Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts on Ronda at UFC 168

You may have heard there was a UFC fight this weekend. My husband asked me what I thought about Ronda's fight and I'll tell you the same thing that I told him.

It was clear to me that she took 0 chances in the fight. In her earlier fights, she had taken more risks and even though that resulted in her winning her fights very quickly, it also meant that a couple of times she got in positions that were a disadvantage and that she had to fight out her way out of.

In this fight, she only went for the arm bar when she could could do it without taking any chances of giving her opponent an advantage. It's not the way I would have done it, which is interesting because when we did judo, if you compared Ronda's matches to mine, she was generally more of a risk taker.

Be that as it may, I am very hesitant to criticize the decisions elite athletes make in a match, especially when they win. You can make suggestions as a coach, but the fact is, it's not you out there fighting and the person who is fighting has to make snap decisions based on numerous variables - the way they feel balanced, the other person's balance, direction of movement, etc.

I told Ronda what I have told her a hundred times,

"If the referee's hand goes to the side you are on (i.e., you won), then you did it right."

For all of the people talking about Ronda's manners, behavior, etc. etc. I will tell you two things:

As I told the nice man from ESPN. Ronda is 26 years old and in a very public arena. If you think of all of the things you see from entertainers and professional athletes - DUI, steroid use, wild parties, drug rehab, multiple extramarital affairs and on and on. Or just think of the average 26-year-old. If you're a parent and the WORST thing anyone can say about your 26-year-old child is that he or she says "Fuck" and didn't shake someone's hand, you ought to go to mass, light candles, get down on your knees and say a prayer of thanks.

Recently someone who had lied to me and about me came up to me at an event and tried to shake my hand. I told him, "You've got to be kidding me!' If you lie about someone behind their back, disrespect them and their friends, I completely understand if that person doesn't want to shake hands with you. Pretending that "It's all good now" might make the liar feel better but I don't see why you should do it. If that's what you think you should do, then I won't tell you how to run your life, but I personally have seen a lot of organizations that are completely ineffective because everyone tries to get along, and people who are dishonest or incompetent stick around because no one wants to get in their face and tell them to get the hell out.

Adventure games to teach mathematics. Check it out for yourself, for your school.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Random Ronda (and other) Facts

A totally random blog as a I pack up to leave in the morning

The first time Ronda competed in the senior national championships, she was 17 years old and already ranked number one in the U.S. after having already been in the finals of two international tournaments (the U.S. Open and the Rendezvous in Canada, where she placed second and first respectively). She'd also won the Ontario (Canada) Open.

As a junior, Ronda won most of her matches by one of two throws (uchi mata and o soto gari). Grace Jividen, who had been number one until Ronda beat her at the U.S. Open, came out prepared and took a posture that made it really difficult to get in either of those. Ronda threw her with drop seoi nage to win her first senior nationals. Walking off the mat, Grace shook her head and remarked that she had never seen Ronda do a seoi nage.

Trace Nishiyama, one of the coaches from Venice Dojo, answered,

"That didn't mean she didn't have one."

Actually, that was the second national championships Ronda won with that throw. She also won the junior nationals when she was 12 years old throwing everyone with the same throw.

Ronda won every senior nationals in which she competed.

For all of those who call Ronda a one-trick pony and say they have prepared to defend against her arm bar - I just realized today that two of the three arm bar entries we drilled most when she was a kid I have yet to see her do in a fight. The third one was the arm bar she did on Sarah Kaufman.

Proof we live in LA

We have had the same dentist for 16 years and his son was also on some reality show, called "The Hills" , which I find strange because I'm sure the Pratts live in Malibu. When they were watching one of her fights, Spencer was surprised to find his father knew Ronda. Dr. Pratt said that smile was some of his best work. (Great dentist, highly recommend him.)

Reality shows don't seem to be that tough to get on since Ronda and her friends were just on one, both of the Pratt kids were, and four other people I know from the same club! (Hayastan) have been on The Ultimate Fighter before.

Julia has had the same best friend, Kiah, since she could crawl. I have lots of pictures of the two of them with Ronda in the middle, and lots of pictures of the two of them with Lenny Kravitz in the middle (he's a friend of Kiah's parents). As far as I know, Ronda and Lenny have never met.

 (I don't watch TV. I didn't know anything about the show the Pratts were on, or that Kiah's Uncle Lenny was a musician until my oldest daughter told me, accompanied by much sighing and eye-rolling at my lack of coolness.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's the Giving Season

When we received a contract from Black Belt magazine to publish Winning on the Ground, I told my youngest daughter, then in the eighth grade, that we really did not need anything more in a material way and that as part of the Christian service hours that she was required to do as a student at St. Anne's School, she should do some research and select a charity to give my share of the royalties.

Seriously, it's not a ton of money. Anyone who writes a book on matwork thinking it will make them millions is pretty silly. Jim and I wrote it because we hadn't had the opportunity to learn from any very experienced coaches until we had been in judo for years. He started training in Boston and I started in a small town in southern Illinois. So, we wrote a book that we thought might help other players and coaches who sincerely wanted to get better. And, to be honest, we had no idea how much work it would take until we had already signed the contract.

I received the first royalty check (they send them twice a year),  a couple of months ago and kept meaning to make a donation to the charity Julia had picked, but I've been really busy. Since Christmas serves to emphasize how fortunate we are to have both family who love us and an abundance of material possessions, I decided not to let the day pass without finally making that donation.

Two points here:
  • Many of us have way more than we really need.
  • Most people are probably just like me, putting off some good they could do that would take us five minutes. So, do it. Give $50 to the food bank, drop off a bag of groceries, buy a sandwich at subway and hand it to the homeless guy on the corner, call your elderly aunt that's home alone for the holiday. 

If you're interested, Julia picked two charities, and this was the first one, Children of the Night , which according to their website

The Children of the Night home is open to child prostitutes throughout the United States, and the Children of the Night hotline is ready and able to rescue these children 24 hours a day. We provide free taxi/airline transportation nationwide for America's child prostitutes who wish to escape prostitution and live in our home.
Basically, they exist to get children out of the sex trade and into college, homes and careers as well-functioning adults. I'm not quite sure why Julia picked the two charities that she did. Both serve kids about her age in dire circumstances. I think it was the stark contrast between their situations and hers that made her choose these two. 

