17-year-old jiu jitsu champion Ali Seen Monfaradi talks about his sport
Time Out Bahrain staff
How long have you been practising Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and how did you get into martial arts? It’s been about five years now. I got into martial arts because of the great influence from my father and uncle, who both used to practise Jiu Jitsu. Before that, I didn’t really do any sports. In fact, I was quite fat and out of shape.
What do you enjoy most about it, and is there anything you dislike? It is impossible to pick one thing I could say that I enjoy the most – it could be the friendly environment, the technical aspect, the competition, well the list doesn’t end. I do, however, know that I dislike injuries the most, not because they hurt or annoy me, but because at many times they prevent me from doing the one thing I love the most, Jiu Jitsu.
You have represented Bahrain in many high-profile events, the most recent being the Jiu Jitsu World Championship – how does it feel to represent Bahrain in big competitions? It is an honour, representing my home country; it also gives me a sense of accomplishment, since everyone else on the podium would usually be Brazilian. To have Bahrain recognised for such a thing makes me extremely happy.
What is your prior fight routine? Do you eat a specific meal or wear a specific item of clothing? Is there anything that could be considered your lucky charm? The only thing I can think of right now is this one song I’ve listened to before each and every competition, without any exceptions, and it’s ‘Fury of the Storm’ by Dragon Force. It’s become a necessity now to listen to it before I fight.
How far do you see yourself going in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? For example, can you form a career out of it? Definitely, I am far past the point where I would consider this sport a hobby – it is my life, and I plan on winning the black belt division multiple times, and making Brazilian Jiu Jitsu history. As far as a career goes, I plan on working with my coach, Reza Monfaradi, on expanding Jiu Jitsu in Bahrain, and building a strong, new generation of fighters.
How do you balance education and sports? Sacrifices, sacrifices, sacrifices. When people are chatting online, I’m training. When people are napping, I’m working on my IB internal assessments. When my friends go out to the movies, I’m working on my fitness.
Can you describe how the Jiu Jitsu community has changed from your early days until now? Many years ago, it was a mere self-defense art, and people learned it for the sake of learning it. Nowadays, many train to compete, due to the increased number of competitions around the world. Furthermore, many practise the sport due to its applications in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). This is why we see many of Jiu Jitsu’s positions and submissions applied in major MMA events like the UFC ultimate fighting and so on.
What is your most memorable competition to date? Probably my first title, bronze medal in the World Pro Cup 2009. I was only 15, and there were no juvenile categories around the Middle East. I remember how happy I was to be not only the youngest competitor, but also the youngest winner.
For the average Jiu Jitsu practitioner who trains three times a week, what are a few things that he/she needs to be including in their strength and conditioning routines? Solid weight-lifting programmes, to gain power, reduce the risks of being injured, and gain confidence while rolling in class. For those who are serious, I would suggest a programme dedicated to explosive power, which is crucial for competitions. Last but not least, cardio – I personally enjoy long jogs, but others may prefer swimming or biking.
Where do you gain your inspiration from? Has there ever been a time where you just wanted to give up? Inspiration? I look up to all of those everyday people who managed to become legends, and I think to myself: ‘Hey, I’m just a person too, all that’s left now is loads of hard work!’ There have been split seconds where I wondered if I would be able to achieve my goals, but I never considered giving up on Jiu Jitsu altogether. Jiu Jitsu lessons are available in Bahrain from Reza’s Martial Arts Academy (17 694 646). See Sport listings for other martial arts.