Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How not to get in the way as an instructor

At the California Judo, Inc. clinic, I saw one of my old instructors today, Roy Moore, Jr. A really, really great guy. After practice, I was talking to one of our talented, dedicated young players who admitted that while trying to work out at other clubs regularly for extra practices sounds good in theory, it often doesn't work out. The athlete was too polite to elaborate but nodded when I said knowingly,
"You mean, it's a waste of your time to go there?"

We had a discussion about this I'd like to share with you, and explain why Roy Moore was such an awesome guy.


What happens with many young athletes who make a national team is they start to go to other clubs to train because their own club only practices two or three times a week. You can't be a successful international athlete training twice a week. So, our talented player branches out and at each local club, which is not designed for international players (none of them are), there is a head instructor and usually some assistants. The head instructor runs practice and he (it's almost always a "he") has a certain plan. Something like ,
We do warm-ups, then I teach a technique, then we practice it, I correct it, there's 15 minutes of standing randori, 5 minutes of matwork and then we go home.
Except for not having enough matwork, that's probably a fine general plan for juniors, beginners and recreational players. For our Olympic potential player, it doesn't fit, what he or she probably needs is drills, standing randori and matwork. Our genuinely friendly head instructor is happy to have Mr. or Ms. Talent visit but isn't going to change HIS plan for a visitor. As a best case scenario, the visitor gets in maybe 20 minutes of useful practice. As a worst case, and too common scenario, one of the black belt assistants who is feeling unimportant since he or she is not the head instructor and doesn't have anything to do spends an hour or more instructing our talented player on how to do left morote seoi nage, because that is our not-so-humble assistant's favorite technique, never mind the fact that the visitor is 6'1" at sixteen years of age, and right-handed to boot. Our player has now wasted the entire practice, including the randori and matwork part because the assistant instructor insisted on teaching "Just one more thing."


If you have not had these frustrating experiences, you are either not a talented young player in America or you are extremely lucky. If the latter, I suggest you buy lottery tickets and also go to church, light a candle and thank God for your good fortune. If you see yourself in the description above as an instructor, even a little, feel shame and resolve to change.  As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, it's not too late, although, unlike AA, they don't have meetings for it.


What did Roy Moore do? I lived in San Diego and my judo club was in Los Angeles. Twice a week, I trained at the Naval Training Center Judo Club where Roy was the head instructor. On rare occasions (I'd say less than 10% of the time I was there) he would show me some move, usually matwork and usually after a hard workout. Most of the time he said, 
"What do you want to work on?"

If I said, as I usually did, that I needed to do drills and randori, he'd tell me to go right ahead. There was a good bit of space at the NTC, so I could grab a person - Valerie Hays (now Perrault) , Mark Hayes, Joe Ciokon, Jerry Hays and Chuck Neuendorf were often around - and ask them to do throws on the crash pad with me, or matwork drills. Valerie was only 15, Mark was a teenager, too and Joe, Jerry and Chuck - well, they were pretty old. Like, at least 40. None of them were training for world level competition at the time, and the older guys had jobs they had to be at the next day where they were expected not to be too bruised and sore to concentrate. So, I would do 50 repetitions of a move with Jerry, then another 50 with Joe, then 50 with Mark, and so on. Someone - Roy himself, or Chuck, might be teaching a move to the sailors who were in the beginning class and I would go to a corner of the mat and do round after round of matwork with one person after another.  Sometimes we were lucky and a young black belt would be at the NTC for some training. Then, Roy would have me fight with him. If the new guy had a particularly good move, Roy would have him show it and I would try it out.

What made Roy a truly EXCEPTIONAL instructor is that when I walked in to visit he didn't think about what HE had planned or what HE could teach me or how HE could later tell people he was coaching someone on the world team. He thought about what I needed to do. More than that, he didn't assume he knew, he actually asked ME and assumed that just maybe I might know what I needed and have a reason for having come to their club to visit. So, even though I was a member of Tenri and trained there every Friday and on the weekends, I was a "visitor" at the NTC twice a week for years. All of the members of the NTC helped me, from Roy to the white belts who sometimes ended up being willing partners on the end of yet another 50 repetitions of that tomoe nage armbar.

Roy never tried to get in the way of that time for drills and fighting, standing and on the mat, which was what I really needed, just so he could feel like he was such a great instructor.

The irony of it is that even 27 years later, when I see him, I still think,
"What a great guy and what a great instructor."

As for those many, many, other head instructors and not-so-humble assistants over the years? Yeah, I still see them around, too, and I still think the same thing about them,
"Means well, but what a pain in the ass."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Judo vs. MMA: An old-timey view






Perhaps the night before I leave for judo camp isn't the best time to contrast judo and MMA. Or maybe it is. Or maybe I don't care because I'm going to do it anyway.

Having decided to take a break from work for a couple of hours, I went to Hayastan Martial Arts Academy to watch Ronda at practice. One of the first things I noticed was Manny's new car with the license plate UFCANVIL, which I am pretty sure he paid for with the money he earned from MMA and not judo. I don't know anything about cars, so don't ask me what kind it was. It was white, that's what kind it was.

I was impressed with Manny's training, and I told him so. I've known him since he was just a kid and I don't know if it was maturity, that he is getting paid or that MMA just clicked with him but he looked better than I ever saw him at judo practice. I told him, and I sincerely mean it, that if our judo players all trained like he did tonight we'd be winning a lot more medals. He went with one partner after another after another. What was different from most judo practices is that there wasn't a coach telling him to do it. This is the point where people email me and tell me that THEIR club is different, that their players go one round after another in randori without anyone telling them to do it. No, actually, they don't. I have been to a lot of judo clubs and seen a lot of people fooling themselves about how hard they work. Even when they do go round after round, there is a lot of coasting going on.

This isn't to say there weren't the usual wall-clingers at Hayastan, too. There were, and that's not all bad either. I'm 52 years old and I don't do matwork 45 minutes non-stop any more, and that's okay.

There were also coaches at Hayastan - Gene Lebell, Gokor Chivichyan and someone I didn't know were all three on the mat while I was there. The difference is that they were monitoring the practice, not interfering with it. The coaches took turns teaching the less experienced students, both in a group and individually. This is different from a lot of judo practices I have seen where practice repeatedly gets interrupted by an instructor who wants to teach something.  Teaching is perfectly fine, it's great, but don't stop someone in the middle of the match. Do it afterward or before, but not during.

Not sure this is as much a comparison of MMA versus judo as good coaching versus mediocre coaching.

Three times tonight I was asked, by three people who had been in judo even longer ago than me (yes, and they're not dead, amazing, huh?) what I thought of judo versus MMA. We discussed it and agreed that we see more similarities between judo back in our day and MMA than between judo then and judo now. Essentially, MMA is old time judo with punching thrown in. (There may have been a few punches thrown back in our day. We all plead the fifth. )

Judo now disallows throws where you grab the leg, so it is possible to pick someone four feet off the mat, slam her, and lose the match. That's just stupid. There is a crazy amount of time spent having people go back to the tape and adjust their gis, which makes about as much sense and is about as interesting as if you stopped football players every 10 yards and had them adjust their jockstraps. (I am assuming they wear jockstraps and I am NOT interested in any details about it so if you know, just keep that to yourself.) There is a lot of time spent flailing around to get a grip and then walking around.

