Friday, February 26, 2010

The Kids are All Right

First of all, a brief aside that parents everywhere will understand - to anyone who has ever said anything negative about any of my children.
"Shut the $#@^ up."

Many people know I have an older daughter named Maria. She was born during the years I was competing, learned to walk while I was at the Panamerican Games and has grown up to be a sports writer, first for Sports Illustrator, then the Fort Wayne, IN daily newspaper and now at ESPN. Bless her sweet heart she has even gotten some coverage of judo players in ESPN . More than once. Plus, she is the mother of my one and only grandchild, Eva Maria Ortiz who is just amazingly beautiful and smart and funny. You are all requested to please refrain from noticing that she looks like a Russian orphan in the photo above, which was actually taken at Lula's Cocina, two blocks from Santa Monica Beach and not in a Russian orphanage as it might appear.

Then there is daughter number two, often referred to as "The Invisible Jennifer" because so many people say,
"I didn't know you had another daughter."
In fact, Jennifer and Ronda were born 13 months apart, approximately 22 months after their father and I were told that the odds of the two of us having children were extremely slim. After much soul-searching, we decided that we wanted to get married anyway and take our chances. Which resulted in two children before our second anniversary.

While Ronda was trotting the globe and racking up wins, Jennifer attended college, graduating from San Francisco State University at age 21 with a degree in history, teaching at various private schools for a while. When I took a job at USC that offered free graduate school tuition, with that little condition of getting accepted, she applied, took her graduate admissions test with about a three-day notice and started in the joint credential and masters program.

Which brings us to today when Jenn is doing her student teaching (now politically correctly called guided practice for some unknown reason) at Samuel Gompers Middle School located in Watts, an area of Los Angeles noted for a number of things, none of which include affluence, low crime rate or high academic achievement. In fact, of 1,502 students in the school, 0 are white, 1,371 are considered socio-economically disadvantaged and more than half speak English as a (sometimes far) second language.

Recently, I was at a conference where a speaker said,
"I can explain the difference between teachers at different levels. Elementary teachers love their students. Secondary teachers love their subject. And university professors love themselves."

When I told her that, Jennifer said,
"Well, that fits me perfectly because I teach middle school and I love my students AND my subject."

Her subject currently is medieval history of Asia, which included the samurai and so it seemed a good idea to rope her younger sister into coming to the class as a guest lecturer. In the best show and tell ever, Ronda lifted the teacher over her head demonstrating a judo technique (kata guruma ).

The students were so excited about the whole judo idea that it was suggested perhaps they could have a judo class there once a week. I talked to a few people about it, including one of our coaches who actually WORKS as a police officer in the area, but could not find anyone available.

When Jenn mentioned it to Ronda she said,

"Sure, I could teach there after school once a week."

Okay, hold on a minute. So we have someone who is a two-time Olympian, Olympic medalist, world medalist, offering to teach for free, in Watts ?

When Ronda stopped by tonight I asked her,

"So, did you really tell your sister you would teach at her school once a week?"

and she answered,

"Sure. Those kids were awesome. I really liked them. Besides, the chances of finding someone who could be really good out of those kids is probably more than in Santa Monica. I bet those kids are really tough. Who knows? Maybe we can recruit them to come to the West Coast Training Center if they are really good. We'll get them rides out there somehow. The school has mats. But how are we going to get them gis?"

SO... I suggested to Ronda maybe I could post something on my blog. If you live in L.A. and you have gis you'd be willing to donate to a middle school program in Watts, please drop them off at the West Coast Judo Training Center. We are not open this Saturday because almost everyone is at a grappling tournament. However, we are open this Sunday and every other Saturday and Sunday (as far as I know) for the next three months.

The address is

537 Vine St.
West Covina, CA

My kids have had their less-than-Hallmark moments. But not lately.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Visit Another Dojo Month - Defeat the Groundhogs !

