Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trends in Judo Competition in the U.S.

Amazingly, it is twice now that my "judo" and "real" lives have intersected. I'm preparing a presentation I'm going to give in San Diego on bettering your programming skills and your community. Coincidentally, Jerry Hays just posted to the Judo Forum a file with the data on male and female competitors in the U.S. Senior Nationals from 1990 - 2011.

Not being able to resist, I wrote a quick SAS program to do correlations and regressions on these data. I also used Graph-N-Go to create two quick plots. First, we can see that for 21 years there has been a downward trend in the number of male competitors in the national championships. These data include only the regular senior divisions contested in Panamerican and Olympic competition, NOT masters divisions, visually impaired or kata. So, essentially, this is our supply of potential Olympians.

It is a pretty definite negative trend with a correlation of  about -.74.

The female picture is also negative, but more complicated. Initially, there was a negative correlation of about -.48, which means the number of women has been going down also, but not as rapidly, but when you literally look at the picture, it is somewhat different.

In fact, the number of female competitors increased from 1990 to 2001 and then went into a sharp decline. Statistically, there are some really interesting (to me) ways to look at this but since this is my judo blog and not my statistics one, I will just do this.

1. Take a look at the picture from 1990 - 2001 where you can see that the overall trend was for the number of female competitors to slightly increase

2. Take a look at the picture from 2002 - 2011 whee you can see that the number of female competitors has decreased at an even faster rate than the males.

This year, there were 66 female competitors for 9 contested divisions (including 44kg and Open).  In fact, only two women's divisions in the national championships (63 kg and 70 kg) had more than eight competitors. 

Because I thought I remembered this but I didn't want to be one of those old people going on about how the divisions were bigger back in my day, I went into the living room and checked a picture hanging on the wall from the podium of the 1984 Senior Nationals in Los Angeles. (I have it hanging there because I was holding my one-year-old baby, Maria, in the picture and she was  really adorable.)

For some reason they handed you a giant cardbook copy of the pool sheet to the first place winner. My women's division at 56 kg in 1984 was larger than most of the current men's divisions - and back then, men's divisions were regularly two to three times as large as the women's divisions. It was also about double the average size of the 57 kg division over the past decade and triple the size of the current year's division.

I'd be really interested in hearing similar statistics from other countries to know if this is just a U.S. phenomena.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why jiu-jitsu players & wrestlers don't win at judo (and vice-versa)

No, this isn't yet another of those million posts you read on the Internet about "my martial art is the best thing invented since breathing and all of you other pusillanimous pukes are my rightful prey and most bow down before me, moo-ha ha ha !"

In fact, something I have been thinking about for a while is the benefits and drawbacks of cross-training. This has been in the back of my mind for years, ever since one tournament when I saw a pretty good young black belt get slammed with uchimata.

A lot of times wrestlers beat judo players. The truth is that there are a lot more wrestlers in this country and wrestling coaches tend to run a lot more physically strenuous practices than most judo clubs do. This isn't uniformly true, but it's true of most judo and jiu-jitsu clubs and if you think differently, I recommend you get out of your little bubble and go watch some wrestling practices. PLEASE don't tell me how your club trains harder than everyone - I have heard that from so many instructors, it's just boring, not to mention impossible. There can't be ten jiu-jitsu schools in your city that train harder than every other school in the city. Nine of you guys are fooling yourselves.

My friend, Steve Scott, says in one of his book (I think it is Coaching on the Mat) that you should teach them like judo players but train them like wrestlers. I meant what I said literally. If you have never wrestled, or it's been twenty years (memories fade), I strongly recommend you drop by your local university and watch wrestling practice. It IS physically harder than most martial arts practices.

There are some excellent moves from wrestling that can help anyone's matwork. I'm always amazed when I meet a judo player who doesn't know how to do a half-nelson turnover. The link shows a half-nelson being demonstrated by Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College instructor, Steve Seck, who was a very successful high school wrestler before going on to make the U.S. Olympic judo team.

So... benefits of wrestling for judo and jiu-jitsu players - better physical conditioning, pick up mat moves that might not be as familiar or emphasized as much as they should be. BUT .... there can be too much of a good thing...

When cross-training is too much of a good thing

Going back to our young black belt investigating the number of lights in the ceiling  - he hadn't been to judo for a while because it was wrestling season and he was on the team at his school. He came back to judo in much better physical condition. The only problem is that in wrestling no one ever gets a high grip on your gi because you're not wearing one. The third match in the tournament, someone got a grip on this young man, pulled down, and when he started to come back up, the opponent stepped in and slammed him. This was a good judo player and I am pretty sure if he had been coming to practice regularly the match would have come out differently. He had lost some of the reflex of protecting people from grabbing his gi because he didn't have to worry about it.

I'm always an advocate of going to other sports IN ADDITION to your main event, not judo practice instead of wrestling, jiu-jitsu instead of judo, or vice-versa. The most obvious difference wrestling has from jiu-jitsu and judo is there is no gi, so there is less fighting for a grip.

There are other "differences that make a difference". Of course, a really good judo or jiu-jitsu player loves fighting someone who gets in a wrestler's position on the mat, because they have their head up to keep from being turned over easily - which makes it harder to do a half-nelson but really easy to loop the gi under and choke them. They keep their arms too straight and are almost inviting armbars. In judo, wrestlers often win in the novice divisions where armbars, and sometimes chokes, are not allowed, but once they move into brown and black belt divisions a judo player will take them out. Of course, jiu-jitsu allows chokes and armbars from the very beginning.

From that last sentence, you might think it's easier for a wrestler to win at judo than jiu-jitsu. Not necessarily, especially not with the new rule changes. It is now (with limited exceptions) against the rules to grab the leg in Olympic judo, so a single-leg take down, double-leg take down and many other wrestling throws are now illegal in judo. They are, however, still legal in jiu-jitsu (and freestyle judo). So, a technique that would get a wrestler a penalty in judo will get him points in jiu-jitsu.

The obvious point is that there are differences in the rules and if you are doing too much cross-training, you get into the habit of playing by a different set of rules - a lesson our young black belt learned the hard way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Judo the gift that keeps on giving

Matt D'Aquino asked on his blog the other day, "Do you even like judo?" In answering his question of what I like about it, I realized that my answer is very different than it would have been 25 or 30 years ago.

Back then, what I liked about it was I could do amazing things. I loved matwork where I knew where my opponent was going to be before he or she did, because I had drilled those moves so many time they were reflexes. I loved being able to do physical things almost effortlessly - everything from lifting an opponent my weight off the mat and turning her to spinning into an armbar.

Winning is awesome, too - standing on the podium, seeing the American flag go up, hearing the Star-spangled Banner play  - all of that rocks.

Fast-forward twenty years or so (emphasis on the "so") and those amazing things are not nearly as amazing. Unlike some former elite athletes, I don't fool myself about the decline in my physical abilities. I'm not as strong, not as fast. I know that part of that has to do with spending more time in the office than in the gym, but part of it, like wrinkles and gray hair, is just getting older.

Having competed for 14 years and then worked out, coached and taught judo for another 26 years after that, one thing I have gained just struck me yesterday, when I went for a 12 mile hike in the Santa Monica mountains just because I felt like it. I passed less than a dozen people in two hours, either on the way up or on the way down. One of them looked to be my age, one was about ten years younger and the rest were all at least twenty-five years younger.

I was amused when I heard a group of four college students coming around a bend. One was saying,
"They say you graduate, get a job and then you go on to have a good life. Who do they think they're fooling? Our lives will never be better than they are right now. Whenever else are we going to be able to go hiking six miles up on a beautiful day. We'll be old!"

His friends all made sounds of agreement. Not sure what they thought when our paths crossed a few minutes later. They did look surprised.

I travel a lot and almost always take half an hour or an hour to go to whatever health facilities the hotel has and swim or run on the treadmill or do something. Usually, the other people in the place are like me, business travelers in their mid-forties to mid-sixties  - but they don't look like me. I mean, they REALLY don't look like me. (It's not that I'm checking out the other old ladies in the locker room or anything, really, I swear).

Yes, we all have the same gray hair and wrinkles - in fact, I have more, because I've never been in the whole Botox - plastic surgery crowd - but I still wear the same size I did when I was 21 years old (evidenced by the fact that my daughters in their twenties keep swiping my clothes).

There are times I think the hell with it, why bother working out, I mean, it's not like I'm competing or clubbing or any of that. But then there are days like yesterday when I realize that there isn't a single person I know my age who could have walked up that mountain just for fun .

Yes, I know other people who could have done it, but they would have been sweaty and sore and miserable before ever reaching the top. They would have been so focused on getting through it that they wouldn't have stopped and looked at the flowers or the lizards or the cactus growing out of the rocks at the very top.

When I think back to all of the people I knew as competitors, those who were in outstanding shape for their age in their twenties are also in outstanding shape for their age in their fifties and sixties. That doesn't mean they are in the same shape. Let's not be delusional. I may wear the same size jeans but I certainly can't lift the same amount of weight or whip off hundred throws in the same amount of time. I'm older, but I'm an older person with much greater capability BECAUSE of the years I spent doing judo.

My youngest daughter began judo when she was four years old. She practiced pretty regularly until she was eleven and discovered soccer. Now she plays soccer several times a week. This week she was giving advice to her friend. I am not sure what in her thirteen years she has done that has qualified her to give advice on athletic training but she certainly believes she is qualified, for whatever reason.

She said,

"I think judo is good because it helps you in whatever you do. When I started gymnastics I was stronger than the other people who just started and not afraid to fall when we did the vault. When I started soccer, I was in better shape for running and not afraid of people running at me. Even in dance class, when we needed to dance for three hours and it was harder than people thought, I didn't get tired. "

I was thinking about all of this today as I was working on the next chapter on our book. The section I am working on now is on physical conditioning.  After being stuck for a while, I like how the book is coming along. Even Jim was happy with the latest revision and he usually hates everything. I think what I like about this section is that it could be useful to help a lot of people. There aren't many possible scenarios I can imagine in life when it is better not be physically fit than it is to be able to hike up a mountain just for the hell of it and out of curiosity to answer the question of what kind of flowers grow that high up.

So, that is what I like about judo today.

And the answer to the question is  - this kind, whatever they are. The cool thing is, there is some kind of flying bug that looks just like one of those flowers, that hangs out on them. You look at the branch for a while and then all of a sudden one of the flowers will detach itself and fly away. It was super-cool. Unfortunately, I said I was in good shape, not a good photographer, so I don't have a picture of it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How you could have trained today: Part 1

Ronda did a great job teaching today, if I do say so myself, which I do. I bet Blinky did a great job also, but I left practice after about an hour and 45 minutes because it was Palm Sunday and I thought it was important to go to Mass.

Yes, I could have gotten up early in the morning and gone but that would have involved getting up early in the morning which I no longer have to do because:
  1. I am retired from competition, and
  2. I own the majority share of the company I work for.
Blinky and Ronda were running practice today and I was just along for the workout.

The first thing we did was a circuit. The first person in line does three suicides. You all know those, right? You run a third of the way down the mat, then back. Two-thirds of the way down and back. Then, all the way down and back. That's one. When you've done three, you move on to the second station. This is what Ronda calls "Raoul" , which is the name she has given to the throwing dummy, for some unknown reason. You step up on the dummy, then your other foot follows to step up also and you step down with the first foot. Remember those running drills people do for football? Well, it's like that but you have a step in between. You can see Nathan doing it in the photo above. You do this as long as it takes the person behind you to finish their three suicides and then you move on to the next station.

For touches, you stand in the middle of a mat, then move to one side of the mat and touch with your opposite hand. Take a step to the other side of the mat, touch with your other hand. You are moving your feet and twisting, building the muscles and timing you need for judo.

The fourth exercise is running on the crash pad, as fast as you can, with your knees up.

One of the things I liked about these pictures that Julia took today is they show how involved Ronda is as a coach. I think many coaches make the mistake of being non-specific, yelling "Harder! Faster!" or just standing around with a stop watch. Or, even worse, talking with other coaches, parents or other people off the mat and not even paying attention to what the athletes are doing.

The fact that she is young and has no trouble jumping in there and doing the exercises with them helps, no doubt.

After this, we did several more circuits. One of those is called 10-10-10.  Everyone starts jogging around the mat and when she yells "10!" , everyone drops down and does ten push-ups, ten sit-ups, then grabs a partner and they each do ten jumps over the other person.

As soon as everyone is done, you start jogging again.

So, this is just part of what you missed if you didn't go to practice today. There IS practice next Saturday from 2 - 6 pm and, as always, everyone is welcome. There is no practice next Sunday because it is Easter.

There are two practices the following weekend, April 30th and May 1st. Ronda and Blinky are running practice again on Sunday, May 1st. Come! It will be fun.

P.S. For those of you who were skeptical of me having a 13-year-old taking pictures for our book, I think she did a pretty credible job. These aren't the best photos as I have not had time to go through them all yet. These are just a few I pulled out at random.

P.P.S. THANK YOU to everyone who was willing to be models for pictures today. These are for the first section of the book, on physical conditioning. The second section is on technique, so, of course, we will have to come another day and take pictures for that. Thanks again. It was really appreciated.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ronda Rousey at West Coast Judo Training Center: Is this a story?

