Saturday, August 13, 2011

Armbars and One Answer to Dr. Rhadi Ferguson

First of all, since things get twisted around on the Internet, let me start by stating up front that I personally like and respect Dr. Ferguson, and I know my daughter, Ronda, does, too. Rhadi was a 2004 Olympic team member for judo, has since earned a Ph.D., started a business, is a devoted father and is married to a successful woman, Dr. Traci Ferguson. What's not to like? 

That said, sometimes Rhadi and I respectfully discuss and disagree with one another.

Now, for my points. Rhadi has asked me a couple of things and since I have been so busy with work I haven't had a chance to blog, I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone. (And no, contrary to rumor, it is not true that I only needed one stone because I armbarred one of them to death. For one thing, birds don't have arms. They have wings. You should get your facts straight before you start spreading rumors.)

What do I think of Ronda not breaking Sarah D'Alelio's arm? My answer may surprise some people. I'm okay with roughness. When necessary, I'm okay with violence. I think you don't need unnecessary roughness and gratuitous violence.

Yes, I armbarred a lot of people when I was competing. There is even a picture of some major tournament where I am standing on the podium in first place and both the women on the second and third place steps have their arms in a sling. There are a lot of pictures of me standing on a podium where at least one of the other medalists has an arm in a sling. Jerry Hays, the USJF historian, could probably make a collage of them. One true confession I never let out when I was competing is that I never deliberately hurt anybody I knew I could beat any way I wanted. So, if you're from the German team and we're fighting for a medal, if I need to do a backbend on your arm to get it, I will and I won't feel the least remorse about it. I'm sure you'd do the same to me. On the other hand, if you're a sixteen-year-old brown belt and I have you in an armbar, what do I prove by breaking your arm? I'm going to wait for you to tap and wait for the referee to call it. Yes, anything can happen in a match, but seriously, if I can't beat some kid two times out of three, I deserve to lose.

I am not comparing Ronda's opponent with a brown belt. I don't know anything about her except that the odds in Las Vegas were 6 to 1 against her  and 3 to 1 against her even making it past the first round (I am a statistician, after all). I am saying that if Ronda felt she didn't have to hurt the woman to win, then there as no point to her doing so.

What would I have done? I was in almost the exact same position as Ronda more than once, where I armbarred a young woman, the referee called it and then the woman said she didn't tap. In one case, I offered to get back down in the armbar position and the referees put us back into the position we were in when they had called the match, and I popped out her elbow. I disagree with people who say my opponent that day was just being competitive and wanted to fight to the last second. If you are caught, you're caught. The referees were doing her a favor. The other time I remember was in the finals of the World Team Trials. I armbarred Eve Aranoff and the referee called the match. They said she screamed. She said later that she hadn't screamed or tapped, that it was me that kiai'ed as I went for her arm. I told her it was because I was so happy to have it. Yes, I would have broken Eve's arm given half a chance and the referees no doubt knew it and so did she.

So, what did I tell Ronda? I told her that I was surprised she didn't offer to get back in the same position and start again. Or to go again, right now. In fact, I think she DID offer. As someone on twitter said (sorry I didn't catch your name), if someone can throw you and get you in an armbar in the first 25 seconds, they can probably do it again some time within the next 15 minutes. My suspicion (and since I have three kids under 15 with me here in Las Vegas, I have only seen Ronda at dinner after the fight  and at breakfast late this morning - no clubbing for young children on my watch) is that Ronda felt confident she could beat Sarah without hurting her, and so she tried to do that.

You learn as a parent that you and your child are two different people. As anyone who knew me in the day can attest, I was an angry little person and would hurt you if you got in my way.

Ronda is a happy person and she will hurt you if you get in her way (you should have seen the look she gave the guy who checked out her little sister and her friends in Caesar's Palace - I thought we were going to get co-ed MMA right there in the Forum Shops). She didn't have anything against Sarah and didn't feel in a position where she had to hurt her. People who don't compete don't understand (and I know Rhadi knows this) that most competitors are going to empathize with their competition more than anyone else. These are the people that train like you, want the same thing as you.  I was a lot less Miss Congeniality as a competitor, but that's the kind of empathetic person Ronda is.

But yes, we are going to have a little chat when Ronda gets home. I am dead certain if she is in a position where she has to take that arm off, she will. (As Jim Pedro, Sr. told her when she called him this morning, "You're Gaw-dam right you will!)

As for the people saying it was a mistake because it causes controversy about women's mixed martial arts, I rather doubt it. People watch  TV because of drama. Somebody getting knocked down and armbarred in 25 seconds isn't very dramatic. Now people will tune in to the next match to see if the referee will stop it and if Ronda will dislocate the next woman's arm. So, I think by protesting about it Sarah did Ronda a favor. Her next opponent, not so much.

I do have some motherly advice for that next opponent, whoever she might be.


Trust me on this one.


Anonymous said...

Rematch offered at 2:25

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thought reference to a "successful woman" was a little surprising though. That would be opposed to what exactly?

Loren said...

