Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A True Story: Black Belt Duels in Salt River Flats

This is a true story. Identifying information has been changed to protect the people who don't give a $#@ .

I was at the AAU Nationals and Joe Blow from Salt River Flats, Utah (not his real name or city), told me this story.

"I have been teaching in Salt River Flats for 30 years. I always take out an ad in the local media. Last year, some guy from random Asian country number six moved in and took out an ad in the same place listing himself as a seventh-degree black belt. I went to visit his club and the guy is in his thirties. He's no more a seventh-degree black belt than my cat. So, just for fun, I decide to put in my ad, 'Joe Blow, seventh-degree black belt.'

One day, I get a call from the company and they say,
"Joe, this man, Fred Nosiness, called us and said, 'I know Joe Blow and he's no seventh-degree black belt.' What would you say to him?"

I said, "Well, I'd tell him to go %^*< himself."

The man from the company asked, "What do you recommend I tell him?"

I said, "I recommend you tell him to go #$%& himself."

But, he said, "No, our company has to have accurate information. Do you have a certificate that says you are a seventh-degree black belt?"

I told him, "Sure, I do."

So, I went to my typewriter (Joe is not a big computer guy) and I typed up a certificate that said,

"I, Joe Blow, am a seventh-degree black belt."

Then, I typed my name, Joe Blow, and signed it, Joe Blow. "

I asked,
"What did they say?"

He said,
"They said, 'Fine. Thank you very much.' And, the next year, the guy from random Asian country number 6 listed himself in his ad as an eighth-degree black belt. So, I personally have been responsible for rank inflation in Salt River Flats, Utah."

"Um, that's great, Joe. Congratulations."

"Thank you. I am very proud of that."

Then, he asked,
"Do you recognize me?"

I said,
"Sure, I do, you're Joe from Salt River Flats, Utah."
"Do you mind if I put in my ad next year, 'Recognized by the USJA President?"

I told him,
"Sure, Joe, knock yourself out."

I wonder what I am going to be responsible for.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

AAU Grand Nationals: A is for Awesome

It was a great time at the AAU Grand Nationals. First of all, before I went, I got to see my family, including my cousin Mike's wedding, an unreasonable number of aunts, uncles and cousins of the first, second and twice-removed variety. One of the coolest was my niece, Wendy, who had her hair in a very GI Jane type of shaved-head style. I thought it was just the latest strange fashion until the reception when it came out that she had auctioned off shaving her head for $2,000 donated to a charity for children with cancer. She teaches English at a high school, the students ponied up two grand and hence Wendy has a shaved head.

If you all think I am going to shave my head for money donated for USJA Development, you can all forget it.

The tournament was great. I really like the way the AAU rules run. There were almost no penalties but a lot of instruction. For example, in one match the referee says to the player "You grabbed inside his sleeve", as she demonstrated the grip, "don't do that again."

If players weren't attacking enough, the referee would say, "Action, action".

If after instruction the player still persisted then he or she would get a verbal warning, and after the second warning a chui (two shidos). There was not a lot of concern over what people were wearing. No one measured gis. I did not see any illegal gis in terms of being too short according to the rules. Some looked too long to me. Some people wore a blue pair of pants and white top or vice versa. No one cared. It was judo, not a fashion show. Ronda would have felt right at home.

The judo was very good and there was a lot of it. There were about 200 players,mostly adults. There was a good number of female competitors, including 1996 Olympian Corinna Broz West. She not only competed but she had a table selling her artwork. Talk about multi-talented.

The AAU is a growing organization and I had the opportunity to talk with Steve Scott and Norm Miller at length about how we could cooperate. One decision, supported by our coaching chair, Jim Pedro, Sr. , is that AAU could offer our coaching curriculum if they would like and,assuming it is the same curriculum and approved instructors, we would have a reciprocal agreement like we do with USJF. AAU clinics could also be submitted for approval for continuing education. This would make more educational opportunities available to our coaches and players in the Midwest.

The day after the tournament, we did have a coaches clinic with coaches from Texas, Kansas and all over Missouri. Again, I was extremely impressed with the quality of judo done by all of the coaches. Incredibly, Steve Scott who started Welcome Mat Judo Club has now fathered THIRTEEN Welcome Mat judo clubs around the area. THIRTEEN of his students are now running their own programs. Everyone should be studying him and seeing what he is doing.

My sister (that's her above giving me the lecture) insisted that I must sit by a bonfire and not work all evening. She believes that bonding with nature and doing nothing will benefit me in some way I obviously failed to comprehend.

It was nice to see everyone and I am sorry Julia missed the bonfire and the fireflies but I am sure she had a great time with her grandmother and cousins.

Judo tip - more a suggestion - if you live in an area with a lot of black belts, I think once every few months the instructors should schedule a 'no students' workout and get together. There should be 90 minutes of people just showing each other drills or new techniques that they have been thinking about. This should be followed by 90 minutes of beer-drinking and swapping lies about how good and good-looking we all used to be.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hot Time in Arkansas

Haven't updated this blog lately as I have been
A. Doing clinics in Arkansas and
B. Writing a paper for a software conference.

Both being done now, I am tired and fortunately, I received this article for Growing Judo from Ed Thibideau today so I am posting it here as it says nicer things about me than I would say about myself.

Coach Certification and Judo Clinics Held In Arkansas
July 11 & 12, 2009
Ed Thibedeau, Chief Instructor Arkansas Goshinkan, USJA Regional Coordinator

On Saturday, July 11th we were afforded the opportunity to have Dr. AnnMaria DeMars in Little Rock, AR to conduct a coach certification clinic. Arkansas Goshinkan was host for both clinics. We had 11 participants, representing four judo clubs from around Arkansas. Six people were certified or recertified as coaches. In addition to the coach certifications, two people were recommended for approval as coach certification course instructors.
The clinic was well rounded in the material covered; ethics, age appropriate instruction techniques, coaching girls and women, newaza combinations, transitions from nage waza to newaza, ….

On Sunday AnnMaria had a late flight out of Little Rock so she agreed to do an afternoon clinic for the kids. Good thing she had a red & white belt on, otherwise we would have lost here in the horde of little ones. She tried to convince the kids she was a grandma, but it didn’t look like they bought into it after doing one on one judo with her.

[Read the July issue of Growing Judo for the whole article.]

Also, for those of you interested in the USJA election (and how could you NOT be? Oh, well, don't answer that) here is the website showing some of our candidates. I hope they ALL win. There are ten people here and there are eleven seats on the board, so it is possible. Check back regularly for more information (and another candidate or two).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quotes from smart people in judo

A lot of people help me out on everything from picking up medicine for a sick kid to writing an application to decertify the NGB for judo to teaching at a judo camp to reviewing my code.

I am lucky to have more friends than I deserve.

Hearing me say this to his father, Jacob Flores, Jr. said,
"I don't believe that is possible. I think people get exactly as many friends as they deserve. If people are your friend it is because they think there is something good about you that they want to be."

I hope he is right. I still think I am lucky.

Speaking of friends, I was telling Bruce Toups how now that I am USJA president, I have a whole bunch more 'friends'. I told him that it is kind of difficult sometimes. There are people in judo, like my daughter, Ronda, of course, like Dr. Martin Bregman and Hayward Nishioka, who I have known over thirty years, who I could trust on absolutely anything. There are others who I know, if they had the nerve and thought they could get away with it, would gladly slit my throat. The vast majority of people I meet, I just don't know. I guess I sounded a bit whiny because Bruce said,

"That is because most people are not in the game. They are not players. You, your friends, you are in the game. Even your enemies are in the game, on the opposite side. Most people aren't even in the game. They're fans. When they see which way the game is going, they jump in with you. If it goes the other way, they'll go that way."

What about YOU? Are you a player or just a fan?

Unrelated to judo, but still from Bruce, I was talking about someone who had failed at a job, got demoted, and was failing at his new job. Bruce said,
"Well, you know why that is, don't you? Because you can't fix stupid."

Related to that, I was talking to someone else who gave the excuse for a stupid mistake somebody had made by suggesting maybe that person was given the wrong information by someone who didn't like him. I said,

"No way is he getting off on that. Some things are so obviously stupid, no matter who tells you, you are supposed to be not so dumb as you believe them. If I say, 'The boss came by and said we are getting rid of computer monitors and from now on we are hooking our computers up to ducks. Bring your own duck.' If tomorrow, you show up at the office carrying a duck under your arm, part of it is my fault for telling you that but the main responsibility is on you for being a moron."

Dan Augustine, another really smart judo guy, was telling me that, while he understood my positive attitude, given the fact that I get to do judo all over the place, and I will always be doing judo, some people might think I don't take this whole 'USA Judo suspended the USJA' thing seriously enough.

Well, in a way, he is right. I watch the news about people getting killed in China, in Iran, the lack of freedom of speech, the lack of women's rights in Afghanistan, about people getting killed for going to school. I went to the ATM to deposit a check and there was a sign about not depositing IOUs from the state. California is out of money to pay its bills. Lots of people are laid off. And the USJI says, in effect, "We don't like that some people are having a tournament in Georgia. Instead of the World Masters Judo Championships, we want you to call it 'Some Old Guys Get Together & Do Judo' and if you don't go along with us we will no longer let you ... "

Um, well, I don't exactly know what benefits we get from them we will no longer get.

In the scheme of things, what one judo organization thinks of another is not a world-level event. It is not even a personal tragedy. When my husband died it was a personal tragedy. The fact that my business partner of 19 years has cancer is serious.

Being frowned at by a council of judo elders is - well, I don't know what that is, but I am positive it is not on the same order of magnitude.

Speaking of Ronda, even though we weren't, she has started blogging again. It is no closer to being mother-approved than she ever was. Sigh.

Obvious judo tip =====

Move your hips!
I can't count the number of times I have seen people pinning someone with yoko shiho and the opponent gets out by turning and scissoring the legs. If you are doing yoko shiho, you ought to be at the very least at a 90 degree angle with your opponent.

Male coaches! Keep in mind that girls are more flexible. When you are coaching girls, remember that their opponents are likely to be more flexible and reach the legs of the pinner from positions your opponents would not.

Move your hips! When being pinned with kesa gatame, shift your hips so that instead of sitting up against the pinner's body weight you are just sitting up against their arm. I must use this escape four or five times every practice.

Related to that, if you are working out with people in matwork that you can pin, let them pin you and work on your escape. It gives that white belt or kid a feeling of success, if only temporarily, and it helps with your escapes. Mutual benefit, yeah, we're all about that.

That move your hips advice is probably also good for your sex life, but I am sure since you spend all of your time practicing judo and reading the bible (in the dark, to save electricity and protect the environment) that you don't have one.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cliff hangers, west coast and where the development money goes

Ronda was teaching at the training center today. She did two hours on gripping. I thought of putting some video clips here, but since she is coming back to competition shortly, I thought better of putting up video of her doing drills. Even though it was kind of short notice with her filling in for her gimpy mother, we had people from Kouhaku, LACC, Sawtelle, Mojica, Hayastan and Guerreros show up.

The Garcias did not get the email and when Gary called them, they dropped what they were doing and came over. I thought that was pretty cool.

The training center is doing exactly what it was meant to do - bringing people from different clubs together. It is a new concept, to have people from the different dojos regularly get together to share what they know. It was GREAT to see Blinky working with Erin and Julia. I was sorry Julia could not be there next weekend as she took off for science camp after practice.

We have had several people ask where the USJA development funds go. A significant amount - $4,800 a year ago for mats and crash pads, and over $3,000 this year for camps, clinics and the national novice and brown belt championships go to support the training center. This is a very cost effective way to support judo. On Saturdays we usually have 15-25 people show up, occasionally a few more. On Sundays, it is usually more like a dozen. This is about 60 practices a year. Those people who attend often are funded partially to camps and clinics. If you think that having an extra dozen people show up at a camp or clinic helps the event break even and makes a better event, then you'll agree the funds are well-spent. Why does money go to the training center and to these specific events for people from the training center? Because it is given as a 'directed donation'. We have had several people give us hundreds or over a thousand dollars for this specific program. It is a USJA/ USJF joint program and last year the USJF gave $2,400 for mats. Dr. Jim Lally, now a USJA board member, donated around $1,500 for mats. A directed donation, by the way, is when a donor gives money for a specific purpose.

Ronda is running practice next Saturday also. Same time as usual 10-11:30 and 1-4
I will be in Arkansas.

Speaking of Ronda, note to young people: NO story you ever tell that ends with "and then I fell off a cliff", will meet with your mother's approval no matter WHAT else happened.

For the person who emailed me and asked which of my children fell off a cliff, I can only say, if you know me well enough to know my email it should be obvious - which one do you think?

