Sunday, September 27, 2009

If a man wants to saw off parts of your leg, tell him no

Warning: If you are looking for a post to encourage people to start judo, this is probably not it.

People keep telling me that after I see how much more I can do after this surgery it will be all worth it. They are wrong. I know this because the only thing that would make it worth it would be if I develop super-powers. And I don't mean Ronda-type able to lose the Eiffel Tower in her purse and do juji gatame from a back-bend super-powers. No, I mean honest to God, leaping tall buildings with a single bound, catching speeding bullets in my teeth and flying super-powers.

That picture above is my leg (and Julia's monkey shorts). There are just as many bruises on the bottom and the middle part in between is that nine-inch gash stapled together. Here is what happens in a nutshell. They cut open your leg, saw off the ends of two bones, the tibia and femur, and replace those with Titanium or Titanium and plastic parts. If you have a strong stomach, you can see photos here.

I was thinking that maybe I am just a wimp because I have not heard how bad this was from other people but let's just revisit this a moment. They cut open your leg and saw off the ends of your bones. There is no way in which you can frame that where the natural human response is not,
"F###! That's got to hurt."

In fact, I am pretty sure I saw devices in the Museum of Torture that had similar purposes. I used to say that having a baby was no worse than having knee surgery and once labor is over, it pretty much stops hurting and you have a baby. Where, with knee surgery, you only have a scar, no baby and it hurts for a few days. Having your knee replaced is NOTHING like having a baby. After this, I could have quadruplets in the middle of randori and it would be a piece of cake.

So, why did I do it, other than the obvious answer of stupidity? Well, my doctor said there was no choice. That it was essential was pretty obvious for two reasons. First, this surgery has a much higher risk of failure for people under 50. I turned 51 in August and was on the operating table within a month. Second, my insurance company approved it right away. Insurance companies never approve anything without an argument. They give you responses like,
"Yes, Mr. Fishbein, your doctor does say you could die without this surgery but that doesn't mean it is medically necessary as our statistics show that death is the usual condition for people of your age."

Generally, when doctors give me medical advice, I go along with it, based on the presumption, as Jake Flores is always reminding me, that it's amazing what you can learn if you stay awake during medical school.

One reason it turns out that this operation was advisable is that I have been putting it off for years and there is a point where you damage your leg so much that the operation isn't likely to be successful. Ronda said she would have been mad at me if I didn't do it as it would mean I would not be walking eventually. I guess she is right, though at this point, it is not just the pain, it is the nausea from the medication, the not being able to do ANYTHING, the giving myself injections of blood thinner medication, and the whole just being a patient thing.

"So, how have your bowel movements been lately?"
"Just fine, how have your bowel movements been?"

It turns out that the reasons the nurses always ask that cheery question is that one of the side effects one of the medications I am on has is constipation. I told the nurse I had solved that problem by puking up all my food.

Here is the really, odd crazy thing, though. If I could go back to my 17-year-old self the day before I first tore my knee up in practice and told her everything that would happen, I know that I would have gone ahead and done it anyway.

One of the cheery nurses chided me this week,
"If you'd believed those doctors and physical therapists way back then,you wouldn't have kept competing at judo and be needing this surgery at your age."

"On the contrary, I never doubted they were right. I just wanted to win that badly and this was a price I was willing to pay."

The nurse walked away shaking her head.

Like I said, this was probably not the post to show people to convince them to start judo.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not Dead: Vote !

I know how unusual it is for me to not blog, tweet, post or email, having been practically surgically attached to my computer ever since microcomputers were invented. Before that I programmed with punched cards (yes, I did) and then "dumb terminals" that we used to think were the greatest thing since sliced bread. No, I don't remember when sliced bread was invented.

So, speaking of surgically attached, I am having surgery tomorrow to replace my knee. They are going to cut off the ends of my tibia and femur and replace it with Titanium. I just looked at some photos of a surgery. It is pretty gross.

Everything I have read says that running and contact sports are absolutely to be avoided after the surgery, which is making me mad because the only reason I am doing this is because the doctor said I would be able to run again. And NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT NOT DOING JUDO !! I used to have to run to cut weight for judo. One day, right after Title IX had passed, the newly-hired track coach saw me running on the track and recruited me to run the mile on the new women's track team.