It was a great match to watch. I've been waiting for your commentary on the fight. Good to hear about it!

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Someone pointed out to me this weekend that a very high proportion of my male friends, acquaintances and business associates are either single or are married to women with very successful careers. I'd never given that much thought before but I suspect if you're the kind of person who is either very independent or who, when choosing a spouse looks for a teammate and not a cheerleader, then we're more likely to hit it off. I found it a really interesting observation because some of my friends, like Lanny Clark, I knew long before they ever met their wives.

Euphrates said...

When I watched the match first, I thought "suspect". Not so much the match itself but how it played out with the refereeing. I think if the ref would have gotten there immediately instead of hesitantly, there would not be any conversation. Of course, it is noted that the person verbally submitted by squealing in pain. It was hard to hear. But, it is what it is.

Better some controversy then getting Tim Silvia'd on TV:

Anonymous said...

Ronda, it not fighting elite competition. In fact, with the exception of one or two fighters, her weight division is weak.

Ronda is not an effective striker, and winning by an arm bar in every fight is not entertaining.

AnnMaria, you do possess comprehensive knowledge of Judo. However, you possess very limited knowledge of MMA.

robthornton72 said...


What's "comprehensive" knowledge of MMA? MMA itself is a mix of boxing, wrestling, and all the martial arts out there that at least half-ass work.

I don't think the competitors find it entertaining to be on the losing end. Frankly, I find most UFC matches boring as hell because they're just slugging matches. If I wanted that, I'd watch boxing.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I agree that I have much more knowledge of judo than MMA. That's just a fact.

Whether winning by arm bar every time is entertaining or not is opinion. Some people think basketball or figure skating or boxing is boring because it is the same technique over an over. But other people love to watch.

There are a LOT of ways to get arm bars. I don't think it's boring.

As for Ronda's opponents, all I can really say is three of the last 4 were 6-0 , 6-1 and 4-1.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't be proud that you injured your opponents when you were competing. You should be ashamed. Good judo players don't result to injuring others. MMA is nothing but cock fighting and anything goes, but judo is not cock fighting.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I am neither proud nor ashamed of injuring people. It's part of the sport. If someone doesn't tap, you dislocate their arm, you don't get up and give them a kiss on the cheek and a doughnut. The rules say you have to give them a chance to tap. I don't believe in cheating. I also don't believe you need to make up additional rules. Judo has enough of them.

Sheikh Pervez Hameed said...

Rhadi makes quite a few controversial statements,half the time I thin it is marketing of his name and the rest of the time I think he is voicing his actual opinion.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I believe you are right, Sheikh, and I think he should be required to label which is which as part of truth in advertising (-:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann Marie:

I'm deeply troubled by this particular blog post. I am an instructor, and a former national/international competitor. I want to go on the record as saying that in all of my years of competing, I have never hurt anyone. Ever.

I learned my judo from Mr. Ogasawara, who taught clean technique over brute strength. He also taught respect for an opponent and respect for judo.

There is absolutely no excuse for intentionally injuring someone... none. It's akin to cheating. You might as well go out and buy yourself a trophy, because if you have to intentionally pop someone's arm in order to win, that's about all your title is worth.. nothing.

There is something wrong when you tell us (with pride, may I add) that everyone you fought that was on the podium had their arm in a sling. Is this the only way you can win? To hurt people?

I also take issue with this quote, " Yes, I would have broken Eve's arm given half a chance and the referees no doubt knew it and so did she. "

Really? And you think this is judo? And, btw, I defeated Eve in the semi-finals at the US Open in Hamilton, Ohio, and did so with clean technique.

The sort of attitude you display in this blog post is what gives judo a bad reputation. It lowers it to the level of street fighting.

What makes it worse, is, that you're a former World Champion.. a role model to kids coming up. Whether you like it or not, you have a responsibility to them. I would hope you would want to display a more positive image of judo.

How am I, as owner and chief instructor of my judo club, going to encourage moms and dads to put their children in judo when they learn that judo players intentionally will injure their kids. I totally disagree with you that "it's part of the sport." It's not.

Years ago, you were quoted in a USA Today article with your daughter as telling her to "crank the sucker and pop that baby.." You told us of going up to your opponent prior to matches and kicking their legs saying, "Yo, I'm gonna kill you."

That article was embarrassing to me, as an instructor. I can't tell you how many parents brought that article in to me wanting to know if this is what type of sport they have enrolled their child in. It did a lot of harm.

No trophy or medal is worth intentionally injuring someone... I don't care if it's for an Olympic Gold medal. If you can't win fair and square, then you don't deserve the medal.

You give your opponent a chance to tap. If she doesn't, you don't "pop" it, you continue to add pressure until she taps or the referee stops the match.

I don't know much about the cage fighting that your daughter does now, but I was impressed that she stopped the match before popping her opponent's arm. That showed character. And now you want to tell her she was wrong?

Chris Maurer
Chief Instructor, RIdgewood Judo

Dr. AnnMaria said...

And if you keep applying pressure, their arm dislocates.