========== REQUIRED judo tip ====
Control the shoulder. If I am a right-handed player, I am going to turn my right shoulder to do any hip or hand technique. My shoulders have to go forward to do backward foot techniques. Start your grip by planting (and I do mean planting) your left hand on my right shoulder.

And yes I did steal that from watching Ronda teach gripping today. What of it?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Determination: A Katelyn Story & a Ronda Story

I said I had three stories about determination. Here are the other two.

Fast forward 24 years and here I am sitting in the stands at the senior nationals with the SAME friend. He tells me he has been out of judo a while, and asks me, since my daughter isn't fighting, who is there worth watching. I tell him I think Katelyn Bouyssou is worth a look. We watch her win the finals. Then we watch her win in the first 2 out of 3 fight off for the world team. The second match, she loses. I lean over to my friend and say,

"This next match will tell us something. It is hard to come back after a loss, more so when you are young and used to winning. Watch this. If she comes out a little intimidated, a little hesitant, that is normal. If she comes out pissed, she's something special. It's hard to be fighting for the world team at 14. It's triply hard when you have just lost a match. You can tell a lot from a person about how they come back from a loss."

Katelyn came out for revenge, won the match by ippon and made the world team. I would put money on that one.

This reminded me of a story when Ronda was about 14. I am old and this was years ago so if I don't have all of the details exactly right, that is not the point. Maybe her opponent was 21 as opposed to 20 - as my 11-year-old says - WHATEVER!

Ronda wanted to go to New York to visit her friend and fellow judo player, Lily. I am very reluctant to let my children stay anywhere overnight, especially if it is judo-related because I am well aware of the danger of teenage athletes being molested. However, I had known Jim Hrbek, Lily's coach, for over 20 years, and Lily's mother and sisters were extremely nice, so I let her go.

Ronda had gone a long time, certainly over a year, without losing a match, and with a run like that, and a young player, you wonder what it is going to happen when, as is inevitable, they do lose one. Will it completely burst their confidence, or something else.

Here is the story I heard from people who were there...

Near the end of Ronda's visit, there was a tournament and she competed in the women's black belt division, although pretty far from being either a woman or a black belt. She lost a match. She was choked out by a player, who was 20 years old or so and probably number one or two in her division at the time. Ronda had never been choked out and she hadn't lost a match in a year. Ronda went outside and cried (Ronda cries over EVERYTHING, by the way - she can't find her car keys, her sister got the prize in the cereal box, she won by an armbar instead of uchimata). Then, she came back up through the losers bracket, since it was double elimination fought the same player again and threw her for ippon. The final match, when they fought for the third time, Ronda armbarred her opponent and won the tournament.

It is always difficult to come back from a loss. It takes the ability to pull yourself back together in a short period of time and to try again with all your might at something you just failed at. Seeing that maturity in a young player of 14 or 15 years old is exceptional. It is not the only thing to look for in identifying potential, but it is a sign.

As my friend said, long ago, when he got it,
"It's all about the want-to."

Years ago, someone criticizing me and my daughter said to me, angrily,
"Are you proud of your daughter? Are you proud of that little fit she throws whenever she loses?"

For the record, I AM proud of my daughter. She doesn't throw a fit when she loses. She has the "want-to" win so bad that when she loses, it hurts her in a way that person could never understand. I bet Katelyn could understand it, though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Motivation: A Random Story About Unnamed People

I was talking to Jim Pedro yesterday about what to look for in a player to decide if he or she has potential. He mentioned "determination", and I asked how he would define determination.

I came up with three stories. Let it be noted that Jim had no stories so I win. Besides, he doesn't own a computer and doesn't read my blog, so I win twice.

Here is the first story...

Shortly after I retired from competition, I was watching a national tournament with a friend, and he asked,
"Who do you think will be the next AnnMaria?"

I told him to pick first, and tell me why. Pointing to his choice he said,
"She has beautiful standing technique. She is young, still in her teens, and she placed fifth in this tournament and she comes from a club with a good coach."

I shook my head,
"I wouldn't give her a dime. She got armbarred in the match before and didn't come out and fight for the bronze medal."

My friend protested,
"But she was hurt. Surely you can't penalize people for being injured. You can't seriously expect we will demand that teenage players compete injured and maybe hurt themselves worse."

