The 48 young competitors from the UAE who are in Los Angeles for the American National Kids Jiu-Jitsu Championship this week will be facing a two-fold challenge: their opponents and also jet lag from the 11-hour time difference. But, as The National reported yesterday, no matter what happens in the two-day tournament, the UAE team – all aged between 10 and 16, including seven girls – will emerge stronger from having experienced international competition.
Newcomers to the UAE are often surprised that this Brazilian martial art is a prominent sport, but jiu-jitsu has several factors in its favour. One is that it is an indoor sport, so it can be played all year despite the enervating heat of Gulf summers. Another is that with an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 jiu-jitsu practitioners worldwide, it is a sport in which a small country like the UAE can specialise and make its mark.
There is a long history of this kind of sporting specialisation. Australia gave priority to swimming as a sport and reaped the rewards at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, winning five gold medals in the pool. In a similar way, Singapore specialised in table tennis, Britain in cycling and Malaysia in badminton. We can hope the experience gained in Los Angeles will lead to international success for this new generation of UAE athletes.