Blind RUG student wins gold in martial arts competition

On monday, RUG student Iris van der Zaag won gold in a national Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. In another bracket, RUG student Hatmah Hatta won silver.
By Megan Embry

The national Easter tournament was held in Eindhoven on Monday, 22 April. 250 BJJ fighters from teams all over the Netherlands came to compete. Competition brackets were determined by weight and belt level. Iris van der Zaag and Hatmah Hatta represented their local gym, Focus Jiu Jitsu Groningen.

Van der Zaag, who studies tax law – and is blind – is a seasoned blue belt. She fought in the under-74-kilo weight division with half a dozen other women. She won her first fight by submission; her opponent tapped out to an arm lock. She progressed to the final round, which she won handily by points: 2-0. ‘I had a plan in my head going into that fight, and it worked – I executed a floor sweep that felt pretty good’, says Van der Zaag, who went home with a gold medal.

‘Both of her fights were really good fights’, agrees trainer Orlando Prins, head instructor at Focus Jiu Jitsu Groningen. Van der Zaag came to his gym back in 2014 as a white belt, but leveled up to a blue belt in just over two years. Prins thinks she will probably graduate to purple by the end of the summer.


Hatta is a first year International business student from Singapore. This was her first competitive fight. She dominated her first round in the under-64-kilo white-belt bracket, winning by points: 4-0. ‘I managed to sweep my opponent early on, and then in the last thirty seconds I passed her guard’, says Hatta, proudly. She lost her final match and came in second in her bracket with a silver medal.

‘I’m way below weight in my bracket, so I knew going in that if they got on top of me I would have a hard time getting up. That’s what happened in the second fight; I ended up under my opponent. Then she just used her weight to put pressure on me and stall. I tried a triangle from there but couldn’t do anything.’

Hatta is already strategising for her next competition two months from now. ‘I hope to gain weight by then, but if I don’t, I know now that I have to really commit to the take-down and focus on staying on top.’

Prins, who works closely with both fighters, is pleased with their performances. ‘They are doing great and proving themselves on a national level’, he says. ‘It’s satisfying to watch.’


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