You know that movie, Ground Hog Day, where the reporter finds himself reliving the same day over and over again? Well, too many judo practices are like that. You can go away to college, have six kids, start a dental practice, come back and your old club is still having the exact same practice they did when you were 15 years old. Everyone do these warm-up exercises. Now moving uchikomi , or uchi komi in a line. Now we each throw each other 15 times. Now 15 minutes of newaza. Next, randori. Then, stretching exercises and we all bow out and go home. Sensei Moshi-moshi teaches the same seoi nage that he taught in 1974. Occasionally, his friend, Sensei Joe drops by and shows the o soto gari he won the 1968 national championships with and tells the same story. And we wonder why people don't come to practice more regularly.

There are a lot of ways to defeat the Ground Hog Day syndrome. One is to have a PLAN for the month, quarter or season. This can be a written plan you keep in a notebook or on a computer. Unless you have a much better memory than me, it's best for it not to be just kept in your head.

Another way is to keep a written record of what you did at each practice. Kind of a plan after the fact.

In either case, you should be reviewing this record regularly and seeing if you have omitted anything. Are you focusing on gripping in every practice but haven't discussed counters once? How often do you do newaza drills? How often do you practice transition? How many practices in the last month did you work on newaza combinations?

Tournaments, of course, are one good way to break the monotony. Those, too, can turn into Ground Hog Day if you just end up fighting the same three people every weekend. That's one reason that we take our group up to Fresno every now and then. Why would we drive 200 miles when there are judo players in Los Angeles who are (it could be argued) equally good? Because they are DIFFERENT people. The person you fight at every tournament in LA may do uchi mata and o uchi and the person you fight in Fresno does o soto and ko soto. You have to learn to defend against different styles. In the past few months we have been to a clinic in San Diego, a tournament in San Jose, a tournament and clinic in Las Vegas.

A few years ago, the USJA came up with the idea of Visit Another Dojo Month. I think it was Joan Love's idea and Connie Halporn created the really cool poster. This is yet another way to keep practice at your club from being Ground Hog Day. Pick a day and take your whole dojo to visit another club. Invite them to come visit you. Certainly on the day you visit the practice will be run differently from your own club, and you can steal some ideas. Even if you run practice the same as always, having new people at your club will change the environment a little.

March is coming up next week. So , visit another dojo and defeat the ground hogs !

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Some People Can't (and Shouldn't) Chill the $%^* Out

Please read this if you referee, run or otherwise volunteer at tournaments

I used to be one of those people who would watch someone lose it at a tournament and think:

"What is wrong with these people? Why can't they just chill the $%&( out? Don't they realize we are all volunteering here, doing our best and their kid lost so they should just get over it?"

I was enormously proud of our West Coast Training Center team today. We had five players under age 12. There were two in the same division so the best they could possibly do was four gold medals and one silver. They got four gold medals and one silver.

We had seven players 13 and over, though we hedged our bets a bit because one 12-year-old fought in the brown and black belt division and Ronda fought in two divisions. In the older divisions, we came out with two gold medals and five silver.

So, it was a good day, overall.

The San Jose Buddhist Sensei Memorial was, as usual, an extremely well-run tournament where almost everyone got a lot of matches and very good competition. There were, in my opinion FAR too many penalties given. I can't say there was any particular bias that I could detect. Our players "benefited" as often as they were penalized, and I saw plenty of people I didn't know receive penalties.

Part of the problem was the new rules, which I would say were zealously over-enforced. None of our players got a penalty for this as we had expected it. I had everyone check their gi with that contraption Ronda refers to as "the referee stick" before the tournament. Several people had to change gis before they fought. No one grabbed a leg, thanks in part to the extensive clinic at the All-Women's Tournament and the other extensive clinic at the Nanka Senior practice. All of our players had attended at least one of those and had the new rules drilled in their heads.

