With the approaching debut of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, and likewise, probable inclusion in the SEA Games 2019 in Manila, this martial art can be added to the list of combat sports that the Filipinos naturally have an edge in against their foreign counterparts.
Founded in 2015, the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines (JJFP), the national sports association (NSA) for jiu-jitsu in the country, has committed itself to elevating the combat sport by way of holding regular tournaments, tryouts, and training camps, with the ultimate goal of excelling in international competitions on a consistent basis.
Though still in its formative stage as a NSA, the JJFP already got itself going, accumulating numerous achievements with its member teams and athletes, winning multiple medals in the prestigious Asian Beach Games back in 2016, the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2017, and most recently, in the Thailand National Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Jiu-Jitsu Tour, London, both held in the last couple of months.
Now with the Asian Games approaching this August and the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) happening November of next year, the federation claims to be more than ready to have a strong showing for Team Philippines against the best in the region, as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) makes its official debut in Asiad, and likewise, plausible inclusion in SEAG.
“Well, basically the UAE is a strong team. All weight divisions, they have very strong representatives, but to be specific, sa lighter weight divisions: Iraq,” said national team head coach Hansel Co when asked at the press conference at Hai Chix & Steaks restaurant in Pasig, last March 28, regarding the countries to beat in the upcoming Asian Games,. “For the female, we have Thailand. The Thailand program is very strong.”
Supported by at least six member clubs, amounting to over 2,000 member fighters from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, one of JJFP’s duties has been to organize a national team selection process. In an effort to be more inclusive and to encourage more athletes to compete for a spot in the Philippine team, 2018 saw the launch of the National Selection Championships last February 25, in preparation for an open belt competition format in both the Asian Games and SEAG.
JJFP assistant secretary general TJ Sulit also stressed on the willingness of the Federation to take in more members, given they submit the necessary requirements to the NSA as mandated by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). “The Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines is open for all jiu-jitsu teams in the Philippines to join us as members,” he clarified. “We can’t force teams to join us if they don’t know how to join. So we’re open, in fact, we waived the membership fee for teams this year, because we wanted to have all teams included in the previous national team selections. Because the only way you’re going to form a powerful and undisputed [team], with best players to represent us is if everyone joins our selections [through] the Federation.”
Looking to fight through the growing pains young NSAs usually undergo, the JJFP is nonetheless optimistic about the future of the martial art in the Philippines. “We have big movers and shakers in the international scene working towards inclusion in the Olympics and that bodes well for us,” shared Alexander Sulit, also a national team coach. “Judo was in 1964, taekwondo was in 1992, what’s next? Wala pa. There’s no other martial arts in the Olympics. With jiu-jitsu’s inclusion in 2024 that’s a big deal.”
Sensei John Baylon, perhaps the most prominent name in the roster of coaches, expressed his high hopes for the country’s possible dominance in the sport, if only everyone focused on the main objective: to succeed on the global stage as a nation. “’Pag bago pa lang ang isang federation, medyo may konting gusot ‘yan. After a few years siguro mai-stable din ‘yan.” said the nine-time SEAG judo gold medalist. “May election naman ‘yan, so next time kung interested ‘yung iba sa Federation, ‘pag may election, tumakbo sila as an officer, para makatulong din sila sa jiu-jitsu ng bansa.”
At the moment, training has already started for the 14 national BJJ athletes slated to represent the country in the Asian Games. At least six fighters, namely Margarita Ochoa, Annie Ramirez, Kaila Napolis, Gian Dee, Marc Lim, and Apryl Eppinger, have been noted likely to medal for the Philippines.
Also published at Manila Bulletin Online.