NAGA 2012 + Arm Triangle Finishing Details

North American Grappling Association – First Impressions

[box]Do you think it is OK to call a grappling match a “fight”?

Let us know in the poll at the end of this article.[/box]

Passing the plentiful horse stables, and breathing in the fresh country air we approached the venue for the first Utah NAGA Grappling Tournament. My muscles began to tense as I thought to myself, “Oh yes, a communal case of Staph… just what the doctor ordered.”

But those fears were soon quelled as we entered the main, dirt filled arena and were promptly re-directed to the two adjacent buildings, with concrete flooring and several Dollamur mats, guarded fiercely by the tournament officials against shoe wearing infants and ignorant parents, like sentries at a US embassy.

The rules meeting was long and hard to hear. In fact, the subtleties of the various rules (gi and no gi, kids and adult divisions), by the tournament organizer’s own admission would have taken about 2 or 3 hours to go over. As with any tournament, prior research and clarification is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Overall Experience

What I saw was a lot of on the fly, adjustments. In the kids division, competitors were evaluated within their divisions, during their matches and then brackets were re-shuffled, kids were placed up or down in advanced, intermediate, or beginner divisions based on their performances. This was all done in the spirit of giving the kids the best possible experience in the most level playing fields as possible.

For instance, you might have a kid that officially fits the description for an intermediate competitor. She’s been training at a gym for 2+ years. But once on the mat, in competition, she’s just getting dominated. What I saw was tournament organizers, immediately shifting her down into a beginner division and giving her a second chance to do a little better.

This made things somewhat confusing at times, as there were two different buildings for competitors to switch back and forth to, but in my opinion it was well worth the hassle to see these kids get a second and sometimes a third chance to shine.

I believe there was only one injury (a torn rotator cuff via Kimura), and this was due primarily to the injured competitor’s refusal to tap out in time. The NAGA Officials, with their very liberal rule sets (twisting leg locks, spine locks and neck cranks) did a phenomenal job of keeping the matches safe and respectful. I was very impressed with their knowledge of the rules and discretion in stopping matches for the safety of the competitors.

A Coaches Perspective

Brian and Brandon's student Heinrich Mokofisi takes home the gold after his 6th consecutive grappling match victory.

It was a challenging day on the mats as a coach. Particularly as I did what I could to help a young 10 year old student of mine. Again, thanks to the referees and officials, he was given 6 matches that day. And for a registration price of $80.00 for one division and $100.00 for two, you want your guys to get as much experience as possible.

But when, your student looses his first 4 matches and says he “thinks he’s just going to loose again.” Your abilities as a coach are truly tested. What do you do? Give the kid a hug, tell him what a good job he did, and let him call it a day? Or do you launch into your Vince Lombari motivational speech, tell the kid to wipe his tears, shake off the past, and get in there for one more go!

I chose the latter, and gave the kid a hug, told him how proud of him I was, how proud his father, who had his arm around him was, how, the worst was behind us, that there was only one possible direction to go from here and that was forward… and hopefully upward.

And so it went, as he marched into two more matches, losing one by points and the next by a 270 choke from Kesa Gatame. So much for my Vince Lombardi trophy.

Did I make the right choice? Did I push him too far and too hard? Only time will tell, and I will second guess myself until I know for sure, if I helped to make that kid stronger, or if I contributed to the ultimate demise of his self confidence.

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining, Even For A Coach

Thankfully, that was not how the day came to an end, we had 5 more adult competitors and they all did very well in their divisions. Both Kiser and I had opportunities to make, good calls, heads up tough calls, and thankfully, the right calls.

Kiser was able to impart his thorough knowledge of the Arm Triangle to assist our student Chris Huntsaker in achieving a submission victory as he walked him from the lock up to the final shift of the hips that sealed the deal.

You can learn a little bit more about Kiser’s Arm Triangle game from the video below. He shares his whole Arm Triangle Set Up Game in the Members Only Area.

My comeback moment came while I watched a tough match between our student, Jared Fahrner and his opponent. The match was dead even at 0 – 0 until his opponent threw on a triangle attempt with 1 minute left in the match. Both Jared’s arms were in, but one was pushed, precariously out of between his opponent’s legs except for his fist and wrist. This gave his opponent an advantage point and I watched as the time continued to tick away.

