Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Lion, The Anaconda and Reaction Drills

Just bear with me as you read this story. There is a point here. I promise.

Imagine you are an anaconda, lying in the grass, digesting the deer you caught a week ago, when a pride of lions comes by. You and the head lion get into a discussion about hunting. He explains his method of hunting to you. It is very organized. The lions stalk a herd of deer, following a scent. They select a deer that is slower than the others. They chase the herd one way and then the other until this deer is separated. They chase it down until it is exhausted. One lion leaps at the back legs and cuts the ham strings. Another lion goes for the neck, and the result is deer meat for dinner. The lion asks the anaconda, 

“So, how do you hunt?”

You reply, 

“Well, I just lay here in the grass and when something comes by, I wrap around it, squeeze it to death and swallow it whole.”

The lion exclaims, 

“That’s wrong! That’s not how you do it! How often does something just walk right by you? Maybe you’d catch something really slow and sick that way, but no, you have to chase things down and kill them. That’s what hunting is. Besides, look at you. You can’t swallow a deer whole. That is impossible. I don’t mean to call you a liar, but it sounds pretty unlikely to me.”

Now you are confused. On the one hand, you’ve seen the lions hunting and they are the king of beasts. You have to admit, they look really impressive and beautiful chasing deer in a disciplined formation across the plains. It certainly sounds  like the Lion King is right. He is, after all, a lion.
On the other hand, you’re lying here digesting a deer you’ve caught and you’re a 30-foot long, 500 pound anaconda, the largest snake in the world, which means you’ve actually caught a whole lot of deer. It’s all very confusing.

The lion is equally troubled by the thought of the anaconda spreading this misinformation on hunting to little snakes. Why, they’ll surely starve to death except for the odd exceptionally lucky one here and there.

This is almost exactly the conversation Jim Pedro, Sr. and I had earlier this week, well, it would have been if Jim was a lion and I was a giant snake and we were talking about judo instead of hunting.

I’d say, about two-thirds of the time that I send him anything for The Book, he calls me up and says,

“That’s wrong. You did that wrong. It won’t work.”

I listen to him, because I have a lot of respect for his judo knowledge, but at the same time, I think,

“I know it works, because I did it lots of times, and not just on little kids, but at the world level. I even do it some times now on people way younger and stronger than me.”

Sometimes he’ll send me several pages that show something really good and say,

“See, you had it wrong in the chapter you sent to me. This is how you do that move.”

And I think to myself,

“No, this is how you do some other technique. It’s very good. But it’s not what I was trying to do.”

Over the last few weeks, I have been editing the chapter Jim did on matwork series and it is brilliant. There is no question that the moves he showed will work for lots of people. I have seen Ronda , Kayla Harrison, Jimmy, Jr. and others do those exact same matwork series on many people at a very high level, and they have been very successful. At the same time, as I was reading it, I thought,

“If this was my training program, I would hate judo.”

In fact, when I was younger, my coach, Jimmy Martin, did a lot of these same series, like the tie-up series. He tried to get me to learn. It’s a great idea. Jimmy Martin won lots of matches doing these techniques, as did Tony Mojica, Dawn Beers and many others from our club. At some point, I told my coach,

“I hate this shit and I’m never going to do it. I just hate this.”

Having really thought about it over the past few weeks, I think the big difference between the way Jim Pedro does judo and the way I do it is that his is very methodical and predictable. That is not a bad thing. Watching both Ronda and Jimmy, Jr. over the years, there have been many times in a match when I know that they have got it won because they have passed the point of no return. That is, they have gotten far enough into a series of steps that the only possible end is for the opponent to be turned and arm barred.

Last night I finally had the chance to watch Ronda’s last fight on TV because we had it on Tivo. When she was pulling Tate over on the final arm bar, my husband  (who knows about as much about judo as I know about crochet, that is, he knows how to spell it) said,

“That was the point where I knew she had it”.

So, no, predictable is definitely not bad.

But yet ... there is another way of doing judo and that is what I do. When I was looking through all of the pictures that Jim said were wrong, I noticed a couple of things. He was correct in that the reaction of the opponent varied from picture to picture. He was right when he said,

“Once in a great while, the person might move their arm out like that to stop a half-nelson, but maybe only one time out of a hundred.”
And yet, in almost all of those pictures I was arm barring someone. And yet, in almost all of those pictures, they were NOT posed. That is, I would try a half-nelson, and whatever the person did, I would go into an arm bar. So, they obviously DID put their arm out.

Why, they’ll surely starve to death except for the odd exceptionally lucky one here and there.

When I was competing, it was a big joke among my teammates and I how often articles after events said that someone else was favored but “AnnMaria got lucky and won”.

