DEARBORN —12-year-old Aaminah Abdrabboh recently made history by becoming the first hijabi female to win gold at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Pan Kids Tournament.
The tournament took place in Kissimmee, Florida from July 21 to July 23 and is the world’s largest kids’ Jiu-Jitsu tournament. With 2,700 competitors, kids across the world have the opportunity to display their skill and fight for gold among their competitors in each division.
Abdrabboh, a Dearborn native, began Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 7, training at Metro Jiu-Jitsu in Southgate with several family members coaching her along the way. Her father, Mohammad Abdrabboh, is a first degree black belt, and her brother, Jibril, her head coach, is a brown belt. She also said her sister Nuzmeya is also one of the coaches alongside Farris Abuwandi and Jimmy Park, who are purple belts.
Abdrabboh told The Arab American News how good she feels knowing she’s actively making history and inspiring other Muslim girls to embark on their own Jiu-Jitsu journey. This achievement paves the way for other Muslim women to break down barriers and combat societal perceptions that deem the hijab as limiting.
“I feel really great because some women almost 10 years ago were being told no to compete for Jiu-Jitsu,” she said. “I know this shows everyone that hijab doesn’t stop us girls from reaching our goals, alhamdulillah. Pan Kids is the biggest kids tournament in the world. Kids come from all over the world to compete, so it feels good.”
Abdrabboh also expressed the power in perseverance in pursuing one’s goal.
“It makes me happy because little girls can see it’s not easy to win, but if you keep trying you will get there,” she said. “It also shows that there was no reason to ban the hijab in Jiu-Jitsu because look at me, it didn’t stop me.”
For Abdrabboh, her Jiu-Jitsu training was diligent and focused as she followed a set schedule.
During the school year, her training consisted of two-hour sessions five days a week. Throughout the summer, her training becomes more frequent. In anticipation of the IBJJF Pan Kids Tournament, she said her coaches set up a training camp specifically for the competition, allowing her to train seven days a week, sometimes with four hours of training in one day.
She said two of her sisters, Nuzmeya, 18, and Rayyan, 15, have been inspirations to her in journey through Jiu-Jitsu.
“My three older sisters first inspired me to wear the hijab because they have all worn it since they were younger,” she said. “They have always played sports like soccer, field hockey, track, ice skating and Jiu-Jitsu, wearing the hijab.
“Their hijab has never stopped them either.”
Her aspirations for her Jiu-Jitsu career include an ambition to win at every level. She also aims to reach black belt level and become a coach.
“I also want to get my black belt, Inshallah, and be a coach at Metro and keep teaching kids that have never met a Muslim person before,” she said. “We are just like everybody else.”
Aaminah Abdrabboh stands on top of the podium after winning the gold, in the first image. Photos courtesy of Nancy Marini
Abdrabboh’s mother, Nancy Marini, told The Arab American News just how significant this victory is not only for her daughter, but for all Muslim women, as the hijab prohibited them from competing until recent years. She said there has been a large focus on Abdrabboh’s hijab directly because of its pivotal role in this newfound inclusion of the hijab in IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu.
“It is significant to note that many skilled, hard-working girls and women were denied the opportunity to compete in IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu until 2014,” Marini said. “They were just not allowed until the UAE Jiu-Jitsu coach at the time petitioned the ruling. And now the world gets to see there should never be a hijab ban for any sport. Hijab is not a hindrance, it’s weaving our Islamic faith into every part of ourselves.”
Marini also touched on the significance of this tournament in the realm of IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu as the best of the best kid competitors across the world attend and compete.
Abdrabboh’s participation in these heavily packed tournaments elicits more exposure for the hijab, ultimately holding the potential to inspire other tournament-goers who may feel restricted by their own hijabs.
Marini said parents attending the tournaments become inspired for their own daughters after seeing Abdrabboh.
“In fact many times Muslim strangers at the tournaments will come to us and say that their sons are in Jiu-Jitsu, but seeing a hijabi makes them think their daughters can do it too.”
Mohammad Abdrabboh said the Metro Jiu-Jitsu studio is a family atmosphere that pushes and encourages each student to become their best.
“It is so rewarding to coach alongside my children everyday inside Metro, to guide them and watch them reach their goals, alhamdulillah,” he said. “I’m also training other people’s children that I treat just like my own, so it really is a family training session every day.
“The commitment to supporting our Metro family to reach their individual results and developing a martial arts mindset in and out of the gym is shared with everyone.”
For any girls wearing the hijab who hold some hesitancy or angst to begin practicing Jiu-Jitsu, Abdrabboh shared some encouraging advice:
“Don’t be nervous, just start,” she said. “We can be Muslim and still do sports. Our uniforms are gi pants and jacket that is all covered, so you can be in hijab doing Jiu-Jitsu. Even the rash guard (under shirts) come in long sleeves. IBJJF is very good about the rules that no one can pull our hijab in the competition, either, just like you can’t pull someone’s hair.”
Trailblazing her way through Jiu-Jitsu at only 12-years-old, Abdrabboh’s victory is a pivotal step toward changing the stigma surrounding the hijab, in any sport. She said being Muslim should never be a hindrance when it comes to participating in sports, but rather a part of who you are.