São Paulo – Saudi women are taking up jiu jitsu and two Brazilian women are partly responsible. Roberta Ferreira of Rio de Janeiro and Lidiane Ramos Faubel of Bahia live in the Arab country, where they teach lessons and organize tournaments for female martial art practitioners. There are Saudi jiu jitsu students from all walks of life, including college students, physicians, physical therapists, marketing professionals, cooks, housewives etc. (Pictured above, Roberta and Saudi jiu jitsu practitioners)
Both Roberta and Lidiane live in Jeddah with their families. Their husbands are also jiu jitsu professionals. A blackbelt, Roberta made the move to Saudi Arabia seven years ago, after several years of working with jiu jitsu around the world. She got started in the sport in her teens and moved in at a very young age with her martial artiste husband José Ferreira Silva Junior, in the United States, where she trained and taught.
Next came a move to an Arab country, the UAE, where her husband was partly responsible for a project to promote jiu jitsu. During her first few years there she taught children and teenagers, and during her later ones she taught women in the Army. Her husband got invited to create a major project in Saudi Arabia, and she also embraced the idea.
José Ferreira is the technical director and main coach at the Saudi Jiu Jitsu Federation. Roberta organizes women-only and women-and-children tournaments. Since her arrival there have been two women’s and one mixed tournament. She also teaches as part of Ricardo Libório’s team at the Arena sports center, where she’s the women’s jiu jitsu head coach. The classes are for women and girls, but she’s already started teaching a few boys at their mother’s request.
Roberta says the women wear sports outfits, but some wear hijabs and kimonos to the championships. She explains that authorization to fight without the hijab depends on the families. Roberta also says Saudi jiu jitsu practitioners are very dedicated. “They take great pride in having their own tournament,” she says. There are families where everyone trains: the mother, the father and the children.
A brown belt jiu jitsu athlete, Lidiane has been in Jeddah since March of last year. She is a referee at tournaments and works with Roberta to organize events, as well as teach women and kids at the Arena. Her husband, the Dutch Christian Faubel, is a competing athlete and teacher. Lidiane sees dedication and focus in Saudis, and believes the notion of submissive, housekeeping women to be untrue. “They have lives of their own. They are competitors, they will really put up a fight to learn,” she says.
Born in the Bahia countryside, Lidiane moved to Guarulhos, in the Greater Grande São Paulo while still a toddler. After the end of her first marriage, she decided to learn jiu jitsu. She practiced, competed and started teaching. Through her current husband, who she met during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and married in 2016, she learned of a work opportunity in Saudi Arabia. They decided to start a new life in jiu jitsu together in the Arab country.
Lidiane relates that she’s friends with locals and foreigners from places like Lebanon, Singapore and Yemen, and that she lives living here. “I’ve grown used to life here. It’s really peaceful, and what I like best is the safety,” she told ANBA over the phone. According to Lidiane, there’s a lot of respect for non-locals. She doesn’t mind wearing the abaya – a long tunic – over her clothes. Her hair, she lets it loose.
Roberta, who arrived in Saudi Arabia after several years in Abu Dhabi, where plenty of expatriates had temporary residence, also sings praise of the Saudi people. She says they’re humble, friendly, humane and prone to solidarity. “The people will donate cash and food in the streets all the time.” Roberta Her two kids – a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy – love Saudi Arabia.
Besides the Brazilians, there are other women teaching jiu jitsu in Saudi Arabia – native and otherwise.
Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum