Thursday, June 20, 2019

Getting ready for your first competitions

Someone asked me on Instagram my advice on how to be ready for her first competition and since it is a good question, I thought I'd post my suggestions here.

Get in better physical condition

We're not talking the Olympics here and since you are just starting to compete, I'm going to assume that you could improve your conditioning a bit. In this, I find the old saying to be true:
"The best is the enemy of the good. "
People say they can't work out because they can't get to a gym, don't have a partner, blah blah blah. Here is my suggestion for anyone who wants to be a little bit better. This is IN ADDITION TO GOING TO JUDO PRACTICE AS MANY DAYS A WEEK AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.
  1.  Every morning, first thing when you get up, do 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups. If you can't do 10, just do as many as you can. Do it EVERY DAY. It will take you 30 seconds.
  2. After a week, make it 12 push-ups and sit-ups. If you didn't start at 10, just add 1 to what you were doing.
  3. Add 2 more every week until you get to 50, then just keep doing 50 every day. The point is to be stronger than you were, not the world push-up champion. You will find you get faster at doing them so eventually it will take you a couple of minutes to knock out your 50 push-ups.
  4. Run. Get out and run around the block. If you live in the country, run to your mailbox or wherever is about a quarter mile. Do that every day for a week. Next week, do it twice without stopping. Keep increasing until you get to a mile. Now, do that every day and just try to get faster each time. Set a stopwatch when you take off and check it when you get back.
  5. If you live somewhere it is not safe to run outside, do jumping jacks or jump rope for two minutes without stopping instead. Next week, make it four minutes. Keep it up until you are going for 10 minutes straight. Do that every day.

The three reasons why I recommend this

First, a lot of people in this country can't do 15 push-ups, much less 50. Most people can't run a mile without stopping. If you have this level of conditioning, you are going to be more fit than most new, recreational players. If you lose, it won't be because your arms got tired or you were winded.

Second, there are zero excuses not to do these exercises. You don't need a gym or any equipment. You don't need a ride anywhere. Because of that, if every day you get up and do them, you are telling yourself that you are serious about winning and improving.

Third, setting a goal and accomplishing it will make you more confident. When you go out to compete, along with training in judo, which your opponent did as well, you have the added benefit of knowing that you actually went above and beyond. You'll know that you are stronger and in better condition than you were a few months ago. You'll have thought about this competition daily, when you didn't want to run or do those push-ups but you did anyway, so you'll be less freaked out when that day comes.
Independence Rock in Wyoming

The way to get anywhere is to start

I'm in North Dakota right now. We drove almost 2,000 miles through several states to get here. Sure, it would have been faster if we drove and there may have been a more optimal time of year or a better route. The point is, we got here and the way we got here is that we left our house and just started driving. Eventually, we arrived.

So .... start.  Now.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Is mall walking still lame if you do it in Australia?

When I was young, I was training three times a day - judo, running and weightlifting. Occasionally, I would run indoors at the University of Minnesota field house around the baseball field. There weren’t many female athletes back then, so I got a lot of stares. Most days, though, I ran outdoors, below-zero weather or no.

At the time, my parents were living in Illinois and in the winter they went mall-walking for exercise. An hour or two before the stores were open for business, while the employees were getting ready for the day, the doors would open for senior citizens and people with disabilities to walk through the mall, including the stores, to get their daily exercise. I was never going to be that lame.

Today, I went mall-walking and it wasn’t even an accident. I planned it.

 Oh, the humiliation of it all!

If it returns a little coolness level at all, yesterday, I went to a wildlife sanctuary and fed wallabies and a pandemelon which is an animal I did not know existed until yesterday, and which spell-check refuses to recognize.  I went yesterday because I knew today was supposed to be cold and rainy. I decided I could go to Phillips Island when it was warm and sunny and go walking in the mall today for exercise.

Speaking of which, I read a book by a European author who said,

“Americans call walking hiking because it sounds so much cooler and more athletic. I am a hiker, now, I am no longer a walker!”

