Introducing a new sport into a country is quite difficult in its own right; imagine also having the task of educating and proving the effectiveness of a martial art against one as established internationally as Judo. Although we all know that this has been done time and time again on the mat, my struggle took place off the environment I felt most comfortable in. After operating and training so many years under the umbrella of the Jordanian Judo Federation, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is now a separate, independent and recognized federation in the Kingdom of Jordan.
What I am here for today is not to talk about Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, or seek praise for what I have done for the sport in this part of the world. I am here to talk about a major problem that goes well beyond this matter, a problem stemming from the roots of Jiu-Jitsu. The problem of “recognition” of the art as a sport, and as a martial art.
Our saga begins in 2001 with our team travelling to Abu Dhabi for competition and our efforts to be recognized as a national team. As imposed by the Olympic Committee law, a new sport has to remain under a Federation for a minimum period of four years. For that reason the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association had to compete internationally under the shadow of the Judo Federation for such a long time. Following months and months of hard work and endless meeting with the Olympic Committee, I finally obtained all the paperwork to end the “marriage” between the Judo Federation and the Jiu-Jitsu Association.
My mission was clear: Create a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation for my beloved country Jordan. Even understanding that Jiu-Jitsu was not an Olympic sport I never imagined that there were so many requirements and complications to federate the gentle art, or any sport for that matter. To give you an idea about a small number of the requirements, we put forward an official signed petition by 1000 practitioners of the sport in the country, we found 20 board members with exclusive participation of women (the Olympic Committee highly encourages participation of females), as well as elect 7 board members that will run the Federation.
Luckily having HRH Prince Hamzah Bin Al Hussein and HRH Prince Hashem Bin Al Hussein, the brothers of his Majesty King Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, as dedicated practitioners who truly aided me and pushed the sport further by opening the doors of the Olympic Committee that is presided by His Majesty’s brother as well, Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein. Thinking that I would not have any turbulence with my new project at that point, I would find out that the struggle was just beginning.
The day I thought my work would be headline news; I received a call from a member of the Olympic Committee asking me to pass by his office. As I arrived I was expecting the employee to give me the official approval document of our new Jiu-Jitsu Federation. He sat me down and started explaining the obvious and stating that Jiu-Jitsu was not an Olympic I tried to intervene but I was cut off with his harsh tone as he explained “Your sport my friend is not even RECOGNIZED by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as valid sport”. As a fanatical defender of the gentle art with years and years of carrying the BJJ flag around the world, I began to feel the heat as my veins started popping up on my neck and face showing symptoms of losing it right there. And my initial thoughts as I looked at him were of jumping over his desk and choking him out cold or bending his arm until I hear his bones snap. All I could think about was keeping my cool and upholding the image of the sport I was trying so hard to get recognized.
My immediate reaction was to speak clearly that it was of course it was a recognized sport! After all, how could it not be? First things that crossed my mind were what about all the Mundials, Copa do Mundo, Europeus that are happening every year. What about the growth of UFC and Pride around the world? I kept thinking to myself “Is it possible that Carlos Gracie Junior doesn’t know our sport is not recognized”?!?
He went on to explain that they had contacted IOC (International Olympic Committee) and they had confirmed that Jiu-Jitsu is not on their list as a recognized sport, and that I could check on their website as well. Still absolutely convinced that he was wrong that was the first thing I did when I got back to my academy. To my surprise there really was nothing about Jiu-Jitsu as it was not listed under the recognized sports. Not accepting the whole Idea and still convinced that there might have been a mistype on the webpage I decided to send an email to the IOC verifying and hoping they would tell me something else. The reply came the same day and with confident wording, confirming that our “Gentle Art” was not recognized at all. To further add insult to injury day a response came from the US Olympic Committee saying the same as well.
Still shaken I had no where to go, but I couldn’t stop there. I had worked too hard to get where I was and I was convinced of my work. I wanted to split from the Judo Federation and give recognition to the art that I have trained and loved for over 14 years. The same day I called the Olympic Committee in Jordan and setup a meeting with the General Secretary of the Committee. With much thanks to the push of the Jordanian Royal Family the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Jordan was born. Happily the bitter taste of the incident began to fade, but the questions remain. How can sports such as Tug-Of-War, WUSHU, KORFBALL among many others that are not half as big as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu be accepted and our gentle art remains unnoticed?!? Not wanting to degrade any sport, art or modality, but the questions that remain in the air is Why? and How?
So what I am here asking for today is to call on the attention of the major key roll players in the CBJJ and CBJJO to open their eyes and run after some recognition for our sport. If they don’t want to do it for their own benefit, then do it for the promoters of the gentle art around the world. This obstacle is going to be an iceberg in the way of all BJJ representatives and messengers around the world. I believe we are in the epidemic phase and the need of Jiu-Jitsu is becoming a must in every part of the world. And for that reason we need an official federation, institution, organ or whatever you may want to call it that will serve as a spinal cord for our sport. Since the creation of Jiu-Jitsu Federations around the world is a requirement to fullfil the dream of one day taking Jiu-Jitsu to the Olympics, the assistance of CBJJ or CBJJO is crucial. Once again, I would like to kindly ask the heads of CBJJ and CBJJO, that instead of competing on who makes the best tournament, or who gives prize money or who wins the most, why don’t we join in some way or the other and do something for the sport. Maybe the dream of taking Jiu-Jitsu to the Olympics can come from the initiatives of this part of the world. Let’s find some recognition for our passion that is a magnificent sport with or without a Gi.
Author: Zaid Mirza
Zaid Mirza is a brown belt under World Champion Cassio Werneck. Brought up in Brasilia, Brasil, Zaid introduced BJJ in Jordan 5 years ago and already has over 1000 students. Zaid recently founded the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Jordan that is presided by the nephew of His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan, H.H. Prince Hussein Mirza. Zaid is the board secretary of the Federation that was established in March 2007 being one of the few BJJ federations around the world that are recognized by the Olympic Committee.