‘Jordan is a factory of jiu jitsu champions.’ Haidar Haitham Abdel Kareem Rasheed, jiu jitsu
‘JORDAN IS A FACTORY OF JIU JITSU CHAMPIONS’
The emergence of the martial art of jiu jitsu in Jordan over the past five years has been nothing short of remarkable.
So much so that the Kingdom boasts champions on not only the Asian level, but on the global stage with the likes of sisters Rana and Lama Qubbaj now carrying the world-class tag.
Only last month the jiu jitsu team won an incredible 12 medals at the Asian Beach Games and one of the star performers, Haidar Haitham Abdel Kareem Rasheed, who won a gold and bronze in Vietnam, has lifted the lid on how Jordan has become such a world force.
“People don’t realise that the sport has been played here for some time but only recently has it become officially recognised,” said the 23-year-old.
“We have some very talented coaches in Jordan who have worked hard to be among the best and we have benefited from their expertise. Jordan has become a factory of jiu jitsu champions.”
Haidar shot to fame, winning the MBC-televised Desert Force 70kg title in 2013 but he has since quit the Mixed Martial Arts scene to focus back on jiu jitsu where he has bulked up to the 85kg weight, and it is sport he has been competing in since the age of 11.
“My parents recognised the importance of children playing sport so I was encouraged from a young age in 2003 to train with the Mirza team and joined the national team in 2007 which was a turning point for me.”
Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts titles followed with regularity, including a gold in the 2010 Rio Open Championship in the city which gave the sport to the world.
But Vietnam last month will live long in the memory for Jordan sport as possibly the moment when jiu jitsu hit the mainstream.
“To win 12 medals there was special for jiu jitsu and it followed the successful Olympics and Paralympics for Jordan so it showed that sport here is on the right track,” he said.
“We were all inspired by Ahmad Abu Ghaush’s gold in the Olympics for taekwondo which showed us all what is possible. I hope that what we have achieved in our sport will also inspire other athletes.”
Gold in Vietnam was sweet for Haidar as he beat a UAE fighter who had earlier beaten his former coach and teammate Mohammad Al Belbaisi in the semi-final.
Despite not being an Olympic sport, and if it was Jordan’s medal count could reach double figures, jiu jitsu is now recognised as an official Jordan National Sports Federation with funding, albeit limited, from the Jordan Olympic Committee.
Haidar says that funding remains a constraint on the sport’s development with some athletes so dedicated that they fund their own participation in international competitions.
But it hasn’t prevented the numbers being attracted to the sport growing considerably with a strong junior set up ensuring the talent production line keeps ticking along.
"We have a big number of athletes and juniors who are training every day in preparation for any championship because we are all keen to raise the Jordanian flag wherever we may be.”
While he says his dream is to see jiu jitsu become an Olympic sport and him winning the gold, he remains focused on developing the sport locally and hopes fighters of all ages will embrace it. He also remembers the support he received from his parents and encourages more to support their children in realising their dreams.
“We have so many champions now in this sport but all of us want the next generation to follow us and each one needs as much support as they can get.”