Sultan Al Neyadi has just become the first BJJ practitioner to make it into space after becoming part of the UAE astronaut program. He has just become one of two men to take part in the UAE’s very first long duration space mission, where he will live in the International Space Station (ISS) for six months. He was one of 4,022 candidates who originally applied for the program and made it all the way to the final stage of the process where he and one other person were selected for the mission. Prior to his career as an astronaut, Al Neyadi has actually been an avid practitioner of BJJ and has been training for seven years so far.
The UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi gave an interview before he travelled into space where he explained the physical benefits that his love of BJJ has brought to him:
“I have trained in Jiu-Jitsu for almost seven years now and the benefits that the sport brought me were clearly visible during our training process. I was flexible, had good physical strength and was able to focus mentally for long periods.”
It wasn’t just about the physical benefits though, because Al Neyadi also explained that some of what he experienced in his years on the mats felt similar to his training as an astronaut:
“I had a load which weighed eight times my body weight sitting on my chest and it was very similar to passages in jiu-jitsu where the opponent has side control or is in the mount position.”
“In the centrifuge test, the feeling was very similar to a struggle in a jiu-jitsu fight but my training helped me pull through and I completed two runs of the centrifuge test successfully.”
It seems as though Sultan Al Neyadi might not be the only BJJ practitioner in space for long because he’s been bringing the sport to other members of his team in the UAE, but apparently an astronaut may not be the easiest sparring partner:
“During the first fit-check of my Sokol space suit in Baikonur, I had a chance to test my modest jiu-jitsu skills by attempting to submit an astronaut. It didn’t work because these guys literally have no necks and their joints are very flexible.”