I told him,

"I am not demanding anything. What I am telling you is that she was actually relieved she didn't have to fight in that medal match. She was happy watching the finals having gotten fifth place. I would put my money into that other kid who placed fifth. She's a teenager, too. She lost in the bronze medal match by a koka to someone who was a lot more experienced."

My friend said,
"Yeah, I remember her. After the match she threw a little fit. She stomped off, threw her belt down. Her coach had to tell her to act right. That's who you would fund? A spoiled brat?"

I asked him if he knew what she did after that. When he shook his head, I said,
"I was curious, so I watched what she did after the match. She went under the bleachers where she didn't think anybody could see her, pulled her gi over her head and cried her eyes out. Even though you and I and any reasonable person would have thought her performance against those players was more than acceptable, she wanted to win and she was devastated. She lost it a little when she came off the mat and when she got away from everybody, she lost it completely. I would take the person who EXPECTED to win and who wanted it so badly it HURT to lose in a way other people can't understand."

Incidentally, the second player went on to win internationally. The first one, she competed for a while at the national level and then I never saw her again.

Clinics & a Random Ronda Story

On July 11, I will be doing a coach certification clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas at the Arkansas Goshinkan Dojo. Like all of our clinics, it includes a lot of time on the mat and everyone is welcome, whether they are interested in/ eligible for coach certification or not.

Since I will be in Arkansas on Sunday, too, Ed Thibedeau, the clinic organizer and our USJA regional coordinator, asked if I would be interested in doing a second clinic on Sunday. He politely suggested that since it was last minute notice, maybe not too many people would show up and I wouldn't be interested in doing it.

Here is a story I have told a lot of times that I told Ed to explain why I would be happy to do the clinic.

When Ronda was in 8th grade, there was a program in southern California for high school and college players. The idea was to move our young black belts to the next level, work with those athletes who were winning the junior nationals, placing in senior nationals and give them the added training so they could win the senior nationals and make the U.S. team. Funny thing, not too many of those players were interested. They thought they knew enough, trained hard enough or winning just wasn't that important to them. Maybe they thought they didn't need to do anything more than they were doing. I took Ronda even though she wasn't actually in high school yet and she was only a green belt. One day, Ronda was the only kid that showed up. Hayward Nishioka spent over an hour teaching Ronda gripfighting. At the end, he was very discouraged about the turnout and said maybe the program was a bad idea. Well, the program continued and the next year it picked up and now LA has not one, but two programs for developing players.

Four years later, Ronda was 16 years old, had just placed second in the U.S. Open, losing a close match to Sarah Clark of Great Britain in the finals, and was heading off to compete in the Korea Cup. On the plane, she wrote a letter to Hayward,

"Dear Hayward,
Remember that time when I was the only person that showed up for practice at LACC and I wasn't even in high school and you were wondering if the whole program was a waste of time? Bet you don't think it's a waste of time now, do you?"


CLINICIAN – AnnMaria De Mars Sanction # 09-070 (USJA)
July 11th 10 AM to 5 PM
Hosted by Arkansas Goshinkan
12701 Hinson Rd. (Meyer Student Pavilion) Little Rock, AR

Must be current member of USJA, USJF, or USJI.
Memberships will be available at clinic.
Certification Requirements: Minimum age is 18 - Minimum rank is Sankyu
Others are welcomed and encouraged to attend
Clinic will consist of 2 hours class time and 4 hours on the mat. Bring your gi.

Cost of clinic is $20 if application is received by July 6th , $30 after July 6th.
Certification is $ 25 and is valid for 4 years
Current background check is required when submitting paperwork to national office.

Point of Contact: Ed Thibedeau 501-425-5638

Mail application and entry fee to: Ed Thibedeau
230 Trelon Cr.
Little Rock, AR 72223


CLINICIAN – AnnMaria De Mars Sanction # 09-070 (USJA)
July 12th 1 PM to 4 PM
Hosted by Arkansas Goshinkan
12701 Hinson Rd. (Meyer Student Pavilion) Little Rock, AR

Must be current member of USJA, USJF, or USJI. Memberships will be available at clinic.
Cost of clinic is $20
Judoka of all ages and rank are invited.
AnnMaria is a former world champion. Has taught many elite athletes as well as aspiring judoka. Currently her emphasis is on teaching judo to young people (kids).

Point of Contact: Ed Thibedeau 501-425-5638