Someone told me that I should write about Ronda teaching at the West Coast Judo Training Center.  He said that we take her for granted and there is not another place on earth that you can come learn from an Olympic medalist who has been ranked top in the world in two different events just by popping in the door and paying ten bucks.

I was surprised by that suggestion because it didn't seem particularly noteworthy to me. She's been teaching there on and off since it began, first in Industry, in the old Guerreros Dojo site, thanks to Frank Sanchez allowing free use of his facility, and now in West Covina.

He pointed out that Ronda was ranked number one in the world as an amateur in mixed martial arts and that she won her first professional fight in twenty-five seconds.

Yes, I know.

Ronda is a very good judo player. I guess she's good at that punching, kicking, biting, eye-gouging, elbowing, spitting and whatever else that mixed martial arts stuff is, too.  She really is a good teacher.

He also pointed out that since next Sunday is Easter, we won't be having practice (no, duh) and Ronda had to work doing physical therapy for dogs last Sunday (I'm not kidding) and that May 8th is Mother's Day, this is one of only two times in a month that people can come to a practice she will be running at the training center.

Yes, I know. 

It's not that we don't recognize and appreciate all of the accomplishments Ronda has had. It's just that for kids like Julia who have been coming to practice with her there since she was four years old. it doesn't seem much like remarking on.

I did remember something today that did make it noteworthy and motivated me to follow this suggestion and write about it anyway. Years ago, Sus Kono, who is the fabulously brilliant instructor of Valley Judo Institute in Sun Valley advised me,
"You need to invite people to come to practice. "

When I protested that I didn't need to invite people to practice, that OF COURSE, everyone was welcome, he responded,
"Yes, but they don't KNOW that. You need to invite people to come."
Over the years, I have learned that Sus is right about that and almost everything else he ever told me, too.

So, yes, Ronda will be running practice tomorrow starting at 3 pm. She is a great athlete, great teacher and doesn't call her mother often enough. Sensei Richard (Blinky) Elizalde will be there, too, and yours truly.  Blinky is a terrific technician and an excellent teacher. I don't know how often he calls his mother. If she is still alive she must be really old because Blinky started judo back in the 1960s. I'll be there, too,  and I don't particularly suck at teaching, either. I might have to duck out early to go to mass because it is Palm Sunday.

Everyone is welcome to come. If you want to have a good hard work out, learn judo or grappling from Ronda (or Blinky or me), just show up. Take the 10 to Vincent. It's where the West Covina Mall is. Go south about a mile to Vine Ave. On your right you'll see Hongkong Plaza. On the left is a strip mall where you'll find the West Coast Judo Training Center. There is also a dog grooming place next door that has a sign outside that says not to pee on the sidewalk. We weren't going to anyway so I, for one, find that sign unnecessary.

Oh, and Sus real name is Susumu and if you are thinking of making fun of him because he has a name like in that song, "A boy named Sue", don't, because he can kick your ass.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Should you specialize?

It's not all that often that my professional and "judo" lives cross. I have two twitter accounts, one related to judo and one to statistics, and I feel sorry for the people who come across my statistics blog (which, unbelievably, gets way more readers than this one on judo) and then follow my judo twitter account, or vice versa. I am sure they often are asking themselves,

"Juji gatame? What the hell is that? A new type of test for comparing nested models? I've never heard of it?"

The judo people, on the other hand, are asking,
"Models have nests? Can't they afford to buy houses with all that money they are making? I mean, they sure don't spend it on food, and they get their clothes for free."

Well, the two did intersect recently when I read this blog by John D. Cook who is a pretty well-known blogger on mathematics and statistics. Those of you who think that is an oxymoron should just shut the hell up and those who don't know what an oxymoron is, just skip on to the next paragraph which is ...


John said that the key to success is more often to do well at several different skills and combine those to be something remarkable, rather than to be world class at a specific skill. He gives the example of Scott Adams (the cartoonist who does the Dilbert script), who was not a great writer and not a great artist but combined the two to be a great cartoonist.

When I read that, my immediate thought was the opposite is true for being a world class athlete. You need to be good at everything, better than good, really, and GREAT at something.  You can't be just great at matwork and have so-so standing technique because once you get to the top level you'll be thrown and never get to demonstrate your amazing matwork.

You may get farther with outstanding standing technique and lousy matwork, because they do make you start the match standing up (whose stupid idea was that rule, I'd like to know). Still, at some point you're going to end up on the mat.