I did see one player receive hansokumake for a drop seoi nage. I know, I know, this is a legal move but northern California has its own rules and in their tournaments drop seoi is illegal for players under 13. My personal adaptation to this has always been not to bring any players under 13 who do drop seoi nage. It's hard enough to get them not to do stuff I tell them not to do every single week. This young player went off the mat crying. In this case, the referees handled it MUCH better than I have usually seen. Usually, they give the player some kind of lecture about behavior.

In this case, the head referee at that table said simply,
"Let it go. Come back and fight another day."

In two other matches, we had two of our players disqualified for armbars in the men's brown belt division. Apparently, this is another rule unique to northern California, brown belts are not allowed to do armbars. For the record, I want to say this is one of the stupidest rules I have ever heard. When I asked someone at the tournament about it I was told "It was on the application form, you should have read it."

In fact, when I registered my two children, on-site, all that was on the table were registration forms. It never occurred to me that armbars for brown belts would be illegal any more than it occurred to me that o soto gari would get hansoku make that day (as far as I know, it didn't, but none of my players happened to throw with o soto on Sunday, so maybe it did).

My advice is if you have brown belts who do armbars, do what I would do with kids who do drop seoi nage - leave them at home.

My advice for anyone running a tournament is if you have random rules that are NOT standard you should announce them at the beginning of the tournament. Here is WHY people don't think it is okay to randomly penalize players ...

Many, many years ago, I had a teammate who told me about her first world championships, she said,

"It was the worst day of my life. I lost in the finals and I am crying and just when I think I can't feel any worse my mom comes up and tells me not to cry that it is not that big of a deal and I yell at her that it is a big deal it is my whole $#@&ing life! And then I feel even worse because not only have I lost but I have yelled and sworn at my mother. And I can tell you guys because you'll understand how I feel."

And I DID understand. While everyone else would have thought she was a complete ungrateful spoiled athlete who did not appreciate that she had just won a silver medal in the world championships I could imagine exactly how it would feel to have thrown so much of your life into training that you made it to the finals of the world championships and then lose. Maybe a year or three years later you might realize it was not the end of the world, but at that moment, it seems like it.

Some of those people you see with big teams screaming at tournaments are just complete jerks. Much more often, though, they are people who have sacrificed an enormous amount of time, money and other resources, as a coach, a player or a parent, to get to that point. Every kid who comes to the training center works out seven and a half hours a week EXTRA on top of the regular practices at their club. Of course they aren't the only ones in the country like that.

When you have someone who works out twenty hours a week, who gives up school proms, sleepovers and a hundred other things for judo and then they go to a tournament and feel as if they are treated unfairly, they are going to be upset. They are NOT going to accept an answer like,

"Those are just our rules, you should have read the tournament announcement in case there were rules specifically for this tournament or region."


"Everyone gets bad calls sometimes. That's just the way it is."

(Of course, that is true, but when you are the person getting the bad call, that still doesn't make it okay.)

We try to teach people that if you work hard, it pays off. That is a very important lesson from judo, and when that does NOT happen, when you have someone who works hard and it does NOT pay off, either because of some arbitrary rule change applied world wide beginning last month, or some arbitrary rule applied at the tournament that day, they are NOT going to be okay with it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nobody Should be Judged on a Single Day

I was reading Tom Peters' blog one day (no, he doesn't do judo, he wrote the books In search of excellence, Wow! and several other books on business) and he commented on an article in Fortune magazine where the reporter, writing about someone at Goldman Sachs, said that his decades of work could be wiped out in a single day. Peters said,

"Suppose my net worth was 100.000% wiped out this morning. I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.

But ...

But if my net worth went to zero, the value of my last several decades of work would be precisely the same, for good or for ill, as it had been before the net worth tanked."