The second charity was Invisible Children, in case you are wondering. Since the second royalty check should be more, covering six months instead of just three, I think I will split it between the two of them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week 3 Free Rice Winners. P.S. People are Awesome

Below are the winners from week 3 in the Ronda Rousey

Ranking    User Name    Grains in Group
1    louchristopher    462,190
2    yingherng    386,900
3    Hugo Lemos    272,670
4    dangerousH2Os    239,900
5    21_Skins4Life    115,030

Because you can only win one weekly prize, these are the leaders who have not won a prize yet. The overall leadership is a back and forth battle between Alan and Laurie, both of whom have donated over 800,000 grains of rice in this contest!

If you are one of the top five names listed above, please email me at or DM me if I follow you on twitter so you can get a signed poster.

If you have a preference of a Xyience poster or the Insureon one, let me know.

There will be an additional prize to:
  • The overall top 10 as of weigh-ins on Friday
  • Anyone who donates over 1,000,000 grains of rice.

If you are just tuning in, you can learn about the free rice site and what the competition is about here. In short, every time you get a correct answer, the World Food Programme gets 10 grains of rice donated by the advertiser. If you play as part of a group with Ronda, you can win prizes donated by her.

Prior to this fight, her groups had raised enough for over 25,800 meals. The current group to date has donated enough rice for 1,852 more.

People are awesome.

P.S. How the number was calculated can be found here, for you mathematical types.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Christmas Letter: It's Been a Wild F**ing Year

My older brother always writes a really funny Christmas letter detailing his yearly events, such as a visit to the World's Largest Ball of Twine (which he actually honestly did and it turns out that this is, in fact, a disputed title).

I, alas, had no such twine-related visits this year to relate. However, it really was a pretty crazy amazing year, so here is what happened:

When Jenn quit going to mass a few years ago, I brought a pin back from a meeting in San Francisco for her to wear on Sundays. It said,

"I'm sorry I missed church. I was busy practicing Wiccan and becoming a lesbian."

She was highly offended. This year, she got engaged to a man named Chris. One of the things they appear to have in common is that neither of them is a lesbian. They plan to get married at an undisclosed location. Jenn and Chris traveled to Graceland this summer (on a train) to see if Elvis was available to perform the ceremony but it appears that Elvis had left the building. This is her fourth year teaching middle school - can you believe that baby face finished graduate school four years ago, after having worked after her B.A. for two years (in San Francisco - hmmm).

Maria and Eric had baby number two last year, then flew to Europe this year leaving both children in their care of their maternal grandparents. They ate broccoli and studied physics for the entire time their parents were gone. That's my story and I'm sticking to it and any evidence of empty popsicle boxes in the trash and My Little Ponies DVDs is purely circumstantial. Since Maria had taken her turn at exponentially increasing the chaos in their lives by giving birth twice in four years, it was now Eric's turn. He stepped up to the challenge by getting a fellowship at Stanford which required them to sell their house and move across the country for a year. Not to be outdone in the complete life pivot, Maria came to work at 7 Generation Games as our Chief Marketing Officer.

Ah, 7 Generation Games, our new start-up making adventure games to teach kids math. This year, we had a successful Kickstarter campaign, received a $450,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant for development, presented our results of our pilot study at four conferences, started commercial sales of our first game, expanded to schools in two more states and are almost finished with our second game.

Jim Pedro, Sr. & I finally finished our book, Winning on the Ground, and it has pretty consistently been in the top 20 best-sellers on Amazon in the mixed martial arts category.

I wrote a chapter in another book, Real Talk, Real Women, which is also selling well.

And I made the list of 40 Women to Watch Over 40.

Then there was Ronda. Not to be out-done, darling daughter number 3 made Time's list of 30 People Under 30 changing the world. She started the year by winning the first ever women's UFC match and retaining her world title belt. After a reality show called The Ultimate Fighter, she hopped a plane to Bulgaria for two months to film Expendables 3, was home for four days, got on another plane to Atlanta for Fast and Furious 7. She also was in commercials for Insureon and is on the Xyience cans for the sports drink, Xenergy.  And she defends her world title next week.

Dennis did not make the 50 over 50 or any other list, but he cheerfully (okay, well with less complaining than expected) gave up a lot of his retirement time to code the 3-D part of our new game, Fish Lake. He could not turn down my offer of matching his previous hourly salary, the opportunity to work at home in his underwear and not getting up until 1 pm. Also sex. The game is awesome.

Julia made the list of the 16 people under 16 most likely to take pictures of themselves on other people's iPhones. She spends the weekdays at a college prep boarding school to avoid the thought that her parents have sex. Her AYSO soccer team made the play-offs, she is on the high school varsity team for her second year, as a sophomore. She made straight A's at the end of last year. When a few of those grades dropped to B's at midterms this fall, I threatened to ground her until she was 40 and Ronda dropped off her Honda she bought with the money from the Olympic bronze medal and said it was Julia's if she brought her grades up. Her grades are back to A's and she is spending her Christmas vacation studying for her permit test while Dennis and I are spending it working overtime so we can afford our car insurance rates going up to something expressed in scientific notation.

So, that was our year. Wild, yes?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and if you see a 2005 gold Honda coming up behind you , get the hell out of the way!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ghost of Opportunities Past

I really doubt many teenagers read my blog, so if you are a parent of one who could benefit from the following, I recommend you print it out and place it somewhere they might read it, say, on top of the remote control or in their iPhone case. Keep reading, though, because the last paragraph is for you.

If I could go back in time to give my teenage self advice, it would be this ....

Talk to your friends. Now! Because when you are old, you will live in a nice place by the beach and every day thank God you are so lucky to have such a great life. (I know it's hard to believe now, but that's the way it turns out.)

Some of your cool friends, on the other hand, that's another story. They'll end up at 55 or 60 years old sleeping on someone's couch because they can't afford rent. And it's not like they had a great time for 30 or 40 years before that, either.

You see, here's what happened ... remember how you were the one that was always studying between judo matches, sitting up in the stands reading your textbooks? Remember your friends who were a lot more fun, who were sitting in the back of Algebra class and English telling jokes and talking about their dates the night before?

Well, it turns out that Algebra and being able to write an essay were really important for getting into college and college was really important for getting a good job.

The cool girl who sat behind you - yeah, she had four kids, was on welfare for years and now lives with her oldest daughter and her husband.

Those guys in the back of the class who never turned anything in - one was in prison for armed robbery last I heard, another drove a truck for years until he had back problems, now he's living on disability payments that barely cover the rent in his one-bedroom apartment and his pain medication. Another one has been an alcoholic for years. He lives in a hotel room downtown. The fourth one, that all the girls thought was so hot - yeah, he had several kids but never managed to make enough money to pay child support and none of them talk to him. He lives alone.

Are you getting the picture here? The guys (and girls) who were too cool for school had a lot of dates while they were in high school - but after a while, they got left behind. No one wants to date the toothless clerk at the convenience store. (Dental care is expensive.)

You went off to college, then graduate school. You've been to visit four continents while they've never been anywhere but that one road trip they took thirty years ago.

What I'm saying is, think of me like the Ghost of Christmas Past, but for school. Try to help them out before it's too late.

Okay, now a word to you parents --- 

If your child is making a D or an F in anything and has an iPhone to put a case on - what the hell is wrong with you? I don't know your child, but unless he or she has a disability, I'd say anything below a B is unacceptable.

 I have taken away credit cards, phones, DVD players and even had the cable disconnected for the whole house when one of my children received a grade below a B.

I have threatened to take away car keys but that child's grades coincidentally came up very rapidly.

I have grounded children from going to dances, a tournament that was points toward the Olympics and the mall (for Julia, that is like solitary confinement).

The people who can't get jobs now? Not all, but a disproportionate number of them are people who didn't study back then.

Listen to the Ghost of Career Opportunities Past.

It's not too late, you can still play Spirit Lake: The Game, have fun and learn math while you are at it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My next book ...

My next book will be a while since I am pretty caught up in writing my next computer game, teaching a class on biostatistics, teaching judo and occasionally having time with my lovely family.

However, I get asked questions from time to time that illustrate just how much we left out of the book - it's only a couple of hundred pages and so we had to pick and choose what to include. Our first decision was to focus on matwork but even that left out a lot.

A week ago, a young man asked me if it is possible to arm bar both of someone's arms at the same time. I told him that it sort of is possible. It's not exactly simultaneous but the best way to do it is catch one arm with your legs and have that in an arm bar position and then reach across and do a bent arm bar on the other arm with both of your arms. So, you have one of their arms caught with your leg and the other arm in a two-on-one situation. Then you can arm bar both at once. I showed him and he thought it was really cool. He asked if I thought there was any possibility Ronda would do that to Miesha. I told him probably not because it is more of a showing off move and she will probably just take the first opportunity to end the fight and then go out for chicken wings.

I was demonstrating on another young man how to do a sliding lapel choke and how that combined with an arm bar for a technique we used to call the "hell strangle" when I was a kid.

I think I'm going to start writing it down every time I teach something we did not include, I can start with that as an outline for my next book. As I said, I don't know how long it will be before the next book since I'm swamped at the moment and Jimmy told me after we finished Winning on the Ground that he wasn't going to do another one. It was a lot of help doing a book with a co-author. I'm certain I never would have finished it without him.

One of the things I did learn from the last book though, is that the way to write a book is, as it says in Alice in Wonderland,
"Begin at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop."
You can buy Winning on the Ground while you wait for me to write the next one. Give it to your friends for Christmas. You have friends, right? 

I just got home from my niece's graduation in Missouri and it is two hours later there, so I guess I will go have a glass of wine with my husband and turn in. If you remind me, I will tell you why I wrote this book and where the royalties go. (Hint: It is not the AnnMaria's Chardonnay fund.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Demo of Spirit Lake: The Game

This is my day job. For those of you who thought I just spent my time teaching judo, encouraging people to play free rice and making smart ass comments, no.

If you like the game, it is on sale now for a measly $9.99 It's fun to play and it teaches math.

Yes, I really designed and made this, along with Justin Flores (artwork), Danny Ochoa (animation), Maria Burns Ortiz (video dialogue and editing) and Dennis and I did all the programming. Smarter than I look.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Practicing Fighting Your Way Out

Ronda steals a lot of things from me - ideas, quotes, my sweaters - so I think it is only fair that now and then I swipe something from her. In this case, it is a drill she does at practices sometimes.

Here it is --- let your partner get you in a very bad position. You can see in the different groups above, two are pinned, one is in a choke, one just escaped from an arm bar before I took the picture.

You get into a position where you are at a grave disadvantage and you start matwork from there. This is good for three reasons.

  1. If you have a group of students mixed in ability, it makes the stronger or more experienced students have to work to escape, rather than winning every exchange. In other words, it pushes them harder, and that is what you want to do.
  2. For the smaller or less experienced students, it gives them a chance to feel successful. If nothing else, they are starting out on top. Having some success during the class keeps them from getting discouraged.
  3. It mixed up practice, keeps it from being one of those dreadful clubs where you do the same thing, every day,  to the point of monotony.
Some people think monotony is okay, that it pays off in the end. To each his own (or her own). For me, I don't want my life to suck lots of days so I can have a few when I feel great because I won. I want to feel great every day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Free Rice Winners for Week Two

Below are the top ten people in the free rice group

1. laurajw1988  395,000
2. Alan260        351,250
3. Kaitlin25 ***** 219,610
4. Megneck 198,440
5. MrNuff   192, 330 
6. jamesj8354 190,410 
7. Norad2 **** 165,290
8. Sdidntknow  *** 154,420
9. avia.camila07 ***114,010
10. zarabarry  108,780

Because you can only win a weekly prize once, the winners for this week have *** next to their name. Please email me or DM me on twitter your address.

and we will send you a nice signed poster from Insureon or Xyience. Two companies who kindly sent posters to give away.

There was also one person who donated $500 and said he did not want a prize mailed to him, he just wanted to know if Ronda would match his gift. Yes. She did. (Well, actually she gave me her credit card to do it because she was headed out to train somewhere and I was headed out to teach judo so I will do it this weekend.) I'll get his address and we'll send him a prize, too.

