ABU DHABI, - H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, today officially opened Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2017, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The five-day event opened with an official ceremony that begun with the national anthem of the UAE followed by a speech from Chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union and Senior Vice President of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation Abdulmunem Al Sayed Mohammed Al Hashmi.

Speaking to a packed IPIC Arena, Al Hashmi said: "We are honoured by your presence in the biggest sport event organised by UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation for the ninth year in a row. By the grace of God and the unlimited support offered by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, UAE has become a cultural hub and Abu Dhabi established itself as an international capital for Jiu-Jitsu.

"We meet here today for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship and we are proud of organising the largest international Jiu-Jitsu competition in history, with more than 7,000 competitors coming from one hundred countries around the world across 14 days for the first time.

"As part of the Year of Giving initiative, we are proud to welcome Para-Jiu-Jitsu competitors to participate at this event. The huge attraction to the sport for the youth of the UAE is proof that all parts of our community are embracing Jiu-Jitsu's culture and the sport's values. It's also a reflection of the great support provided to this sport by the people of the UAE. I would like to thank the schools, families, the Federation and partners."

Speaking at the Championship today the General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council said: "We are glad to be celebrating again the opening of the International Jiu-Jitsu Championship. It's always a time when we are glad to see the gathering of a lot of champions who are still working hard to reach glory with their brothers, celebrating a good gathering and a good sport.

"We are also happy to receive more than 7,000 athletes in this championship. The standard of the Jiu-Jitsu International Championship has been evolving every year to a higher standard and they have really raised the barrier for any other sport to compete with them.

"We wish good luck to all the participants and know they will participate with good will and sportsmanship. Everyone who participates in this championship will be a winner."

The packed audience at the IPIC Arena watched a screening of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces talking about how it is important to defend our country. Then spectators were treated to a performance by local school children, titled the Nation of Giving, which highlighted the UAE's Year of Giving initiative for 2017.

The first day of competition saw huge excitement and anticipation with 550 players from 70 countries in the adults and masters blue and purple belt categories taking to the mats first, in front of a full capacity crowd and millions of viewers across the world.

Today the UAE lead the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship medal table with 22 medals (11 gold, 11 silver). Russia finished second with 9 medal (2 gold, 1 silver, 6 bronze) and Brazil finished in third place with 9 medals (3 gold, 3 silver,3 bronze) and Kazakhstan finished in fourth with 4 medals (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze).

Panagiotis Theodoropoulos, Chairman of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation, said: "I am very glad to be here in Abu Dhabi, the world capital of Jiu-Jitsu and host of the 9th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. I would like to thank the government of the UAE and its people for the development of jiu-jitsu and assisting in its inclusion in the Olympics.

"Because of the UAE Federation's continued development in Jiu-Jitsu it has become deep-rooted across various communities and nationalities around the world. We work in collaboration with UAE Jiu-Jitsu developing and educating a professional generation that can compete at an international level."

During the first day, the UAE players showed a high level of skill and technique. They excited the audience and achieved 22 medals in total, with 11 gold and 11 silver. The most notable fighter was Khalifa Al Kaabi who gave an incredible performance with high levels of concentration, winning the gold medal in the 60kg category.

Salem Abdullah Al Goussani won the gold medal in his weight division. The 30-year-old Emirati believed he deserved his win from how hard he had trained.

"This edition of the Championships is bigger and different from before. It's all like new and has been a fantastic surprise by the UAE Federation," al Hosani said.

"The level of competitors has been tough but I trained hard every day, three or four times a day, even when I got injured. I deserved the gold medal.

"Everyone who came from outside of the country, they are all hungry to win. The international competitors as some of the world's best."

In recognition of World Heritage Day, the IPIC Fan Zone continued to host educational initiatives and workshops celebrating UAE heritage, including information about traditional Emirati culture such as falconry, hand-made goods and pearl diving in addition to a traditional majlis, featuring traditional Arabic coffee, henna and calligraphy.

Tuesday's workshop was about fitness and health presented by Juan Carlos Santana. Speaking about the workshop Santana said: "Many people start martial arts just for the physical conditioning. But martial arts is not only about physical conditioning. It uses physical effort to get to a spiritual development. That spiritual development then works on the psyche of the individual which is the emotional cognitive content. There is where you learn to find compassion, discipline, resilience and transfer those skills into your life outside of Jiu-Jitsu.

"The worst thing to do is take on Jiu-Jitsu just to lose weight. Make sure you have a good trainer and programme, which will help reduce the chance of injuries which can cause early drop outs in the sport. Physical conditioning must be paramount, especially in Jiu-Jitsu where everything is very tight and very strong," he added.

As well as fierce competition on the mat, spectators could take part in activities for the whole family in the IPIC Fan Zone. Everyone was also able to sample the delicious food at the food trucks park, open throughout the Championship. Each day there's also a draw for one lucky winner to win a return ticket on Etihad Airways which will take them anywhere on the Etihad Airways flight network. Spectators can even enter a draw to win a brand-new car from Premier Motors; a Jaguar XE.

On Wednesday, the qualifying and finals of Adults male and female blue and purple belts, and Masters 1 and 2 male blue and purple belts take place from 11am.

Other highlights to come include the Abu Dhabi Legends live weigh-in event which will take place at 7pm Town Square, Yas Mall on 21 April; the return of the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Legends, an epic clash of Jiu-Jitsu icons such as Kenny Florian, Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz and Helio "Soneca" Moreira; plus the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards which recognises the talent of the sport at every level.

Source: Emirates News Agency