So, yeah, I actually went walking around the wildlife sanctuary and then the mall and today I am mall hiking.

My point, and I semi-have one, is that as we get older, the same type of exercise might not be appropriate. I have had my thumb and my knee replaced in the last decade. For those people who say,

“I’m 80 years old and I still do judo.“

Well, good for you.

I feel no need to pretend I’m 25 any more or that I don’t have a job that requires me to spend 8-10 hours a day at a desk.

If I did judo today the way I did forty years ago, I would definitely break off several pieces of myself.  I don’t get up and do 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups first thing every morning. On an ambitious day, I might do 25 but I’m just as likely to say, “Oh, fuck it” and take a shower.

(To be clear, I take showers on days I do push-ups and sit-ups, too. I’m not stinky. I just take them after.)

I know Dave Roman just recorded a podcast on adult judo students. His main point was that you need to treat them differently, and that is true.

You need to treat yourself differently as you get older as well.  Most of those people who are still on the mat past 60 are doing a lot of standing around and a little bit of teaching. I think that is perfectly okay. In fact, I think it could benefit judo a lot if more people let the younger black belts teach and went mall-walking instead, even if that is in Australia. That,  however, is the topic of another post.

Just so you know that my life is not completely boring, check out Math: The Universal Language Lakota - AR - an augmented reality app that teaches multiplication in Lakota and English. 

How many augmented reality apps can you play on your phone that can say that? Also, it's free. Check it out.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Who pretends to hate successful people? (and why I seldom ask Ronda for anything)

Credit where credit is due, I owe this epiphany to two people - comedian Kevin Hart, whose autobiography, I can't make this up, I highly recommend , and two-time judo Olympian, Pat Burris.

AnnMaria in judo gi

I was a teenager and had just won the U.S. Open. It was the second time I had made it to the finals and my first gold medal at an international event. I'd also won the junior nationals, senior nationals and collegiate nationals that same year.  It was a good year.

Pat said to me,

"About now, people you have never met are going to start trying to pick fights with you and you are going to have to learn to ignore them."

I thought he was nuts. Why would someone I didn't know want to start trouble with me? That didn't make sense. Still, I listened to Pat because  he was OLD - like, he would be 30 in a few years so he obviously knew stuff.

He told me that random guys would get in his face and try to start shit with him (not wise, if you know Pat). He eventually realized that people were doing it to get attention. He explained it to me like this,

"If you are on the podium, on the Olympic team, the best player in the country, people at tournaments are looking at YOU. So, anyone who is around you gets attention. Random Joe from East Nowhere Dojo starts a fight with you and you kick his ass and people don't know who that guy is but they think he must be somebody because the best judo player in the country is fighting with him."

Random fact: Judo used to be a much bigger deal in this country, but I digress, even more than usual.

As I said in my last post, Ronda gets this 1,000 times over.

What does this have to do with haters, Kevin Hart, or Ronda?

In his book, he writes about everything he had to do to learn to be a comedian, about  driving for hours to New York City after working selling shoes all day, sitting in clubs to listen and learn.  After he had made it, he had lots of "friends" and relatives who wanted to add his name to their TV shows or other project they wanted to pitch.

The part that stopped me is where he talked about how THEY were trying to profit off of HIS work without doing any of it.

My husband has cautioned me against ever reading anything anyone says about Ronda on the Internet.

You see, we know her. We know that she is incredibly hard-working, intelligent, talented, kind, honest and generous. She has her faults, as does anyone, but her good qualities vastly outweigh those.

Why do random people who have never met her pick any error she ever made and bring it up over and over instead of her myriad of successes? Why do people take quotes out of context and make her out to be less of a good person?

Very few of these haters are actually haters. They are just like the people Pat Burris and Kevin Hart pointed out. They are trying to use her hard work, fame and name to get attention for themselves. Every time someone uses her name in a headline about how she isn't or doesn't or shouldn't be X they are hoping for clicks on it so they can benefit off of her years of hard work building a name for herself through actual accomplishments.