There are three differences in how I trained for judo and competed from what Jim does.
1. He sets people up to provoke a specific move, for example, he will pull in their wrist to control it, setting them up to pull the arm up allowing space for a half-nelson. I react to whatever the person does. That is, if they put their right arm out at all, even for a second, I am going to jump on it and do juji gatame. I may fall backwards. I may turn towards their hips. I am going to improvise based on whatever my opponent does. He plans. I react. Both ways require A LOT of practice, because, as Jim pointed out, for my way to work, I need to anticipate what the opponent is going to do. His way requires lots and lots of practice of the same few moves. My way requires lots and lots of practice of different moves. I would be bored to death doing judo his way, but for some people, it is just wonderful.

2. My way generally requires that you be faster than your opponent. That is, I grab the arm before he or she can react. Because I have practiced thousands of times being in that exact position (and my opponent probably has not), I am usually faster even when the other person has more natural speed than me.

3. In my way, it helps if you are stronger than your opponent. For example, in the rolling turnover, if you have enough strength to reach up, grab your opponent’s gi and roll him head over heels - or at least get close enough that he reacts by sticking out an arm to stop it - that helps.

Because of those last two points, the “reaction drills” that I do work more when you are young and fit. For this reason, a lot of older instructors won’t like them. I will be the first to admit that I am nowhere near as good as when I was young. Many techniques, I don’t have the power to force them through that I did when I was young. I’m fine with that. Judo is an Olympic sport. I bet whoever won the Olympics in the 100 meters in 1984 can’t run it nearly as fast now, either.

One (of many) reasons that I like matwork is that strength is more of a factor in matwork than in standing technique. If you are stronger than most people, which I almost always was in competition, then it is to your advantage to be in situations where strength matters most.

Jim’s very methodical way of teaching and training matwork is good because it works for a wide range of people, and as someone who has coached for many years, that is what he needs to do.  Jim’s way works for more people because it does not rely on natural athleticism.

Most of my life, I have only had to worry about two athletes - first myself and then Ronda. There is nothing wrong with using your strength and athleticism, if you have it. If you have it, use it!  My way might work for the top 10% in natural athletic ability - but if you are stronger or faster than most people, why on earth would you NOT want to leverage that in competition?

Years ago, a very good coach was watching Ronda and he commented to me,

"Your daughter is not fast. She is sudden."

He was right. When you have practiced many times to react when the opponent is "in the guard" and puts the left leg down just a little bit, allowing you to roll over it, it is sudden, just like an anaconda waiting to strike.

A snake doesn't hunt like a lion. It doesn't stalk. It doesn't have a process. It just reacts suddenly because it is ready when an opportunity occurs.

And a snake isn't a wrong lion.

It's just a snake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to do an arm bar right: A rant

It’s getting into the position to do an arm bar that is the hard part, and takes up a good many pages on this blog and in our upcoming book. My friend, Steve Scott, has written two books JUST on arm lock, as well as The Tap Out Textbook and Gene Lebell has a ton in his Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds .

The actual physical activity of doing an arm lock is pretty simple.  Here is one simple way to do a straight arm lock.

Step 1: You begin with your partner on his or her back. You have hooked the opponent’s arm and have it locked against your body. You have both your legs across the opponent’s body as shown. Usually, feeling in danger, your opponent is going to have gripped both hands together and be hanging on to that arm for dear life. Lock the opponent’s arm against your chest, holding it tight to your body. Rotate toward the opponent’s head to break the grip.

Step 2: Once you have the arm pulled free, rotate back to be pulling the arm straight out from the shoulder. (If you were good at geometry, you will remember that is forming a 90 degree angle with the body.)

Step 3: With the arm locked against your body, arch your hips to complaint the arm bar.

That holding it tight against your body is a really important point. If you grab your opponent's arm with both hands and she grabs her own arm then you are going with your two arms against her two arms. The stronger person will win. 

Instead, if you lock her arm tight against your chest and rotate back towards her head, her arm is at an angle. All you need to do is hold on, lean back toward the mat and let gravity do the rest. She is going to have hold up your body weight. 

Try this exercise. Lie on your back and put your arms at an awkward angle over your head. Clasp a 100-pound dumbbell between your hands and hold it six inches off the floor. See how long before your arms give out.  This explains why smaller players, if done effectively, can apply an arm bar to a much larger player, the opponent is being put in the position of having to hold up a substantial amount of weight with her arms at an uncomfortable angle.

Let me pause here to rant and complain. I am ALWAYS hearing people correct judo players, grapplers, MMA fighters in how they do an arm bar.