None of this is to say that there aren't fabulous judo players out there who are exciting to watch. However, if we really wanted to turn judo into a sport that people want to watch, it would seem a good plan to make it resemble MORE the things that people watch, like wrestling, MMA or even the National Spelling Bee, than less so. (Okay, I don't really know how we can make it resemble the National Spelling Bee but I do know that they get a whole lot more air time than judo which is kind of depressing. Maybe we could have the players name each technique in Japanese and then spell it after performing it. Just an idea.)

Judo in my era (Paleozoic, I think it was), was more like a fight in a bar. Now it is more like a fight after Christmas dinner where your Grandpa comes in and lectures you in the middle of it and makes you sit down on the sofa. Then, when his back is turned, you start fighting again.

If you think I am saying judo is wimpy now, you have never witnessed a fight in my house.




This isn't to say I am completely convinced that MMA isn't about as intellectual as biting rocks in half. One aspect that has really UNimpressed me is the number of times Ronda has had fights set up and then the competition has backed out at the last minute. Gokor thinks that is an unfair comparison and he asked me how many local and regional judo tournaments Ronda had entered where she had no one to compete against. Fair point.

In conclusion, it reminds me of the time many years ago when we had just come back from MacWorld Expo and we (me, my husband and the president of the Mac Hackers User Group) overheard my daughter, The Perfect Jennifer, on the phone:

"No, I just got back in town. I was at a computer show with my mom and step-dad."

Pause,,,,

"It didn't suck nearly as bad as I expected."


The user group president laughed and said he was going to suggest that as their advertising slogan for the trip next year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why You're Not Winning

Jim's comment to me today is that I should write more about judo and less about what I said to Ronda and she said to me, '... because nobody cares about that s---'. Actually,  he said 'keers' instead of 'cares' because he is from Boston and they talk funny there.

Just on the off chance that he could possibly be right ...

I know of a judo player whose goal is to win an Olympic gold medal. This person loves judo, thinks of nothing else,  traveled to many countries to compete and train at the camps. Yes, this athlete SAYS all the right things.

It makes me sad. It just so happened that I have been to three Olympics to watch judo. I happen to have seen this player compete and, along with many other athletes from countries where judo is a minor sport, was not even in the running to win a medal. I don't want to single out one person because I have seen it over and over, men and women, from many countries.

These are not the slackers. These are people who were good enough to make it to the Olympics and the best their countries have to offer. They have everyone's hopes and dreams back home following them. They get up early and run, lift weights. They have husbands, girlfriends, parents, coaches at home who support them. They haven't a prayer of winning and I can see it in the first minute of the first match, if they last that long. I feel sorry for these young people, but I don't know any of them from Adam so I never say anything about what they are missing.

What are they missing?
  1. Attitude - In part, belief comes from training. If you have trained until your fingers bled from grabbing the gi, you come out with more confidence. However, you get it - by training six hours a day, by meditation, prayers to St. Jude, whatever, you need to BELIEVE you have a right to be there and that person is standing between you and YOUR medal. Tell yourself a thousand times a day that you can win. Tell yourself while you're running, when you wake up, before you fall asleep, in the middle of a hard round of randori. Belief is strength.
  2. Lack of hesitation - this probably goes with attitude. There is a difference between not being hesitant and being rushed. Over and over, I see players who don't attack. They are waiting for the "right" opening. So, a minute, two minutes go by and they don't attack and they get penalties. Then they are panicked and they attack and get countered. Or they don't attack and lose on penalties. Discipline yourself in practice to attack every 3-5 seconds. If you live in a region where there aren't many people at your level, when you go to those international tournaments GO TO THE CAMPS. In the camp, discipline yourself to attack every 3-5 seconds. If you get thrown, so what? No one wins randori. If you can't attack 50 times in a four-minute round, be in better shape.
  3. Setups - what about set-ups to techniques? Yes, you don't have that, either, but don't practice that in camps, practice that at home. You know why? Because at home you can't go all out against your partners because they aren't at your level and you might hurt them. The camps are your only chance to go 100%, but it's a bit scary, isn't it? Better to say that you are working on technique.
  4. Grips - You can't get your grip. You can't break the other person's grip. You can't attack from more than one grip. These are things you should work on at home and in training camps. I'm not a proponent of grip-fighting alone. Maybe early on for kids, when they are learning. For you, at home, work on fighting for a grip and then throwing. Do specific drills for gripping. Jimmy Pedro, Jr. has a DVD out that I believe Rhadi sends everyone on the planet an email about three times a week telling them to buy it. (I like Rhadi but I do have to kid him about his marketing.) Hayward Nishioka also has a DVD called Get a Grip. Practice SPECIFIC drills for specific situations. Find the best coach in your country to help you. Watch what drills other people do at training camps. I don't care how you learn it, but learn it.
  5. Matwork - Here you might have a chance but you are blowing it. If you happen to be in a country that is strong in wrestling, train with your country's best wrestlers and steal every move that is legal in judo. The IJF is doing its best to make that tougher but there are still some like a wrestlers roll, half-nelson, sit out. Jiu Jitsu people do some moves that are legal but most judo players don't use. Steal everything you can. It doesn't make sense to go against other people's strong suit. If your opponents have a ton of judo players in their country, they probably aren't fighting against wrestlers and jiu-jitsu players. 
  6. Don't try to be Japanese or French or Eastern European. The players from Japan, France and eastern Europe have a lot more practice at that than you so they're going to be better at it. They also have a lot of practice fighting players like that. Going back to #5 - be something else. Be you. Figure out what your opponents are not strongest at - transition and chokes are two areas that tend to be relative weaknesses.
I'd just like to leave you with a bit of advice from my friend Steve Scott, who said it came originally from an extremely successful coach of Olympic weight lifters when he looked at their program years ago,
Whatever you're doing now, stop it, because it isn't working.

With two years to go, that gold medal is a possibility, kid, but you have GOT to change.

And ... I know how it feels to want to win that bad, and I know how it feels when you get the gold medal and when you don't --- so, best of luck to you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Congratulations! You're too great to learn anything

I've heard this same statement many times, from everyone from thirteen-year-old junior national champions to the fifth-degree black belt running the local dojo.
Why should I go to the clinic given by ---- ? What can he (she) teach me?
This attitude just baffles me. I heard this said by a junior judo player about the upcoming clinic with world champion Kayla Harrison. I heard it said several years ago by a coach at a local judo club when world champion Udo Quelmalz was in town from Germany doing a clinic. And I've heard it in just about every possible other situation as well.

My reaction each time is always the same,
You've got to be f---ing kidding me!

Seriously? I would expect that someone who has won a world championships could teach anyone a number of things. These could include the techniques that he or she uses to win, drills for training for competition, exercises for physical conditioning. They could talk to players about the stresses of competition. They could talk to coaches about what worked for them with on the mat coaches, motivation and training leading up to the event. They could tell you who their best coaches were and why.

I have won a world championships and I know that a lot of people can teach me a lot of things. Sus Kono is terrific at running a practice and I watch him to steal ideas. Trace Nishiyama has a great drop seoi nage. Jason Harai has a really good harai goshi and is very good at teaching it. He has a good standing seoi nage, too. Ronda not only has a good o soto but she is also very good at teaching it. Tosh Seino has an amazing tai otoshi and tsuri komi goshi. Gary Butts does a lot of wrestling techniques that are perfectly legal in judo but seldom applied.

My point is that
  1. You don't know everything.
  2. Anyone who knows something you don't can teach you something.
  3. While you may be good at lots of things, there will be lots of people who are better than you at one (or more) things.

Yesterday, while Ronda was at the house entering data, I was just shaking my head over the attitude that some ten-year-old kid who had won the junior nationals could have that someone could not teach him or her anything. Without looking up from the keyboard she said,

You know, I listen to people and I don't even bother about it any more. When people say things like that, I just say to myself, 'Congratulations! You're too great to learn anything.'

I've been sick for a week and I have a sick kid at home, so I am not sure I will make it down to Gardena this weekend. But, I will tell you one thing. If I don't, it won't be because I'm too great to learn anything.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Opposite of Lazy Isn't Disciplined

It's often been said that judo, football and other sports teach discipline. At the very elite levels - repeatedly winning major international competitions - I believe that is true because the competition is so tightly bunched together at the top that if you don't have discipline you just don't win. At every level below that, sports may teach discipline and it may not. I think people often misunderstand what discipline means. It doesn't just mean not lazy.

Lazy is defined as "disinclined to activity or exertion"  (thank you Merriam-Webster dictionary). Many athletes who get up in the morning and run, do push-ups, lift weights and engage in other strenuous activities are certainly not lazy. 


Definitions of discipline include:
 training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
and 
control gained by enforcing obedience or order 

I would suggest that discipline means forcing yourself to do the things that you SHOULD do. So, if I should be sitting at my desk writing a computer program so that I can get paid and pay my bills but I am instead out running eight miles to the Marina pier and back to the Santa Monica pier, then I am not lazy but I am undisciplined. 

A major flaw I see in training of many athletes is they fool themselves into believing  they are disciplined when they are really just not lazy. They may train for hours on standing technique when what they really need to work on is their matwork. When they lose, they lament (yes, I did just use the word "lament" in a sports blog. Deal with it.) 
"I don't know what to do. I can't train any harder! I train hours every day!"


I've heard this so many times and it is usually a lack of discipline. The player who needs to work on speed of attack in randori is instead running and lifting several hours a week. The person who needs to be more aggressive in randori is doing hundreds of throws every week. The person whose standing technique is pathetic somehow gets to practice too late to do standing randori but does matwork and then stays late "to make up" and does extra rounds of randori.


I see this exact pattern in business as well, people who make lovely brochures instead of sales calls on clients, who go to meetings instead of write code.


Don't confuse activity with progress.

That moral character bit - be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if the activities you're spending the time on are REALLY what will help you win more, or are they just the things you most want to do? Are you using that activity to avoid things you know damn well you should be doing instead?


Not being lazy is good.
Being disciplined is better.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Intermediate Throwing Techniques for Juniors - Why I teach what I teach


To continue with the previous guest post 
by Jim Pedro, Sr.

Here is what I teach for intermediate students, approximately 13-16 years old, and why

Left vs. Right Basic Technique:
Tai otoshi Uchimata
Knee O soto Gari Ko soto gari
Ashi barai
Kata Garuma
Why I teach it as a basis: As the student masters the basics, it is time to move into less common situations. The most common of these ‘less common’ situations is fighting against a player who is the opposite side from you.

Left vs. Right Combination Techniques:
O uchi to tai otoshi
O uchi to uchimata
O uchi to knee o soto gari
Uchi mata to kosoto gari
Why I teach it as a basis: Once students can do the throws individually, it is time to start putting them together. Again, it is important to teach children early on to start thinking about combinations. If you watch the junior nationals, you will notice that very few students perform combinations. Not only do learning counters and combinations earlier than their peers give your students an advantage at the junior level, but this gives them a head start building as a basis for the senior level where they must be able to use more counters, combinations and complex attacks.

Left vs. Right Complex Combinations:
Cross grip ouchi gari
Cross grip sumigaeshi
Russian firemans
Reverse Firemans
Yoko tomonage
Why I teach it as a basis: You might say we are starting to move beyond the basics here. Still, we are building on the base a student learned in the previous steps in the curriculum. They know o uchi gari, presumably by this time they have learned a cross grip. They are now ready to learn to throw in less common situations, and to set up those situations more rather than in the case of, e.g., o uchi gari or seoi which often take advantage of situations that commonly occur in a match.

Beyond the basics  
As you move to the techniques below, you are really aiding your student in moving from the junior to senior level. Attacking off the grip, one-handed attacks and cross grip techniques are seldom seen at the junior level. Does this mean that I think you should teach your eight-year-olds these techniques so they will beat all of the other eight-year-olds? No, I do not! Start with the basics. Build a foundation. Build from there.

Same sided opponents (Left vs. Left or Right vs. Right) Techniques:
One-handed tai otoshi
Off the grips to:
Sode
Sode to osoto gari

There were a number of other attacks that I did teach from here, e.g. sode to a double leg, but with the new rules, these are no longer legal so we are modifying our teaching in certain ways.

================================
I want to say that I am extremely grateful to Jimmy for giving me permission to use a lot of his writing before he left for Japan since I have barely had a moment to copy and paste it here, much less write much myself. Some how, I ended up teaching a judo class at Gompers today because I told the kids I would be there, then being part of the Masters of Submission clinic at the West Coast Judo Training Center tomorrow from 1:30 - 5:30, then, right after that going to give a judo demonstration in Santa Monica on Arizona Street for the very kind karate school that has loaned us the mats to use at Gompers Middle School and has not once mentioned the fact that they have been on loan for a year now and what the hell. 

On top of all of that, there is work which I am actually required to do for money, a couple of papers I need to finish writing for a presentation to the SAS Users Group in Hawaii next month and the major time black hole of all, my daughter and two-year-old granddaughter are visiting. Anyone who is curious as to why I do not have more written lately need only look below for the explanation.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

BASIC THROWING TECHNIQUES FOR JUNIORS – WHY I TEACH WHAT I TEACH

Another guest blog by Jim Pedro, Sr. because I am busy working on a paper for my "day job" and he took off for Japan leaving me to work on this book, so I figured I'd put one of his sections of the book on this blog and invite anyone to comment or make suggestions. In re-reading this, I find it interesting that people generally think of Jim as a coach for elite athletes. When I first paid any attention to him at all it was because I'd just had a baby (Ronda's oldest sister) and so I started noticing people with their children and here was this guy at the camps and tournaments with two young kids, Tanya and Jimmy, Jr.,  (who years later went on to win the U.S. Open & world championships).

In other articles, I have discussed the basic standing techniques for juniors, WHAT it is that I teach. In this post, I discuss WHY.

I think it is key that you, as an instructor, have a reason for what you do. Too many instructors just teach the way they themselves were taught, or, even worse, just do whatever they happen to feel like doing that day, with no real thought having been put into having a coherent program. Then, when the student asks,
“Why do we have to do this?”
the instructor either changes his mind and does whatever the student wants to do or takes it as a challenge to his authority and loses his temper. While I might tell a student to just do what I say, I certainly would not be threatened by the question and, depending on the tone in which it was asked, I may explain my reasoning. With parents, certainly I am happy to explain why I teach techniques in a certain order. Those coaches who take an arrogant attitude that , “I am the sensei” are on the totally wrong track. The parents are paying you, it is a positive that they are interested in their child and it is your chance to educate the parents and gain their support as well.

I have a very specific system for teaching and reasons for selecting the throws I teach to juniors. Here is what I teach juniors at the very beginning, and why.

O goshi or Koshi garuma – Major hip throw
Why I teach it as a basis: Teaches kids to use hips to throw.

Right vs. Right:
Ippon Seoi nage Ippon Seoi nage to Kouchi Sutemi
Sode when they grab neck Left side o goshi when they grab neck
Why I teach it as a basis: Both are common situation for juniors, encountering a righthanded player against another right-handed player and having another player grab the student around the neck. It is simply good practice to teach beginning students the situations they are most likely to encounter.

Counters:
Tani otoshi Uranage
Why I teach it as a basis: Again, these counters are effective against very common throws, such as seoi nage. Also, it is important to teach children early on to start thinking about counters. If you watch the junior nationals, you will notice that very few students perform counters, thus giving an advantage to your students that do.
 I included the divider line above because it was the least manly thing I could find and I knew it was a good bet to annoy Jim. Check back tomorrow for a post on the next step, teaching intermediate players. After that, I should have finished the paper I am writing on analysis of ethics data for the Consortia of Administrators of Native American Rehabilitation in San Diego on Monday. Then, I will try to remember if there is any more judo that I know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

You Suck at Armbars and You Don't Know any Chokes

If you don't know anything about a person your best prediction is the average. For example, if the average woman in America is 5 foot, 4 inches tall and you are asked to predict the height of the next person to come through the door, it would be pretty stupid of you to say 7 feet  or 4 feet, 1 inch. Your best guess is 5'4" and you probably won't be too far off.

This brings us to you. Yes, I'm talking to you. I have no idea who you are. Who ARE you, anyway?

Since I don't know anything about you, I am going to predict that you are like most people and your armbars suck. They suck in some specific ways.

First, you don't lock the arm against your body.
Look at the end of this video where Ronda has Autumn in an armbar. That's the position you want to be in. (Yes, it isn't the greatest video because the referee keeps walking in the way. You should have paid the $9.99 to see it on fight TV. Cheapskate. )

Second, getting your body into the position is easier if you start by locking the arm against your body, rotating toward her head to break the arm away and then back to a 90 degree angle from your opponent. You should do this, but you don't.

Third, you don't know enough ways to get into an armbar. Okay, I will admit that video was from an MMA match and the punching her in the head to get the arm free is not allowed in judo, although I can certainly empathize with the impulse.  However, I see so many people who only have a single way of getting into juji gatame. They do the same roll over move that Jimmy Pedro, Jr. does and that's it. There's nothing wrong with that move at all. It's great. Uchimata is great, too, but I don't recommend it as the only throw anyone ever does in their life. You can do juji gatame from seoi toshi, tomoe nage, on people coming in trying to pin you when you are on your back, when your partner is on her hands and knees you can do it turning towards her hips, towards her head or throwing yourself backward. (Keep your head tucked like in ukemi so you don't knock yourself silly and look like a moron.) Variety is a good thing. Try your armbars different ways.

Fourth, you don't know any armbars besides juji gatame. Right behind juji gatame I think the technique I scored the most with was ude garame.  For those of you who don't know any Japanese, juji gatame is sometimes referred to as a cross-body arm lock or a straight arm lock while ude garame is sometimes called a bent arm lock. This picture shows ude garame as a combination from a pin. Personally, I did it a lot from kesa gatame (another pin), where I armbarred the person with my leg.

Okay, and don't even get me started on chokes because you don't know any except that stupid sankaku which some people call a triangle choke. But that's a whole 'nother story. You know so few chokes we're doing a whole day at the West Coast Judo Training Center on December 11 on nothing but chokes. It's called

Masters of Submission - chokes, chokes and more chokes --
because certain people who are younger than me always wanted to be He-Man in Masters of the Universe cartoons when they were children and other people always wanted to be She-Ra Princess of Power. I wanted to call it the Great American Choke-Out but certain young people did not listen to me. Power of Grayskull my @$$!

Anyway, learn some chokes, damn it! Come down on December 11 and learn to choke people's lights out. Incredibly, this is actually legal in California.

Learn some more arm bars while you're at it. Ones that don't suck.

Variety in techniques and positions is good! That goes for your sex life, too.  Unless you are under 18 years old in which case I order you to unread that last sentence. Or one of my daughters. In which case, you should join a convent. Preferably one named after St. Jude.

Ronda Teaches O Soto Gari

As part of my continuing effort to get other people to do my work for me, I have today Ronda teaching o soto gari. She _says_ not wearing a gi makes it easier to emphasize placement of her right foot, how her leg is lifted and lifting the elbows. HA! The truth is that she is not wearing her gi in these pictures because she had just cleaned out her car, an annual event, so when she got to judo there was no gi in her trunk for the first time in several months.

By the way, for those of you who don't know Japanese, o soto gari in English is Major Outer Reap. As Ronda said yesterday, it is a basic throw but no matter how good you think you are at it, it's worth practicing and getting better because it really is a move that can score at all levels from the novice tournaments to the Olympics.

Step 1: She steps TO THE SIDE with her right foot. Not straight back. Note Ronda is doing this left-handed. If you were doing right o soto you would be stepping to the other side with your left foot.


Step 2: She had me take the next picture from the other side because she really wanted to emphasize that your elbows should be UP. You are stepping into the person and pulling yourself into her.




Step 3: Notice where she is in this picture. Her hips are actually PAST Crystal's. That's really important. You don't want to be reaching for the other person in o soto gari. That's a good way to get countered. Ronda said,

"Pretend you're running to kick a soccer ball. You want to get your momentum going. You're not going to run bent over with your butt sticking out."

How NOT to do o soto gari

Step 4: Pick your leg UP ! This has got to be one of the most frustrating things for all judo instructors. No matter how many times you say this, you'll still see students many time each practice trying to throw someone with the left leg planted on the ground.

