Wadima Al Yafei wants to open up jiu-jitsu academy 'to provide more Emirati girls the opportunities'

Emirati, 18, will compete in the adult division at the 10th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., Jiu Jitsu Grand Slam at the Mubadala Arena at Zayed Sports City.
Wadima Al Yafei.
Victor Besa / The National
Reporter:  Amith Passela
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Wadima Al Yafei could never be accused of not following her dreams or lacking ambition. At the tender age of 18 she has two pathways mapped out for her future: to get through her university degree in business management and to establish her own jiu-jitsu academy.

Her immediate task, however, is to prepare for the 10th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at Zayed Sports City’s Mubadala Arena from April 16 to 28.

Al Yafei, 18, competes in the adult division for the first time in the World Pro, but she is no novice. In September 2016 she became the first Emirati female to win a medal in an international competition when she won bronze at the Asian Beach Games in Vietnam.

More recently, she finished fourth in last month’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam London, losing to Sabrina Migliozzi of Switzerland by submission in the blue belt 49-kilogramme weight.

“The World Pro is much harder but that’s what jiu-jitsu is are all about, to raise the bar at every competition and every passing year,” Al Yafei said.

“I had a successful spell as a junior and juvenile, and now I have to start all over again in the adult division. To fight in the adult division is something that I was aware of from the beginning of this season. So, here I am.”

Al Yafei was presented the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award for the Emirati Sportswoman of the Year in the juvenile category at a ceremony in Dubai in December.

“It’s one of the most important awards in my career because my inspiration was Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed, the fist Emirati woman to represent the country at the Olympics,” she said.

Sheikha Maitha represented the UAE in taekwondo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and prior to that won silver in karate at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.

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Al Yafei's rise is all the more remarkable given her parents' objections as well as the social stigma around the martial art that many skeptics deemed unsuited for females in a conservative society.

“When I first attended jiu-jitsu lessons at school it was all well but the moment I wanted to enter competition my parents objected, saying martial arts wasn’t a women’s sport,” said the undergraduate from the UAE University in Al Ain.

“Anyways, I made a successful debut in a school competition and enjoyed more success in the competitions that followed. It made my parents realise how passionate I was and it changed their thinking. They now support me on what I do.

“That’s one of the reasons I want to start my own academy. I want to provide more Emirati girls the opportunities to be in sport. I have had a fair bit of success in jiu-jitsu and that’s why I chose to start a jiu-jitsu academy.

“As for me, I want to compete as long as possible. And like most of my jiu-jitsu colleagues in the national team and the Al Ain Club, I want to achieve black belt status. Perhaps become a jiu-jitsu instructor.

“Jiu-jitsu is my passion but I don’t want to neglect my academics. They are both important for me and obviously I want to strike a good balance between my studies and jiu-jitsu.

“These are the two objectives I’m pursuing and enjoy doing it at the moment. If everything goes as planned, I will have the academy doors opened in a year’s time. Insha Allah.”


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