(For you youngsters, Title IX was a landmark legislation in the U.S. that forced universities to give female athletes equal opportunity to participate in athletics. Right after it passed, a whole bunch of opportunities opened up, which was great for me.)

After college, I kept competing in judo and kept running. Occasionally, I would compete in 10 K races. I wasn't amazingly fast but I was one of the faster of the women who worked in offices who entered the same kind of races, and I was super-competitive so I won the odd medal now and then. After I quit competing, I'd still run during the day, especially when I was telecommuting or on travel in North Dakota in the summer. It's very relaxing to run on the trails through the woods, or along the beach. I got some of my best ideas that way.

Unfortunately, between all that running and a few judo tournaments and training against doctor's advice, my knee pretty much has disintegrated. (That time I was back on the mat training for the world trials six days after surgery. Yeah, that wasn't too smart. Hurt like a #$%, too.) Competing in the world trials three weeks after surgery was probably not high on the brilliance scale, either.

Well, you make your choices and you pay the price. So, I will be in the hospital the next few days and not on the Internet too much. All of the websites I have read give me a far worse prognosis, say I will be unable to drive far longer and be able to do far less after surgery than my doctor had said. On the other hand, as several people have pointed out, most people who have this surgery done are much older than me.

Just because I am not nagging you about it does not mean:

A. I am dead, or
B. I want any less for you to vote in the USJA election ( )

I will just be too drugged up to talk about it. Now that I think of it, I wonder if Ronda bribed the doctor just so she would not have to hear about the election for a few days.

I have received an outpouring of sympathy from my friends and family - not!

Lanny Clark called and said,
"I hope you don't kick off on the operating table."

My husband was a bit miffed he brought it up (do men get miffed?) until my daughter Jenn said,
"Well, if you DO die and Dennis dies of a heart attack from the shock, I will still get to live here, right? And you'll leave me SOME money so I can pay the bills until I graduate and get a job?"

Maria, equally concerned, added,
"You better leave something in writing that says I get all the money to care for Julia because I can just see Jenn saying, 'Oh, I remember Mom saying you were supposed to care for Julia, all right, but she said I should get all the money because Maria and Eric both have jobs already.'"

Ronda didn't say anything. Actually, the last time I talked to her was after an unfortunate Margarita episode that involved the church,me, a few octogenarians and a designated driver. The less said about that incident, the better.

So, take-away messages:
1. I am not dead.

2. Vote for our slate for the USJA board. You only have until September 30th to mail your ballot you slacker!

3. Stay away from people older than your grandmother bearing Margaritas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's next? You do what you do

I was going out to compete at the Panamerican Games. Coach Willy Cahill tells Brett Barron to go out and do his uchi mata, he tells Robin Chapman (now Robin Chow) to do HER uchi mata. Incidentally, both of them won gold medals that day. Then, he turns to me and says,

"Yeah, and AnnMaria, you go out and you do whatever that is that you do. Take 'em to the mat and kill them."

I won a gold medal, too. Afterward, I had a talk with Willy, who was a coach I really respected for all of his judo knowledge. He mentioned that people who trained with him did stand up judo, not at all like that dragging them to the mat stuff I did. I asked him if he thought I should change. He looked at me as if I was crazy and said,

"Hell, no! You're winning! By ippon. Keep on doing what you do. It's working."

Everyone always talks about "What's wrong with American judo." I rather suspect that in other countries people have the same conversations, just substituting their country's name. I want to focus on what is working and what we want to do more of.

Electronic communication - podcasts, our electronic magazines, Growing Judo and American Judo, the USJA section of the judo forum, Facebook (younger people than me), the USJA Headlines and more. We have a good number of smart people in the USJA (and other judo organizations) around the country. Technology gives us the chance to bridge the vast differences in this country and share that knowledge. We need to do more of that, bringing in such technology heavyweights as Neil Ohlenkamp.

Two-way communication - I know I said communication twice now, but it is important. I like the fact that the coaching committee, with Jim Pedro, Sr., Bill Montgomery and the rest of our experts is soliciting comments from coaches around the country in setting the criteria for the A & B level certification. I like the way they did the same in establishing the original E, D & C level certifications. I like the work the regional coordinators, headed by Joan Love, are doing reaching out to meet the needs in their communities and conveying those needs back to the board and the rest of the USJA. The regional coordinators have been really important in pointing out local needs and getting clinics, tournaments and camps organized. Areas that always had a little judo now have a little more, and, in some cases, a lot more. That is a good thing.

