From Dan “Micro” Faggella.
The NAGA North American Championships took place this weekend at Essex College in New Jersey. The tournament seemed to flow relatively smoothly with the large gym at Essex. I showed up at about 1:40 pm and had less than an hour until my advanced division, not bad. Not too bad. I later caught up with fellow competitor and well known ref Ryan Parker to talk about the tournament. I asked him how the tournament was going. “What time is it, seven? Yeah this is pretty good, better than those events where we get out at midnight.” Been there, and I’m sure he has many times. He agreed that doing the kids and teens divisions on a separate day is a huge factor in tournament timeliness. Unlike the last NAGA Worlds, this event had that separation. I then asked him how the economic recession was affecting NAGA and its events. “We haven’t felt much of it here” he said. “We had less pre-registered competitors, but over all it was still big.” He then told me that he had actually seen an increase in membership at his gym, The Boneyard in Massachusetts.
I caught up to speak with Justin Hammerstom, an MMA fighter and owner of the fightwear company Boston Brawler. “I don’t know, we’re still doing fine” said Justin in response to my question about the recession. Joe Cuff (one of the prime movers in running the NAGA events) state that recreation and entertainment didn’t seem to be as effected as other realms of our economy. He might be right.
Getting into tournament action, I met up with Dan Simmler, a Mat Serra brown belt and owner of Simmler BJJ. He lost his first no-gi fight to a Penn State wrestler and purple belt, but ended up finishing for third place. When asked about the competition, Dan responded, “the competition was pretty good, that last guy in no-gi was kind of a lemon though.” Nice, Dan. He went on to win his division in the gi, winning by baseball bat choke and then by armbar. Dan has plans to teach a seminar in Maryland in February, in addition to possibly traveling to south east Asia to teach for a while. “I got in touch with Luke of BJJ-asia.com. Apparently they have a ton of schools out there but only a few black belts.”
Bumping into a few other competitors, I chatted with Greg Saunders, a purple belt under Lloyd Irvin who also won his gi division. I talked to him about what had changed in his game recently. “I used to play a guard game a lot like Ryan [Hall]” he stated, “but now I’ve been working differently.” Apparently its been working out for him. He went on to demonstrate a cool sweep and I went on to see some more competitors.
I ran into Frank, a 19 year old white belt at Lloyd Irvin’s academy. He had finished first first in his no-gi division and third in his gi division. Frank went through a large division and seemed to have had a blast. “I had six fights in gi today. I really liked the tournament… I’m getting the BJJ bug!”
Other notable occurrences include the appearance of Matt Serra who came to check out the event and be his charismatic self.
Before leaving I talked to Ryan Parker once more about upcoming NAGA events. “We’ve got something coming up in Chicago and Texas soon. Locally, we’ve also got the New Englands, right up in Rhode Island on Valentine’s Day weekend.”
This is the first in our new column, Tournament Review Tuesdays, where FightWorks Podcast listeners submit reports about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions that happened the weekend prior. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of The FightWorks Podcast. – Caleb