Most of the corrections, though, I am skeptical. I always hear people say you need to pinch your knees together, don't cross your ankles, you always need to lock the arm against your body with both hands, grab the wrist instead of the gi , turn the arm so the little finger is pointing up (or down).

In many, many pictures where I, Ronda or someone else is doing an arm bar some black belt, instructor or just random person walking around will point out,
"That isn't right."
In writing The Book, I've had many, many people take pictures of arm bars being done in practice, in competition and had almost as many comments from almost as many people on what is wrong with the technique.

All of those people are correct. I have heard the same things as them - your knees need to be pinched together, the arm should be locked against your body - I've even made some of those same comments.


This has led me to conclude that if all of those people who are doing arm bars in practice and competition are doing them "the wrong way" maybe there isn't just one right way after all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Half-nelson to a sneaky arm bar

I'm amused by those people who say that Ronda will be easy to beat because "all she does is an armbar". In basketball, all anyone on the team wants to do is throw the ball through the other team's hoop and yet somehow, between the two teams, they manage to get hundreds of points each game, time after time. How is that even possible?

The obvious answer in both cases, of course, is that there are an almost infinite number of ways to come at it.

Let's begin from where we were yesterday, with the sneaky arm bar drill, but with an opponent who is not quite as defensive.


Step 1: My opponent starts out on her base, with her legs spread apart, on her knees and her arms pulled in tight, but not as much in a ball as in the first step in the previous technique. When I pull her toward me and try to roll her, she puts the arm nearest me - her right arm - out to stop me from turning here.

Step 2: Here I am doing a half-nelson wrong. I have my right arm under her right arm. I have my left arm over her back, shoving her elbow forward trying to keep her from posting with that arm to stop the half-nelson. I have my left leg bent, with my knee up against her body and my right leg straight, driving my weight on her. I am going to try to walk around her head and pin her.

Step 3: To stop herself from being turned over, she is going to have to do something with that left arm. In this case she happened to push back so hard with her elbow that when I quit pushing her arm and let go her left arm ended up almost straight, palm up. The specific position doesn’t matter so much. My whole intent in the half-nelson was never to turn her over but to provoke a reaction from her. As soon as she moves the left arm out, notice how my left hand was there, ready to slip under her arm and grab it. At the same time, I have stepped forward with my right leg, to the other side of her head.

Step 4: As I stand up, I pull her arm against my chest. My right hand, which was on her head, comes up to grab her arm, too. My right leg is across her body and I am practically sitting on her shoulder.

Step 5: I throw myself backward, and as I fall my left leg comes forward over her body.  You need to move that leg as you are falling backwards to avoid having it trapped under the opponent’s body.

 Step 6:
Here is how it ends again, with his arm locked against me, knees tight and me arching my hips to execute the arm bar.

After a while, when I am teaching, someone is bound to ask -

"All of this is set up to get the person to resist by putting an arm out, but what if they DON'T? What if they have caught on to you? That must happen eventually, right?"

That is right, and it absolutely does happen. In that case, if the person does not put an arm out, he or she ends up pinned. The reason that the way I did the half-nelson above is wrong is that anyone can stop it easily by posting out with that left arm. If the opponent doesn't do that, then I end up getting the pin. The same is true for the turnover I discussed previously.

The more of a reputation I got for arm bars, the more people I pinned. Because my opponents were so intent on holding their arms in tight to keep from being arm barred, they weren't able to defend against pins effectively.

That IS sneaky, isn't it?

More than one way to get an arm bar: With pictures

This is what I call the Sneaky Armbar Drill. Since I made it up, that is the name.

Continuing from my previous post, here is one way to get an arm bar even when your opponent is deliberately avoiding being arm barred.

Step 1: If you have arm barred a lot of people, your partner may react on the mat by getting into a turtle position, pulling her arms in tight. Push down on her head and reach as far as you can between her legs. Grab her belt, or bottom of her jacket. When doing this on a partner without a gi, grab the inside of the leg.

Step 2: Pull the head toward you, while pulling up on the partner’s belt, gi or leg.

Step 3: The opponent feels confident he can stop this turnover attempt, all he needs to do is get a more solid base by spreading his legs a little further and putting an arm out to stop it, as shown above.

Step 4: Notice how close my hand was to that arm ... when the opponent makes even a few inches of space, my hand slides right under his arm. At the same time, my near leg is coming up so that he is blocked turning in one direction by the leg against his head. My other leg, on his opposite side, blocks him from moving in the other direction. Notice something else, my body is on his back just a few inches from his arm.

Step 5: I grab the opponent’s wrist with my other hand while sliding up the hand hooking the arm so I have two hands grabbing the wrist. I am about to lock his arm against my chest, which is just a few inches away.

