Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Meet India's first jiu-jitsu black belt: 'the sport is now part of my system'

Dubai-based instructor Vibhudatta Rout, 28, hopes to be part of an India squad at the 2022 Asian Games. First up though is the Grand Slam Tokyo in July

Vibhudatta Rout did not compete at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia but did take part as a referee for jiu-jitsu matches. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Vibhudatta Rout did not compete at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia but did take part as a referee for jiu-jitsu matches. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Vibhudatta Rout says jiu-jitsu is now "part of my system" as the Indian focuses his long-term attention on representing his country at the 2022 Asian Games

The 2022 Asian Games takes place in Hangzhou, China but for Rout the countdown has already begun.

The first Indian to hold a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Rout begins his ambitious journey by taking part in his first overseas competition next month, the Grand Slam Tokyo.

“The sport is now part of my system and I’m very confident in what I’m doing,” the Dubai-based jiu-jitsu instructor told The National.

Rout is that rare breed in that his day job just so happens to be his passion.

“I loved jiu-jitsu from Day 1 but not even in my wildest dreams I thought I’ll be working full time in the sport,” he said.

“I have been competing in local circuit for a long time but this season my focus is to participate in competitions abroad with the aim of preparing for the next Asian Games.”

Rout missed out on the Asian Games in Jakarta last August as India did not field a team. That's not to say he saw none of the action; Rout took part in the Games as a referee.

“That was quite unfortunate but the opportunity to officiate at the games was more than consolation,” he said.

Rout, 28, gained his referee’s licence from the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) and was selected for the Asian Games after officiating at the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi.

He also travelled to India for a coaching workshop conducted by the Indian federation.

Rout has come a long way since his first jiu-jitsu lesson on February 26, 2008, a date ingrained in his memory, at a gym on the Pacific island of Guam. He had practiced wrestling in high school before switching to the martial art.

Born in Cuttack in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, Rout relocated to Dubai and then Guam with his family.

“I played basketball and football, and towards the end of my high school, I joined the wrestling team,” he said.

“I wanted to continue doing a similar sport as wrestling when I was about to leave high school and that’s when I stumbled into a jiu-jitsu gym."

After six months of training in jiu-jitsu, Rout moved back to Dubai to study for a business and marketing degree at Middlesex University.

“I got a scholarship after two years to move to Middlesex University in London, and two years after I graduated I got a job in the hospitality industry in Dubai.”

Rout, whose favourite pastime is skydiving, said the experience he has gained on the local circuit will serve him good stead when he takes on some of the world's best practitioners in the world at the Grand Slam Tokyo from July 27-28.

“There are more than 600 Brazilian black belts in the UAE,” he said. “That’s the level here and the bar is raised every passing year.

“My focus from now on is to compete in the international circuit as much as possible, starting with the Grand Slam Tokyo.

“In October I plan to compete in the Rome Open and European No Gi. And of course, in all local competitions.”

Vibhudatta Rout's short-term focus is competing at the Grand Slam Tokyo from July 27-28. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Vibhudatta Rout's short-term focus is competing at the Grand Slam Tokyo from July 27-28. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Rout is in contact with the Jiu-Jitsu Association of India and plans to compete in the national championship.

“I’m still not sure how it works but I’m in contact with the federation and will seek their assistance on the eligibility rules to be in the national team,” he added.

“There’s a lot of talent in India and it’s one of my goals to nurture the talent there, like conducting seminars and workshops, create programmes to train some of the fighters here in the UAE.

“This is something I would keep it for 2020 and 2021, closer to the Asian Games. I would like to see India represented in all the weight categories, and whatever I can do, within my capacity, I will extend it to those fighters through the federation.

“As for me, I’m in good shape and in my head I will compete in the next Asian Games. There is a series of qualifiers in India which I’m ready to go through as and when required.”

Updated: June 26, 2019 08:13 AM

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