I can think of players I knew who were very well-rounded. They had solid standing technique, were in good physical condition, respectable matwork. They were good all the way around. Many of those people placed in national championships. A few even made an Olympic team (which is easier to do in the U.S. than in many other countries because we don't have that many people competing in judo). None of those people with a "package" of skills were people who won a lot of international medals.

When I think about people who were world and Olympic champions, they are people like Gerda Winklebauer who choked damn near everybody, Koga, who threw everyone with seoi nage, Osawa, who could foot sweep anybody (I should know because when I was a student at Waseda and he was probably in his forties already, he threw me approximately 246,786 times).

Right now, if you look at how Ronda is doing in mixed martial arts, she is armbarring everyone who comes near her. The only reason she hasn't armbarred her dog, Mochi, is because, strictly speaking, dogs don't have arms.

So, the answer to should you specialize seems to be, mostly, "Yes."

But ... I remember a time when Ronda was much younger when she threw everyone with left uchi mata. That was her throw and she did it from a high grip, from around the hip, from a lapel grip. On her way to her first Olympic team, she was fighting a very good player in a major tournament who had obviously trained for this match. She bent over and Ronda could not get into her uchimata to save her life. So she dropped down and threw for ippon with drop seoi nage.

Coming off the mat, the player went up to her coach and complained,
"I thought you said she didn't do anything but left uchi mata."

He answered,
"I said she didn't do any other throws. I didn't say she didn't KNOW any other throws."

It's funny to think of now when everyone associates Ronda with matwork that for years she did pretty much beautiful stand-up judo. (And then I ruined it by teaching her juji gatame!)

It reminds me of some not very good western I saw probably 20 years ago where a rich Australian rancher brought to his ranch someone from the American west who was very famous for his skill with a rifle. In the end, the rancher insisted that they have a showdown, which ended with the American drawing his six-shooter and putting a bullet into him. As the rancher is dying he says,
"I thought you couldn't use a hand gun."

To which the shooter replies,
"I said I didn't. I never said I couldn't."

Anyway, it was something like that. My point being that you want to be world class at something - specialize - but not to the extent that you can't pull something else out of your back pocket.

So, maybe John Cook had a point after all.

P.S. This was meant metaphorically and not that you should literally pull a hand gun out of your back pocket to win a match. That's against the rules. Unless you're in a cage fight in Texas.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Training smart: Conditioning for what you need to do on the mat, Part 1

For those of you who have asked how the book is coming, here are a couple of pages from the second chapter, the title of which is "Technique doesn't always beat strength"

Training smart means conditioning for what you need to do on the mat

There are two parts to training smart in that sentence “on the mat” and “what YOU need to do”. One is training for the specific abilities needed to be successful, like explosive bursts of strength and the ability to last at a rate of high intensity for eight minutes. The other is your personal style.

Some of the judo coaches we knew back in Japan said that running was good for catching a train but for judo you need to just do judo.  We respectfully disagree. Running sprints is excellent for developing power in your legs. Think of when you pivot into a throw, bend then straighten and toss your opponent through the air. Those are the exact muscles developed in sprints. Sprinting uphill is even better. The great thing about uphill sprints is that you can do them anywhere any time. If you don’t have the ability to train with challenging partners twice a day, every day, which, let’s face it, most of us don’t have that option, you can still get up before work and challenge yourself to beat your times running ten sprints up that hill. You can do sprints if your hand is injured and you can’t grip, or if you’ve torn ligaments in your elbow.  Training smart means never letting an opportunity to improve slip by you.

Should you run distances? That depends. Running two miles, which is more than the average match length, even with overtime, is probably the maximum you need to do. To maximize the benefit for your conditioning on the mat, you need to run that mile or two at a good pace, not just a comfortable jog. As far as longer distances, that depends on you. If you have to cut hard to make weight, then you’ll need to run more miles just to get the weight off.  Some competitors like to jog for longer distances; they find it relaxing. If you have to make weight and you enjoy running six miles on the trails through the woods or a jog through the park while listening to your favorite music on your iPod, then, by all means do it. That is a good way to make weight and reduce stress at the same time. Being too mentally stressed is one reason athletes might “choke” in a competition.

HOWEVER, don’t make the mistake about substituting that run for one of the practices when you do uphill sprints or run a hard mile. Training smart means training for the intensity level you will need in competition.