See how Ronda's leg is up in the air there? That's how it is supposed to be.  Also, she normally would have kept her arms bent and followed the opponent to the mat, but this is a demonstration and not a contest so she was going easy.

I was supposed to include a picture at the end of Crystal looking like Ronda had killed her but I did not because
a) She didn't really look all that dead.
b) Her butt looked HUGE in that picture and I was sure she would not appreciate it. Her butt is not actually huge it just looked huge in the picture. Not that I have been checking out people's butts at practice or anything. I think I'll just stop typing now before I get into trouble.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How NOT to do a Judo Camp

Today, I was talking to Bill Caldwell, from San Shi Dojo in Vista, CA about the camp that California Judo, Inc. sponsors every year between Christmas and New Year's Day. We got on the subject of what we hate in clinics and camps and it turned out to be the same thing - those sessions you attend where the person shows 1,487 different moves and you get to practice fifteen of them two times each. At the end of the day, there isn't a single thing you can do, but you leave thinking,

"Wow, Sensei Joe-Bob sure knows a lot of judo."

I've been to camps and clinics where the person before me taught a bunch of extremely advanced moves and then it was my turn and I would teach a throw, a pin and an armbar. I've heard (some) people mutter afterward,

"She isn't very good is she? How did she ever manage to win the world championships?"

That always amuses me. Here is an important point that I believe about judo camps and clinics - the purpose is not to show off but to show judo.

As Bill said, what he wants in a camp is,
"Less talking, less showing, more doing."

Judo skill isn't a disease. You don't catch it by hanging out next to someone good. You get it by practicing over and over. No one wins with 396 different techniques. If you're amazing, you might have a few dozen. If you're a normal person, you have, at most, a dozen techniques you score with regularly. More likely, you can count them on one hand.

The awesome Serge Boussyou at Mayo Quanchi once gave me this really good advice  - don't just tell people what NOT to do, you need to tell them what to do, also.

My suggestion would be, when you go to a camp, if the clinician shows six techniques, pick one or two that seem like they would work for you and practice those over and over. In picking those two, consider what you already do. If you have a killer uchimata and the person shows an entry into uchimata, or a combination from uchimata or a set-up to uchimata, do that, it fits into your arsenal. If you are just beginning judo, do whatever looks cool to you. You don't have an arsenal yet. Still, pick one or two techniques and try to get those down at least well enough that you can practice back at your own club.

It's always a good idea when you go to a camp to have a teammate with you. At a camp, do randori with people from other clubs but drills with people from your club. That way, you get practice against people who don't know your techniques (from the randori) but when you get home and want to work on the new techniques, you and your teammate can put your heads together, and hopefully, remember what you learned.

It's funny, a few weeks ago, I was giving almost this exact talk about how, if you don't want to end up irrelevant what you need to do is focus not on impressing your audience but informing them. It was to a group of statisticians (and I bet all of you who clicked on that previous link are now disappointed.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Men Coaching Women



{That's Jimmy - this blog is kind of about him -- >}

When I was talking to Jim Pedro, Sr. today about Kayla Harrison having won in Abu Dhabbi (congratulations, Kayla), it occurred to me that he has coached three women to world medals (Kayla Harrison, Ronda Rousey and Barbara Fest) out of the eleven medalists this country has had. (The other eight were Mary Lewis, Darlene Anaya, Eve Aronoff, AnnMaria (Burns) De Mars, Margie Castro, Lynn Roethke, Liliko Ogasawara and Christine Pennick).



Rusty Kanokogi, who was a HUGE proponent of women's competition, and the first Olympic coach for a women's judo team, had a healthy dose of skepticism for men coaching elite women players. I understood her position, while I did not always agree with her.  In general, she did not believe that male coaches would be as supportive of female athletes or as empathetic or understanding as a female coach. If you knew Rusty, you know that she didn't mean empathetic in the "Oh my poor baby" way, but as far as understanding, for example, that women are naturally a higher percentage body fat, that women are more flexible, making some techniques easier, etc. She also thought (correctly in my opinion) that female coaches were more understanding of the sexual harassment and general disrespect that women had to tolerate just to get on the mat.

So.... I got to wondering what was it about Jimmy that made him a good coach for women. Not only has he had success lately but he used to have a terrific women's team back in the 1970s, not exactly a heyday of enlightenment for women's judo (in fact, I don't think there's EVER been a heyday of enlightenment for women's judo). It is NOT that he had women working out with the men, although he did do that. Jim was certainly not the first or only person in the country to have women training with men in his dojo. I would agree with him that is a necessary condition for women in the U.S. to be a successful competitors. There just aren't enough tough women in any single area to limit your training to other women.

What I noticed about Jim today, and Ronda has mentioned it before as well, is that he treats the women the same as he does his male players, and he does it very un-self-consciously. For example, today he was talking about the other players in Kayla's division, each one she had to fight, what each player's strengths and weaknesses were. He used to do the same thing with Ronda. For both of them, he would talk a lot about their potential, their physical strength, their work ethic.


{That's me. AnnMaria - this blog is by me -- >}

Many (not all) other male coaches have a noticeable difference in the way they talk about their male and female players. Even coaches who are coaching elite female players, when I ask them about the competition will say, 

"I don't follow women's judo. All of the women in Mary's division do s--- judo."

If you don't have respect for women's judo, you aren't going to do what Jimmy does and scout the opponents in detail. You aren't going to focus on how your player matches up against her competitors and you aren't going to study your own player's judo in detail because you are limited by your own prejudice against women's judo.

While nothing is a guarantee, it seems to me that having a sincere respect for women's judo as a sport and your player as an athlete is related to greater success internationally. 

I've noticed that in Europe, and yes, in Japan, too, there is more respect, both among male athletes and male coaches, for women who win international competitions and I suspect the greater success of their women's teams is no coincidence.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Things I Know about Judo (for those of you too tired to read)

Well, yesterday I posted some things I knew about judo but, when I gave it some deep thought, I discovered there were even more things I knew about judo. Amazing, huh?

Some of you have commented that you would like to read my blog but you are too tired after working all day and going to judo practice in the evening.

Just for you, I have prepared today's podcast so you can learn about judo and still rest your precious little eyes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Things I Know about Judo


If you did not attend the clinic at San Fernando Dojo this week you missed the opportunity to learn about judo (see cool but unrelated video of San Fernando sensei Richie Endow doing hane goshi here). Clinicians included yours truly, Dr. Jacob Flores, Ronda Rousey, Kyle Taketa from Gardena Dojo, Dave Honda and Vanessa Cualquim from South Bay Judo and Naynay (Amelia) Fulgentes from Mojica Judo. The last four, including the young lady from Mojica whose name I am sure I completely butchered in spelling (sorry) just came back from the Junior World Championships. They, along with Ronda, provided the youthful good looks and athleticism quota of the room, while I held up my end by providing the quota of snarky comments.

