What was first a dream is finally a reality
A few years ago, local jiu-jitsu practitioners have had a hard time finding backers, organizers, and sponsors to support their passion. Still, they fought on, winning numerous medals both in the region and in the world stage.
That was why a group of like-minded individuals came together to form the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines. Fueled by their dreams, the company was formed in 2015 and were granted numerous accreditations from the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee, the Ju-Jitsu Asian Union, and the Ju-Jitsu International Federation soon after.
“I have been doing jiu-jitsu since… Let’s put it this way, naabutan ko when it first started. I saw how it developed and how it progressed,” recalled coach Ali Sulit, a first degree black belt and a fifth dan judo black belt.
The sport however has grown as well.
From invitational tournaments, jiu-jitsu is set to become a fixture in the Asian Games this year and the Southeast Asian Games a year later. Moreover, the sport is being looked at as a future addition to the Olympics.
With this, it is only logical for the JJFP to form its own national team pool.
Wednesday afternoon, the NSA unveiled the national team that is composed of members from numerous camps in the country, including Team Fabricio, Atos Jiu-Jitsu Philippines, Clube de JiuJitsu Filipinas, Origins Brazilian JiuJitsu, Overlimit JiuJitsu Academy, Checkmat, among others.
Serving as the team’s mentor will be black belt Hansel Co.
Co, who won gold in the 2016 Ju-Jitsu International Federation Black Belt Division -77kg, decided to take a backseat so that the young guns of the sport will be given the proper exposure and spotlight.
“Moving forward, I decided to take coaching as a full-time job,” the youthful strategist shared. “I didn’t tryout anymore to give way to the younger and hungrier athletes to shine. These athletes are up and coming and they too have accumulated a lot of medals before. I’m giving an opportunity for these athletes to do what I was not able to do.
“The people around me here makes me sleep at night. I trust that they can take jiu-jitsu to the next level.”
For the women’s side, headlining the team are 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games gold medalists Meggie Ochoa (-49kg) and Annie Ramirez (-62kg). Joining them are Yani Tan (-46kg), Kaila Napolis (-49kg), Mara Rafael (-55kg), Sara Tagle (-55kg), Apryl Eppinger (-62kg), Andi Lao (-70kg), Lou Ann Gutierrez (-70kg), Dylan Valmores (+70kg), and Natasha Rodriguez (+70kg).
The men’s division will have Jan Cortez (-56kg), Erwin Tagle (-56kg), Eros Baluyot (-62kg), Gian Dee (-62kg), Carlo Pena (-69kg), Mark Lim (-69kg), Adrian Guggenheim (-77kg), Rian Seranilla (-77kg), Dean Roxas (-85kg), Marvin Mariano (-85kg), Luigi Ladera (-94kg), Gilbert Ombao (-94kg), Lemuel Basa (+94kg), and Romeo Arellano (+94kg).
The team though is not yet final as the NSA is still open to more jiu-jeteros and camps to join in.
For assistant coach John Baylon, it’s just about following simple requirements.
“Lahat naman tayo magaling, kung ano requirements sa national selections, join,” the 9-time SEA Games gold medalist in Judo shared. “Simple lang, hindi masyadong mahirap.
“Magtulungan na lang tayo, dapat magkaisa tayo. One jiu-jitsu.”
Upcoming tournaments for the team includes the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-jitsu Championships from April 16-29, Jiu-jitsu World League in Los Angeles, USA on May 19, and the JJIF European Championshhips from June 8-10. All this will be part of the team’s preparations for the 2018 Asian Games this August.