Step 6: I throw myself backward, keeping a tight hold of the arm with both hands. Note that the picture above was taken AS I WAS FALLING and both legs are already coming together with his arm between them. My right leg was in the correct position from the time I stepped over in the previous picture. Since his arm is locked against my body, as I fall backward, his arm is going to come straight.

 Step 7: Here is how it ends, with his arm locked against me, knees tight and me arching my hips to execute the arm bar.

A very polite young man at Hayastan Martial Arts, where I was visiting tonight, asked me, 

"But Sensei, realistically, if you were doing this in a match wouldn't he grab his other arm and stop you from arm barring him?"

That is a good question but the answer is, "No". There are three reasons. 

First,  he is not thinking about being arm barred at the moment. He isn't feeling threatened at all. He's just thinking this isn't a very strong turnover attempt and is feeling confident he can get out of it easily, just by putting an arm out to stop it. I'm ready and waiting for the arm bar attempt and the opponent is not.

Second, I have the advantage not just of surprise but of distance. My hand is closer to his arm than his other arm is. At Step 3, when the opponent posts an arm, my hand will be about four times closer to that arm than the opponent's other hand is AND I know I'm going for that arm and my opponent doesn't. That's a pretty big advantage to overcome.

Third, I am moving my hand and leg simultaneously and the SECOND that I get that arm, I am pulling it even further away from the opponent's other hand, with my foot on one side of the head and my knee on the other side of the opponent's body slowing resistance.

All of this relies on the opponent putting that arm out just at the right instant doesn't it? Well, yes and no. This particular move relies on putting that arm out just at that time, but the next few posts will discuss what to happen if he doesn't and how to make sure he does.

It is all very sneaky.

Thank you very much to Dan McNair for taking the pictures, and to Adam Sanchez of Barstow Judo and Eileen McNair of San Gabriel Judo for being my victims, um, opponents.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There is more than one way to get an arm bar - or write a book

Jim Pedro, Sr. and I have an actual contract with Black Belt Magazine to finish The Book by mid-July, so I have been working on it pretty regularly. The latest chapter has several matwork combinations, about equally divided between ending in an arm bar, pin or choke. Jim wrote that chapter so I am editing it and putting the finishing touches on it.

 A couple of weeks ago, after Ronda's fight we had a small party for family and friends and the inimitable Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, a teammate of Ronda's on the 2004 Olympic Team, stopped by. He asked how the book was going and what it was like having Jim Pedro, Sr. as a co-author.

I get asked that question a lot. I guess we are an odd couple to be co-authors. Jim is a retired firefighter. I have a Ph.D. and run a company that specializes in statistical consulting and customized software.

Jim travels all over the world coaching elite athletes to the point that judo has pretty much taken over his whole life. I still have a child in middle school, a business and I teach twice a week, once at a middle school in south Los Angeles and once with up and coming young athletes at the West Coast Judo Training Center.  If I'm traveling it is more than likely to give a talk on different model fit statistics in logistic regression.

I told Rhadi,

"It's great, but if you read the book, it is the opposite of what you would think. All of the really cerebral, analytical parts were written by Jim and all the parts that sound like they were written by an ogre  - Bash him down, break arm - were written by me."

There is a reason for that, going back to the points above. Most of my judo has been designed around two people, me and my daughter, Ronda. I read a wonderful line once,

"Every elite athlete is an experiment of one. They are outliers on the distribution of humanity."

Jim has to develop techniques for a wide range  of athletes at the elite level, while I only needed to come up with what would work for local and regional level players, for me, and later, for Ronda. Some techniques do work at all levels. The o soto gari (outside leg sweep) that Ronda used to win her first tournament at 11 years old, also won her matches at the world level in both judo and mixed martial arts.

There are also techniques that work better for some types of athletes than others. I wrote about the role of strength in judo competition a while back and the fact that my techniques tend to rely on strength more than those Jim teaches, which is kind of opposite of what you would expect, given that he is a big, hairy, scary body-builder looking type of guy and I am just the perfect size to be shipped in a box.

Let me give you an example of a technique that I would do --

Step 1: The opponent is on her hands and knees. Either she attempted a throw and missed or I attempted a throw and only succeeded in knocking her to her knees.  If she hangs on, I am going to "help her up" -  a move I cannot believe I did not show on here previously but I can't see that I did - where I slam her to the mat. Since she is not stupid, she let go.

Step 2: I am going to reach between her legs and grab her belt or as high up on the jacket of her judo gi as I can get. I'm going to pull up with her belt and push her head down at the same time, trying to literally roll her head over heels.

Step 3: This is a really stupid move. Almost anyone can stop it by putting an arm out to post.

