Emirati astronaut said jiu-jitsu skills got him through space training
Making it to the top as a trained Emirati astronaut is no easy task, in fact only two people out of a pool of over 4,000 were chosen for the task.
One of those two was back-up astronaut Dr Sultan Al Neyadi and he attributes his success in the gruelling training process to his love and skill in the art of jiu-jitsu.
While Hazza Al Mansouri was the first Emirati to leave earth and board the International Space Station (ISS), he was actually one of the two first Emirati astronauts. Alongside Mansouri undergoing the same preparation was Neyadi, acting as back-up astronaut back on Earth, ready to head to the ISS at any time if needs be.
Though he never went to space, Neyadi was more than ready for the occasion, along with an exhaustive list of others including crash landing in a snowy wilderness and surviving. The National reports that the two Emiratis spent three days in a Russian forest learning how to fend for themselves in such a harsh condition.
A key part of training was riding a massive centrifuge to stimulate the g-forces of lift off and the forces of landing. The simulation spins at a whopping 96 kilometres per hour (59.6 miles per hour) and prepares space-goers for the eventuality of blood rushing out of the head resulting in passing out.
“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," he said according to The National.
"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.”
Both Neyadi and Mansouri spent near a year away from their homes training and even spent time in isolation close to the launch to avoid risk of contamination from the outside-world. A new demand of space travel is naturally peak mental and physical strength, which is where Neyadi thanks his time practicing jiu-jitsu again.
“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," said Neyadi.
"I was flexible, had good physical strength and was able to focus mentally for long periods.”
Though the doctorate-holder has not yet been to space, it is expected he will be the first choice for the country’s next ambitious space mission.