So far, the group has donated 3,400,000 grains of rice which is enough for 1,000 meals. The contest goes until Ronda weighs in on December 27.

You can go here to play, and you can learn more about the contest and Ronda's weight-cutting and free rice connection here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Princess of Moldova

So, I took a quick 20 hours away from programming this weekend (my day job) to fly out and see Marina Shafir compete in the Tuff-N-Uff championships - which she won very handily, thank you very much, in the first round - but NOT by an arm bar just because she does not want to be too predictable or known as a one-trick pony. (I'm kidding  - well, I'm not kidding that she won, nor that she threw her opponent and choked her. Now she has some belt for 145 lbs and she's all smiley. It's all good.)

The funny thing though is the back story - our family has known Marina for years. She used to come visit when she was a teenager and Jennifer, who is a year older than Ronda, did what all big sisters do to younger sisters and their friends. She teased Marina unmercifully until she was practically in tears.

"There's no such place as Moldova. You made that up!"

To which Marina would argue that no, it was really a place. Jenn insisted that she prove it by speaking Moldovan. When Marina explained that there is no Moldovan language, they speak Russian, Jennifer contradicted her,

"No, there's no Moldovan language because there is no such place."

Geography is absolutely my worst subject, well, maybe second-worst besides English literature. I mean, who really cares what some dead poet meant in some stupid poem, anyway. So, when they came to me to referee and asked had I ever heard of Moldova, I said,

"Wasn't that the name of the country the girl was supposed to be princess of in The Princess Diaries?"

After that, Jenn called her Princess Marina for a couple of weeks, and would torment her by shouting out at random moments -

"Name one famous Moldovian! You can't, can you? You know why? Because Moldova doesn't really exist!"

Other helpful suggestions on twitter today were that Moldova is the name of a company that sells high-end chocolates or the underworld in Lord of the Rings.

Well, Marina is older now and doesn't cry when Jenn teases her any more, and she got the last laugh.

You see, she never did have a nickname for fighting. Some people had suggested The Fear, but I guess she didn't like it. When the Armbar Nation people made up shirts for Marina, Jessamyn (The Gun) Duke and Shayna (Queen of Spades) Baszler , Marina's shirt only had her name on it.

I guess you have to have a fighter nickname, so when she came out last night it was as Marina THE SUPERNOVA FROM MOLDOVA Shafir.

Of course, I had to call Jenn and tell her, who nonetheless insisted,

I still say she made that country up.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Speed, Aggression, Technique and Minimum Effort

A young man asked me on Facebook

I recently saw a interview with you on The Ultimate Fighter. You said that you can use speed and aggression when technique doesn't work. Isn't that exact opposite of Kano's theory of maximum efficiency with minimal effort? I'm just a shodan, who doesn't belong to a tournament club. I'm just trying to wrap my head around a different way of looking at things. 

I'm a statistician so let's look at it like an equation with

 Effect = .4X1 + .3X2 + .3X3

Say technique is X1 and speed and aggression are X2 and X3 -- so, if you are equal on all of these things, the person with the best technique will win. If you are somewhat better on technique, even if you aren't quite as strong and aggressive, you will still win. My point there, though, was that you use what you have. The Ultimate Fighter show is filmed over 8 weeks. You are very limited in the amount of technique you can learn in 8 weeks. That is NOT to say that you should not learn every bit that you can, but simply that you can't learn a whole lot more technique in 8 weeks so you have to leverage every single asset that you have.

In competitive judo, I think we do many athletes a disservice by telling them not to use strength. That's like telling basketball players not to use their height. What we want is for people not to use ONLY strength. Seriously, why would you not use every asset that you have? That doesn't sound very efficient to me.

My other point is that many people who are technically skilled are not mentally as strong as they could be. They will hesitate and even if they have a better hip throw (harai goshi), while they are holding back waiting for just the right moment to get that perfect timing, you can knock the person down with your so-so leg sweep (o soto gari), get on top and win the match.

The biggest weakness I see in most American judo players is that they don't attack enough. They are always waiting for that perfect moment for the big throw. I know this is not unique to the U.S. but I cannot say if it is as prevalent in other countries as I see here. I'd be interested in hearing opinions on this.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Help a Start-up and Learn Some Life Lessons

Eric Ortiz wrote the following blog post. He is married to my oldest daughter, Maria. He also is the founder of Moblish  - an application to allow anyone with talent, integrity, hard work and a cell phone to become a journalist.

His company is in the running for a $20,000 seed grant.

 You can vote for Moblish here, or you can vote for Moblish at the end of the post.

I got some advice before I ran my first half marathon.

Start slow.

Pace yourself.

Don’t let your wife beat you.

 The first two pieces of advice were provided by veteran runners and lasted for about 500 yards. The final bit of counsel I gave to myself and was followed for all 13.1 miles. I’m a competitive person. I like to win -- or perhaps more accurately, I don’t like to lose to my wife.
The mindset is born out of irrational machismo from my Cro-Magnon heritage, ego and pride. In other words, general ignorance and stupidity, with a healthy dose of misguided, testosterone-fueled exhuberance.
Nevertheless, on the day of race, winning to me in the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay meant completing the picturesque course -- through downtown Monterey, Pacific Grove and along the Pacific Ocean -- in front of my better half, Maria.

I finished in two hours and 27 minutes, in 4846th place out of 9051 participants, 2,002nd out of 2,528 men, 279th place in my age group (40-44) out of 340 runners, and first in my marriage, 42 seconds ahead my wife.

Here’s a quick recap of how the race went for me.
I started fast. A half-mile in, I said to my wife, “I feel good. This is going to be easy.”

One mile in, I asked her, “Do you want me to run with you.” She said, “Go ahead.” I picked up my speed and left her in the dust. I was moving, passing people left and right.

Four miles in, my pace slowed. People started passing me. Old and young, large and small. Then, I found a nice, comfortable pace for the next four miles.

Around the eight-mile mark, we made the turn for home. I wondered where Maria was. I thought she must be far behind me.

Then, I saw her 30 seconds later as I began running in the opposite direction toward the finish line. She was right behind me.