The same is true in judo, teaching, parenting, life. I see so many people incredibly stressed out because they act as if their net worth is determined by a single day. I can't really criticize them, either, because I am guiltier of that than most people. To this day, if I make a mistake, if I do the wrong thing and hurt a friend's feelings, if I don't know the answer to a statistical question, if someone I coach loses a match, I feel like a complete failure. When I was younger, it seemed as if losing a tournament would be the end of the world and prove that I wasn't any good as a judo player, as a human being. God forbid that I do poorly on an exam, much less get less than an A in a class. I must be stupid. None of this makes any sense at all. I graduated from college at 19, earned a Ph.D. , just had another scientific article accepted for publication and am flying to Minneapolis next week to present on my latest research. The fact that I did not know the answer to that question yesterday, off the top of my head, regarding how Stata reads data in a parallel processing environment does NOT make me a moron. (Besides, it was the opposite of what you would expect.)

Maybe if you kill a bunch of people or molest small children that single day defines you as a bad person. Still, I don't believe anyone goes from Joe The Nice Guy to a child-molesting serial killer in a single day. I think they work their way up to it by a lot of days of pulling the wings off flies and looking up dolls' dresses before they finally end up in full-fledged Silence of the Lambs mode.

SO many people quit judo, or at least the competitive part of it, because they put themselves under so much stress, acting as if their entire life is going to be defined by whether they win or lose on a given day. Look at the picture of Hal Sharp above. He won the Emperor's Cup in Japan over 50 years ago. Is that what makes him a great judoka? Or is it the fact that he wrote The Sport of Judo, still in print decades later and the first book I, and many others, ever read on judo. Or is it the Kodokan Technique Program that he and John Moe are working on now? Or is it teaching at Gardena Dojo? Or is it all of the times he has volunteered to teach little kids? Or running his own judo club?

Of course, that's silly to even ask. It's all of those things. Today, I was just having a bad day, feeling like I had done a bad job as a parent, statistician, judo coach - just one of those days when the small successes were outweighed by the small failures. Ronda, on the other hand, called me on the way home from having a particularly good practice and burst into singing that song from Annie,

"Tomorrow! Tomorrow! The sun will come out tomorrow.."

The truth is, we're what we make of all of the days stacked on top of each other. With some people, like Hal, that can be a pretty tall stack.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Great Judo Day

A bunch of us from the West Coast Training Center went en masse to the Nanka senior practice at Los Angeles Tenri Dojo today. It was a really good workout, a chance to work out with new people. Since Takahashi was running the practice, he had some new warm-up drills that we don't usually do, so it was nice all the way around.

I was especially proud of our crew because they had already worked out for an hour and a half in the morning, plus there is another three-hour workout tomorrow.

Because of the superbowl, we'll be starting practice an hour early tomorrow, at 10 a.m. so everyone can get home an hour earlier. Gary and Ronda discussed cutting practice at noon. I made my usual growling noise about that which Dennis says reminds him of Marge on The Simpsons. Hmmm.

Anyway, we compromised with IF practice is intense enough tomorrow morning that they get three hours of practice in two hours we will cut out at noon. If not, we'll be there until 1. I'm not a big football fan anyway so it's all the same to me. Blinky will be running practice on Sundays for this month. We need a little more work on tachi waza and he is a really good instructor.

========= Focusing on the Good ============

I asked people to email me about what they do for judo because I think 99.9% of the work gets done by thousands of people who never get recognized. If you have been a national competitor for many years then you have MANY times benefited from the expertise of Jerry Hays. I can't tell you how often Jerry was up until 10 p.m. , midnight or even later doing pooling for major tournaments, often assisted by Laura Clark, Dorothy Kunihiro, Karen Kataoka and more recently Ruby Fasula.

I looked and looked and could not find a picture of Jerry because he is usually the one behind the camera taking pictures. Many photos you've seen in Growing Judo or on this blog were taken by Jerry. When asked what he was doing these days, he responded:

"1. Send out a daily electronic judo news and information letter to over 180 people. Most of these people are from California, but there are people in Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon (because they have asked). It contains information on upcoming judo events and newspaper articles.
2. Serve as chair of the archivist committee for USJF – When time permits, download information on judo historical information from the Internet and scan documents that are donated from various people. Make DVDs of the 96,000 page collection of these documents, which as been provided to the Kodokan Library; Bath Library, University of Bath, UK and individuals in five different countries as well as people in the United States. Research our library, when requested.
3. I also do pooling at tournaments. When asked, I constantly train people in the pooling aspect of tournaments. I assist in clinic, with the paper work. I take pictures and make them available to all concerned."