Step 4: When she does that, I am going to catch the arm she puts out to stop herself and arm bar it. (Didn't see that coming, did you?)

And THAT, my dear, is how I managed to arm bar dozens of people even when they knew to look out for the arm bar.

P.S. One of you people at the training center remind me to teach that and take pictures this weekend. Also, the help 'em up move.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Places You'll Go with Judo

I usually hate every Facebook app on principle, but I saw this one and did it just for the heck of it. I'd been to 105 of the 199 cities on their list and 13 countries. That's not even a comprehensive list, because they did not ask about Venezuela nor Tunisia, nor any cities in North Dakota or Minnesota.

Most of the cities in the U.S. have been for work, but all of the international travel has been for judo, either to compete or train myself or watch Ronda compete. Several of the U.S. cities were for competition,  too.

(Planning some international travel for work starting this year - woohoo! )

Sometimes I think people keep competing in judo long after their peak competitive years just because they like to travel. There's nothing wrong with that if you can afford it and are not taking money from your parents or a second mortgage on your house to do it.

Also, if you note the number of cities scattered across the U.S. - and that's not even a complete list - my advice is that if you like to travel domestically, consulting is probably a good career for you.

On the other hand, if you don't like traveling, choose a different sport and a different profession.

See what you get here, advice on judo and career planning. I try to run a full-service blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What does judo have against arm bars?

There has been a lot of talk lately about arm bars and judo, in part, I think, because Ronda has been taking arms like there was a bounty on them. Two of the dirty little secrets we judo people don't like to air in public are:

  • Most judo players are not very good mat work
  • Particularly in America, most judo players are not very good at mat work

It's considered not as "good" to win on the mat as by throwing someone. I've had lots of people say "AnnMaria's judo isn't very good. All she did was win on the mat."

Yes, I'm not very good, all I did was win a world championship and some other random stuff. Someone criticizing the way I competed once said to me,
"I've never seen you throw with uchi mata or tai o toshi in your life. THAT's real judo. What do you call that rolling around on the ground you do?"
I answered,
"I call it winning, asshole."
 The fact that there wasn't one is not the ONLY reason I did not win the Miss Congeniality award of the judo team.

Most clubs don't spend nearly as much time on mat work as they do on standing techniques with the result that they aren't nearly as good at it. I've written a lot of posts on this, including this one, Matwork Bottom Line: You do too few techniques and you're too slow. 

Not only are most judo players not particularly good at mat work but they really suck at arm bars. The reason is that Americans aren't even allowed to do arm bars in competition until they are seventeen years old and a brown belt. In some local and regional tournaments, you can't do arm bars until you are a black belt. I've even been to tournaments where arm bars are not allowed, period.

I once was visiting a very large, well-respected judo club and they asked me to teach but said,
"Please don't do arm bars. We don't want to scare anyone away."

I taught a roll over choke. Later, the instructor told me they would prefer I not teach dangerous techniques to their white and green belt ADULTS!  He was very nice about it, I must say.

I've asked many judo instructors and tournament directors why we do not allow kids in judo to do arm bars. They say because it is dangerous, kids don't have enough control, we could get sued. Of course, jiu-jitsu allows arm bars for very young kids. Other countries allow kids in judo to do arm bars.

Ignoring all of this, I have taught arm bars to kids for years.

No one has ever gotten injured at any practice from an arm bar. Of course they have not gotten injured in tournaments because they have not been allowed to do them.

My point is that if you are planning on taking up judo to learn arm bars, do a little research on the judo club before joining and see if that is something they even encourage.

Caveat emptor.

Personally, if you live in Los Angeles, I'd recommend two places where you could get better arm bars. It is not that these are the only clubs teaching arm bars but I'd say they are both known particularly for their joint locks.

One is Hayastan Martial Arts and the other is from  Richard Elizalde

Ronda's Judo Middle School Style

Class was a lot of fun today. It is always nice coming back after having been away for a while. It makes me appreciate the students, the teachers at the school and just judo in general more.

First, we covered the switch, where you pull your opponent forward and then, when  the opponent reacts, slide your leg behind their legs and throw them backward. Here is one student showing the entry into the throw after the person resists.

Here is a picture of a second pair of students finishing the throw.

The thrower should have turned his body more toward the mat and been more on top of the opponent, but considering this is the first time they had ever learned that throw, I thought they did very well.

Second, we practiced o soto gari - what the announcers on the fight called a leg sweep. Since this was the first throw they had learned at the beginning of the school year, it was just practicing it. Some of the students had watched the fight on Showtime and were very impressed when they saw it that Ronda used a throw they already knew. I made the point that this is a technique that people use from their very first tournament right up to world and Olympic competition.