A minute later, she was right next to me. I said, “Hey.” We conversed for a moment. Then, I sped off and ran fast (in my mind, at least) for a mile or two. Then, I slowed down. Then, my wife caught up to me. Then, I sped off again. I followed this routine for the rest of the race.

At Mile 10, my body started telling me to stop and walk. My mind started giving me a pep talk, “You’re almost there. Keep going. One foot in front of the other. You can do it.”

I had never run more than 10 miles in succession before. The bone spurs in my right ankle (the remnants of a broken ankle suffered on my 19th birthday) were barking. Each step felt like a nail being driven into the top of my foot, a screw being tightened. I put my head down, blocked out the pain, and just kept moving forward

Around Mile 11, guess who? My wife. She had a smile on her face and the same steady pace she had been employing for two-plus hours. She looked comfortable, ready to run a full marathon. I was not. She could see I was struggling and delivered one last message of encouragement, “You know you don’t want to finish behind me.”

She was right. I sped ahead and started my kick toward home. I picked up the pace, started passing those who had decided to walk. I wanted to join them, but I knew if I did, I would finish behind my wife. So I continued my uneven gait. Each stride that got me closer to the finish line yet came with the price: a little more sharp discomfort.

Mile 12. Over. People yelled inspiring words. Signs offered support. “In my mind, you’re all Kenyan.” I passed Cannery Row. I asked John Steinbeck for strength. Someone yelled, “Looking strong, Eric.” I just kept my head down.

Mile 13. Done. The end was near. I could see the finish line. I mustered the energy for final burst. I felt like a Kenyan. One-hundred yards to go. I heard people calling my name. I figured it was our family who had come to watch me and Maria race – Eva (my 5 1/2-year-old daughter), Emilia (my almost-2-year-old daughter), Julia (my 15-year-old sister-in-law), Dennis (my father-in-law) and AnnMaria (my mother-in-law). I couldn’t acknowledge them. All I could do was keep my head down. And run.
I crossed the finish line, running. I took another step and slowed down. No need to worry about stopping too fast. I walked a few steps and got a beautiful ceramic medal put around my neck. I kept walking and got some Gatorade.

I saw Maria a minute later. My calves were burning. I found a place to sit down. Now, my body was letting me know who was in charge. I got up and could barely walk. Maria was ready to jog back to the hotel, while I laid down on the curb and waited for a cab.

What did I get for finishing in front of my wife? Two days of being able to hobble and walk with a severe limp, unable to put any pressure on my right foot. Then, I got sick and was bedridden for a day and hacking up phlegm for days after that. A week after the race, I strained my lower back riding my bike and could barely walk again for a few more days.

I am almost back to normal.

So who was the real winner?

Maria is planning when to run her first marathon.

Maybe I will join her. If I do, I will let her finish first.

Moblish is in the running for a NewU seed grant . Please vote for Moblish  .

Free Rice Winners Week 1

The winners of the Free Rice contest for Week 1 are:


Each of these people have donated over 100,000 grains of rice - enough to feed 30 people or more. Thank you!

Please email me your mailing address at or DM me on twitter if I follow. (Tweet me if I don't and I will.)

We'll send you an autographed poster. Let me know which you'd like. The Insureon ones (below) are smaller so are more likely to show up in your mailbox undamaged.

The xyience ones are very big (see below)
If you won this week you cannot win next week but you CAN win as one of the top ten at the end of the contest.

If you're just tuning in and want to know what the free rice contest is all about, click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Real Talk, Real Women is Real Good

Let me start out by admitting completely and without reservation that I was wrong.

When Miriam Khaladi asked me if I'd do an interview for her radio show, Real Talk, Real Women, I said sure. She seemed like a nice young person, another very nice person, Elizabeth, from Fight Chix clothing, had recommended I speak with her, and I had a new book on matwork, Winning on the Ground out that I'm sure my publisher, Black Belt Books, would like me to promote.

Then she asked if I would write a chapter for her book, Real Talk, Real Women. My initial thought was that she probably wouldn't want to use it because the most common phrase to come from Miriam is, I am not making this up,

"Much love from Amsterdam,"

Where the most common phrase to come from yours truly is,

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

However, I had started a new company recently, 7 Generation Games, and our chief marketing officer thought I should try to get as much exposure for it as possible. She also thought I should swear less. She got one out of two.

To my surprise, Miriam did include my chapter, and then further reinforced my prejudices by asking several times if I had a head shot or professional photo I would like to use for the book. I told her no, I'm 55 years old and I look it. I don't own any make-up and any physical fitness I have is a side effect of teaching judo, not an end in itself.

When she suggested I promote the book on my blog and other social media, I was hesitant. How good could a book be by women who compete in bikini competitions, fitness competitions (whatever the hell that is) and fitness modeling? I told her, truthfully, that I never recommend any book that I haven't read, and I would have to read it first.

Did I say I was completely wrong? Oh. My. God. Some of the stories in this book from women who have been strippers, addicted to drugs, sexually abused, raped, survived cancer, overcome eating disorders - and I thought *I* was a bad ass!

Yes, there is a bit much of make up and "much love" and stuff that is not really me, but I tell you what, given what some of these women have overcome and accomplished, hey, you can be a bikini model or a competitive embroiderer and you still have my utmost respect.

Buy it. Read it. Yeah, it's bright pink, but one thing I have learned from this is both literally and metaphorically to never judge a book by its cover.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ronda Free Rice Contest - this time it's serious

I guess with all of the missing weight going on with The Ultimate Fighter show maybe it's timely to be talking about the free rice contest again.

In a nutshell, around two years ago, when Ronda was cutting weight for a title fight, she came across the Free Rice site (I think maybe her youngest sister was assigned to do it for school). She had been complaining about being hungry and then sat up and said,

"How much would it suck to be hungry every day?!"

So, the free rice contest started. Each time she makes weight, from training camp until the weigh-in, people can play as part of a group. It is free to play. Each time you answer a question correctly, an advertiser donates 10 grains of rice. So far, there have been 16 people donate 1,000,000 grains each. Pretty amazing, huh?

The top people get prizes. ALL the money goes to the World Food Programme. The prizes are donated and my company, The Julia Group, takes care of the shipping.

