Getting Ready To Compete? The Top Five Things You Gotta Know for NAGA
Whether you are a first time competitor or a seasoned veteran, preparation is everything – at that means ALL aspects of preparation. Everything from the obvious such as your technique and conditioning to the details of the rules and directions to the event come into play. You would be amazed at how many times even experienced competitors make simple mistakes that cost them the match – mistakes that could have been avoided if they knew the rules better.
“You would be amazed at how many times even experienced competitors make simple mistakes that cost them the match – mistakes that could have been avoided if they knew the rules better.”
If you’re a beginning grappler, and you think you are ready to compete at a local NAGA (the North American Grappling Association) event to test your new skills in live competition at your first ever tournament. For the first time you’ll be facing competitors instead of training partners, representing your school or academy, and fighting for stakes. You deserve a big “congratulations” just for stepping on the mat – it’s a big step. You should be excited; you might be nervous, and you’ll definitely want your first competition to run as smoothly as possible so you can focus on performing your best during each one of your matches.
Or you might be a seasoned martial arts competitor – you’re familiar with high school or college wrestling meets or judo tournaments, but you’re new to NAGA. You may expect that every tournament will run the same way, and there will be similarities. But there will also be differences. Your skill and experience enriches the sport and serves as an inspiration to newer fighters – no one wants you to miss your division or be penalized for an illegal technique because “that’s not the way they do it there.”
You might even be a parent of a young competitor wondering how you’ll steer your child to the right place at the right time, or a grandparent, friend, or coach simply wanting to know how you’ll find your fighter in the midst of a dozen or more rings and 100’s of matches on competition day.
Whoever you are, you’ll want to know the basics of a day at NAGA before you go. So here they are: The Top Five Things to Know as You Prepare for Your First NAGA. Read on, everyone; this is for you.
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1. What are the Rules of Competition?
NAGA uses different rules for its No-Gi and Gi divisions. The NAGA No-Gi rules have been independently developed and refined by NAGA over the course of years of tournament production to equally support participation by practitioners of scholastic wrestling, judo, sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and all grappling arts.
The NAGA Gi rules are based closely on the rules developed by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. Both sets of rules can be read and studied here: http://nagafighter.com/index.php?module=rulepage
If you have questions after reading through these rules thoroughly, you can always contact Ryan Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org for clarification. Every NAGA tournament also begins with a Rules Meeting and demonstration of scoring positions and legal/illegal techniques by certified NAGA referees.
2. How Do I Register to Compete?
Competitors can preregister for a NAGA event online or by mail, or they can register at the tournament itself.
Online preregistration is available through the NAGA website, and forms for mail-in can be downloaded and printed out there as well. Preregistration closes one week before any tournament. Those registering by mail are encouraged NOT to wait until this deadline to postmark their forms but to allow at least a few extra days for snail mail delivery. There are several advantages to preregistration including expedited check-in at the event, discounted admission for preregistered spectators, and a free event tee-shirt for competitors.
Those competitors who prefer to register at the tournament have the option to register on the “eve” of the event at Friday night weigh-ins – this allows them to weigh-in in advance so they can eat, hydrate, and rest well the night before competing and skip the lines in the morning. Registration is also open on the day of the tournament. The official registration and weigh-in period is 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., with the tournament beginning at 10. However, for the procrastinators, the spontaneous, or those who simply know their divisions occur later in the day, it is possible to register up until a division is called for bracketing.
Pre-registered fighters can check in at the Friday night weigh-ins or on the day of the tournament. Some NAGA events are one-day, while larger events are broken into two days with all adults competing Saturday and Kids and Teens on Sunday. In these cases Kids and Teens can check in or register on Sunday or during any earlier registration period, but at any time they must have a parent or guardian 18+ with them in order to complete registration.
3. Which Division/s Is/Are Right for Me?
NAGA offers both No-Gi and Gi divisions for competition. All competitors decide based on their own experience and preferences whether to compete in No-Gi, Gi, or both. Women compete separately from men, and whenever possible, girls compete separately from boys. Beyond that, divisions are broken up by age, skill level, and weight.
First, the simplest matter: Fighters need not worry about weight. It is not required to commit to a weight class at registration. Anyone who weighs in above (or below) his expected weight, will simply be placed into the appropriate division, and fighters may attempt to cut weight and re-weigh up until their divisions are called for bracketing if they are not satisfied with their initial weights.