As a public service, I am including here some of the profound points I made.

Judo has enough rules, you don’t need to make up your own. When someone says about a person who is not doing anything illegal, “That's Not Judo. I'm Fine With Losing If That's What You Have To Do To Win”, then yes, he/she is going to lose more often than someone willing to do any legal technique. If you refuse to do matwork because you would rather win by a spectacular throw than 'grubbing around down there on the mat' then be prepared to lose occasionally on the mat. If you don't practice grip-fighting because, "I prefer to be able to throw you from whatever grip you get," then you are just being arrogant. If you refuse to practice transition from standing to matwork because, as one coach told me, "It's just bad sportsmanship to jump on a guy when he is down", then you are going to lose to people who are better at transition than you. I want to emphasize that I am NOT talking about cheating. I have never, ever been one of those people to say if the referee doesn't see you do it, it's not illegal. Deliberately breaking a rule is cheating. Fighting tactically - for example, doing low risk attacks when you are ahead by a waza ari and there is a minute left, stalling when you are ahead by a waza ari and there are ten seconds left, those are tactics. Following your opponent to the mat to an armbar is just good judo. Making up these "My judo is better than you" rules about gripping, combinations, transition or whatever makes no more sense than deciding you won't do o soto gari because only forward throws like uchimata are "real judo".


If you can’t beat someone at her own game then you play a different game. If your opponent is stronger than you on the mat, try to play standing up as much as possible. If he or she is stronger than you standing, go to the mat. If your opponent is better than you at grip-fighting, try to get the first grip and attack immediately before she can control your grip or take off your grip.

You play people, not principles. While going to the mat is generally a bad idea with 20 seconds left on the clock when you are behind, since it is usually more likely to get a yuko or higher score while standing, if you are much better than your opponent in matwork, it's wise to go to the mat. Similarly, it is usually a good strategy to go to the mat when you are ahead and eat up the clock - unless your opponent is  much better than you in matwork. The same is true of techniques. If your best throw is seoi nage but your opponent's only really good move is a tani otoshi counter to seoi nage, then, duh, do o soto gari or something else.

I'm surprised I would have to explain this, but, then it occurred to me that people don't emerge from the womb knowing judo and they have to learn these basic ideas at some point. For relatively new judo players, those who just haven't been paying attention and some of you who are a little too in love with your own ideas sometimes, the above explanations were necessary. You're welcome.

Since I know that you are just crushed at the missed opportunity to hear me talk, in my continual effort to meet all of your needs and desires, check back tomorrow for an actual pod cast of me talking about matwork drills and some other random stuff.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coaching Questions and Answers: Part 2


 This is the second guest post on this topic by Jim Pedro, Sr.

How do you handle people/students with short attention span?
 
It depends on their age. Usually it is the little kids who have difficulty paying attention. Call their name and they pay attention for the next ten seconds. Then they are back to playing with their belt. When they are little, they don't have much attention span. They grow out of it eventually. I yell their names to startle them but I never yell at them for real to scare them or get angry. They're just being kids. If you expect little kids to act like adults you're going to be frustrated your whole life as a coach. So, I would say, yell, “Johnny!” when he is not paying attention and Johnny will pay attention for 15 seconds. Show something in that 15 seconds, and don’t worry too much. He’ll get a longer attention span eventually. They almost always do.


What is the ideal age to let your student compete in tournaments?
The ideal age is when they want to compete. We let them start at five and six years old if they want the experience of competing. At 5 or 6, if they don't want to compete, we don't push them. A lot of kids don't want to compete because they are scared of letting their parents down, that  their parents won't have the same opinion of them.

We have a separate competition class and the kids who are in that class are required to compete. However, they can stay in the regular class as long as they want, forever, if they want to, and they are not required to compete.

 All of our kids compete in the in-club contests. We don't force them to compete outside of the club. Competition is good for children. Life is competition. You compete for jobs, for grades. If you aren't used to handling setbacks it is harder for you to learn when you are older. When they get older they are going to have to compete and they will have had the experience of losing and not achieving what they wanted to get and trying harder.

What do you do when kids start your judo class and they are really out of shape? Do you ever tell people they need to get in better shape before they can do judo.
If they are out of shape and they start judo, they will get in better shape than when they walk through the door. It depends on how you structure your classes. Our classes start with 20 minutes of calisthenics. You just encourage them to do as much as they can do and don't make a big deal out of it. Tell them if they can't do 10 push-ups correctly to do one, the next week they do two and eventually they do three. Focus on the improvement rather than what they cannot do. If they come to practice regularly, they will improve.

If you see a coach yelling and mistreating their student at a tournament, what should you do?
It would depend on the situation. Normally, I would not get involved because in most cases I wouldn't know the whole story. For example, once when my kids were little they were playing with a ball at a judo tournament after I specifically told them not to do it. The ball went out in the street and Jimmy ran after it. I pulled him back and swatted him on the butt. He was just a little kid and I  wanted him to remember not to run out in the street. I don't think having a talk with him about traffic safety would have done it at that age. If someone had walked by and seen me, they might have wrongly assumed that I spanked him for not doing what I wanted in the tournament, which had nothing to do with it. I just wanted to keep him safe. As far as seeing a coach actually beating or physically abusing a child at a tournament, that’s entirely different but I don’t think that really occurs that often. In most cases, I would rely on the parents to handle it. It’s their child and they know a lot more about what is going on than I would as the coach from another club

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coaching Questions and Answers: Part 1

Guest Post from Jim Pedro, Sr.


1. What is the BEST Trait you can have to be a Great Coach?
I would have to say, ‘caring’. You have to care about your players. If you really care, you will always be trying to learn better ways to help them, all of them.

As a Coach/Instructor at YMCA what do I do when the YMCA is against competition and most of the Coaching Program is about competition?
I cannot imagine there is a coach out there who does not want his or her players to get better. Whether you call yourself coach, sensei or instructor, it doesn't matter. We all have this element in common; we all want our players to improve. How can you tell if your student really knows how to do o soto gari or ippon seio nage or the mat move you just taught this week? Do you have them do shadow uchi komi with no partner? Do you have them fit half-way into the throw and then have the other person jump for them?  I don't think so. Even when I did kata, I didn't expect the other person to jump for me. Having your students able to do the technique against a resisting partner demonstrates that  they have really learned.

This doesn’t mean they need to enter the senior nationals. You can have them compete within their own club. Then critique their fighting on what they are doing wrong. This way you can couch it as a learning experience and if you are questioned by the YMCA you can honestly point out that  this is one of the ways your students learn.

The point of competition is NOT to beat your opponent into the ground. In fact, when we had a camp after the junior nationals, I had a long talk with some of the young players about that. Within your own club or in inter-club workouts or camps, you are supposed to be learning. That's what it's all about.

