The kids I train to compete love to travel together to BJJ tournaments, collecting experiences and medals from all over the country. This is why I’m writing this story. If it weren’t for them, I never would have packed my bags and made my way to TX for this year’s NAGA World Championships. As always, my students and their parents inspire me, and I had to get on the mat and show them I can do it too! This is the first tournament that we’ve traveled to where I could compete as well. This may have added a little bit of nerves to the experience, but I welcome this challenge. The kids always push me to be the best I can be. Best coach, best competitor, best person. This is what they give me back….and I am forever grateful!
We’ve made a number of trips, but soooo many things were be different about this one. First of all, I booked our flight so that we would get there early enough Friday for me to cut the three pounds to get down to the lower weight. I have stopped cutting weight for BJJ tournaments, but this one seemed like a good idea—mainly because they had day before weigh ins and the weight divisions had 20 lb differences.
Turns out our flight landed after midnight and we didn’t get to bed till nearly two in the morning. Then I woke up at seven to go and drop the last couple of pounds. We rolled to the event to weigh in early so that we could go and eat and I could start to rehydrate. At weigh-ins, I discovered that they give a two pound allowance…might have helped to know that! Oh well, that’s how it goes some times. Regardless, I made weight and we got food!
Veronica was supposed to be first at 10 am., but she didn’t end up going until I had already had all of my no gi matches and one gi match. This was at roughly 5pm. So we sat around there all day on no sleep and with minimal snacks…didn’t have time to grab anything the night before and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the venue to get decent food because we never knew when she would be called to the mat.
Veronica looked great in her matches (she only did gi) and in the finals was beat on points. Not bad for her first BJJ tourney ever! I had some tough divisions with black belt competitors in each division (naga rules). I have only recently begin to relax at BJJ tourneys, but this one had me tense. I had never competed with Black Belts before so I was a bit wrecked! Add in the lack of sleep and the unnecessary weight cut…bonkers!!! No excuses for me though because I got on the mat and gave it all I had. I ended up losing to both black belts and got a Silver in No Gi, and Bronze in the Gi. It was a great experience overall and I’m glad to have done it!
We brought five kids with us. Dane, Cameron, Avery, Adam, and Nic. All of them had upper belts in their divisions due to how NAGA arranges their divisions. Cam blasted through his opponents in both divisions and racked up double gold and got a sweet belt for his efforts. Avery looked amazing on her way to gold and showed that she is the tough competitor we knew she could be! Cam is now a two time Naga World Champ and Avery adds her name to the list for the first time. Adam was able to fight through some serious adversity in his matches and walked away with double silver. All of the competitors in Dane’s division were orange or green belts (he’s yellow), but he was still able to fight his way to third place in the Gi and defeat in the Gi division a boy who had beaten him in the No-Gi division. Poor Nic was unable to get going in the no gi division and then he and his mother had to take off to make their flight before it was too late and he missed his gi division.
Part of what makes these trips so much fun and so important is the team bonding we accomplish on them. We didn’t just roll on the same mats. We ate together, played together, suffered and celebrated together. This is the stuff of which a team is made, and there is so much more to being a team than mere medal count.
All in all, it was a great competition and there was a lot to be learned! We have a great team with great support and we know we belong at these tournaments. Many of the coaches and professors complemented me on what we are doing up here in the middle of the country! I tell them it’s all Amal, and that we are just doing what we can to emulate his success. There is a lot that goes into doing this successfully and we couldn’t do it without his guidance.