Then, we finished off with harai makikomi and arm bars. With the arm bars, we focused on two things. First, breaking the arm free when the opponent is holding on for dear life (lock it against your body and rotate toward the head). Second, I explained entry into arm bars and how even though Ronda had done the same arm bar twice, she did two different entries into it.

One of the teachers at the school took pictures on his camera, so I'll have those next week to talk about how to do the arm bars.

Speaking of teachers - I want to note that this program has been going on for THREE YEARS and Mr. Jose Gonzalez, a social studies teacher at Gompers Middle School has volunteered his time after school for the entire three years, on the mat, supervising this program. A second school staff member, Mr. Jimmy Sanchez, began coming this year to assist.

The next time you hear someone running down public school teachers, think about these two gentlemen staying around on Friday after having worked all week, to work more, for free.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Judo Class for Tomorrow - and maybe yours too

I am sad because I have been away from judo for three weeks. It wasn't all bad. I spent a lot of time with my lovely granddaughters, one of whom can be seen here after she dominated Ronda with cuteness and took away her world title belt. And there was that Ronda winning the world title thing.

So, here I am at 11 pm after finally having caught up with it all, shipped the last deliverable off to a client, met my last deadline and planning what I am going to do at class tomorrow.

Then, it came to me. I'm going to bring my iPad and let anyone who hasn't already seen Ronda's fight watch it (it's short). After warm-ups (which will include The Gecko and the shrimp) , we are going to go over each of the moves Ronda did in her fight.

First there is "The Switch" which is a fake forward and then a sort of cross between tani otoshi (valley drop throw) and ko soto gari. My friend, Kenji Osugi from Sawtelle Dojo always has very proper names for everything and explanations of why a throw is done properly or not. I, on the other hand, believe if the other person fell down and you landed on top, it was all good.

Second, o soto gari - what the MMA announcers call a leg sweep (which is not at all what we judo people call it.)
Third, there was a very nice cross between a harai makikomi and o soto makikomi, where both Ronda and her opponent were airborne. It was very nice. If you were the one on top.

Finally, of course, there were the two arm bars.

We'll go over all of that, then do some matwork and some standing randori. Nice plan for class tomorrow, don't you think?

Feel free to steal it. I do ask in return that if you do, you post one of your ideas here so I can steal it in return.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Animal Judo II: The Gecko

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had run a warm-up where, coincidentally, every exercise was named after an animal.

The first one was the "shrimp" which is an exercise that is the exact same move as you would use when escaping just before someone pins you.

The next exercise is the "gecko". Geckos are kind of cool. Notice how they can just hang out on a wall or a ceiling. That requires some serious balance.

Judo requires kinesthetic sense - the ability to coordinate motion and your position in time and space.

I have students do a number of exercises that develop kinesthetic sense, including the gecko. Not only does this exercise develop coordination but it also strengthens muscles you use extensively in judo.

As you do this exercise, you'll feel it in three areas.

The first set is the leg muscles used in bending when you do a throw such as ippon seoi nage (one- armed shoulder throw). There are a LOT of throws in judo that require these muscles.

The second set of muscles you'll notice using are in your forearms, the exact muscles in your arms that get tired when you do a lot of gripping. The third set are your biceps, the muscles you use in throws such as o soto gari (a major outer leg sweep), where you are pushing your opponent's weight backward on to one leg just before you knock that leg out from under him (or her).

Here is the gecko. Start out with your arms shoulder width apart, one knee up close to your elbow and the other leg straight, as shown below.

Do a push-up and spring forward at the same time as you switch your legs, bringing the other leg close to your elbow and straightening out the leg that was bent.

Yes, I do know that geckos do not do push-ups. I called it the gecko because the way you move your legs reminds me of geckos. Ronda calls it the spider-man push-up.

Try it. It's not easy at all. It may not give you super-hero strength but it will definitely make you stronger and develop your coordination.

Free Rice Prize Winners - Top 10 and Random Drawing

Sorry this is not quicker or fancier but I got in from Boston this afternoon and I had over 650 emails waiting for me for my actual job.

(In case you are interested, which you are probably not, my actual job for which I get actual money is president of a statistical consulting company. You might actually be interested that my second-to-last post had to do with the correct calculation of the probability of Ronda winning last week. )

I think I'm half-way between east coast time and west coast time and it is near 4 a.m. on the east coast, so I'm going to post this and go to bed. Here are the people who were number one through ten as of the weigh-ins

RitchieGreaser 1933890 1
Pablo Weiner 1722955 2
Yariv 1575830 3
FrankMMA 1020000 4
Ryan Ghidina 1018050 5
Rabble_Rouser 600330 6
Mordiaken 521520 7
EverestRice 519890 8
PhilipSellers 514080 9
spleck 438150 10

Some people had asked how it was possible to have so many grains of rice donated. There are two possibilities and I know some people did one and some did the other. One is to do it for an hour or two every day for several weeks. The other (and we did not say you couldn't do this, although, to be truthful, I hadn't considered the possibility) is to have a friend or two help you.

