Tournament Review Tuesday: NAGA North American Grappling Championship

by Frank Garrett

I had decided to compete in the NAGA North American Grappling Championships in Newark, NJ, along with two of my teammates. I had packed food, water, my video camera, and a pillow. I felt reasonably prepared, despite having slept poorly the night before. The women’s no-gi was scheduled to begin at 10:30, and we had about a two and a half hour ride to get up there, forcing me to wake up far earlier than I would like to on a Saturday.

We met at our academy, and began the trek up the NJ turnpike, making good time despite the poor weather. We arrived at the venue at about 10:00 in the morning, to find convenient parking near the gymnasium. Although I hadn’t pre-registered I only had a brief wait in line to get signed in. Also people who registered at the door paid the same as those who pre-registered, which was nice for me. Weigh-ins were equally smooth, although I could see a longer line begin to form behind me. We had missed the rules meeting, and some matches had already begun, which surprised me. The event seemed to start more or less on time.

The venue was probably the largest I had been to for a grappling competition. There were 12 rings that were in use the entire time we were there. Scoreboards were electronic and easy to read. The PA system was loud and clear. There were the typical vendors and concessions.

According to the announcer there were about 1,200 registered competitors, and the high volume did seem to bog down the progress of the divisions somewhat. In particular the one ring devoted to the lady’s divisions seemed to be going slowly. NAGA did seem to be doing their best to keep things running as scheduled, deducting two points from you if they had to call your name over the loudspeaker. They also made a point of keeping coaches a safe distance to the side of the mat, a pet peeve of mine.

I wasn’t crazy about the strange rules that NAGA uses for no-gi, but I don’t do no-gi so it wasn’t an issue for me. I do thing that allowing leg locks in beginner’s divisions is inadvisable however. The only rule issue I had personally was that blue belt matches were only five minutes long, and I had trained for six. Others in my division were not so fortunate however. There appeared to be some heated debates as to what constituted “reaping the knee”. The ref in my ring (ring 2), did a good job explaining his decisions in a calm manner, and even used a spectator’s video to replay and review his decision. One competitor who went for a straight ankle lock let his foot cross the line of the hip and was immediately disqualified. Overall I was very impressed with my ref. He appeared attentive and calm the entire time.

It was a long and grueling day, but overall this NAGA was run much more smoothly than any tournament of this size I have been to. The large number of rings, professionalism of the staff, and the fact that they split the kids and teens division into a separate day allowed us to get on our way by about 6:30. I think all tournaments should move the kids and teens to a separate day. Hopefully this trend of quality tournaments will continue.

Frank Garrett is a blue belt currently training at Maxercise in beautiful Philadelphia, PA.

This is an installment in our Tournament Review Tuesdays column, 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. Through the rest of 2009, if you submit a Tournament Review Tuesday piece, you might win an Isami gi!

– Caleb

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