“In Jordan, Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t crawl, it runs”

After three years at the School-Jitsu project in Abu Dhabi, I moved to Jordan to establish greater ties with the country showing the greatest evolution in Jiu-Jitsu technique within the Arab world.

Photos: Abed Arslan

I still hadn’t been able to figure out how this tiny country produced such a high level of Jiu-Jitsu, given how it faces considerable financial and geographical limitations. However, last weekend I bore witness to how Jiu-Jitsu in Jordan isn’t crawling, it’s running. I was invited to referee at the kids tournament in Jordan. I was under the impression it would be just another event for little aspiring fighters to get together and hang out. A gathering more for parents and their offspring, teachers and their students to get closer together. In a nutshell, just an excuse to socialize. But the atmosphere wasn’t quite like that.

Main gymnasium at Sport City

The main gymnasium at Sport City (the sports complex in Jordan’s capital) was packed with the little combatants’ family members. But one would be wrong to thing that here in Jordan the family boils down to a father, mother and perhaps a little brother. The families came in droves. True clans. It was like a soccer game, with complaints flung at referees (the referees suffer), cheers of encouragement, posters with the competitors’ names on them.

Of course I sought to find out why the families were so interested in a sport relatively new to Jordanian soil. The answers varied a great deal, some more believable than others. Many of the Jordanian people are of Caucasian origin. The families already had traditions in martial arts like sambo, wrestling and judo. Another major point is the fact that local society is made up of families that comprise clans, and there’s a certain rivalry between these clans. When such inter-clan rivalries are directed at sport, it can only produce a heavy load of family support. Having a champion in the family is a boon to a clan’s status. Even if the champ is just 10 years old.
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So all the ingredients in this rivalry are the driving force for Jiu-Jitsu here. The level of technique displayed by the kids is shocking. I was more and more in awe with every match. I’ve witnessed the level of kids’ Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, the USA and the Arab Emirates. A large portion of the kids around these parts are above average. I couldn’t resist joking with my friends Zaid Mirza and Samy al Jamal, black belts produced in Brazil who work to further the gentle art in Jordan: “If you want to change careers, no problem, Jiu-Jitsu’s laid its roots here.” Mission accomplished.

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