NAGA Grappling Tournament

A friend and I went to the NAGA Georgia grappling tournament ( to check out gi/no-gi submission fights up close. It was held in a high school auditorium in Jonesboro, GA.

Attendance was massive – the parking lot was overflowing and people were parking across the street in a performing arts center. There were 10 rings in play, and a HUGE # of divisions: by age, weight, experience, gi vs. no-gi, and submission vs. no-submission (for kids groups).

I was floored by the ability of some of the kids. In particular, the kids in the 10-12 year old range had excellent technique and attitude. Of particular note were that many of the girl contestants were opting to compete against boys. There was one girl, don’t know her name, but she was like maybe 12 years old, tiny (gymnast size), and just had a bad-ass attitude and excellent technique. She took her division by defeating another girl that probably had several inches and at least 30 pounds on her – I believe she submitted her with an arm bar.

And the girls that were wrestling were pretty normal looking too – the 3rd place finisher in one of the girls divisions looked like a high school cheerleader. In my school when growing up, girls that wrestled looked…not like that.

BTW, there’s just about nothing cuter than a 5 year old pulling off a scissors sweep into a mount. Seeing these kids running around in gis and doing Royce Gracie type stuff just killed me.

Theoretically there is a division even I could compete in, the 30-39 year old, heavyweight, novice division. Woo, next year baby, next year!!

Bouts were typically 3 minutes, with points awarded by refs, and a 2 minute overtime if necessary. I’d say about 25% of the bouts were won by submission, the rest by points. It was a pretty good pace through the whole thing, and I only saw one broken arm.

Overall sportsmanship was amazingly high. There were a couple exceptions. One guy got pissed because the ref thought he tapped when he didn’t (I was watching – it looked like the arm bar was working, but the kid was escaping it). Another guy got pissed off because he got choked out but accused the winner of an illegal “head crank”. Not sure what the rule is about that, but if someone has their chin tucked and you want to choke 'em, you GOTTA pull their head back. Is that a head crank? And then something else happened, don’t know what exactly, but some dude got super pissed and started getting in a ref’s face and a few people had to break it up.

I was seated behind Jacare Cavalcanti, and the policy was anyone mat side had to sit or kneel. The announcers kept saying it (it was so that people on the bleachers could see the action), and someone next to Jacare said “Hey, you need to sit down” and Jacare turned around with a sneer and goes “I’m COACHING, I don’t need to sit down. You don’t tell me to sit down!” Ironically, he then turned and sat down. That attitude was enough for me to blow off going to Alliance BJJ in Sandy Springs…

I did dislike the point whoring aspect of it. This is something that has bothered me since the mandatory round/time limits + point system was put in place in a lot of these matches. You get this judo style strategy of “score 2 points then fight defensively” which is lame. You had coaches routinely shouting “30 seconds, just sit tight, 30 seconds!”

Reminds me (tangent) of the first BJ Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre fight where the commentators kept saying that Penn had the advantage for drawing blood, but St. Pierre was far more aggressive, landed more hits, and didn’t pussy out constantly. When Penn – who is supposedly one of the best BJJ grapplers in the world – would get down, he’d escape to a standup. Showed zero courage in that fight, and just watched the clock after getting his initial points.

ANYWAY…it was very cool to check out everything. I was there for about 3.5 hours and had a good time. I had to go home and shave afterwards because of the sheer amount of testosterone floating around, but other than that, all good.

It’s got me inspired to check out an MMA place that’s small and aimed at older guys like me and only about 20 minutes from my house. Small outfit, not sure of the head instructor’s credentials (there were a fuckton of Rex Kwon Do “I’m a black belt in 9 arts, really!” types there), but he had a good attitude and his kids team was doing well.

Nice write-up! Sounds like you had a good time.

Lots of TMA people tend to whine/cry that stuff like BJJ is to stressful/dangerous for kids. Generally, I think they’re just really, really mis-informed. It’s totally fine for kids to practice, very safe.

Also, you should compete! Lots of BJJ tourneys will have a “Executive” division which is 40 and up. And some will even have a “Master’s” division which is 50 and up. Or maybe the other way around. Either way, they try to allow for people who want to compete, no matter age/skill level. That being said, lots of people sandbag their way into lower divisions.

Good luck trying out the MMA place.

Yeah, it was a blast, however the politics are annoying. There are two major MMA training gyms in the north Atlanta area, Alliance (Jacare’s) and KnuckleUp (formerly Velocity) and there’s a lot of “You can’t train anywhere else if you train with us” bullshit.

The place I visited today is a lot mellower and, to be honest, the instructor isn’t nearly as qualified (he’s a danzan-ryu jiu-jitsu, which is kinda ghetto IMO, but he’s a 5th dan, and he has no certification or lineage in BJJ), but he seems interested, patient, and his technique seems sound. So while he doesn’t have the paper, I’m confident he’d be good enough to train under for at least a coupl eyears.

Lots of TMA people tend to whine/cry that stuff like BJJ is to stressful/dangerous for kids.

Yeah, but those same parents think Pop Warner football is just great.

It’s totally fine for kids to practice, very safe.

Just not heel hooks =)

Also, you should compete! Lots of BJJ tourneys will have a “Executive” division which is 40 and up. And some will even have a “Master’s” division which is 50 and up. Or maybe the other way around.

I’m seriously thinking aobut it next year. There’s Masters (30+), Executive (40+) and Director (50+). It would be a great excuse for me to cut my weight from 215 to 195 to get into middleweight. Ideally I go for a division with like 3 competitors, lose, and still get 3rd place =)

That being said, lots of people sandbag their way into lower divisions.

The big complaint is that NAGA doesn’t certify or even track competitors, so it’s purely honor system. If you claim to be a beginner, they won’t have any way to tell if you’ve been training for 6 years. The problem is that NO ONE wants to compete in advanced, because those are bad asses, so a lot of people that should compete in advanced instead compete in intermediate, and thus a lot of intermediates end up competing in beginner. IIRC one of the divisions had 20 beginners but only 4 intermediates.

Good luck trying out the MMA place.

As I said earlier, the instructor seems decent, just no pedigree that gives me high confidence. But I know enough about MMA to tell bullshit, and I was commenting on techniques by some students and he knew his stuff.

He splits classes to about 25% bag work/striking, 25% clinch/take down, and 50% grappling, which works fine for me.