I don't want to be that person, which is why it's very seldom that I or any of the family ask Ronda for anything, even for charity (although this auction for Gompers Judo is an exception) and if you look at our company website she only comes up when it is something particularly relevant.

Last six blog posts from 7 Generation Games website

7 Generation Games blogs this week

For many people who post diatribes against someone successful, on the Internet or in print, they don't believe a word of it,  it is all about using THEIR hard work in developing a following, THEIR accomplishments that draw people's attention to get some measure of recognition for YOU when all you have actually done is throw mud. (Not you, the reader, of course , because you are a person of exquisite taste and education reading this blog.)

The other day, I asked Ronda how she dealt with it  She knows who she is, what she has done and what motivates he haters of successful people. She said,

"Mom, you always say that success is the best revenge. Personally, I think apathy is the best revenge and I never think about those people AT ALL. "

You can get our Family Textbook (of our family group text) here for $2.99 It's hilarifying

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Who hates strong women? A lot of people act like they do

For much of my life, I have had haters who I have never met. My daughter, Ronda, has the same thing, times one thousand.

Who hates strong women?

There are four types of people who either hate strong women, or pretend they do. Two of those particularly hate strong, successful women. The other two are poised to tear down anyone successful. They are equal opportunity haters.

Type 1: Women who gave in and gave up

Nice women who have played by all of the rules they've been told or imagined hate women who break those rules. These are the women who have bought into the belief that they have to fit into some kind of mold because they are women. They hate us because we show up their excuses for the bullshit these are. 

It's not specifically women who chose to be stay-at-home moms or "half of a couple" that I particularly have issues with. Some women that is what they wanted to do and we get along fine. That life choice doesn't appeal to me any more than being an architect or a classical cellist, but hey, you do you.

The women who hate on people like me are those who use their gender as an excuse, and deep down, they know it. 
  • "I can't have a career because it would be unfair to my children. I care about my family too much to do that."
  • "I'm not going to be one of those man-hating feminists competing against men."
  • "I was going to go to college / compete internationally / found a company /write a book - but then I got pregnant."
  • "The odds are stacked against women founding a company. The degree of sexual harassment is toxic. Men are 50 times as likely to receive investor funding." 
  • "I couldn't speak up in that meeting because the men wouldn't listen to me."
When someone like me or my daughters comes along, gets married, has children, wins medals, earns degrees, speaks our minds and writes books, they are FURIOUS.

Who do we think we are? 

Didn't we get the memo saying we can't do these things? What if the people who they have been telling for years that they owe them, or they deserve pity because of all these foregone opportunities start to wonder why if these women could do it, why couldn't they?

These are the same women who will be writing angry tweets and comments that I am 'not a woman-supporting woman'. They are the ones who  say I am blaming the victim when I say that when a man touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable you should tell him the first time that you don't like it and don't do it again and the second time tell him if he doesn't take his fucking hands off of you that you'll break his arm/ tell his wife/ sue him for every dollar he ever earned.  (Obviously, I'm not talking about rape or child abuse, which is a completely different and tragic thing, but rather the guy who stands too close, puts his arm around you etc. If you can't tell the difference, you are part of the problem.)

These are the women who whine that, "You don't understand what it is to need a job, " or "It's easy for you to say."

Then they see that I was this way when I was a widow with three young kids or that Ronda was like this when she was completely broke or that Maria had the same attitude when she was starting out as a journalist.

 If we need to speak up, demand the opportunity to train, call people on their bullshit when they say women have equal access to funding, appear on a hundred TV shows to get sufficient exposure, we'll do it. When these women DON'T do it, they've left it for us to do.

It's not that we enjoy being the designated bitch in the room nor that it is any easier for us but we choose to be bitches that get shit done instead of a do nothing bitch.

Types 2 & 3: People who feel threatened

Ronda has a good saying about those people, "I'm not going to diminish myself to make you feel bigger."