Encourage diversity - one thing I like about what I see happening in America is that we have people from Gary Goltz, who runs a huge club out in Claremont with everyone from five-year-olds to grandparents on the mat, like Roy Hash, with another large club, more focused on competition, in Texas, like Dr. Jim Lally who is the CEO of a major hospital and major donor to the USJA, to Jim Pedro, Sr. who is a world-class coach in the northeast to Lowell Slaven, Deb Fergus and Randy Pierce in the Midwest.

Reach out, get out of your bubble - Jim Bregman and George Harris gave me this advice -
"You need to get out and visit those clubs all over the country. See what they need. See what their concerns are. See what you can learn from them."

They were right. I have learned a lot. I don't think I have ever done a clinic anywhere that I did not find an idea or two that I could use for my next class or my next clinic. The next step is to encourage more of the same. If you run a club, do something different this year. Like Willie Williams in Connecticut, create a league with other clubs. Or, like Paul Nogaki and Neil Ohlenkamp, create a camp around a theme, such as the Judo Forum. Like Butch Ishisaka and Jeff Domingo, send a big group of your kids to Camp Bushido West. Or, be really dramatic and start a new club!

Whatever you do well, do more of it. Then, think of something new that might be fun and do that, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Judo Podcast

Interesting judo podcast today with Gene Shin and Mike Darter. The original plan was to have Jim Pedro, Sr. and I interviewed, followed by Paul Nogaki, Roy Hash, Joan Love and Bill Montgomery, all members of the New USJA slate.

However, the discussion with Jim and I went over an hour and a half so they will have to reschedule the others for another day. I am a pretty straight-forward person but Jim even outdoes me. Here was my favorite part:

It has been asked on the Judo Forum what is your Plan B. What if this bid to de-certify USJI/USAJ fails. Aren't you worried that you will have a more hostile relationship with the USJA?

You mean more hostile than it is now? What more could they do against us than they have already been doing that is negative towards our organization? Execute us? AnnMaria, the USOC hasn't given them powers to hold executions have they?

No, Jimmy, I am sure not.

Well, that's all right then.

The latest Judo Podcast should be up in a day or so. I'll post a link here when it is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't tell lies about people's mothers

This is one of those brain-dead obvious things I thought I would never have to tell you, along the lines of,
"Lying is bad."
"No, you cannot win the Olympics working out twice a week, even if you work really, really hard."

"Why can I not hit my sister in the head with a chair? This is not a 'why' question! It isn't even a question!"

My business partner, Dr. Erich Longie, wrote a blog post on how his ancestors, the Dakota Sioux, put liars to death. More people should read it.

Here is the truth ....

A few years ago, Jim Bregman got one of those brilliant ideas that after someone tells it to you, you slap your forehead and exclaim,
"Why didn't we think about this years ago?"

His idea was this... many of us in judo travel for a variety of reasons, our professions, to visit friends and family, or just because we feel like seeing someplace new. If you are a fairly accomplished judo player and you happen to be in Georgia, Virginia or Missouri, how about letting the local clubs know you would be available? They can have a clinic for a very modest price, because they don't have to pay travel expenses, and you can do judo with some new people. How modest? Our clinicians are paid $250 a day. They do it as a public service. So, someone flies in from three thousand miles away, teaches for the day for 25 or 30 people at a cost of $250. Many of the clinicians donate the money to the USJA Development Fund, others give it to their own club. Very few that I know spend it on cheap whiskey and expensive women.

How do we contact the local clubs? Well, this is where the idea of regional coordinators came up, people who would be willing to organize events for a region. Doesn't all this sound like a win-win -- getting people involved, getting instructors who were world, Olympic medalists, outstanding coaches, for a cost of next to nothing?

I happen to be one of the people doing a LOT of those events. I was in Washington, D.C. at the SAS Global Forum (a conference on statistical software). The university paid for my ticket to the east coast. Chuck Wall had me do a clinic in Virginia before the conference. Marshall Coffman picked me up, drove me to Maryland, where I met and stayed with a lovely couple from his club, taught another clinic and then went to my conference. I have a daughter and granddaughter in Boston. I flew up there and, after visiting her, and just before going to D.C., did a clinic in Rhode Island. I stayed at Liz and Serge's house. Liz made me coffee. I think this was my total payment. It was very good coffee, I might add. Maurice Allan picked me up at my hotel in Washington one night and I did judo there. Maurice bought me a beer after practice, so I guess I did get additional payment.

