Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another Jim Pedro Guest Post on Coaching

(No, I am not on vacation, I am working on The Book - well, it actually has a title - Winning on the Ground - and Jim said to use some of his coaching columns he had published in the past instead of putting up too many sections of the book because why would people buy it if they could read everything here for free. That is why the second chapter is called Ten Matwork Secrets. And there are eleven of them. (The eleventh is double-secret, I guess.) So, here is a guest post from Jim.
P.S. The guy in that photo with the black eye, Roman Mitichiyan, is fighting May 5 at the Hollywood Casino.  If you live anywhere near LA, you should go and cheer him on. )

Most people use the word “coach” when they are describing themselves.  Many of these people don’t fit the concept I personally have of what a coach is.  They don’t really differentiate between a coach and a teacher.

First, I believe you begin as a teacher.   The two roles of coach and teacher are very different.  You could be a very good teacher and not so good as a coach, or vice versa.

A good teacher desires for each and every student to get better.  A teacher recognizes that each student is different and will grasp things at different times.  Some students take a lot longer than other students but they all at the end should end up at the same place.  Be patient.

I believe in teaching a lot of different techniques and allowing my students to work on the techniques that come easy to them so they can practice what is right for their body types and their athleticism.  I personally don’t want all my students doing the same things, or doing the style of judo that I did unless it fits them personally.

Coaching is different in the aspect that some of your coaching is done on the mat at a contest.  When you are working with competitors you are working toward success in contest situations as a specific purpose.

As a coach you should know the contest rules extremely well.  Most coaches argue at tournaments about things that they can’t win because they don’t know the rules.  An effective coach knows when it is reasonable to challenge a call and when it isn’t.  If all three officials agree that a player scored for a yuko and you think it was a waza-ari, odds are pretty low you are going to win that argument.

However, if your player throws with an o soto gari and the referee gives it to the opponent by mistake, that is an argument you can win and you should be challenging the score.  By the same token, if a referee makes a mistake in the rules, such as gives a player a penalty for not attacking after five seconds, you should challenge that.  This requires that you know the rules as well or better than the referees.

In order to be a good coach, you have to be learning all the time.  Not only do your players have to get better, but you should try to improve yourself daily and constantly learn more about judo.  Read books on coaching, watch videos or DVDs, go to other clubs and watch their practices, attend clinics.  In short, never miss an opportunity to expand your knowledge.

You should also be able to watch other players and figure out what your students have to do to be able to beat them.  You have to know how to motivate your players so they are working at the best of their ability.  Most coaches make the mistake of trying to be their student’s best friend.  You are not their friend; you are their coach first.  It’s easier to be the ‘nice guy’, to always tell people what they want to hear, that they are training hard enough, they don’t need to lose weight, they are great just the way they are and the competition will never be able to beat them.  Even though you may become popular, patting your athletes on the back and taking them out for ice cream, that is essentially a selfish way to be.  If you are their friend first, you can’t make the decisions you need to make in order for them to reach their full potential.  Therefore, you are thinking of you first, not your athletes, and you will never succeed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest post from Jim Pedro, Sr: How to be a better coach

Since  I am working on The Book and getting ready for our photo shoot up at the Black Belt studios to take the pictures for it, Jim has been jumping in with some guest posts on the blog.

 Theoretically you are not a coach first, but a teacher first and a coach second. You have to have taught the player something before he or she can even think about competing. Even though you are teaching, you have to still be learning all of the time yourself.

I still find myself making a mistake once in a while, but that is the difference from my past experience, when I made a lot more mistakes. The key fact is that I learned from those mistakes I made.  Too many coaches don't recognize their mistakes and continue making the same mistakes over and over.

If you're an ethical coach you can put your ego aside to analyze what you are doing as a coach to identify your mistakes and stop making them, to see what works and do more of it.

If you can't name any mistakes you have made as a coach, you are never going to get better because you can't admit that there is anything you still need to learn.

Continuing education doesn't have to mean attending workshops or clinics. It can be discussing your ideas with other coaches and learning from each other. It can be reading books on judo (or whatever your sport is), watching training DVDs or reviewing the matches of your players and their competition. I read a lot of books on coaching and when I'm watching another sport - football, basketball, wrestling - I observe the coaches and see how they react, what they do in certain situations.

