Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mr. Perfect and Mr. Nice Guy Fix Judo (the truth about Ron Angus & Tony Mojica)

 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

Donate here   (Does monthly donation)

Or call 877- 411- 3409 (toll free)

And p.s. Success really is the best revenge.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Superhero Bag-o-Tricks Defeats Evil Villain Groundhog-Day

Okay, I admit it. That title was false advertising. First of all, Will Dampier, the vanquisher of Groundhog-Day is not actually a superhero but an administrator at a well-respected research university, which I can guarantee you is not at all very similar to super-hero-dom . (Sorry, Will, but it's true).

He is, however, in Pennsylvania, the same state as the famous groundhog, so that should count for something.

To the right is neither Will (the blonde hair in a bun probably tipped you off) nor a groundhog being defeated. It is actually Sam Garcia being thrown by Ronda during practice last week at the West Coast Judo Training Center. I wanted to include another ground hog picture but Dennis said no, I had already used my quota of photos of obese rodents for a blog for the first quarter of 2010. I think he's lying. I don't believe there is such a quota! But I'm not taking any chances.

Will sent me the following email, along with some nice comments.

" I've been following your judo blog and I really support all of the work you've done for USJA and judo as a whole ... After reading your post about "groundhog judo practices" I sat down and thought about a game that I can run to spice things up.

At the club I run in Drexel University  we have ~40 college students that come to most practices and the randori sessions get extremely predictable ... the same people use the same techniques and lose or win against the same people.

So my new game ... I call it "bag of tricks randori" ... its basically king-of-the-hill randori with extra rules:

Before class I made folded pieces of paper with the following things written on each of them:
no te-waza
no ashi-waza
ashi-waza only
ne-waza only
sutemi-waza only
hidari waza only
migi waza only
no counters
So I just run king of the hill (winner stays in) but when the new person comes in they pick piece of paper out the hat and then those are the rules for that match. Violating the rules is a DQ ... although I usually give people the benefit of the doubt if it's questionable.

I also put in a few that are labeled 'kiken gachi' and if someone pulls this out of the hat then they automatically win and are the new king. It works well if you have one or two people who are too far above the rest of the class for fair fights.

I've done this a few times now and the reaction has been positive (so much so that I've had to put the rules on poker chips since the papers have been ripped in excitement)

If you have any suggestions or comments I'd love to hear it. Feel free to post this on your blog if your interested :)


This is cool for three reasons:
  1. It sounds like a really fun idea and I bet I won't be the only coach who starts using it now.
  2. I have been SUPER-busy with work. Add Julia's birthday tomorrow, the West Coast Training Center, just trying to get a little kid to do her homework, other daughters and being USJA president on top of that I have not had time to write my blog so getting someone else to do it is great !
  3. He also wrote some really nice comments that were very encouraging to me personally.

Will is in contrast to some of the people who write me and tell me how much I suck because they sent me an email 24 hours ago and I haven't answered yet to tell them why their cousin's uncle's wife's twin brother didn't get his ju-ichi-dan. What do these people think when they send me those emails? That I will say,
"You are right, I suck.  I will endeavor to suck no more."

Well, maybe I do and maybe I don't (for the record, I think I don't), but I do know that people like Will are the reason I continue doing what I do for judo and the USJA.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The $2 Million Dojo: Hayastan Grand Opening

You have got to see this place! Ronda and I were there earlier this week while they were still finishing the floors and putting the mats down. It is obvious Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell along with several friends and advisors have been planning this a long time. The facility is unbelievable.

I asked Gokor if he minded if I invited some people to check it out. I told him no one really pays attention to me anyway so it would probably only be two or three people. So here is your invitation:

"Gokor's Hayastan MMA Academy will be relocating to its new home.

This New facility is 10,000 square feet of state of the art MMA and Grappling Equipment. Featuring a very large fully matted grappling area, a full MMA cage, a regulation sized boxing/kickboxing ring and a pro shop. The first day of classes at the new location will be Monday March 8, 2010 and will keep the same class schedule as the old location but will add morning classes.

However we will have a Grand Opening for public viewing on Sunday March 7, 2010 at 2pm. Everyone is invited to come down and say Hello and see the new facility.

We hope to see you there!

7229 Atoll Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91605 "

A lot of people have talked about wanting to have a facility like this, with a dedicated judo dojo, showers, lunch room, etc. Gokor went out and bought the building. It will have two regulation mat areas, a balcony from which you can watch your children/ favorite judo player, weight room, boxing ring.

Even with the great deal Gokor got on the building this place must have cost around $2 million to put together. Mat fees are $30 a day. The USJA has negotiated discounts with a number of companies, such as Zebra Mats, Golden Tiger Martial Arts and Black Belt Magazine.

Once they get all moved in, Gokor and I are going to sit down and discuss a discounted mat fee for USJA members as well.

Come down on Sunday and check it out. This place is amazing. We will be there on Sunday after practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Things I Said to Ronda

"I don't know the rules of grappling, but it looks like she's winning."

We were driving back from practice the other night and I said to Ronda,

"A lot of people have Olympic dreams, but not a lot of people have Olympic days."

And she said,

"Why is it that I have the feeling that I am going to be seeing that in writing in the near future? I knew it! I always knew it. You just practice your blog posts on me!"

In revenge for her thinking she is the center of my life (any more than all of my children are), I thought I would post all of the latest things I said to Ronda.

"No, seriously. Watching the Olympics at night everyone dreams about how great it would be to snowboard like that, ice-skate like that, do judo like that, or whatever but almost no one gets up the next day and works out. And the day after that and the day after that."


"Mom, I want you to support me in whatever I do, whether it is grappling, MMA, judo. I don't want to have to be one of those people that has to go around their parents to do what they want to do. I want you supporting me."

"Ronda, if you decided you wanted to be the world's best polka dancer, I would pay for the accordion player and go out and buy you some of those God-awful socks."

"Thanks, Mom."

"You're really not into polka, are you?"

"No, Mom, you can relax."

"Thank God!"