If a true leader is the ability to develop in other people the desire to carry on, Jerry is a true leader. For example, one of the people he trained, Ruby Fasula, is now doing the pooling at many of the tournaments.

Think about it, really. If you are a great coach, teacher, judo player, tournament director, referee, whatever, that's nice, but if that is all you are, when you retire or get eaten by a troop of escaped rabid warthogs so ends your contribution to judo. If you train other people who keep doing it after you, then your contribution keeps on and on and on.

Another person like this is Hayward Nishioka, who taught Steve Seck - who now teaches judo. Steve taught Gary Butts and Tony Comfort - who also now teach judo. In fact, the two Butts daughter, Amber and Crystal are both black belts and helping teach now so Hayward can point to THREE GENERATIONS of judo players after him already. That's pretty amazing, so I'll write more about him some other time.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

You Should Have Fed Your Kid

Several years ago, Ronda was a young teenager competing at the Ontario Open. A friend had videotaped her matches. On one match, the opponent came into o soto gari, she got Ronda leaning backward somewhat, then in a burst of energy, Ronda reversed the direction and slammed her opponent into the mat. I heard the other girl's coach say,

"That was just pure strength."

I recognized the voice of an exceptionally good Canadian coach responding,

"And what's wrong with that, eh?"

Seriously, if you are COMPETING in judo you by definition have accepted the idea that it is a sport. How on earth do you get the idea that winning in a SPORT through physical prowess and conditioning is somehow cheating? It wasn't as if she got an extra 200 points tacked on her SAT score, for heaven's sake. Sport performance is SUPPOSED to have a physical component. Don't get me wrong, she'll be doing a lot of judo drills this week, too. But, the more strength and conditioning you have the more different techniques you can pull off and for a longer period of time in a match and for more matches in a row.

Frankly, if in the next tournament she pins everyone in her division, and the other coach says,

"She just won because she's bigger and stronger,"

I will smile politely because now I have to be presidential and all, but what I will be thinking to myself is,

"Well, if that bothers you, you should have fed your kid more."

------------Focus on the good ----------------

How many Olympic silver medalists would fly across country to do a clinic for kids, come to a coaches conference to give a keynote speech then teach his/her sport the next day in a session for coaches? Well, at least one, 1988 Olympic silver medalist Lynn Roethke, from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Here she is shown at the banquet of the USJA/USJF National Coaches Conference in Las Vegas.

Flanking her are Bob Treat and Deb Fergus, both of Southside Dojo in Michigan. This club founded the All-Women's Tournament and supported it for the first few years simply because they wanted to see more opportunities for women. They also opened the Women's Judo Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Can't Have a Party by Yourself

(Well, maybe you can but that's kind of kinky so let's not go there.)

Yesterday I mentioned good work being done by Charlie Robinson and Joa Schwinn. I forgot to mention, although Charlie did in his note, that the coach certification was hosted at the judo club of Hans Ingebretsen. You couldn't tell it from the photo but he is the guy at Camp Bushido with the long ponytail who teaches how to use judo and jiu-jitsu to defend yourself if attacked by pirates. Two years after camp Julia still talks about him.

Also yesterday, Joa mentioned joint workouts they have. Here is an announcement below I received from Henry Kaku, one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Henry, Hans, Charlie and Joa all teach in that part of California the rest of us refer to as "way the hell out there".

It's a fairly rural area without a lot of judo clubs. They grow judo in the area by doing frequent activities together. Notice something about this announcement? Rotating instruction. One minute rounds of randori. Pizza party at the end. Not just the same old practice.