Coaching is very difficult to teach as I believe it is 90% experience. You are going to make mistakes with your players, it's just inevitable, and a good coach will learn from that experience. The more you can learn from the experience of others, though, learning from their mistakes, the better.

I'm not just saying this because we are writing a book. I have believed this in all of my years of coaching. You have to keep observing, keep learning. After over 40 years of coaching, I'm still learning and changing.

I even got an iPad so I could watch videos on YouTube.

(And Jim doesn't want to hear any smart remarks from any of you about my iPad, which means I think you should all make as many as possible.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Defensive matwork drills round the bend

The Book is scarily close to done. So much, so that we are scheduled to head up to the Black Belt studios for a photo shoot in a few weeks. In reviewing our outline, for no good reason at all, I realized there are the drills we have not included in the book yet.  Four of these are defensive drills, starting with the two below.

Defending on the mat can win you a match, especially in judo, but also in any other sport with grappling where it is possible to be ahead on points.

Matwork defense is a skill you need to learn and here are two of the drills to teach it. 

Defensive drill 1: Eat up the clock

Here is the question I ask my students:
You are ahead by a yuko and in this position on the mat. There are 30 seconds left on the clock. What do you need to do to win?
The answer is simply that you need to not  lose - not get thrown, choked, pinned, arm barred or get two penalties after the referee stands you up. There is no stalling penalty on the mat. All you need to do is stay on the mat, eat up the clock and then you are the winner. Of course, if you just fall flat to your stomach and don't do anything, the referee is going to stand you up. The point of the drill is for you to attack the opponent without taking any chances. If the opponent is attacking you, you want to defend enough to keep from losing the match, again, without taking any chances.

This drill works for both defense and offense. If it so happens that you are one of the stronger players in your club, you should be the person who is "losing" most of the times that you do this drill. It will give the weaker players a chance to "win" if they can hold you off, and make you better prepared for when you are in the situation when your opponent is just trying to eat up the clock.

Defensive drill 2: Get out of there!

Here is the situation - you are in a match with someone so much better on the mat than you that if you spend thirty seconds down there, they ARE going to beat you. Your whole goal at this point is simple - get off the mat. Don't be a hero, just stand up anyway you can.

This is also a good drill for the other person because if you are really good on the mat, people will do anything to avoid being there. We have seen people get up from the ground and literally run away from the opponent they were so scared. In this drill, if the player who is supposed to get up manages to stand, the other player loses.

Like the first drill, this is a good one if you have players who are somewhat mismatched, because it gives one player, who could perhaps never beat the other on the mat, a chance to “win”. It also forces the player who could normally win in matwork to work harder to win at the drill.

Both of these drills can be done from a variety of positions. You can start the players
1.  Face to face on their knees as shown in the first picture.
2. In a referee's position from wrestling.
3. Start again with one player in the guard.
4. Start again with one player on his stomach.

Bingo! You have eight different situation drills.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Throw, Pin, Armbar

Most of my life now is spent running statistical analyses for clients or working on our latest product. However, I took out a couple of hours to go over to Gompers Middle School and teach judo. As you can see from the pictures, the students are coming along nicely.

I am always harping on thinking about your mat work from the very beginning. In particular, I'm always saying that your mat work begins from the time you get a grip. Here is another example from my wonderful students at Gompers Middle School. 

Step 1: He starts standing and does a one-armed shoulder throw. His partner blocks it. Notice where his left hand is in this picture.

Step 2: Unable to get his opponent with the first attempt, he drops to both knees for a double knee  shoulder throw. 

Step 3: He completes the throw and immediately .... goes to 

Step 4: A kesa gatame (scarf hold) pin. Note where his left hand is in this picture. Did you notice that is in the EXACT same place as in Step 1? He has a grip on her right arm and he also has it trapped under his arm pit. Now notice where his right arm is in THIS picture.

Step 5: If she pulls her arm down from his arm pit and it is straight, he is going to hook at the wrist with his left leg and arch his hips to apply the arm bar. 

Step 6: If she pulls away from the first arm bar, bending her arm to keep him from arm barring it, he is going to hook her arm with his right leg. He just needs to lean forward a little to bend her elbow at an unnatural angle and have her tapping.

I wanted to point out where his arms were in this move because it illustrates an obvious point I see people forget in mat work all of the time. That is, don't let go of what you have until you have something else. 