Because we said people couldn't get prizes for being both in the top 10 at 10,000,000 and the top 10 at weigh-ins, we went further down the list for the top at 10,000,000

Rob Nolan
Also Dbautista but I sent her the last of the pink t-shirts so I don't owe her anything.

Hey, Canada person, even though Ronda is fighting a Canadian next you still have to root for Ronda, that's part of the deal. Unless they threaten to deport you, but maybe only then.

Then, I picked five people at random from everyone else who had donated even 10 grains of rice. 

Brandon Abell

Please email me ASAP at  . Ronda has a bunch of rowdy wear swag with her - t-shirts, hats and tank tops that say Ronda Rousey World Champion and other stuff. It would be much better for her to mail it to you than ship it home, and she has a flight back in a few days.

I should make up some story that makes her sound really vicious and intimidating but the truth is that what Ronda did after winning the world title was drive to Boston so she could babysit her niece because her oldest sister just had a new baby. 

After Chuck E Cheese yesterday (hence the crown), they got manicures today.

Also, free rice is still there. The group is still there.  People still need food and you can still donate. And yes, I do expect there will be another contest before the next weigh in. 

After I get some sleep, I'll go back to posting here about judo instead of rice. Actually, my next post is back on animal exercises for judo - The Gecko.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You Dance with Them What Brung You

A liberal columnist from Texas is an odd source of advice for a judo player on mixed martial arts. On the other hand, my most common suggestion for Ronda when it comes to her training is the opposite of what most other people tell her. That is, to quote Molly Ivins,

"You got to dance with them what brung you."
While everyone else is telling her that her striking is not good enough, she needs to work on her striking and eleven different variations of the same thing all over again, I tell her,

"You need to make sure you work on your throws and arm bars."
I've seen enough judo players who wanted to prove they were tough, or that they could really stand up and fight or who knows what they were thinking that stood up and got punched around. What is the point of that? Seriously, if you are winning because of your judo, where do you get the dumb idea to quit focusing on judo?

Almost all of my matches were won on the mat, mostly by pins or arm bars. The two go together. When people are fighting out of a pin, they often give up an arm. A player focusing so much on keeping her arms in tight is easier to turn over into a pin. All of those years, and even to this day, people will say I was not much of a judo player, did not have much technique. Many well-meaning coaches told me that I should focus on my standing technique. Makes sense, right? It was definitely my weakest point.

I remember a lot of coaches telling me,
"Just think, as good as your matwork is, if your standing technique was equally good, you'd be best in the world."
Fortunately for me, I was unable to follow that advice because my knees were so bad many judo throws were physically impossible for me. A couple of years ago, I had my right knee replaced.

I looked at it a different way. I thought, if I was beating almost everyone with matwork as it was, if I could make my matwork even better, no one would beat me. I didn't need to be great at standing technique. I just needed to be good enough not to get thrown for ippon and to knock the person down to the mat once in a six-minute match. (Finals were six minutes back in the prehistoric age when I competed.)

Some people say that is putting all of your eggs in one basket. I agree with Mark Twain that sometimes you want to put all of your eggs in one basket AND WATCH THAT BASKET.

Whether it is going from judo to striking or going from matwork to standing technique, in both cases, the advice other people are giving is, 

"You're being really successful at something, so you should quit doing that and instead do something you're not good at."

Sounds kind of dumb when you put it that way, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The New Bantamweight Champion of the World

After screaming non-stop at the top of my lungs for five minutes on Saturday night, rolling into bed at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, making a flight at noon to get to Boston this evening - I feel like something that cat left on the rug, and probably look worse.

In case you did not know, Ronda won the 135 lb world title on Saturday night. In case you are like my Aunt Sis who always asks,
 “What is it that your daughter does again? Karate? No, that’s Samantha. Tae kwon do?”

... she was competing in Strikeforce which holds competitions for women in mixed martial arts. Oh yeah, there were some men there, too.

I had been saving a couple of posts for this blog on how to really escape an arm bar. I was going to post those after the fight, but on second thought, I’ll just wait and see if anyone figures it out on their own. No sense in helping the competition, especially since quite a few more of those arm bars may be in Ronda’s future.

Was anything settled by this fight? 