Four clubs, three states and a whatever D.C. is - district, I guess because that is in the name (if you read this blog often at all, you know I am notoriously bad at geography) - my total payment was a beer and a cup of coffee and the total cost to the USJA was nothing.

Another example, I was in Missouri, for my cousin's wedding. I caught a ride with my sister and mother to Kansas City, visited with them, went to the AAU Nationals, taught a coaches' clinic with Steve Scott, stayed at Steve and Becky's and then flew home. Kenny Brink gave me $250 for doing the clinic. Total cost to USJA $0. I do recall that Steve and Becky gave me a lot of coffee, plus a great dinner at an Italian restaurant. I used the $250 to pay off part of the ticket from the week before when I went to Little Rock, Arkansas to do a coaches' clinic and a clinic for athletes the next day. This was supposed to be part of the trip to Missouri - I was supposed to see some friends but it fell through and I had given those folks my word I would be there so I bought a ticket and off I went.

What are we up to now, five states and a whatever?

I could go on and on. Anyway, in the proof that some people believe that no good deed should go unpunished, a few people have emailed/ called me and said that some people running against our slate in the election have been telling the bald-faced lie that "AnnMaria is in the USJA because they pay her expenses and fly her all around the country."

This isn't one of those cases where someone misunderstood or misinterpreted something. I don't expect anyone sending me flowers saying 'oh you do so much good for the USJA'. It was great to see Becky, Steve, Liz, Serge, Marshall, Ed, Chuck and all of the rest of the nice folks in Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, Rhode Island and Virginia. However, for someone to take things I did out of a sincere effort to help judo, at substantial personal costs and LIE about that and say that I was taking money from the USJA is just a little much. Now, I don't mean this to offend all of you who think Rhode Island in slushy March or Little Rock at 98 degrees is the optimal vacation, but here are my non-USJA vacations before I became USJA president:

Athens, Greece
cruise to the Bahamas
resort in the Bahamas
different resort in the Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island)
Beijing, China - with a stop in Tokyo coming home on my 50th birthday
resort in Palm Springs

Here are my 'USJA junkets
West Warwick, Rhode Island
Kearney, MO
Fredericksburg, VA
Sonora, CA
Big Canoe, GA
Little Rock,AR

(It seems there should be a Medium Something,ST in between Big Canoe and Little Rock, doesn't it? If you live in Middletown, call me up. I owe you a visit!)

I have a Ph.D. with specializations in Applied Statistics and Psychometrics, work a full-time job as a statistical consultant for a major university, teach statistics at another university and own a consulting company. Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that I want to be USJA president so that I can escape from the dreadful Santa Monica beach where I live via fully-funded vacations to Bob Byrd's judo club in Georgia?

It is all a lie. I have never taken any travel money from the USJA. Although the USJA has traditionally had a president's travel budget, I believe I am the only one who NEVER took any money from the USJA. Our total expenses for board travel since I became president are $0.

If you are at an event and you hear this lie repeated, do me a favor. Say, "That is a lie. Why would you say that?"

Why would someone say that? If you find out, let me know.

Speaking of people's mothers, Ronda was unamused when she heard this lie repeated. Her original working title for her post was,

"Stop! You could be voting for a bunch of @$&**!s "

The combined good influence of Bruce and Michelle (of Big Canoe, GA fame) convinced her she should tone things down a little. I will be interested to see what she has to say.

In the meantime, how is this for good advice.

Don't tell lies about people's mothers.
In fact, don't tell lies, period.
Lying is bad.

I never thought I would have to tell you this.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Four Year Plan: What, you think I just make this #$^ up?

You know that line from Men in Black,
"No ma'am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor that we are aware of?"

Well, I think that applies to the National Institutes on Health and to a lot of people in judo, too. I was giving a paper at a scientific conference a few years ago when someone from the NIH asked,
"Dr. Rousey, are you planning on publishing this research soon?"

I said,
"Hell no, I just make this #$^& up as I go along."

They did not laugh. In fact, I had to get married and change my name to have the possibility of ever getting an NIH grant for the rest of my life.