I am in a community program where they have a lot of rules about what we can and cannot do to discipline students. How should I handle a kid that acts up when my hands are pretty much tied by the center?
You can make him sit out and learn while watching. Tell the student, “Sit over there and when you think you can behave in class, let me know.” Punishing kids by making them sit out of judo is sort of a quiet psychological way of convincing the kid this is a good thing because he is being punished by not being allowed to do it. At the same time, it removes the disruptive influence from your class by having him sit out.

There are a few kids in my class who would be great judo players but their parents are unwilling to support them. Either the parents don’t want to bring them to extra practices, they think I am working them too hard or the student is in eleven different activities and cannot make the commitment to judo.
Those are three different cases. In every case, talk to the parents.  For those parents who think you are working too hard, explain to them that you will take care of the child. Invite them to do judo if they want to put a gi on and get an idea of the activity that their child is involved in. Having the whole family in judo is also a good way to promote retention for your club.

For the parents who have their child in everything, advise them to pick a couple of activities and enable their child to be excellent in a couple of sports rather than average in a whole bunch of activities. Tell them, “Your child doesn't have to pick judo but let her pick a couple of things she wants to do.”

Often the parents don't have the time to make the commitment to judo. This sport places demands on parents that other sports don’t. With other sports, they can drop the child off or they are picked up or just attend after school. In judo, the parents need to be more involved and that is hard after they worked all day. Reinforce them about all the good they are doing for their child. Remind the students to thank their parents for taking them to judo, for the effort they are putting out for their child. 

(Yes, I have been slacking lately and not writing a lot of posts. Then, I followed that up by having other people like Richard (Blinky) Elizalde and Jim Pedro, Sr. write posts for me, what's up with that?  Well, the fact is that Jim and I are writing a book and I am putting together the first draft of it and trying to get as much as I can ready by the time he leaves for Japan so he can spend the tedious twenty-hour or so flights editing it. Between the two of us, we have written several hundred pages about judo over the last few years, and we retained the copyright on every word of it. We got to thinking it might be a good idea to put it together into a book on developing martial artists. Turns out to be a hell of a lot more work than it sounds. That, on top of actual work running my company, writing papers on statistics for conferences and trying to keep this damn cat, Beijing, off my keyboard, has taken up most of my time. Hayward Nishioka suggested "crowd-sourcing" the book. You'd think by the time a guy is near 70 years old he wouldn't be so up on all the latest terms, but Hayward can surprise you every day. Anyway, he said I should put up on my blog sections of the book and see what people recommended, what they liked what they didn't like.  So, any comments, suggestions, things you like/ dislike about this post? I'll put up Part 2 tomorrow. You don't get a share of royalties - which I doubt will be much - but we will acknowledge in the book any suggestions, so if you are willing to be recognized by name, please give your name. Or,  you are welcome to post anonymously. We are interested in criticism as well, because we would like this to be a good book. We're old - especially Jim - so we may not write another. Actually, I probably will but my next book will be on data analysis.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Do Tai Otoshi

Guest Post by Sensei Richard Elizalde

First, get a standard right hand grip. With your left hand, grip her right sleeve at the elbow, grip her left lapel with your right hand. Now with that right hand pull up and out (look closely and you can see this in the picture).  Notice that my right foot is between her feet. It makes a triangle with her two feet and my foot as the tip of the triangle.

Second, I pull her forward to her right as I step in, putting all the weight on her right leg. I pivot on my right foot and spin my left leg behind me. Both knees are bent. I pull her up as I go down.



Third,  shoot your right leg so it is touching hers between the ankle and the knee. Note the placement of the left foot. Most people have that foot too far back, trying to get almost between the opponent's legs, and, as a result, they themselves are off balance. My left foot is actually on the outside of the opponent's left foot and slightly in front of her. Notice that both of my elbows are up. My left knee is bent, almost touching the floor and my toes are behind her foot. A mistake many people make is they drop the elbow as they turn around and they are pulling down instead of up and out.

To finish the throw,TURN your body, pull around in a circle with your left hand so it ends up on the outside of the left leg. Push up with your right hand (your right elbow should be underneath the arm pit). It's a strong tsuri komi goshi grip, if you are familiar with that throw.

A common mistake is to forget to turn the head. Especially beginners seem to just keep looking at the opponent. If you must look at the opponent turn your head around so you can look at their feet flying up in the air.

(The aspersions that were cast at the West Coast Judo Training Center that I have a foot fetish because I prefer to look at people's feet as they fall rather than stare in their faces is completely false. It is just good technique to turn your head and if I happen to see their feet that is coincidence.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Can Always Run Slower

Today, I ran a mile for the first time in over five years. I still remember the last time. I used to run eight miles every other day, from pier to pier. Since I was telecommuting back then, I spent all day sitting in front of a computer. Every other day, I would run down to the beach, run from the Santa Monica Pier to the next pier south which is through Venice and by Marina del Rey. Then, I'd run back and run the seven blocks uphill to get home from Santa Monica Beach. The last time I did it, I was running uphill to go home and my knee gave out. This had happened so many times over the years, I just tried to put it back in and keep running but I could only go about two steps. So, that was it. I ended up getting my knee replaced, which, in short, means they cut a nine-inch incision down my leg and did generally painful, awful things. No one I knew that had their knee replaced said they were back to running, they just said it didn't hurt any more. That's why I didn't bother getting my knee replaced for several years. I'm up to biking six miles a day or more but it's not the same thing.

SO... yesterday, I was at Disneyland, chasing after my granddaughter, Eva, the human pinball, running up steps to Tarzan's treehouse and down the street at Toontown and I thought, hey, I can run again.

Walking around for hours is the kind of thing that used to kill my knee but I woke up this morning and I felt fine. So, I thought I would try running to the ocean and back. I was a little nervous about it since having your knee replaced is  one of those things that lets you understand how people survive torture. If you think I'm kidding, you never had it done. I was thinking, what if I can't run that far?

Then, I remembered Coach Frances Bailey. She was my college track coach. Coach Bailey is one of those coaches who is very calm, matter-of-fact and generally positive. She was the opposite of a lot of those screaming, yelling, negative coaches you see too often in judo. Of course, if she did call someone an idiot or a loser that made it ten times worse because you knew that she had considered it and she truly meant it. One track meet, we were all watching a race and one of the runners from another team slowed down and finally started walking.

Coach Bailey said with disgust,

"Girls, if I ever see you do that, well, I don't know what I'll do but I'll come up with something and you better believe you won't like it. You never, never stop running in a race. If you get tired and you can't push yourself at the pace you were going, you can always run slower. There's no excuse for stopping, ever. "

Out of all the classes I have taken through college and graduate school, there are three pieces of advice that stuck with me the most and that was one of them.

"You can always run slower."

She told us that same thing many times in practice after that, as individuals, to one person or another when we were tired and wanted to quit before practice was over, before we had done the evil number of sprints she wanted or run far more miles than the average student with 1500 SAT scores ever dreamed about. (Washington University in St. Louis is known for its medical school and not its track team for a reason - a fact pointed out to the unsympathetic coach by more than one of my teammates.)