According to Jessica at Armbar Nation, who keeps track of these things,
"Between the last three fights, the group has raised over 88,000,000 grains of rice. Since one bowl of rice is about 3,400 grains and comes out to about 3 cups of cooked rice, that is enough to feed approximately 25,882 people."

Last time, when people asked could they donate money instead of donating rice on the site, we said no, just to give the people who did not have a lot of money a chance to win. (Yes, Jim Pedro, Sr. used to call me a Communist all of the time.)

However, this time around, there are two differences. One, is that there is a great and pressing need for supporting the World Food Programme with 2.5 million people in the Phillipines in need of emergency food assistance due to the super-typhoon.

The second is that we have a lot more prizes thanks to the generosity of the folks from Insureon and Xyience, two of Ronda's sponsors who provided stacks of posters. The Insureon poster is above and the Xyience one is below.
Ronda is coming over to sign them tomorrow.

Here is how to help people, and win prizes:
1. Join the Ronda Rousey Team Free Rice group and play. Make sure you are playing for the group. We'll send prizes to the top five every week, the top ten at the end of the contest and to another ten we pick randomly at the end. (You can only win a weekly prize once, but the top ten at the end will all get prizes, as will anyone who donates over a million grains.)

2. Donate $500 or more to help with super-typhoon relief. You can donate using a credit card or Paypal at the World Food Programme site. Take a screen shot or print to pdf the page that says Thank you, Your donation of $500 has been received and email it to

3. Send a check for $500 or more to St. John the Baptist Church, with the memo Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief. The address is 3883 Baldwin Park Blvd., Baldwin Park, CA, 91706  They will send me your mailing information. You don't need to do anything else.

Why $500? Because Ronda is training every waking moment and she gets far more requests for autographs than she could possibly respond to. No, there isn't any assistant or stamp or machine that signs them (although it has been suggested many times). So, she agreed to sign 100 posters that could be used to raise money for charity and that is what we have and we are trying to raise as much money as possible while still allowing her time to train.

For people who do win prizes - they will be mailed out every week, on Tuesday, so if it takes a week or two, don't panic.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Would You Do If You Could Do Whatever You Wanted?

I decided yesterday that I was going to limit myself to working 12 hours a day. Since I started at 11 a.m. this morning at 11:08 when I looked at the time, I stopped.

The main reason for this decision is my observation of many people I know older than me who continue working into their sixties, seventies and even eighties because that is all they have. That isn't to say that they don't have families. In fact, many of them do. From all appearances, they love their families and their families love them back.

It's just that their entire lives, they have gone off to the office, university, military base or wherever and done whatever it is they do. They know nothing else.

A friend of mine asked me why I felt like I shouldn't work all of the time. He pointed out that I really enjoy my work and that my older children were all out on their own, my youngest is in boarding school, and when she is at home she doesn't really need a lot of care. She can watch Vampire Diaries while laying on the couch with no help from me.

Here is another place where judo has been a good metaphor for life. When I was competing, I had several teammates a generation ahead of me in terms of competition - they had been on the world or Olympic team 5 or 10 years prior. Those who had an education had gone on to get good jobs. Those who didn't have an education, no matter how many national championships or international medals they had won were not doing very well. I decided to stick with my day job as an industrial engineer, despite the urging of many people to quit and train full time. After I won the world championships, I went back to school for a Ph.D.

Now, looking ahead at the people 10 or 15 years further along in life in similar careers, the ones who are still working don't seem all that happy. They don't seem unhappy, either. It's more going on auto-pilot.

I don't know the answer to a good old age. What I do know is that women in my family tend to live into their nineties, so I'm probably going to have a good many years left without the need to work to pay the bills.

I know that I'm not going to be the person who volunteers to be on every committee. I've been chair or president of so many organizations at the state, regional and national level that I have lost count - everything from judo to the American Association on Mental Retardation. Although I liked some of the people I met and I believed the work was necessary, I can't honestly say that I ever wanted to do it. I'm currently president of the board of a non-profit for one more year and after that I'm done for life.

I'll probably continue to teach a course in statistics each year for the next five or ten years, but I don't see myself teaching into my eighties.

As far as teaching judo, frankly, I'm getting old and can't do half the things that I used to do. I think most judo instructors hang on longer than they should. There is nothing wrong with moving aside and letting the younger people take over.

I went from training to beat everyone in the world to getting a PhD to getting tenure to starting a business, all while raising a family.

Now the family is 80% raised, I have the PhD, the business is stable and within a few years, I expect to sell it and hopefully make a pile of money.

What then? What will I do when I'm not working? The truth is that I have no idea. The only way to figure it out is to deliberately schedule some time not to work. (I can hear my niece, Samantha, saying, "Ha!" all the way from St. Louis.)

If you've been reading this blog since it began you seriously need to get a hobby but you also know that I have tried to retire a couple of times before.

So, yes, this is my next stab at easing into retirement - working 12 hours a day and actually taking two weeks of vacation this year.

Julia has been lobbying for a tropical vacation and Dennis liked Hawaii, so we'll probably go there for one week in the summer. For the other week, we're debating between staying home and ???

The last time I took an actual vacation when I didn't work (as opposed to working in a new location) was 1980.

Earlier this year, I had planned to take 2-4 days a month when I didn't work but after a few weeks, I got busy and forgot about it.

That's another thing I have learned from judo. If you really want to make something work, if you fail at it the first time, you try again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

At the end of the day ... there's another day

For the thousandth time, I stopped today and thought,
"Wow! I have a great life!"

When I was young, I thought it would be really depressing to be old. I wouldn't be able to compete any more, I would be slower, wrinkled, guys wouldn't notice me ... all the good stuff in my life - dating, parties, being an athlete, it would all disappear and the only thing I was good at that would be left would be -- studying.

Don't laugh, I actually really thought that way.

Now I am old and I have discovered that with age comes perspective. The people that post nasty things in comments sections around the internet, it never bothers me, I just think,

I wonder how you have so little going on in your life that you post insults to people you have never met, never will meet and who laugh at you. How sad!

When something doesn't work - and everyone has proposals that don't get funded, tests on which they do poorly, tournaments they lose - I don't get stressed out about it.