With about 30 seconds left, I decided that we had nothing left to loose. We were going to lose the match on 1 point anyway if things continued to progress as they were. It was time for some drastic measures. I told Jared to yank his trapped hand the rest of the way out, effectively giving his opponent the full triangle. What was the difference of losing the match by a point or being tapped out? A loss is a loss in my book. Then I told Jared to punch over with his outside arm and hip down. And with about 15 seconds left he did just that, scrambling to break the triangle and complete a guard pass which would have won him the match on points. He succeeded in breaking the triangle but unfortunately was unable to complete the pass before time ran out and he lost by that 1 point advantage.

But this is the type of thing we live for as coaches. Giving our students, a second chance, a way to win, when they see none. I was thankful to have wrapped up the day with something I knew I did right.

Parting Thoughts – Are Grappling Matches Considered “Fights”?

I have often questioned the legitimacy of people who called grappling matches “fights” or people who only participate in Grappling Style tournaments as “fighters”. To me, something about using the term “fighter” to describe a grappling competitor, just didn’t sit right.

That is, until this tournament. Watching a young boy, face defeat, time and time again, watching him walk out onto the mat alone, to face yet another tough competitor, despite his lingering self doubt and trepidation, showed me what strength of character was possible in such a young soul. If that is not fighting spirit is, than I am incapable of recognizing it when I see it.

The jury is still out for me on whether or not the terms “grappler” and “fighter” are interchangeable, but one thing is for certain. I have left the first Utah NAGA Competition, very willing to consider the possibility.

What are your thoughts on whether or not Grappling Competitors, and Grappling Matches should be considered “Fighters” and “Fights”?

Should grappling matches be called "fights"?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

25 replies
  1. Paul t
    Paul t says:

    I like these dictionary phrases best ;
    a person who fights, esp a professional boxer
    a person who has determination
    A pugnacious, unyielding, or determined person.
    I think that would describe a grappler too ?
    your student who stepped onto the mat probably with his inner voice telling him to pack up and go home is every bit a fighter .he had two people to beat, himself and his opponent .
    well done all of you .

  2. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    @Paul t.  Love your comment.  So true, so true.  More times than not, facing yourself is every bit as difficult and scary as facing that guy across the ring.

    • SterlingOkura
      SterlingOkura says:

       @Dr Sick  Watched the triangle escape clip.  Amazing how your voice carries so well.  Impressed that your student responded so quickly when you said “go now”.  That pass was soooo close.Interesting how the point system doesn’t count a loose half guard as a pass, when in MMA his top position would be quite dominant.

  3. Paul t
    Paul t says:

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,
    you will succumb in every battle”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Special Edition

  4. Joe Martinez
    Joe Martinez says:

    Great article!! After six matches on Saturday I can say I was in a fight. I am beaten and bruised and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. To me grappling is definitely fighting!

    • Tamer
      Tamer says:

      OK then. First of, has your friend ever wrltesed? If he hasn’t then you might want to use wrestling as it sounds like your strength, then ground and pound, or submit him (check out some submission moves and how to do them on youtube). If he is also a wrestler and quite good at it, you might want to keep the fight standing, throw kicks and knees, as people who fight casually don’t really take into account the damage you can do with them. Keep your hands up, protect you face, and don’t just throw reckless punches, keep it calm and calculated. Because you are quite tall for your age you might want to keep it standing, as you will probably have a good reach. Hope I helped.

  5. Paul t
    Paul t says:

    Thinking about it 5 or 6 ” fights ” or ” matches ” whatever you call them is pretty tough , its amazing how fast the gas tank empties when its showtime not just training .

  6. kenseisato
    kenseisato says:

    great articali think it depends on the individual.IMO you can have a person that wants to dominate and distroy their opponent mentally and spiritually and if they do,  the win usually comes with that. i think thats a fighter.
    IMO you can have someone that likes winning more then fighting. to me thats a Competitor.i heard from a Bellator commentater something like, “you have to like fighting more than winning”. I really agree with the commentater.there was also a judoka on a youtube clip i saw and he kept going for ippon after ippon with no luck witch cost him to loose the match in points. Ater the match though he seemed happy and had no regret on his face because to him ippon ment more to him then just winning. 

  7. Paul t
    Paul t says:

    have you seen the film ” legacy ” following renzo gracie ? he talks about things in the same way
    cheers paul

  8. Paul t
    Paul t says:

    its on dvd from amazon but im sure its available on a torrent site somewhere but i would not know about anything that is against  the law lol !