SIXTH North Bay Judo Clinic

Sanctioned by USJA



(707) 523-3200

6:30 pm. to 8:30 pm.
Session: 10 min. warm up
Three 10-12 min. rotating Instruction
One minute Randori matches

Pizza at Round Table in Coddingtown to follow
For further Information
Henry Kaku, 707-778-885 or
Joa Schwinn, 707-523-3200.

--------------Required Judo Tip

Hayward Nishioka made the profound comment that at many places judo practice is like that movie, Groundhog Day, it is the same thing day after day after day. In this one example, Sensei Kaku and Sensei Schwinn give several examples of how to make it different

- Go to a different club
- Have different instructors
- Have randori matches be for a different time
- Have a pizza party (hey, you gotta keep your strength up)

Along this line, let me remind all of you West Coast Training Center people that we are having morning practice at the training center at 10 a.m. on Saturday and then going to Los Angeles Tenri from 1-4 pm to join in with the Nanka Senior practice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Focus on the Good & Carry a Calf

In a discussion completely unrelated to judo someone brought up today that while people who are negative are often loudly negative, people who are doing good things often do them quietly with no major effort to attract credit.

Also, I was feeling that I could never write a long enough president's letter to thank and recognize all of the people who do good things every month. So, I am asking you all if you don't mind to send me an email on the things you do. I would like to put a different post on my blog every day of people doing good things. Along with all the other random ramblings I put on here.

Here are two people I'd like to recognize today. Conveniently, both of them are in the same picture!

Saturday 30 January 2009; twenty three (23) members, of both the USJA and the USJF, participated in the Coach Certification Clinic in Campbell, CA. The Clinic, hosted by Hans Ingebretsen and conducted by Charlie Robinson, was an exemplary example of the continuing cooperation between Judo Organizations, toward the growth and strength
of Grass Roots Judo in America. Three (3) of the participants were in attendance just to participate with members of their family or Club. The other participants were there for initial and re-certification, at the Assistant Instructor and Coach levels. Charlie Rbinson is on the left in this picture.

This is from Joa Schwinn, who is the guy in the hat on the right in this picture.

"On 2/26 we will be holding our 6th North Bay judo clinic, which has been a joint USJA and USJF event for almost three years. Usually there are 4-5 schools that attend with 80 judoka attending last event (we started with 5 of us!). We pick four instructors (not always the same) and run 10-12 minute sessions with groups of similar make-up rotating through. Then there are two mats that we run randori on with 1 minute matches. Rule: you cannot randori with someone from your own school.

Camp Bushido is revving up. Shorter (4 days) and earlier (7/5-9/10) this year. We only have 1/2 the building so it will be limited soace and we will fill. Hoping to get a top level competitive judoka to be the featured guest instructor.

Finally, we will be holding our 2nd North Bay ("Developmental") Shia and Referee clinic. Kyu rank only at the shiai where the refs that took the class the day before get on the mat qualification taken care of. We had 18 new refs last year!!!

Coaches, refs, randori clinics, joint USJA/USJF efforts. Grass roots at it's best."

See an idea you like, steal it.

-------- Required Judo Tip: Milo of Croton teaches judo

I would like to take this opportunity to make a personal aside to my daughter - I told you so. When we were out today while she was running her sprints I told her that three things are very important at this stage in her training.

1. Do it every day.
2. Keep a record.
3. Increase a little each day.

For example, today was the beginning of the month. There is a hill by our house that anyone who has ever visited has nightmares about running up. It's about 45 degrees. Ronda sprints up hill, walks down and then sprints up again. I time each sprint. I told her that we would add one more sprint every other day until she was doing 25. After a point if you keep doing sprints it's not the same workout, so she will only go up to 25. After that, the focus will be on increasing the times and decreasing the rest in between.

I told her that it was like the story of the guy who carried a new born calf around. He carried it every day and by the time it was full grown he was carrying a bull on his shoulders. She said I totally made that up. The story was about a famous wrestler in ancient times. Milo of Croton. I looked it up.

Be like Milo. Start increasing a little every day. Keep a record. Start today.