You say, "You keep applying pressure until the opponent taps or the referee stops the match."

If the referee doesn't stop the match and the opponent doesn't tap, what happens then? The elbow dislocates.

In international matches, especially for medals, often people DON'T tap and the referee DOESN'T stop it.

Yes, your idea will work at the local and maybe even the regional level. As a referee, I have stopped matches when I saw the competitor was in trouble. At the international level, that seldom happens.

The difference between you and I is that I was often in situations where the opponent DIDN'T tap and the referee DIDN'T stop it.

And, no disrepect, but beating Eve in the 1970s when she was a kid and in 1983-84 when she was coming off of winning a world medal were two different levels.

I do agree with you that cheating to win a medal is just stupid and wrong.

I NEVER cheated. Armbarring someone is not cheating and if they don't tap and the referee doesn't call the match and they get injured, no rule was broken.

Euphrates said...


Out of all the articles, I think this one has the longest amount of comments. I'm loving this. With that said:

Let’s really look at martial arts. Let’s remove the Asian mysticism, the "honor", etc. Martial arts are about learning how to fight in order to beat the other person. Beating the other person typically entails hurting them. That's just fact.

Competing allows you to hone this sill (remember, a skill of hurting others) in a controlled environment. Tapping, allows you to end the match so that you reduce the chance of getting hurt while still being able to fight another day. This is because, in order to get better at hurting people, you have to continue training to hurt people.

One of the downsides of competition is that people like to watch people, well, compete. People pay money to compete. People put on competitions with prizes so that others will come out and compete. Bigger competitions require you to win at smaller competitions so you can compete at the bigger competitions and win the bigger prizes (money, medals, Olympics, sponsors, the ability to attract people to your training club, seminars, etc, and so forth).

Keep in mind, all of this from an activity that teaches you how to hurt people.

The fact is, if you want to get the tap and the win, you have to have the intent to take the submission to its logical conclusion. That doesn’t mean you have to go and pop it. Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of injuries from submissions come from people NOT tapping. It’s a two-way dance. The person applying the submission and the person having it applied to them.

Euphrates said...

As for the last poster, I find the comments interesting. You see, in Judo (as I’ve stated before, I’m a BJJ guy but I follow Judo due to the parallels with BJJ but athletically, technically and politically) there is no way to “tap” from the throw. Once you are getting thrown, that’s it. Because of that, people may try to land a certain way so they won’t lose the match. How many times has someone been injured from this? Then again, during the moment of the throw, you can suck it up, accept that you are getting thrown, take your throw and breakfall, avoid injury, accept defeat, and live to fight another day.

If someone chooses to contort their body to avoid Ippon and bust themselves up, do we blame the thrower? At the same time, if the person in the submission chooses either not to tap or to tap at the very last moment and gets injured, do we blame the person applying the submission.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the person applying the throw/submission has some responsibility in ensuring the safety of their opponent. Then again, are they responsible for ensuring the safety of their opponent over theirs? Also, would their opponent, being put in the position of attacker/thrower/submitter look at things the same way being in the more enviable positions?

As to the post about Ann Maria’s MMA knowledge, well, my Judo knowledge isn’t the best out there. I will say, however, that Rhonda is not in the best position because the quality of women’s MMA is not up there in general. The top women in her weight category are Chris Santos (Cyborg) and Gina Carano – at least, the most well-known. That’s because the talent pool is small. Just like it was for men’s MMA in the beginning as well as it is currently for certain weight categories (heavyweight). That’s one of the downsides of being a pioneer in a growing sport.

I won’t lie, I would like to see how she does in situations where she can’t get the submission or throw in the first round, where she has to grind it out for the victory. See the Marloes Coenen vs Liz Carmouche fight for what I’m talking about. There have been plenty of fighters who have been monsters but, once past the first round, they have fizzled (see Shane Carwin for the most high profile example of this). I am glad, however, that she is fighting because she is getting media attention, exposure, which will lead to more exposure for women’s MMA. Unfortunately, with the way things are looking, it’s going to need it to ensure the UFC doesn’t effectively kill it at the higher levels.

Stephen said...

I read the link to -- all in all it seemed pretty positive.

e.g. "My Olympic teammate Ronda Rousey IS THE BEST female fighter that the MMA world has seen. No doubt, she is still a little green and she’s still learning but she loves the sport and in the next 6 to 9 months she’s going to be pretty much unstoppable. I mean, anybody can get “caught” but Ronda’s grappling, groundwork and overall professionalism is unparalleled."

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Euphrates - I think you made a really good point about throwing. I don't know why it is we don't blame the thrower for "not being more careful", when someone posts out and dislocates an arm while being thrown.

Steven - No, I didn't think Rhadi's post was negative, it was just that he expected I would tell Ronda she did the wrong thing, which is not what happened. I think she made a judgment call, she was the one in the situation, not me, as others have pointed out, I'm hardly an MMA guru, so, I see her reasoning why she did what she did. That said, I'd be a little less charitable in the future, if I was her.

George O'Brien said...


Indiana said...

You have a very good blog.
cheap lexapro