I try my hardest to do my best and then, whatever happens, happens. I might sulk for a few minutes, or an hour or two, but then I pick myself up and try again.

Several years ago, I was at a company where the catch phrase was "At the end of the day ..."

As in, when you add it all up, have you been a success or a failure?

I found this rather silly because, at the end of the day, there's another day. That's how time works. Several people have asked me for advice lately on various topics, so, for them and anyone else who is interested :

1. At the end of the day, there's another day. Don't rest on your laurels or cry over spilled milk. Every new day is a gift from God (or the universe, if your beliefs tend that way). You get to start anew. That is wonderful.
2. Success is the best revenge. The world has more assholes than necessary, in my opinion. People will insult you, belittle you and let you down. Go on and be successful and don't give them a thought. You'll get the fun of being successful and the fact that they are in the corner seething with resentment and envy is just icing on the cake.
3. Follow the most brilliant stress reduction plan ever. Ask yourself two questions: "One, can I do anything about this?" If the answer is ,"No", quit worrying. Maybe the planet is going to fall into the sun tomorrow but unless I develop superpowers, I can't change it, so I may as well enjoy life until then. If the answer is, "Yes", then ask yourself, "What step can I take right now to fix this?" Then do that thing.
4. Realize that whether it is writing a computer program (there is a reason they call it 'hacking') or running a marathon, life is a series of small steps that add up. Just take one and then the other. That is the secret to success (see #2). You'd be amazed the number of people who don't take those steps and are then bitter when life passes them by (see #1).

If you want more advice, leading up to my birthday this year, I wrote a series on my company blog of 55 things I have learned in (almost) 55 years.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It Only Seems Like the Only Thing in the World

I was working on our latest game, Fish Lake, when I noticed a tweet that mentioned my name.

@judoinside had tweeted

Today in 1984 in Vienna Burns became the 1st USA world champion ever. Burns is mother of 2008 Olympic medalist

It's funny, at the time, winning seemed like the most important thing in the world. Don't get me wrong - it was great and worth everything I had to do to get there - but life goes on. As Wendy said to Peter Pan when he came back for her - "I'm ever so much more than twenty now."

It just served to remind me again that the world is big and time is long. What seems like the only thing in the world at one point is going to be just a fond memory years from now.

If you made mistakes, learn from them, and move on. If you had successes, learn from those and move on, too. 

I think it is great that I didn't remember what I was doing 29 years ago because I was too absorbed in what I was doing today. Life has gone on in a happy way. Not only am I Ronda's mother, but my youngest daughter, Julia, was home for three days so we had to do important things like go to the Farmer's Market, sit outside at a nice French cafe and have brunch, shop at Bloomingdale's with Dad's credit card.

When we're young and competing, it's easy to think that winning (or losing) at the world championships is going to be the best (or worst) day of our lives.

We ought to have the wisdom of my little granddaughter, who, when we went to Disneyland this year kept saying,

This is the best day of my life - so far!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Balance Day at Judo

I try to have a consistent theme running through each practice so it is apparent I am not making it up as I go along. I also try to select a theme based on what I know the group I will be teaching needs. Of course, this is much easier when you are teaching your own class then doing a clinic, because you know the skill level and athleticism of the people likely to show up.

This is what we did at Gompers Judo yesterday:

1.  Warm-up by running in place, both on the mat and on crash pads - which made it apparent that while our kids are tough, they are not in good shape. Remind me to give them running drills as a homework assignment.

2. A game I learned from Justin Flores that I think he picked up at a wrestling camp - you have to keep your feet planted shoulder width apart. You try to get your partner to move his or her feet by pushing against each other's palms to start. If you pull away and the partner is still pushing, that will usually pull them off balance. If you pull away quickly, and as they pull back to stay on balance, you push on their chest, it will usually push them off balance. Each time your partner moves a foot, you get one point. When one person has three points, you switch partners.

3. We did the "help-em-up drill" for when your partner is leaned forward. You can read this in detail in our book, Winning on the Ground. In brief, a failed attack by the partner or you resulted in him/her with one knee on the ground and one up. If your partner is silly enough to try to stand up, you "help
em up" by lifting, and as you do so, you turn and throw with an inside leg sweep (uchi mata - and yes I know in Japanese it means inner thigh throw).

4. We did standing uchi mata - the same throw, to work on technique.

5. We went back to number 3.

Did they get it perfectly? Of course not. Perfection doesn't come from a single day. It comes from a long string of good days added together. Today was a good day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No, Not Everyone Has a Price

If you find yourself justifying some behavior by,

"Everyone has  price  - "

Stop. It's just not true. Ronda has been disappointed (more than once) by "friends" of hers who have taken advantage of her success in various ways. Their explanation - "I needed the money."

I've often seen athletes and administrators in sports turn a blind eye to unethical behavior, even as extreme as molesting young athletes, using the argument that,

"This position, the money I make will allow me to help other athletes"

I've heard plenty of parents use the argument,

"I had to (fill in unethical behavior X here) because I needed the money for my children."

Maybe if your children are starving, that might be a valid argument but in no situation of which I've been aware was that the case.

Maria, Ronda's oldest sister, is a sports writer, and an excellent one at that. She could have written some tabloid type book and made money, but I know it would never cross her mind, and she'd be shocked if I brought it up. There's some thing more important  you need to give your children than money to buy the latest designer clothes and electronic toys, and that is a model of the type of person you want them to grow up to be.

There is something more important to give athletes than money, and that is an environment free from predatory coaches and corrupt officials.

There is something more important to give yourself than money, and that is self-respect.

Yes, you can't eat self-respect, but I've gone hungry before and it didn't kill me. And, as Carly Fiorina said,
"Once you sell your soul, no one can ever buy it back for you."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bad Service is Profitable: The Case of Budget Rental Car

Bad service is profitable, that's why we see so much of it. 

Whether it is that your eggs were cold when the waitress gave you your food, or that you spent five hours sitting on the tarmac with no explanation, bad service is rampant.

Here is why .... the restaurant makes more profit if they have fewer people working. Of course, that means that you, the customer, have to sit there longer or get cold food, but, hey what's it to them. Maybe you won't come back, but if it you are traveling, it's likely you won't be back in that location soon anyway, so who cares. They'll just serve the next sucker.