Generally speaking, people who are comfortable with their own talent and accomplishments have zero issues with anyone else's success. I was going to call this type, "men who feel threatened" because there are men who hold on to being a man as something that makes them superior.  There are men who, from the looks of them, couldn't beat up the average house cat, putting down female martial artists and athletes as, "She couldn't beat the 54th man on the roster."

I once got into an argument with my grandfather who insisted women couldn't have union jobs because they were too weak. I pointed out that he was over 60, I was 20 and could lift way more weight than him. I offered to go to the gym, lift weights and prove it. He just shook his head and insisted that I could not possibly be stronger than him because I was a woman.

Men who have little to feel proud about except some imagined male superiority hate strong women because they challenge the one thing these guys suppose they have going for them. It's the stereotypical guy in his mom's basement posting on the Internet that some woman is ugly or not talented when the truth is he doesn't even have dreams as good as her real life.

Weirdly, though, there are men (and women) who are plenty successful but they can't stand anyone being MORE successful than them, like life is a competition. So, even if they make $200,000 a year or are a world champion, they get angry because why is SHE making more money, why did SHE get that job? From my personal experience, it seems like women and people of color get more of this vitriol, maybe because they have had to overcome more obstacles so their success is even more of a threat. Still, these people seem to be equal opportunity haters in that they tear down anyone successful.

If we're honest, though, I think most of us feel a little envy from time to time. A while ago, I started making an effort when I hear of someone else's success to eliminate any thoughts on whether they had advantages I didn't or if I could have done that or anything else and just think, "Good for her!" or "I hope he is happy about that."

It actually makes me a slightly happier person than thinking about it any other way.

As for the fourth type, the pretend haters, they are a special case so that will have to wait until the next post.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Judo Advantage: The thinking person's judo book

I don't have time to read much these days that isn't technical books on things like PHP and I read The Judo Advantage because it was by my friend, Steve Scott. I would have had to come up with some excuse not to write a review if I hated it,  and I'm a really bad liar, so I'm relieved that I can honestly recommend it.

Who this book is for

I can think of four types of people who would like this book a lot.

First, coaches who have a more analytical approach to judo. I don't coach competitors any more, but when I did, this was totally me. When I saw everyone losing to a specific technique, say, sankaku jime, I would go home and work until I came up with a counter to it and my players wouldn't lose the same way again. I never could understand why other coaches didn't do this and their players lost the same way over and over.  This isn't to say the book is all discussion. I loved the section in Chapter 8 on using the head as a third arm and the section on combinations in Chapter 6.

Second, the competitor who has an intellectual approach to judo. That doesn't mean necessarily the player with the most education or highest IQ and it doesn't mean  that those competitors don't work out hard physically. Again, this was me when I was competing. I was always watching my own matches (once videotape became available), planning matches, analyzing why people won and lost. This doesn't mean I wasn't training my ass off, because I was, but the thinking about judo part and looking at it from every angle was yet one more tool to help me win. At the same time, I knew some highly educated people that just went into the dojo and did 1,000 uchikomis and ten rounds of randori and never got any smarter about why they were not able to throw their opponents.

Third, the older adult judo players - and by this I don't mean only senior citizens, but really, anyone who qualifies for masters divisions. These are people who have to show up at work on Monday and aren't doing the competitive circuit but they are interested in judo as an intellectual challenge as well as a physical one.There are a ton of people who love to talk about their ideas about judo. This book is for you, not only to give you more fodder for those discussions, but to enjoy when your friends aren't available and you still have judo on the brain.

If you are one of those people who talk about judo with your friends all the time - why person A is going to beat person B, what happened in the tournament last week and why the same team is going to win again - this is your book. 

So, am I saying  that this is "just a book for brainiacs"?  Well, no, I am saying, those people will LOVE The Judo Advantage.