A second important point is - don't stop. Notice how this move goes from one throw, to another throw, to a pin, to an arm bar to another arm bar. 

For people who have asked about how well judo translates to mixed martial arts - well, to be honest, some techniques do and others, not so much. This particular technique, you could do exactly the same without a gi. You would just grab the opponent's arm instead of the jacket.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest post from Jim Pedro, Sr. : Good matwork is more than winning

The situation drills and techniques that are in our upcoming book are the ones that we use all the time and represent tried and true methods.

This is my philosophy. ...

 If you can do a good juji gatame and get everyone with it that doesn't make you a good mat person. Mat work is more than being good at one technique. Matwork is a feel. If you do these drills all of the time you develop a feel. You know where your opponent is going before he goes there.

I remember when I used to drill Jimmy, Jr. when he was five years old and he would have to do these drills continuously, moving from one pin to another, from one technique to another. Before I would work out, I would have him and Tanya do all of these drills with me so they had to anticipate where I was going.

When he was older, whether he was wrestling, or doing judo, he could feel his opponent. They couldn't believe that he knew where they were going before they knew where they were going.

As you can see, in most contests when people are on the mat, they don't usually get that one technique they are trying. They end up letting their opponent up and giving them a chance to beat them standing. I believe you are better off having a sequence of techniques you can go to off that first technique you were  starting. If you are almost continually on your opponent, making progress, moving from one technique attempt to another, the referee will allow you to continue mat work, rather than stopping the match, making you get up and re-start from the standing position.

  I believe that if you are doing one technique you should learn and know an option of your opponent where they can escape from that technique. Then if that happens and you have been practicing you can automatically go to the second technique and beat your opponent. It doesn't mean you have to do everything robotic. It's the same as doing standing combinations, these are just combinations in mat work that you have to do.

An American System

In other countries, you might have 100,000 judo players, and competitors can do mat work three hours every night with thirty different people. You can develop a feel for matwork that way.

In America - certainly in the vast majority of America, at least - you don't have three hours a night with people for them to develop that feel on the mat. If you only have an hour and a half three times a week, you need to take advantage of all of that time. If you have a system, you can be more efficient. You can directly teach your players by setting up situations.

The Book

As far as writing a book, I think when you show techniques everything should be as technically correct and perfect in every photo as it is possible to get them. This is why we have taken some of the same pictures over two or three times. Of course, you realize as a competitor and a coach that not every technique will be done perfectly every time in competition or in practice. However, when people who are not so experienced are reading our book, they may not even know what the exact right way to do a technique is. So, that is why I think we need to show the "perfect" technique - even if it means taking pictures again or re-writing descriptions.

Then, if there are other situations where you are doing a less than perfect technique, or where you are doing things differently, you need to clearly state that this is not the way you would do it normally and explain why you are doing it that way.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Your judo sucks" doesn't mean what you think

I read a nice article yesterday on Bleacher Report about my darling daughter, Ronda and was very surprised to see they had a video of ME competing, winning the finals of the Panamerican Games.  Because (I am not making this up) video cameras were a brand new expensive thing toward the end of my competitive career any tapes people had were on 8mm or super 8mm cameras. Yeah, I know you don't know what that is. My point is, there weren't many videos of me competing.

After some people saw the video on the Bleacher Report site, they made the comment that my judo sucks. This comment has been made my whole life and it used to offend me. For the last twenty years or so, it has just made me laugh.

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

That particular match was the finals of the Panamerican Games, which I won by ippon. I won every match that day by ippon. Natacha Hernandez, who I fought in that video, moved up in weight division and won the world championships the next year. It was the second time I beat her that day, the first time was by arm bar.  So ... I beat everyone in the Panamerican Games in under five minutes, including the soon-to-be world champion - twice - and my judo "sucks".

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

So ... I beat everyone in the Panamerican Games in under five minutes, including the soon-to-be world champion - twice - and my judo "sucks".  Seriously, can you read that last sentence and not shake your head? I understand why people say that. I really do. If you are comparing the throw I did to any book on technique, it looks terrible. I am sure my feet were placed incorrectly or I would have thrown her properly flat on to her back. If I was better at grip-fighting, I would have had two hands on her instead of one. I'm sure all the books show that, too.

