How Learning Jiu-Jitsu Prepared An Astronaut For Space

Learning Jiu-Jitsu is no longer just something that people do purely as a sport. As BJJ becomes a global phenomenon, more and more people turn towards it for different reasons. Some require exercise, others need to learn how to defend themselves. Some even look to Jiu-Jitsu as a means of mental health improvement. There are, of course, the professional MMA fighters who train to get a different dimension of attacks. Furthermore, a lot of celebrities, be it singers or Holywood actors, turn to the Gentle Art for professional or personal goals. A clear indictment that BJJ transcends all borders is the latest information about astronauts using grappling to get ready for space! Talk about versatility! 

In the latest couple of years, it’s becoming more and more usual to see famous people involved in BJJ. From stand up comedians like Russel Brand, through Holywood legends like Keanu Reeves to pop superstars like Demi Lovato, nobody is immune to the draw of Jiu-Jitsu. However, apart from doing it for fun, you could also do it for a purpose. It seems that learning Jiu-Jitsu is a great way to get you ready for anything, including a trip to space. Yeah, it seems astronauts are taking up BJJ to get into shape for the huge physical demands of space travel. Sultan Al Neyadi is a pioneer in both space travel for his country, and in choosing BJJ as his method of preparation. Here’s his story.

Who Is Sultan Al Neyadi? 

Sultan Al Neyadi is one of the two UAE astronauts that are about to embark on the life-changing journey to the International Space Station. Along with his countryman Hazza Al Mansoori, they’re the UAE’s first two astronauts. AS such, they’re true idols for many younger generations of potential astronauts in the UAE. And both of them are not afraid to pursue what they believe in.

Al Neyadi holds a bachelor, a master, and a Ph.D. in information technology is “over the moon” about the opportunity. He always dreamt about going to space but didn’t get a chance to really think it possible until 2017. A visit to the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre opened up a real opportunity. Al Neyadi (37) applied for the space programme and emerged as one of the two very first UAE astronauts. Now, he is looking forward to going in space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. As Neyadi says “space is a tricky” business, but he is more than ready to cope with what’s in front of him.

Both astronauts are in line for a trip to the International Space Station, although only one will get the chance to visit as soon as September of this year. Can learning Jiu-Jitsu be the one defining moment that decides who gets to go to the stars?

Learning Jiu-Jitsu

Preparing for space doesn’t just mean getting used to a diet of beef tongue and jelly. It means preparing physically to the very maximum of their abilities. As such, astronauts have to go through rigorous physical training. Some aspects of it are mandatory, while others are left to astronauts themselves. In that regard, Al Neyadi decided that learning Jiu-Jitsu is the best route to take. We couldn’t agree more.

Names of the First Astronauts of UAE Announced 720x377 - How Learning Jiu-Jitsu Prepared An Astronaut For SpaceIn preparation for flight, astronauts have to undergo training to learn how to cope with the pressure of gravity they’ll experience. The closest astronauts can get to the G’s they’ll experience is via a centrifuge. This is a machine that spins astronauts so they get to experience a weight up to 8-9 times their body weight. Kind of sounds like being caught in knee on belly, right?

The choice of Jiu-Jitsu as a method to prepare for the ISS is a really great one by Al Neyadi. First of all, he gets a lot of physical work done. Next, he gets to deal with pressure and learns how to breathe even in the most uncomfortable of positions. Then, there’s problem-solving under extreme stress, which, as we know, is key in BJJ. All in all, it seems that BJJ fits the bill perfectly for yet another non-grappling related activity. Let’s hope Al Neyadi gets the nod sooner rather than later!


UAE is seriously giving Brazil a run for the “BJJ is our national sport” mantle. Seriously, people in the Emirates, with Sheiks in the lead are all crazy about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s doesn’t seem that strange, as the Olympics of BJJ are named ADCC which means Abu Dhabi Combat Clube. That notwithstanding, the UAE also has one of the top organizations for BJJ tournaments ever, aking the IBJJF in their UAEJJF. When compared, as similar as they are, there’s definitely an advantage to competing under the UAEJJF banner for both amateur and pro grapplers alike.

BJJ is such a huge part of the Emirates that it is an official government project! Abu Dhabi is one of the capitals of Jiu-Jitsu in the world, hosting some of the biggest events. In fact, they have Jiu-Jitsu as part of the curriculum in over 100 schools and there are even billboards advertising BJJ. As we can see, learning Jiu-Jitsu is now also a part of their space program, thanks to the innovative approach of pioneer astronaut Al Neyadi.

As such,m the only “flaw” BJJ in the UAE has so far, is that there are no mixed gender classes, due to the national policies. However, women and men do have the same options to train, albeit in gender-specific groups.


That Brazilian Jiu-JItsu is versatile and applicable to all aspects of daily life, we knew. However, the fact that someone can use it successfully to get ready for the demands of going into space is a new concept altogether. It is a fascinating application of Jiu-JItsu and one that’ll have the whole worldwide community behind Al Neyadi. We certainly hope his grappling efforts contribute to him getting the title of first ever UAE astronaut into space! Godspeed!

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