Yesterday I had the great opportunity to attend a clinic with Ron Angus hosted by Mojica Judo Club. Ron was an international competitor, still competes in the World Masters, is an outstanding coach (I _almost_ forgive him that one of his players once beat Ronda. Almost.) and author of the book Competitive Judo .
Back in the 1980s when we were all training at Los Angeles Tenri Dojo, we had nicknames for lots of our team members. Richard Elizalde was called "Blinky" because, well, because he blinked a lot, especially when he was mad. (Hint: You DON'T want to make him mad.) Miguel Tudela, a member of the 1980 Olympic team, was the original Little Pumpkin. Ronda is called the Little Pumpkin after him.
And Tony Mojica and Ron Angus were called Mr. Perfect and Mr. Nice Guy. I have never heard either of them swear. I have never seen either of them drunk. I haven't even seen Tony drink, period. They don't do drugs. They don't cheat on their wives. After practice, when the rest of us sat around exhausted, drank beer (I drank Diet Pepsi because I had to kill to make weight) and talked about judo, Tony left. One night, someone was too curious to see where he went and followed him. Where was he after practice when everyone was drinking beer? He went to the track and ran sprints! He was indeed Mr. Perfect. He had an admirable competitive record, too, placing in the national championships several times, competing in the Olympic trials and the Olympic Festival. But when people remember Tony they usually think first of his work ethic, his character and the fact that even back then he was teaching kids. I don't remember exactly where Tony was teaching but I do remember that it was in a part of East Los Angeles where, when I got there early once to work out with a world teammate from a small town back east, she refused to get out of the car. She said to me,
"Do you realize I am the whitest person within ten miles?"
So, I left her in the car and went shopping for a dress for Maria.
Ron was also a terrific judo player and coach. If you haven't read his book, Competitive Judo, you should. He really does embody the stereotype of Canadians as being nice. I once was irritated with someone on judo (yes, hard to imagine, I know) and said,
"He better not say one more thing negative about my child. If he so much as looks like he is going to open his mouth about Ronda I am going to hit him with a brick!"
Ron looked at me in surprise and said,
"Gee, you Americans are so violent ! Hit him with a brick? Couldn't you just say 'I'll have a stern word with him or give him a harsh look?' "
How are Tony and Ron fixing judo? Because they are making people want to do it again. It is almost a hobby in America to talk about "What is wrong with judo."
One of the arguments I hear is that Americans are too soft and lazy. Judo is a tough sport. Do you know why I am not at the Mojica Judo Tournament today? (I am sure you don't know and don't care either but I am going to rise above that and tell you anyway.)
I live in Santa Monica. The end of the Los Angeles Marathon which is going on as I type is a few blocks from my house. Traffic is INSANE so I stayed home. Here is a little about the Los Angeles marathon:
A total of 1,000,000 spectators usually line the course and celebrate the 26,000 runners at the finish area.
So, there are more people competing in this one race today than do judo in probably the entire country. I don't think it is because they are all a bunch of wimps. Football, wrestling, MMA and boxing are all pretty tough and we have a lot of people competing in those things. Yes, in most of those you can make a bucket of money if you are good (also get brain damage), but there are not that many people in wrestling who make any kind of money at it, and only a relative few in the marathon.
Let's just accept our lack of growth in judo is NOT due to being a nation of wimps.
Maybe the enemy is us. Maybe we need MORE Tonys and MORE Rons and less of some other types. The great thing Tony and Ron do is they make you feel happy to be at judo. Here are a couple of drills Ron did yesterday -
Pick-up drill - This teaches gripping, movement and builds strength. Players start standing face to face like in a match. If you can duck under the person's arm and pick him/her up from the front you get 2 points. If you can get behind the person's back and pick him/her up you get 3 points. First person to 5 points wins.
Matwork/ stalling drill - How often do you start matwork only to get stood up before you get a score? In this drill you have a group of 5 players. One is on the bottom on all fours, one is on his/her back and the third is the referee. At hajime! the goal is for the player on top to get a score before the referee decides nothing is happening and says matte! After either matte or a score, the person on top gets on the bottom, the referee gets on top and a new player rotates in as referee.
Ron also taught a lot of matwork techniques. We had to leave before the standing technique part of the clinic. We had been there three hours already and Ronda had already had two judo practices that day before that and Julia had played in soccer game, so they were pretty wiped out. It was totally great, though.
I would guarantee that many people left the clinic with the same attitude my daughters and I did,
"That was great. I am glad I went."
A sad fact is that while what goes on in most of clubs is like that, often what goes on in our organizations is not. I have heard SO much criticism of SO many people in judo. Greats like Gene Lebell comment that they don't want to get involved in the "judo politics".
How you can fix judo
Here is how you can help fix judo - try to be nicer. Yes, I mean it.
Don't be part of the problem - When you hear another judo coach criticized for not coming to this or that tournament, don't join in. Don't even argue, just don't add to it. When you catch yourself being mad at Sensei Joe for not bringing his students to your tournament or coming to your meeting remind yourself that Joe has been contributing to judo for 25 years and is entitled to a life of his own. Whether he was taking his wife out for their anniversary or just sitting on the couch watching football, he has a right to do that. I didn't hear one word in Los Angeles about the marathon runners who did not come to the event, the race organizers who weren't here and how they aren't committed blah blah blah. Maybe we could learn from the marathon people.
Focus on the positive - this will make you happier and everyone else around you. Tell people about the good done by other judo coaches and other clubs. For example, Marshall Coffman just moved to a new location and is really encouraging his players to visit other clubs as part of Visit Another Dojo Month. Joan Love, our USJA Club Support Services chair came up with this idea of Visit Another Dojo and it has been great fun for everybody. Ken Otto is tireless in doing activities in Minnesota.
Do good and have fun - Having Ron down was GREAT! It was not a sanctioned international event even though it was an outstanding coach from another country. It was Tony inviting down an old friend and opening up his dojo and sharing with everyone to grow judo.
Now you know how it is done. If you want to show your appreciation for me explaining how to fix judo by joining or donating to the USJA, the information is below. You're welcome
Join here http://www.usja-judo.org/MembershipInfo.htm
Donate here http://www.usja-judo.org/donations/connellyfrm.htm (Does monthly donation)
Or call 877- 411- 3409 (toll free)
And p.s. Success really is the best revenge.