  9. Jared F
    Jared F says:

    Grappling matches are not fights imo, it is only one aspect or skill set that can be used by a fighter. Instructors at MMA gyms wouldn’t think twice about sending a student to a grappling match. However, when it comes to a MMA fight, they would certainly consider whether or not the student is ready, and for good reason. There is a much higher probability of injury in a fight. Take the NAGA tournament that was just held here in Utah. I only heard of one shoulder injury, to a competitor who wasn’t willing to tap. One injury, out of how many matches?! I personally had 4 matches, no injuries. Sure, I’m a little sore. But if these were MMA fights, I doubt I would be saying the same. And there is no way you could have the same number of MMA fights, as grappling matches held at NAGA, with only one injury. If fights were the same as grappling matches, every student at an MMA gym that competes in grappling matches, would also be fighting. But fights are not the same as grappling matches. Grapplers are not Fighters.  

  10. bloodhound
    bloodhound says:

    This isn’t a matter of opinion.  If grappling was fighting then where did the term grappling come from?  We call it grappling cause it’s not fighting.  Grapplers who call it fighting, are looking to boost their cred.  I can’t believe 40% of you poofs can’t make this deduction on your own.  By your standard of reasoning a bike = motorcycle, a carport = garage, a fight (proper) = ???? well I guess we need a new term for “fight” because it’s been diluted by you troglodytes.  Oh ya, and you’ll also need to contact all the highschools and and colleges around the country and let them know those guys in singlets and headgear are now the fight team. 
    Is our society so severely short of problems that we are installing buckets of orange flags at crosswalks and discussing if grappling is fighting?

  11. kenseisato
    kenseisato says:

    thanks paul tanyways i would like to hear other opinions from the grapplers that call themselves fighters.
    would be nice to see your opinion

  12. naturalbornfighter1
    naturalbornfighter1 says:

    Great Article Dr.Sick!! You’re young student is definitely a fighter but I dont consider grappling as fighting. There are many reasons why. I believe that grappling is a huge and vital part of fighting however on its own it isnt enough to justify being called fighting. I’ve never seen a street fight where they come together and start grappling without striking. If you add strikes into your grappling alone you will see what a difference it makes. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘if you punch a black belt in the face he becomes a brown belt, punch him again and he becomes a purple belt’ and so on. That’s why MMA is classed as fighting and grappling is not. In the Gym I train at (the Griphouse) they have hoodies and t-shirts that say ‘Griphouse fighter’ on them. I have refused to buy one until I have either a Thai or MMA fight. I have done plenty of Grappling representing the griphouse but wouldn’t consider myself to be a fighter yet.

  13. naturalbornfighter1
    naturalbornfighter1 says:

    Hey Bloodhound, there’s no need for the insults, grappling could easily be considered fighting, it’s a perfectly logical question. It may not be the most important question ever but you know that’s the kind of thing we like to debate around here. Look at Frank Mir snapping bones in the UFC or even people snapping bones in grappling comps all over the world. You put people to sleep with a choke, the same result as you would get If you landed a punch or head kick KO. Look at Palhares putting people temporarily in wheelchairs from his leglocks. The UFC was started as an extension of the Gracie challenge where Helio would challenge fighters of all disciplines when he only used BJJ to defeat them. Then Royce defeated multiple opponents without throwing any punches or kicks. I’m going to stop now because I think I’m convincing myself that my previous post may be null and void.
    This place is a respectful community, as a member I’d appreciate it if you didn’t insult other members. Thanks buddy!

  14. bloodhound
    bloodhound says:

    To naturalbornfighter1, forgive me for my sarcasm.  Forum discussion filters the tone in which I was using to express the argument.  I mean no offense to any forum members.  However, I have no problem using ridiculous analogies to paint a fair juxtaposition.   I’m not saying that grappling is easy and I’m not saying that grappling isn’t dangerous.  I’m only saying it’s NOT fighting.  Getting hurt while grappling doesn’t make you a fighter, nor does being sore or exhausted.  By that logic, falling off of a bicycle or running a marathon would be considered fighting.  My point is that the end result doesn’t define the practice of it’s participants.  Getting choked out isn’t the same thing as being KO’d.  And breaking a leg while skiing isn’t the same as having it twisted off.  I know you get where I’m going with this.  I’d also like to note that I prefer grappling to fighting.  This isn’t an attempt to belittle grappling.  I prefer a good gi match (both as a participant and as a spectator) to an MMA fight.  Sorry we got off on the wrong foot.  Perhaps this was the better approach although it wasn’t as fun to write and the same probably applies to the reading.  

  15. kenseisato
    kenseisato says:

    lol did the judo guy go for a ippon with the shinacross the belly or just got into the match and threw a knee??

    they can both take a hit, slaps hurt just as much as punches LOL.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Comment