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Scanning a room full of fit and strong jiu-jitsu athletes at the recent press launch of the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines (JJFP), one guy caught our attention.

He’s at the forefront of introducing the group and its purpose – and he honestly looks like he may be better off as a reporter for a sports program. Don’t be fooled by his looks, though, because he’s more than an eye candy. He’s got his sights set on the future of jiu-jitsu.

Meet Hansel Co, the head coach of JJFP. It is the country’s national sports association for the martial arts form and is composed of almost 2000 jiu-jitsu athletes across the country. Along with other martial arts experts, he is at the helm to recruit topnotch athletes and send them to Jiu-Jitsu International Federation (JJIF)-sanctioned competitions. It’s part of the grand plan to push the sport’s Olympic inclusion.

“It’s very important that each country now has a federation supporting the Olympic objective. JJFP’s main objective is to send the best athletes to the continental games like Asian Games and the Olympics, once they’re able to make that a permanent sport,” he explained in an interview with MB Life.

Sending athletes to international competitions, however, requires the best training possible to further develop the sport locally. Jiu-jitsu has been around since 1998 and has produced impressive results in the international circuit. But head coach Hansel thinks there’ll always be room for Filipinos to dominate.

“To get the best training in our sport, you need to be able to train with and compete against the best athletes abroad. We need the backing of people from the corporate sector to fund athletes so they could train full-time either in the US or Brazil and eventually join competitions without having to worry about expenses,” he added.

A local training facility that can accommodate as many athletes as possible is also part of the group’s wish list.

The team is also not shy in expressing their intent to make Filipinos just as excited for jiu-jitsu as they are when the PBA Finals is on. Coincidentally, Head coach Hansel used to be a basketball player.

“Before jiu-jitsu, it was basketball. Every break I had in school was basketball. Saturdays and Sundays were basketball. And then I moved to Australia to study in 1999, about the same time that martial arts became very popular,” he shared.

It was probably for the best that he got curious and tried out jiu-jitsu instead because he became one of the first few Filipinos to attain a black belt, with impressive gold medal victories throughout his 18-year career. He even attributes his competitive nature to the country’s unofficial national sport.

Head coach Hansel’s biggest dream for the athletes, however, is an Olympic gold medal for jiu-jitsu.

“There’s nothing that can compare to winning an Olympic gold medal because that is an accomplishment that even other people who don’t do the sport can identify with. My dream is for these guys to be able to reach their fullest potential, for them to continue improving, doing the sport they love, and eventually lead the younger generation into the future of the sport,” he said.

We know you’d ask us so here it is: Sorry, Head coach Hansel is happily married with two lovely kids.

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