In Men’s No-Gi Novice, Beginner, and Intermediate categories only, additional Absolute divisions are available. These are open-weight divisions that take place after the regular weight class divisions have ended.
As for age, NAGA’s age divisions are as follows:
- Kids: 13 years and under
- Teens 14 & 15 years old
- Teens 16 & 17 years old
- Adults: 18 years and up
- Masters: 30 years and up
- Directors: 40 years and up
- Executives: 50 years and up
Masters, Directors, and Executives are not bound to their age classes; they may compete in any younger division if desired. It is also possible to compete in both the Adult AND Masters divisions or the Directors AND Executive divisions. However, due to the timing of events during the day, it is not possible to mix Adult and Masters divisions with Directors and Executives divisions. Currently there are Masters but not Directors or Executives divisions available for women.
Older teens are permitted to compete as adults, and they may compete in both teen and adult divisions if and only if they compete at identical skill levels in both age categories.
Skill level is often the category of most passionate interest to competitors.
NAGA’s skill classes are Novice, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced/Expert for adult No-Gi and all Kids and Teens divisions.
Adult Gi skill classes are White Belt, Blue Belt, Purple Belt, and Brown/Black Belt. (Brown and Black belts will be divided when there are enough competitors in each division, and Purple, Brown, and Black belts may be combined if there are not enough competitors in any division.)
Length of training is used as the basic guideline for determining skill level:
- Novice: Under 6 months (all competitors)
- Beginner: 6 months to 2 years (all adults) or 6 months to 1 year (Kids and Teens)
- Intermediate: 2 to 5 years (all adult) or 1 to 2 years (Kids and Teens)
- Advanced/Expert: Over 5 years (all adults) or over 2 years (Kids and Teens)
However, various other factors come into play. For those competing in No-Gi and Gi divisions, Blue Belts must compete as No-Gi Intermediates and vice versa. Purple, Brown, and Black Belts must compete as No-Gi Advanced/Experts, and No-Gi Advanced/Experts must compete at at least Purple Belt level.
Tournament experience is also considered. Those who have won their divisions at a previous NAGA must fight up to the next skill class. This is by no means a punishment but an honor and recognition of a fighter’s readiness to challenge himself at the next level of competition. Those who have performed well at other tournaments are also urged to fight up to a level that will truly test their skills even if their length of training would place them in a lower division. NAGA does keep track of its past winners and does everything possible to eliminate “sandbagging” or competing at a level below what is appropriate.
Wrestlers should be aware that a season of school wrestling counts as a year of ground-fighting experience. Therefore, anyone with more than the most limited wrestling experience must fight at at least Intermediate/Blue Belt level. This is a reflection of the regular, rigorous training and the familiarity with competition typically provided by scholastic wrestling programs, experience that is often unobtainable and envied by adult grapplers who must fit training time into busy work and family schedules.
Finally, for Kids only, Novice divisions do not allow any submissions. Kids who wish to use submissions must fight at the Beginner level, even if they have trained for less than six months. Children who have trained over six month but whose schools do not teach them submissions will be placed according to their competition experience and comfort level after consultation with both the child and the parent/coach. At NAGA’s largest events, they may also compete in special No-Subs Beginners divisions.
4. How Much Does It Cost?
The basic NAGA pricing structure is simple. In most cases, competitors are limited to two divisions. The cost for one No-Gi or Gi division is $80; the cost for both No-Gi and Gi or No-Gi and No-Gi Absolute is $100.
Admission is $15 for spectators over the age of eight and free for eight and under.
A few discounts and exceptions exist:
Family discounts (Competitors must be members of the same family, e.g. siblings, spouses, parent and child, and NOT simply members of the same school or academy):
- 2 Family members competing: $80 per fighter for two divisions
- 3 Family members competing: $70 per fighter for two divisions
- 4 Family members or more competing: $60 per fighter for two divisions
Spectators’ pre-purchase discount: $10 per spectator when admission is purchased online or by mail by the preregistration deadline
Exceptions to the two-division rule:
Fighters over 30 may choose to compete in both the Adult and Masters divisions for their weight and skill class, and fighters over 50 may compete in the both Directors and Executive divisions. Each additional division after the first is $20.
