#SheIsEmirati: This champ juggles jiu jitsu, college and a full-time job
The 30-year-old IT multimedia graduate from Higher Colleges of Technology was chosen as the team leader for the first jiu jitsu team.
In the UAE - a country that champions gender equality - women are leaders, heroes, trailblazers and an inspiration. In the lead up to Emirati Women's Day that's marked on August 28, this 5-part Khaleej Times special celebrates how women brave the odds to make a difference; turn dreams into reality; and help drive the nation into the future. Part 4 of the series explores how Sheikha Mohammed Al Khateri manages her full-time job, education and passion for jiu jitsu.
Juggling a full-time job and a Master's degree has not stopped Sheikha Mohammed Al Khateri from pursuing her passion of becoming a jiu jitsu champion and representing her emirate, Ras Al Khaimah.
The combat sport is mainly a self-defence martial art that involves mind and body tactics to force the opponent into submission through a physical fight. Sheikha said it was the "intelligent thinking, fun tactics and respect one had to show the opponent" that drew her to the sport.
The 30-year-old IT multimedia graduate from Higher Colleges of Technology was chosen as the team leader for the first jiu jitsu team that was formed at the Ras Al Khaimah Sports and Cultural Club in 2017.
"Jiu jitsu was something very new for me. I had never previously participated in any martial arts sport as my college and school sports activities were limited to only basketball and volleyball. But I took to the sport as fish takes to water," she said.
Sheikha said Emirati women are "powerful women who have the potential and support from our government that helps us rise to any and every challenge".
"Thanks to the support of the UAE's leadership, today the sport has found a permanent space in most government schools for girls," said Sheikha, who is also a certified trainer and gives motivational speeches to young girls, encouraging them to take it up.
Sheikha was selected by the US Consulate to represent Emirati women in 2019 at an international visitors programme, where she spoke about how the UAE is taking great strikes in gender inclusivity and her experience in jiu jitsu as an Emirati woman.
Entering the world of jiu jitsu was not very easy, said Sheikha. It was hard for her to convince her parents and explain her passion to people of her community, who saw the sport as 'masculine'.
"Nothing comes easy in life. Therefore, I worked twice as hard and excelled in the sport to prove my love for it. I now lead a team of 30 women jiu jitsu players in RAK and it is rules of this very game that taught me how to handle such kind of societal pressure. It teaches us to persevere patiently, respectfully and gives us the courage to stay steadfast in order to overcome challenges," said Sheikha, who works as a public relations and media officer for a charity in RAK. She is also pursuing a Master's degree on the impact of social media on international relations.
Three-part daily schedule
Sheikha said she works at the charity in the morning, trains for jiu jitsu in the afternoon (thrice a week) and pursues her Master's degree in the evening.
The jiu jitsu champ said she didn't let the Covid-19 pandemic affect her fitness regime and participated in around 10 virtual races while at home. She now walks about 10km a day and meditates for 15 minutes in the morning and as well as evening.
She has a message for women around the world: "I believe that women are the strongest of all creations and therefore they must not fear or hold themselves back or miss opportunities blaming it on their gender. Do not hesitate to do what you want, and never miss opportunities. Do not say no to any new experience. Try everything to find your passion in life. Just be you and follow your dream, it will for sure bring happiness into your life."
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