Well, Ronda got paid. That’s always good. 

People who were complaining for months that she had no prayer against “an experienced mixed martial artist” and was only given the title fight because she was pretty and had a twitter account got to shut the hell up for five minutes. That’s good. Of course, after the five minutes were up, the same people who were commenting she couldn't win this world title were saying well, yeah, but she couldn't beat some other person.

It's like Steve Seck told me years ago, even if you won the Olympics, those same people would be saying,

"Yeah, you won an Olympic gold medal, but could you do it again?"

The whole “judo beats wrestling” or “wrestling beats judo” argument was not settled, contrary to what some people might think. All this match means is that one person who was a very, very good judo player beat one person with a wrestling background. 

It was determined that the cousins all look a lot alike. We have photographic evidence. (It was really nice that so much of the family came out to support Ronda. Here we all are at around 4 a.m. That belt is heavy ! )  Too bad none of the sisters could come out, but Maria had that whole "I have birth" excuse.

It's probably the getting to bed at 5 a.m. that made me remiss. I haven't taken any pictures of my granddaughters yet and I have been here 8 hours. Here is one Maria sent me when Emilia was a few days old. Well, she's still a few days old, that was last week.

I'm glad Ronda won. If she wants to keep it up, I think she will have a long run as world title holder.  I'm sure she'll be very happy for the next week or two.  For some reason, though, I'm reminded of my little Julia, when she won the junior national judo championships. My mom asked her how did she feel. Julia shrugged and said, 

"It's great the day you win. And then it's tomorrow."

That may sound depressing but it's not. Tomorrow, I'm going to do work I really enjoy and spend the time I'm not working with my beautiful grandchildren. As for Ronda, she's on her way to New York. Supposedly, it is to visit her friend and do some publicity stuff, but after all those months of dieting, I suspect she is secretly making a pilgrimage to the original home of Buffalo wings.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pre-Weigh-In Free Rice Update

Our story in 25 words or so ....

Ronda was hungry cutting weight for the 135 lb world title fight and got to thinking about people who go hungry every day. She is also pretty obsessed with computer games.

Enter free rice ... which is a site where you answer questions and for each correct answer the company sponsoring the ad banner on the page donates 10 grains of rice to the world food hunger program.

Ronda decided to start a group to raise money, er - rice - for this program . The group is rondamma . Anyone can join and anyone can play. Here are the top ten, actually 12, people when the group hit 10,000,000 grains of rice donated and how much they had each donated as of that time. I showed the top 12 because I did not take the number exactly when the group hit 10,000,000. (I have a day job and Ronda is training so we weren't sitting around waiting for the number to turn over). To be fair, I included the people who were in the top 10 or really close.

RitchieGreaser      1,137,860
EverestRice     1,028,650
Yariv                986,600
Ryan Ghidina        910,900
Pablo Weiner        839,530
FrankMMA        525,000
Mordiaken        343,390
PhilipSellers        319,660
brooky.maunder      286,720
Etabasque         277,610
TimRiggins         261,620
spleck                 250,730

DBautista, OCanada and RobNolan were also in there but somehow their totals got dropped off.

As you can see from the chart below, the group is now at almost 18,000,000 grains of rice.

Being good at math, I figured that based on an estimated 3,500 grains of rice per bowl this was enough to feed around 5,000 people. So, Ronda's going hungry adventure will help 5,000 people not go hungry.

After a while, people who waste time on things like bar-hopping, dating, parenting, training and actual jobs questioned whether it is truly possible for someone to donate 1,000,000 grains of rice or were people cheating.

So ... I timed myself. Answering questions in Spanish or math, both of which I know pretty well, I can get 25-30 a minute correct. That is 15,000 - 18,000 per hour. Assuming other people are the same, those people who have donated a million grains of rice have spent about 55 hours on the site over the past 39 days - less than two hours a day - and fed 300 people. In addition, they have probably brushed up on their high school French or algebra.

You have about 36 more hours if you want to get in on the contest. (Of course, you can join the group any time.)  We'll send prizes to the top donors as of when Ronda weighs in on March 2nd. To give a chance to those people - graduate students, new mothers - who cannot spend a lot of time on the site, Ronda is going to also pull the names of some other donors at random. You have to have donated at least ten grains of rice. That is, answer at least one question correctly. When you play the game, if you want to be part of the contest make sure you are playing for the group rondamma. If you just want to donate rice, then that's awesome, too and good for you.

Hope that answers everyone's questions. Thank you to those in the top ten. You totally make me feel like a slacker.

If any of you are in Columbus, be sure to say, "Hi."  I will be the short grandma screaming at the top of her lungs while Ronda is fighting.