Faisal Al Ketbi, four-time world champion from the UAE, is happy to have got back into action again. Image Credit: Organiser

Dubai: Members of the UAE national Jiu-Jitsu squad have hailed the measures taken by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) in keeping them in prime condition for challenges ahead.

The UAEJFF, the governing body for Jiu-Jitsu in the UAE, was among the first sporting bodies in the region to explore a return to competitive action since sport worldwide was halted in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, more than 60 elite UAE jiu-jitsu fighters completed a three-week closed-door training camp at the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Much care was taken to organise this camp in line with the Federal and global COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

During the course of the camp, there were two competitions for the athletes, namely a ‘Refresher Jiu-Jitsu Championship’ and the ‘Jiu-Jitsu Champions Challenge’, giving members on the team a confidence-boosting match practice while allowing the coaching staff to identify areas of further improvement among individuals.

“Getting back to doing what I love doing the most, what I have done for most of my life, was a really special experience. It brought me peace of mind,” four-time world champion Faisal Al Ketbi, said.

“All of us were training at home before the camp but coming together as a group, inspiring each other to constantly better ourselves, was incredibly special,” he added.

“This camp was quite different, and it came with a lot of lessons. It wasn’t just about preparing ourselves on the mat. There were challenges, limitations, but also the sense that we had to push ourselves, individually and as a group. The federation has shown a lot of trust in us by organising this camp and everyone felt from within that we had to repay this faith by working a little harder,” Al Ketbi stressed.

Considering that it was the fasting month of Ramadan, athletes were put through two daily training sessions during the camp - a light session before Iftar and a longer, more intense session from 10 pm to midnight each day.

“The UAEJJF helped adjust our training schedules so that everyone benefitted. The training camp also took into consideration that some of us have schoolwork to finish and we were able to continue to stay on top of things through our e-learning sessions,” 2019 World Youth Championship bronze medallist, Salem Mubarak Zayed, noted.

The athletes were all praise for the coaching staff, who were constantly assessing areas for development while re-igniting competitive spirit in preparation for a return to international action possibly later this year.

“Our coaches focused not only on making us better technically, but paid a lot of attention to our strength, movement, and cardio-vascular conditioning. We started off the camp with a body-fat analysis, and we were given targets of what we needed to achieve physically by the end of the camp. I was a bit rusty during the first couple of days but with the constant encouragement of the coaching team, we managed to build a certain momentum towards the end,” Zayed Al Katheeri, the reigning 56kg world champion, added.

‘‘Training camps are crucial for improving fighters’ technical levels and physical strengths. Getting them back on the mat in a competitive format enabled us to see their level of development,” Mubarak Al Menhali, Technical Director, UAEJJF, noted.