Judo federation wants younger state pupils to take up the sport

The national judo federation wants the martial art to be taught in Abu Dhabi's public schools, following the introduction of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emitrates --- July 4, 2010 --- Kids make their moves during a judo summer camp in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, July 4, 2010.  ( Delores Johnson / The National )
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ABU DHABI // The national judo federation wants the martial art to be taught in Abu Dhabi's public schools, following the introduction of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation has been in talks with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) to incorporate judo lessons within the next few school years for pupils in Grades 4 and 5.

The council confirmed negotiations were ongoing. "It was just an idea for the younger kids, talking about Grades 4 and 5," said Robert Thompson, the head of the council's special projects department. "Brazilian jiu-jitsu is clearly established. That's not to say we won't co-operate with everybody else." The UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation was founded in 1998. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan serves as honourary chairman.

Naser al Tamimi, the director of the federation, said that judo programmes in schools around the world had been shown to help pupils learn discipline and respect. "Judo is not an attack sport; it's more defence," he said. "It's also giving very good habits, like when you wear the judogi - that uniform with the white trousers and white jacket - it always must be kept clean and elegant." The Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Schools Programme began in 2008, launching in 14 schools for pupils in Grades 6 and 7. The programme has since expanded to 42 government schools, with 81 Brazilian coaches brought in as instructors.

Judo, an older Japanese martial art meaning "the gentle way", would complement the Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, Mr al Tamimi said. "We cannot teach the techniques for jiu-jitsu for Grades 4 and 5 because it's more choking and arm bar," he said. "The technique of judo is how to take the person down in a standing way, not on the floor, and using the body weight. So it's fitness, it's self-defence, and with our kind of weather it's good because it's an indoor sport."

The federation is publishing judo information leaflets for parents and education officials to promote the programme. Although Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been wildly popular in Abu Dhabi in recent years, Mr al Tamimi noted that judo is an Olympic sport that is growing in popularity in the Emirates. Last year, Yahiya Mansour won the country's first gold medal in the 100kg Gulf Judo Championship in Kuwait.

Sensei Sidiyoussef Elalami, from Morocco, instructs children between ages four and 16 at two-hour sessions at a judo summer camp run by the federation. Watching his pupils practise the "ippon seoi nage" throwing technique this week, the sensei said a judo programme could help instill confidence in younger pupils and would be a good step towards Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "This will be a complement because Brazilian jiu-jitsu comes out of judo," he said.