I got a new perspective on BJJ this weekend – from behind a scoring table at the North American Grappling Association’s (NAGA) UK championship.
A fellow jits girl recruited me to be a ring coordinator for the day, and the role was exactly the type of jiu jitsu involvement I had been looking for. No competition nerves, just a little anxious about not wanting to mess up the scoring of anyone’s fights!
All the NAGA staff were super welcoming and supportive of us local ring-ins, training us in our roles in the morning before doors opened at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
I can happily report that no scoring mess ups occurred (to my knowledge), and my fear of being yelled at by some aggro fighter or parent of a little kid didn’t happen either, phew.
There was one fight that ended in 7-0, and the friends of the losing grappler started abusing the referee, calling him racist and incompetent among other things. Huge respect for how the ref handled that, and the other mini dramas that cropped up during the course of the day; from crying kids and parents unhappy about the range of experience in their child’s weight division, to a couple of friends who had road tripped to London together from elsewhere in Europe, only to find themselves up against each other in their first fight.
My ref dealt with each issue amazingly, always looking for ways to keep everyone happy and to ensure they got the most out of their tournament. “After all, they’ve paid to be here – I’d like to see everyone with a fair opportunity to get more than one fight.”
I was expecting a late night after friends warned me that NAGA events usually run over by quite a lot. But the final fight was wrapping up by around six-thirty, and we were well done with the pack up by eight. All the mats and merch and medals were loaded on to a big truck to make their way to the next EU competition in Monaco.
Towards the end of the day President Kipp Kollar announced that more than 600 fighters had competed – a pretty sizeable amount to me, but apparently not as big a turnout as at some of their events in America. In saying that Kipp says the UK competition is growing each year.
I had a great time working NAGA (yes I was paid), and have a new level of respect for people who run grappling tournaments. They really do work their butts off to put on a good show.