Kauai’s Lions MMA competes at NAGA tourney

  • Jaslynn Ornellas / Contributed photo

    Shayden Yaris, black, and Lucas Nordstrom, blue, compete in an 8-year-olds beginner jiu-jitsu match at the NAGA Pacific Championship on April 13 at Radford High School in Honolulu.

  • Nick Celario / The Garden Island

    Members of local jiu-jitsu school Lions MMA stop for a photo Thursday in Lihue. Bottom row from left: Shayden Yaris, Kenji Ishida, Lynden Koaloha and Taiven Saraos. Middle row: Braysen Ornellas-Silva, Gage Yaris and Shaelin Manibog. Top row: Jaiden Ogata, Joey Silva, Janessa Llego-Finney and sensei Mory Fernandez.

LIHUE — For a fourth consecutive year, local jiu-jitsu school Lions MMA went to Oahu to compete.

Members of the school took part in the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) Pacific Championship on April 13 at Radford High School in Honolulu.

“It was intense. It was different in a way, but it was fun,” said Janessa Llego-Finney during Thursday’s class at the school in Lihue.

Lions MMA had 10 competitors at the NAGA tournament, and the school won 17 medals — nine golds, five silvers and three bronzes.

Llego-Finney, 15, of Lihue, won gold in both the gi and no-gi divisions she competed in.

“It made me feel good about myself,” Llego-Finney, who’s been a jiu-jitsu practitioner for about two years.

Also among Lions MMA’s competitors is Jaiden Ogata, 17, of Lihue.

Ogata said this year was his first competing in adult divisions. Though he didn’t win any matches this year, he feels having faced tougher competition will help him improve his grappling.

“It was great. It was worth the experience. It was hard and fun,” Ogata said.

He added: “I learned that every match is not easy, that it’s not an easy fight.”

The school plans to compete again in a NAGA competition in October.

Also attending Thursday’s class was Harold Matsunaga, a neighbor of the school and a supporter.

During Thursday’s class, Matsunaga said high remarks of the school and its teacher, Mory Fernandez.

“He doesn’t charge anyone, you know. All these mats, he had to buy. He spent so much time,” Matsunaga said. “To me, he’s not only teaching martial arts. He’s trying to make them betters students and citizens, better people. But he trains them hard. That’s why when they go to tournaments, they always win more than they should.”

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Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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