 The clock never lies

Keep a record of your running workouts that includes times, dates, distance and anything else you feel like writing. It’s so easy to lie to yourself and say you’ve been training harder and getting better. Some how, at the end of the week, that mile that it took you twelve minutes to run turns into two miles, and the five sprints you ran on Thursday you remember being eight, no ten, wasn’t it? The clock never lies. If you see in your record book that your time for running a mile has not gotten any better over the past year, that should tell you something. We’ll say this time and again in this book. Training smart means keeping records.

I'm trying to get the first three chapters revised enough to send on to a couple of kind people who offered to read them and give their input. I even skipped practice today to work on it. We are making progress. Jim couldn't think of any sarcastic comments to make about the latest revision. I can tell that pained him.

It's such a beautiful day, though, I am being forced to take a break and walk to the Promenade.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It was a good day. Crystal hit me in the mouth.

Work has been interfering a lot with judo lately.  I spent most of this week at a statistical software conference at Caesar's Palace. Yes, I know, it's tough work but someone had to do it.

Finally, I got some time to go back to judo and was at three practices over the last two days.

Today was fun. First, I was at Gracie Barra Corona at a seminar hosted by Tom and Holly Reusling to raise money for Japan Red Cross. Paul Nogaki and I did one session, followed by someone who probably is very well-known if you are really into jiu-jitsu. Let's call him random Brazilian-looking guy number 6.  Later that afternoon, Israel Hernandez and Val Gotay gave another judo session. All the clinicians donated their time and the money raised went to the Red Cross.  As Holly said, even if each of us alone can only do a little bit, that's no excuse for not doing that little bit and helping out when we can.

Paul taught some basic points about center of gravity, both standing and in matwork. He also did a nice drill for when you have a competitor who is bent over where you pull the opponent down more. This is an uncomfortable position and he/ she will try to stand up straighter. Do this a couple of times and the third time, as the opponent comes up, help him or her up by pulling up and entering your throw. I meant to do that drill at the West Coast Judo Training Center , but by the time I got there an hour later, I had forgotten.

At the training center, we worked on being a little more intense. If you have people go for twenty minutes of matwork, they pace themselves. Instead, we had three person groups where one stays out and then each of the other people in their group went with that person for a minute. Then, everyone got a one minute rest.  Then we started all over again. The person in the middle goes two minutes with a one minute break. Because the other people in their group are only going one minute with two minutes off, they are fairly rested. Because their opponents are fairly rested, if the person in the middle slacks off, he/ she gets pinned, choked or armbarred.

There was a slight problem in the group I was in because every time it was Gary's turn to jump in and go with Crystal he would say, "You take my turn, I'm on the phone."

Somewhere in here, Crystal hit me in the mouth and I have a cut lip. This is usual, every time I do matwork with her. What is it about teenage girls? I remember when Asma Sharif was at Mojica's when she was a teenager and she could NEVER hit the crash pad. Everyone else, when they were doing throws it sounded like this,

Smack! Smack! Smack!

As the people in the line hit the crash pad. When it was Asma's turn, it sounded like this:

Thud! "Oh, sorry." Thud! "Sorry." Thud! "Oh, I missed the pad, sorry."
Asma did not throw people off the mat on purpose, any more than Crystal hits me in the mouth every time we do matwork on purpose. Part of the problem is that I fight with my face, which is something I learned from Miguel Tudela back when we were all at Tenri Dojo in the 1980s (yeah, and we all had that crazy hair, too.)  Miguel would put his face on your chest to hold you to the mat as he stepped over your legs or hold your arm down with his head as he used both hands to pry your leg off of his leg. As a result, Miguel usually came out of a match with his face looking like hamburger meat - but he made the Olympic team for judo, won the U.S. nationals a few times and made the Panamerican Games team for sambo wrestling. Good times.

After we did the drills with matwork, we did the same three person drills with gripping and then with throws. Yes, the same people were out the whole time. My reason for this is two-fold. First, the people who are a little older and little more advanced should be worked harder. Second, practice should not run the same every time. This isn't the movie, Groundhog Day.

Speaking of Gary, which we were a few paragraphs back, the funniest thing that happened today was when he went into a throw that he does over the arm (soto makikomi, for those of you good at Japanese names) , stops dead in the middle of it, re-adjusts and throws me. He stopped because when he aimed for where the lower half of the arm would be on someone his size he missed because there was nothing there.

He thinks I didn't hear him mumbling under his breath about how could someone not have any more arm than that and midgets but I DID hear him because I am small, not deaf.

Since I worked out twice today and once yesterday, I now have a cut lip, mat burn on both hands and probably a few random bruises. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not how other grandmothers in their fifties spend their weekends.

It was a good day.