”

The resident camp at the Armed Forces Officers Club consisted two training sessions daily from 5-6pm and 9.30pm-12.30am during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, held under strict guidelines laid by the health authorities and the UAEJJF’s safety protocols.

“Everyone had to undergo stringent medical examinations and were confined to the Armed Forces Officers Club where we were housed and trained,” Al Ketbi, 33, said.

“We had a lot of youngsters in the squad and we would like to thank them for their exemplary discipline throughout the camp and all their parents for the trust they had on their kids and the federation’s work.

“Here the objective was to challenge themselves with combating the Covid-19 situation. It is the first time all of us were experiencing a pandemic.

“Our federation was the first to open the floor to resume our activities and they prepared everything for us for this camp to happen.

“The kids learnt how to challenge themselves in a situation like the Covid-19, how to unite and work together despite all the obstacles. They learnt how to take care of themselves. They took up responsibility.

“Had they made one wrong move, the entire camp would have ended in disaster. Alhamdulillah, they passed this test with flying colours. The parents had a lot of faith in the federation to allow them to attend the camp.”

Al Ketbi said the idea to conclude with a challenge competition was devised the technical staff.

Action from the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge. Courtesy of UAEJJF
Action from the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge. Courtesy of UAEJJF

They picked Al Ketbi and his long serving UAE teammate Mohammed Al Qubaisi to select two teams of 25 each, and manage them as in a “real competition” at a championship venue with official referees and live on TV.

“It was a good way to conclude the camp,” Al Ketbi said. “My team lost but it was a new experience for me to choose a team and manage it in a competition.

“The camp was an important learning curve not only on the technical areas but lifetime experience under the prevailing pandemic situation.

“Such an event can take place only in the UAE because our federation leaves no stones unturned on the development work for the sport and provide us with the opportunities to embrace the challenges we face in our daily life.”

The squad of 70 will now take a break for Eid and then regroup for another camp that is yet to be finalised by the UAEJJF, who plan to stage the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in November.

“We are professional athletes and we will keep on training and preparing to be ready for the next competition, whenever it takes place,” Al Ketbi said.

Faisal Al Ketbi at the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge on May 20, 2020. Courtesy UAEJJF
Faisal Al Ketbi at the Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge on May 20, 2020. Courtesy UAEJJF

“We can take a lot of positives from this camp. As for me, I will return to my voluntary service duty at the Covid-19 Test Centre.

"I enjoyed the work and will continue to render my services until this virus is completely eradicated worldwide.”

Ramon Lemos, head coach of the UAE National team, said the competition provided valuable match practice to the fighters and further developed the techniques they have been working on in the camp.

“The competition allowed them to understand where improvement was needed, and provided them another opportunity to rectify errors and gain valuable confidence.”

Updated: May 21, 2020 03:23 PM

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