The fourth group of people, though, are those who maybe don't read a lot of judo books, emphasis on the word "read" here and they probably aren't reading this blog. If that is you, though, mad props to you. If you are recommending this book to a friend who fits that description, my advice is to tell him or her to start in Chapter 3. That is when it gets really practical. Tell your friend to skip to the parts with lots of pictures. I don't mean this in a derogatory way but in dead seriousness. Those are the most pragmatic chapters of the book and the ones of most interest to people who don't care about theory but just want to win. Steve probably thinks you should read every chapter, but hey, if you buy the book, you can do whatever you want.

I liked this book a lot because, like Winning on the Ground (hey, I had to mention my own book on matwork here somewhere!) it's a book I wish I had both as a competitor and when I began coaching. I didn't live in an area where there were a lot of experienced coaches around when I started in Alton, Illinois.  Back then, I had a couple of judo books that I used for new ideas for techniques and to learn more outside of class. The Internet and youtube didn't exist back then!

So, Jimmy and I tried to write the book we wished we'd had when we were younger and it is pretty obvious from reading The Judo Advantage that Steve Scott did, too.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Wrestlemania is over. Now it's Judo Con and Back to Work!

It's 6 am in New York City and Wrestlemania finished several hours ago. My lovely daughter Ronda was the main event in a sold out stadium of something like 86,000 people.

It was fun except for the part where Ronda got bruised up a bit. The outcome may be scripted but the bruises, bumps and stitches are real.

People kept asking me questions about whether I was a big pro wrestling fan and whether I understood what a big deal Wrestlemania was and a lot of other questions that I had difficulty answering because I am a terrible liar due to lack of practice. Finally, Ronda got exasperated and said,

"My mom doesn't know a fucking thing about wrestling but she loves me, so she's here!"

Which was exactly the truth. Massive apologies to everyone who asked about Judo Con. I do love Ronda but every time I have to take off sets everything back for days.

So, now it's back to work. These games aren't going to make and sell themselves.

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Judo Con is November 8 and 9 in Riverside, CA. 

We'll send flyers out in the next few weeks. I was waiting for a few people to confirm whether they could present before making the flyers, and this trip to New York set me back a few days, as did a couple of weeks in North Dakota visiting schools and programs around the state, but that's another story.  We're aiming to have presentations from a dozen coaches/ instructors and I have ten confirmed so far.

A few of the confirmed presenters for Judo Con : Serge Boussyou, Kathy Hubble, James Wall, Ross Nakamura, Brian Money and Steve Scott. As always, the main focus will be on making judo clubs bigger and better - how to be a better instructor and how to get more students. We try to bring together a diverse group and not have just the same people giving you the same ideas you heard the last six times you went to a camp or clinic. Note that list has people from four states and two countries. There are a couple more people I need to reach out to in the next week or so as I get time.

Each day is a mix of about 3 hours on the mat and 3 hours on sessions like Marketing Your Judo School (you do NOT want to miss that one, trust me). There is a also a lunch round table and a couple of hours of directed coaching each day.

Because of the facility size, and because the intent is to have a lot of interaction, the registration is limited to 75, including the presenters.

I really do have a lot more to say about Judo Con, as well as Steve Scott's latest book, which is on my desk at home half-read, but I need to get a couple of hours' sleep before I get up and get caught up on work emails, proposals and two presentations I'm supposed to be giving at tech conferences in the next month.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The three kinds of coaches

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a visitor, Miracle Kim Sandoval, here for the past three weeks who is an elite boxer from Chile. I know nothing about boxing but I called around and got some recommendations and went to a few clubs. We would have gone to more, but as I said in the previous post, four hours a day to take someone to practice, wait for practice and come home is really more time than I can spare on a regular basis.

It’s only been possible to do that for three weeks because I’ve been able to work during the practices. Being able to work anywhere is like a super power of mine.

I run a company that makes educational games, like our cool augmented reality app for kids, Math: The Universal Language.

So, here is what I have learned

There are people who love the game, people who love the player and people who love money.