Instead, I went for kata guruma (a fireman's carry, which is no longer legal in judo, by the way) - and missed. You couldn't get much more terrible technique than that, no? When she stepped back, I threw my arm over hers, dropped to my knees and rolled her on to her back, not even for  a score - terrible technique again.

I kept my arm, over hers and trapping it, in the exact same position it was in when I was standing. Notice I have the exact same grip on that arm that I had when I was standing as when I pin her. If you read this blog often, you know that is one of the points I emphasize over and over, transition from standing to matwork. A second point I emphasize is thinking about matwork from the time you grip. I roll her into the pin, and after a bit of a struggle pin her and win the match. I had just the right grip to be able to pin her. I was "lucky".

 I don't think that word means what you think it means. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reaction Drills

There’s no such thing as a right way to do things. If you win, it’s right!

The chapter we just finished in The Book, on matwork series, is one way of winning on the ground. You begin with a plan that you follow through until winning is inevitable. (I called it predictable but Jim and Ronda voted me down.) That is one way to win and it works for a lot of people.

Situation drills are a second way of training to win on the ground. Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t like a religion or voting for president. You don’t have to pick one or the other. However, we have found that most people do have a preference. Some people like the structure in matwork series. Others find it boring and have a hard time forcing themselves to go through the same routine over and over.

There is a “perfect” way to do a technique. Let’s take an arm bar. If you have all the time you need and an opponent that is not resisting, everyone knows the right way to do a perfect arm bar. Lock the arm against your body, pinch your knees together, hold the opponent’s arm at the wrist and arch.

There is one teeny, tiny problem though - people resist when they are being arm barred - they resist a lot. You almost never have all of the time you want. At most, you have a few seconds before the opponent turns over on to her stomach or pulls guard and gets out of position. In judo, you might get a few more seconds before the referee stands you up and makes you start again.

Situation drills are just how they sound, a way of training for the types of situations that are almost certain to happen in a competition.

There are two kinds of situation drills, one type I call reaction drills and the other I don’t have a specific name for except “other situation drills” so anyone please jump in with ideas. I thought of “scenarios” but that sounds too much like something you’d see in an episode of Glee or that show Julia watches on Hollywood High.

Let’s start with reaction drills, since I have been talking about those in most of my posts recently. There are five types that I like.

Transition from standing to matwork from a throw. This drill starts with one person doing a throw. The second as much as one person’s knee touches the mat, matwork starts and that is how we do matwork randori. There are several variations to this. Let’s say Joe and Bob are practicing.

  1. Joe does any throw and knocks Bob to his right knee.  As soon as Bob’s knee hits the mat, both try to take the other person down and go into a pin, choke or arm bar.
  2. Joe does any throw and knocks Bob to his left knee.  As soon as Bob’s knee hits the mat, both try to take the other person down and go into a pin, choke or arm bar.
  3. Joe does any throw and throws Bob on to his butt or side.  As soon as Bob hits the mat, both try to take the other person down and go into a pin, choke or arm bar. If Joe is smart he should be following Bob down to the mat. If Bob is smart, he should be trying to turn the throw into a position that is an advantage for him. One way of doing that, if he is thrown on his butt, is to pull Joe in and “collect the arm”.

Transition from standing to matwork from a missed throw. Again, there are a lot of different ways to do this.

4. Joe tries a throw, Bob moves out of the way and Joe ends up on one knee. As soon as Joe’s knee hits the mat, both try to take the other person down and go into a pin, choke or arm bar.

5. Joe tries a throw, Bob moves out of the way and Joe ends up on both knees. As soon as Joe’s knee hits the mat, both try to take the other person down and go into a pin, choke or arm bar.

Let me really, really emphasize something about these first five drills. All of them start the second one person touches the mat with any part other than his feet. That means the person who is down almost always has a grip on your gi and/or you on his. Any decent player is not going to stay in that position for more than a second or two because it is very disadvantageous. That second is your opportunity to attack.

Your success depends on your catching that opportunity. Chad Morrison made the astute comment on the previous post  that being faster than your opponent doesn't necessarily rely on you being naturally a better athlete. Someone who practices these drills a thousand times is almost certain to react faster.

The next set of drills also start standing but are for when you miss that first opportunity.

As they used to say on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, tune in next time.