I remembered Coach Bailey about 50 times today as I ran a mile and a half down to the ocean and back.

... without stopping.


===========================================================

Off to Las Vegas right now. If you aren't coming to watch Ronda fight, you can watch it live here for $10

http://www.gofightlive.tv/Events/Fight/MMA/TuffNUff_Future_Champions_of_MMA_1112_show/888

It starts at 7 pm Pacific Time and no, I don't know where she is in the line up.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Essence of Budo: A book that didn't suck

People send me books all of the time for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the author is a friend and is just keeping in touch, kind of a "Here's what I've been up to lately."

What I've been up to lately is writing five papers. One was on moving from Windows to high-performance computing, a second is on data visualization, and the other three are part of a series on design choices in programming. Actually, I did send those to some friends to read them. Obviously, none of you people reading this were those friends!

Sometimes people think I will be interested in reading the book. I now have several copies of The Art of War - in paperback, hardback and on my Kindle. Sometimes they are hoping to "improve me". These books range from religious tracts to books on the 'true meaning' of martial arts.  Hey y'all - I have a religion and a Bible. If fifty-two years of the Catholic church hasn't improved me, your book doesn't have a chance!

Sometimes the publishers are hoping I will write about the book. Most of these books suck so I never mention them. Not very friendly if someone sends you something for free and you trash it. That's like going to someone's house for a nice dinner of sushi and complaining that they fed you bait. Some people (including me) like sushi. If it's not for you, just politely shut the hell up.

I did receive an interesting book a while back called The Essence of Budo by Dave Lowry(who, coincidentally, has also written an, unrelated, I think, book about sushi). It's neither a book on how to be a die-hard competitor nor is it one of those new age-y books on finding your bliss through martial arts. If I ever decide to find my bliss, I'll look under the bed, where I find most things I'm missing.

The book was - interesting, really is the best word. For example, he talks about being a young teenager and matched up, for once, with a player who was smaller and limping. Do you take it easy? Do you slam him and show off (always the temptation for teenage boys)?

He has an interesting take on kohaku tournaments. As he sees it, the emphasis on the process - who won most instead of who won at the end - is a benefit of these tournaments. True. I think his comments overall though are more relevant to the way these tournaments used to be than to now when, with fewer players, there are a whole lot of mismatches with players fighting someone much older, bigger and more experienced, probably why this type of tournament is out of fashion.

The best part of the book is the last few chapters. The chapter on choosing a sensei is the best.
"I do not want a daddy. I have had one. I do not need someone to love me ...I do not want a sensei who is a budo teacher only because he isn't qualified - in terms of his formal education, his skills or his ambition - to be anything else."

This isn't the book I would pick to learn about judo - Steve Scott, Hayward Nishioka, Hal Sharp and Ron Angus are my favorite authors for coaching and technical information. ( Speaking of which, Hayward has a new judo book coming out soon. It would be a good Christmas present for anyone you know in judo who is hard to buy stuff for.)

If, like me, you are always looking for something new to read, and you are interested in martial arts in general, this book is an interesting way to pass an evening, and more intellectually stimulating than watching The Simpsons. (Yes, Dennis, I added that last clause just for you. Imagine me frowning disapprovingly. There! )

DISCLAIMER: I have nothing to disclaim. As much shit as I talk about everyone here you'd have to be out of your mind to pay me to write about you. Being mentioned by me probably brings your sales down. (Sorry about that, Hayward.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All the people who matter

I was reading Steve Scott's blog today and he mentioned Ken Regennitter. He's a person I don't remember and I misspent a good deal of my youth not far from Kansas City. I gather he is one of the people who taught Steve growing up and now Steve has taught judo, jiu-jitsu, sambo and wrestling for over 40 years. He's had over a dozen of his players go out and start their own judo clubs.

It reminded me of my own first judo instructor, Bill Shelton, who I haven't seen in over thirty years, since he graduated from college, married and moved away to teach physical education in Iowa, I think.

As I read Steve's post, of course he mentioned a lot of other people who crossed his path, like Maurice Allan and John Saylor, who were international competitors and coaches. I remember asking both Jim Pedro, Sr. who grew up in Boston and Olympic silver medalist Lynn Roethke, from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the names of the people who had started them in judo, and, years apart, both of them gave me the same answer word for word,

"You wouldn't know him."

It amused me one day to hear someone bragging about his position in a judo organization, proudly announcing,

"People know me, even if they know I'm an asshole. Do you know how many people know my name now? I matter!"


Two things struck me, this morning, as I was browsing the Internet and reading judo books when I really should be finishing up on my last conference paper ...

  1. We never would have been in the position to meet those people you've heard about if not for the people whose names you wouldn't recognize. This is as true for millions of people as it is for me, Steve, Lynn and Jim, and just as true of Chemistry, mathematics, poetry and computer science as it is of judo. [That isn't always the case, though. I was asking Sensei Richard (Blinky) Elizalde this morning who was his first judo teacher and he answered, 'Hayward Nishioka, when I was a little kid, back in 1962.]
  2. I suspect my first judo coach quit teaching judo, had a few kids and never thought about me again. He was also Tim Schultheis's first coach, now from Gurnee Judo who you can hear coaching his son in this video. The people who set our lives on a different, and better, path, often, without even knowing it - these are the people who matter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coaching Your Own Kid: The Questions to Ask Again and Again

I've always questioned the assumption that all parents of children who are active in sports are some kind of deranged "Little League parent" living vicariously through their children. Of course, there are some of those, but there are a great many more I've seen who are trying to figure out the best for their child, day after day.

What makes it even harder is that the answers to the questions change, so you have to ask yourself some of the same questions over and over again.


Let me give just one example:

Do I really have what it takes to coach my child? When your child is a beginner, if you know the basics of your sport, have patience, can get to practice once or twice a week and enjoy working with children, the answer is probably yes.

Now your child is a 14-year-old who wants to win the junior nationals. Can you make it to practice four or five times a week? Can you get to the tournaments several weekends a year? Can you help your child analyze her strengths and weaknesses beyond the basics? Is your own knowledge of the sport at an advanced level? Can you teach your child to win with grace and lose with dignity? No one is perfect but if you are pretty good on all of those dimensions, you'll probably be fine.


Now your child has a shot at the Olympics. All of the sacrifices your child has made, the hard work - and your sacrifices and work, too, have paid off. Can you make it to practice every day? Do you have other coaches, including strength coaches, technical experts, to help in areas where you aren't the best coach? How are you at video analysis? Setting up a training schedule that accounts for the season, pre-season and post-season? Can you take the time away from your other children, your job? Are you one of the best coaches in the country in your sport?

and those are just the questions you need to ask over and over of yourself, about one decision. We haven't even mentioned the questions you need to ask about your child yet.

This parenting stuff is hard.

I remember one day driving to practice and Ronda was at that age where she was always arguing with me about training, judo, partners and the universe. I finally turned to her and yelled,

"I'm doing the best I can! There's not a book for this, you know!"

Maybe there should be.