Some people in judo are like that, also. They email me all of the time to tell me, in the most pompous, snotty, possible tone, I should say, that I am not serious enough, that I did not follow article 11, section 6, paragraph b. Then, when I tell them, that, actually, I DID in fact read article 11, section 6, paragraph b and that whatever I did complied with it as verified by three lawyers and two accountants, that, as my friend Bill Montgomery has stated on numerous occasions, usually after several beers and being safely on the other side of the country,
"AnnMaria may be a ------ sometimes, but she's never a STUPID ----."

They run off screaming for the hills that,
"He said ---- !! And she quoted him !!"

I have been right about things in judo on more than one occasion. What I find interesting is how often when I am right, people are SURPRISED. They say things like,

"You said that it didn't matter if the Winter Nationals was a point tournament, if it was a good event, we would get over 500 people - and we did!"

"You said that if we had more electronic communication for our members, more people would join the USJA, and they did!"

"You said that if we made our coaching clinics more accessible to the membership with high quality clinicians we would have hundreds of certified coaches - and we do!"

Okay, people, why is it that when I am right, you are surprised? You really DO think I make this @#$% up as I go along, don't you? Contrary to what some people apparently believe, I actually do have a plan. Here are some key points, assuming the new USJA slate wins election, which, for most of us, will mean re-election to the board.

  1. Get a group together that has a common vision. This does not mean we agree all of the time, but it does mean we are committed to working together to get things done.

  2. The most important part of any plan is THE PEOPLE to do it. My plan is to include folks with expertise in management, technology, finance, medicine, fund-raising, education and coaching. We have people like Neil Ohlenkamp who runs the most read judo website in the WORLD and has been a legislative fellow advising the U.S. Senate on social security policy, Dr. James Lally who is the Chief Medical Office at a hospital has given over $100,000 to the USJA and traveled the world as the former president of U.S. Shooting, meeting with the International Olympic Committee. We have Roy Hash, a former Airborne Ranger and Green Beret, who has over 34 years of leadership, planning and problem solving skills garnered during active duty service with the US Army’s Special Forces , an AT&T Operations Manager, founder and head coach of TEXOMA Judo & JuJitsu, one the USJA's 10 largest clubs. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  3. Include individuals who can contribute. This isn't junior high, for crying out loud, we don't choose people based on who their friends are, we choose them based on their credentials. Twice this week, someone has passed on email from two different people who were convinced they would not be welcome in the USJA if our slate was elected because one of my friends did not like them. I recommended both of those individuals to committee chairs and asked them to reach out to them because they are two, smart, talented guys. A very good friend of mine said,
    "I don't like ---."
    and I responded,
    "Yeah, and a lot of people don't like you. He is really knowledgeable in that area. What's your point?"
    My friend answered,
    "I didn't say you shouldn't have recommended him. I just said I don't like him."
    I think this comes from picking professional people who have been very successful in life, some in judo and some in other areas. Anyone that successful has had to learn to work with people they don't like, to make selections on competence and not who you had a beer with last week.

  4. Make a serious effort to include diverse opinions on our board and on our committees. The youngest coach clinician we have is my daughter, Ronda, who is 22 years old (for those who suspect nepotism here, I hasten to add that she is a world silver medalist, junior world gold medalist, Olympic bronze medalist and has won a number of world cups. If I was a better mother, I would remember how many). The oldest is Charlie Robinson who is nearly 80. We have instructors in Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, California, Washington, D.C., Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Missouri, Rhode Island (I am sure I forgot some). I just forwarded to the committee recommendations for course instructors in North Dakota, Alaska, Utah, Wisconsin and Ohio.

  5. Operate for our MEMBER'S convenience. Especially try to offer a wide range of services, from electronic communications such as our publications, Growing Judo and American Judo (thanks to the wonderful Connie Halporn and her Associate Editor Dr. Ronald Charles), to the USJA Headlines managed by George Weers to local clinics everywhere, from Keith Worshaim's work in Mississippi to the many activities sponsored by Ed Thibideau in Arkansas, Joan Love & Bill Montgomery in Connecticut and Gary Goltz in southern California and much much more.

So, now you have seen a peek into my secret plan. I guess now that you have seen the secret documents I will have to send ninjas to kill you. Sorry if that is an inconvenience.