I took Kim to Hayastan MMA several times where the coach, Roman Karmazin is a former world boxing champion. I’d also like to point out that when I asked Gokor Chivichyan and Gene Lebell if they could formally invite Kim to the US to train to help in arranging her visa, they didn’t hesitate to do so. Good people.

When we first arrived, Roman Mitichyan (yes, weird they have the same name) interpreted for us and warned me that Coach Karmazin doesn’t speak much English, but I told him that was no problem, neither does Kim. Random fact, Roman Mitichyan his amazing - he speaks English, Spanish, Armenian and Russian, as well as acts and sells real estate.

Roman Karmazin loves boxing. He spent hours helping Kim improve her form and even invited her outside of class to the park to give her a conditioning workout.

There are some professional and aspiring professional fighters in the boxing program at Hayastan but there are also just people who really like boxing. Everyone was super nice and welcoming, even though most of them were easily  twice her size.

Our next stop was Wild Card Boxing. Ronda recommended them as a place she was sure no one would behave inappropriately toward Kim. Let’s face it, she is very young and very cute and in some clubs that can make you very vulnerable. I have no problem with smacking someone with a chair if it is warranted but I’d prefer not to have to do it.

The coach we met at Wild Card, Sammy, clearly loves boxers, as do most of the other people I met there, from Freddy Roach’s nice sister and all the other people at the front desk to every trainer I spoke with in the gym.

The first day, they had Kim jump rope and shadow box for about 20 minutes and once it was clear she was pretty good and serious, Sammy worked with her extensively for the rest of the time she was there. He talked about his own experience being an Olympian from a small country in Africa.

The next time we came, he started working with her immediately. The entire atmosphere was super-focused and professional. We were mostly there when the professionals practiced, just because it fit in with my schedule.

Our third gym, which will remain nameless, charged me $100 for an hour of training that was pretty much the same as Kim received anywhere else. Now, that may be the going rate but I would point out that the other gyms did NOT charge that because it is pretty clear Kim is not from a situation where it’s feasible to pay that kind of money. It may be because that was the only gym that knew me as “Ronda Rousey’s mom”. At Wild Card, I was just some random lady that walked in with a boxer from Chile and at Hayastan, I have known Gokor since he was a teenager and Gene since I was a teenager.

The other gym was also professional as far as the level of training, although less gritty than Wild Card. Someone commented that at Wild Card “you can smell the sweat” (you could prefer that or not, depending on your taste).

It would have been more convenient for me but I really can’t afford thousands of dollars a month for someone else’s kid’s training. I still need to finish putting Julia De Mars through college.

Both Ronda and Maria pointed out that there is no money in women’s boxing so the gym was most likely not interested in Kim as a potential money maker for them.

All three gyms told me the exact same thing about Kim - that she has a lot of talent, trains her heart out and has potential to qualify for the Olympics and maybe win a medal. Having had some experience with judo coaches, I would have been skeptical if it was only the third gym that said that. I’ve found for $100 an hour, coaches usually tell everyone their kid has talent.

 They all identified the same strengths and weaknesses and areas she needed to work on.

Kim liked all of the gyms a lot.

Roman is what you think of as a Russian Olympic athlete - very serious, hard-working but also very good.

Sammy is also very hard-working but he is more personal.

In the end, I told Kim that I think coaches are like boyfriends or girlfriends. While a minority are abusive or toxic, most coaches are good for certain people and not others. If Kim was my kid I might pay the $100 to save driving 2 hours, but probably not. I’d want someone more personally invested., but if I was really driving 80 hours a month, I might change my mind about that.

Here is the thing - there is no right answer here. My own coach, Jimmy Martin, told me straight out that he wanted me to win because it made him look better as a coach. That was fine. I wanted me to win, too. As long as we were aiming at the same goal, we didn’t have to be best friends. When I had my knee replaced , I didn’t give a damn whether the orthopedic surgeon gave a damn about me or not. For other people , a personal relationship with a coach is important.

I think this is probably true in every sport. Some people love judo, some people love judo players and some people are in it for the money (not so much in judo, but there are some.). You just need to find what works for you.