Competitors may also try to compete in the regular No-Gi and Gi divisions for their weights as well as the Absolute division for their skill level. However, they are advised that the Gi and Absolute divisions often go off at the same time, and there is a chance they will miss one of these divisions. Each additional division after the first is $20.
Older teens may compete in both the teen and adult divisions, but they must compete at the same skill levels in both age classes. This is NOT treated as adding on divisions, but as two separate registrations: $160 for one adult and one teen division or $200 for two adult and two teen divisions.
Attendees will also want to allow for shopping at the NAGA tee-shirt booth and other vendor booths, refreshments during the day, and parking fees. Many NAGA events take place at schools, which do not have readily available ATMS, and though NAGA itself accepts credit and debit cards, this is not always true of the venue’s concessions stands and parking attendants.
5. How Does the Day Run?
Doors open for registration and weigh-in at a NAGA event at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m. the first fighters of the day must hand in the bracketing cards they received at registration. At a one-day event or a Sunday kids’ day, all Kids and Teens hand in their cards at their assigned rings at 10 a.m.; on the Saturday of a two-day event, Men’s Adult and Masters Novice No-Gi competitors hand in their cards at a central bracketing table, and ALL Women, Directors, and Executive competitors hand in their cards at their assigned rings.
At 10 a.m. a Rules Meeting is also held on the main mat. This meeting is open to all competitors, and Novices should not miss it.
At 10:30 a.m., the matches start! The order of events at a NAGA tournament is:
- White Belt
- Blue Belt
- Purple, Brown, & Black Belts
Once the Novice No-Gi matches have started, other competitors should keep an eye on the progress of the tournament and listen for announcements calling for their divisions to hand in their cards or report to a ring to compete. On adult-only days Men’s Adult and Masters competitors can use these guidelines to estimate when their divisions will be called to bracketing, but they should be aware that smaller tournaments may run slightly quicker and large ones slightly slower and that a loudspeaker call to report always overrides a printed guesstimate.
- No-Gi Beginners: 11 am
- No-Gi Intermediates: 12 pm
- No-Gi Advanced/Expert: 1 pm
- White Belts: 2-3 pm
- Blue Belts: 3-4 pm
- Purple, Brown, & Black Belts: 4-5 pm
Once fighters are at their rings, they should not wander away. It is important to pay attention to the progress of the division and to be ready to fight when called. Fighters can be disqualified if they are not present when called for their matches!
Match duration depends on the division:
- Adult Novice, Beginner, and White Belt matches: 4 minutes
- ALL Masters, Directors, and Executives matches: 4 minutes
- Adult Intermediate and Blue Belt matches: 5 minutes
- Adult Advanced/Expert and Purple/Brown/Black Belt matches: 6 minutes
- Kids and Teens matches (NOT Advanced/Expert): 3 minutes
- Kids and Teens Advanced/Expert matches: 4 minutes
A match will of course be shorter if it is ended by a submission!
In Gi matches, tied scores are ALWAYS resolved by referee’s decision; in No-Gi ties, the referee will make the decision whenever possible but MAY call for a two-minute overtime (for all adults) or one-minute overtime (for Kids and Teens).
Competitors are always entitled to a rest between matches that is at least as long as a standard match in their division. NO rest is given before overtimes.
NAGA is a single-elimination tournament. Once a competitor loses a match he will not fight again in that division. The exceptions are semi-finals matches, where the losers do compete again for theThird Placespot. In three- and four-person divisions, and for the fighters getting a bye in five-person divisions, the first matches are automatic semi-finals. Losers of semi-finals matches should not leave their rings!
Awards are presented immediately after the finals of a division, at the ring where the matches took place. Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded to adult competitors; kids and teens receive First Place Samurai Swords, Silver and Bronze medals, and Participation medals for all runners-up. At tournaments with Expert divisions, First Place Experts win Championship Belts. Awards photos are taken and quickly made available for download on the NAGA website.
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Now that we’ve taken you through the steps of competing at NAGA, from registration, hopefully right up to your first NAGA victory, you’re ready to go! All that’s left is for you to make it happen – make the commitment, get fired up to train hard and train smart for your first NAGA, COMPETE, and win or lose you can be sure you’ll learn from your experience and that you’ll deserve a good celebration afterwards!
For more information on NAGA events please go to www.nagafighter.com