Let me give you a recent example. I flew into Las Vegas, and thought I would just rent a car to save waiting in line for 45 minutes for a cab. I pre-paid for the car using Travelocity, so I thought that they would have a car for me - that sort of being implied when you PAY FOR SOMETHING that you will get it.

I showed up at 9 pm and there was a 40 minute wait to even talk to a person at the counter. They were saying they were out of cars. No problem, I figured, I had paid for mine in advance. When I got to the counter (finally), I was informed that my car, a white Sonic,  was being washed and to go wait in this parking space and they would bring it out in a few minutes. I waited there for 25 minutes. No car. (We're now over an hour wait.). I asked someone in a booth and he said they were washing it and even pointed to what he said was "my car", it would just be a few more minutes. After 20 minutes more standing in the parking space, I go back to the same person in the booth and tell him it is stupid for me to stand 45 minutes in  a parking space, I'm going to sit down and they can bring the car over to the bench. After another 20 minutes, someone brings up a white car and I start to get in. They say that's not my car. That's when I started yelling that I wanted to talk to someone who worked there. A tall redheaded man who was washing cars came over and asked what the problem was. He explained that the car I had been waiting for nearly  two hours for now had already been driven away by someone else. After about another 10 minutes, the manager shows up with a different car.

40+45+20 + 10 = 115 minutes

Does it strike anyone reasonable that I should wait nearly two hours for a car I had already paid for, 45 of it standing in a parking space? No. They completely screwed up and the only person who was not completely clueless was the guy washing cars.

I left my card. Did I get an apology? No. Nothing. And I'm sure their profits are higher because they don't have to have enough cars to supply everyone nor enough staff to provide service.

Here is where we, the buying public can make a difference. For your own peace of mind, I recommend that you never EVER go to Budget Rental Car at the Las Vegas airport. It will save you two hours of aggravation. I certainly will never use them again.

Also, if you are treated to this kind of abysmal customer service yourself, call them out. If bad service starts to actually hurt profits, companies will have an incentive to correct it.

I'm also emailing travelocity, where made the reservation. Again, maybe if they get enough complaints, something will happen.

If we keep accepting horrible service, then it will keep being profitable.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why I Am Doing More Circuits

I've written about circuits a few times previously and the longer my career in coaching, the more of a fan of the concept I am.

In brief, in a circuit, an athlete does a set of one exercise after another, without stopping. For example, we do 20 jumping jacks, 10 sit-ups and 5 push-ups. Then, we do it again. And again. We do this for three minutes, take a two-minute break and do it for another three minutes.

We often start practice with these circuits, for a few reasons:
  1. It gets everyone on the mat and doing something at the same time. That makes it an easy way to get the whole class organized and paying attention.
  2. After a few weeks, it is easy for kids to see progress compared to when they started. They get in better shape and can do all of the exercises with little effort.
  3. In a very short period of time, there is a difference between the kids who have been coming, say for a month or two, and brand new beginners. It is clear that the experienced kids "know what they are doing" and they can generally do the exercises better than those who just walked in the door.
Reasons #2 and #3 make the class reinforcing for students who have been attending - they see their improvement compared to themselves and others - and are helpful in recruiting new students who see that their friends who have only been coming for a few months are ahead of them.

[Subliminal advertising - buy Winning on the Ground - the matwork book by me and Jim Pedro, Sr. ]

So ... I have decided to expand on circuits we do at the beginning of practice and do a "circuits day" when I get back in town in a couple of weeks. After we go through our usual exercise circuit, I'm going to have them do 10 turnovers (5 right and 5 left), then 10 throws, then 10 chokes and 10 arm bars. We'll do that whole circuit, then take a few minutes break and do it again.

I think doing this a couple of times a month will improve their matwork just like the exercise circuits improve their conditioning.

No, I'm not concerned about the fact that this circuit has very little in the way of throwing. Blinky (the other instructor who is there when I am traveling), focuses more on standing technique, so I focus more on matwork and it all averages out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sometimes Delusions are All a Person Has

I used to be angry, now I'm just amused.

That phrase could have described my attitude ten years ago. Now, I'm more inclined to feel sympathy for the same people.

Think about a student in high school who is unattractive and not at all intelligent. Maybe he or she has a disability, or more likely, is just wading in the shallow end of the gene pool. Probably that kid comes to school with clothes that are out of style or don't match, and often makes comments that are off-topic or just plain wrong, like

"If you don't sit with me at lunch, I won't let you have this Donatello."

Do you bully that student? Make fun of him for playing with ninja turtle action figures during lunch break and thinking that is the coolest thing in the world?

No, if you're not a jerk, you leave that kid alone. You think it is too bad that his biggest accomplishment in life is that he has collected more turtles than you, and you go on to your next class. Maybe you even sit down and have lunch with the kid, because you are a nice person. You take the Donatello and glue it to the dashboard of your car.

Some people in sports are like that. Whether it is coaching youth hockey, running a local judo club or owning a gym, they are convinced of their own greatness. Sometimes they have an attitude that they won't "let" you train with them, share their coaching greatness with you/ your child unless you put up with their lack of punctuality, bring them muffins to morning practices, whatever. Some expect to be paid far more money than they are reasonably worth and are outraged that competitors (or their parents) can't see the value of it.

I've even had some of them threaten me with, if I didn't play nice with them, they wouldn't bring their players to work out with me, or put me on a committee or teach my daughter. None of them threatened to not give me a ninja turtle, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

I ran into someone, let's call him 'Bob' (because if you spell it backwards, it's still Bob), that I had known years ago, and I laughed, but in a sad way. Bob's delusions of grandeur used to piss me off, but now -- to put it politely, Bob had not "aged well".

I thought to myself,

You have a sub-par education, a lame job that doesn't pay much, you look like hell, and you think you're hugely important because a couple dozen people show up at your practices, and half of them mock you behind your back.

Thirty years ago, I would have said that to Bob's face. Fifteen years ago, I would have been drinking beer with the people mocking Bob behind his back.

Now, I just think to myself,

How sad is it that this is all you have in life to make you feel good about yourself. 

I've often heard that people who are brutally honest do it more for the brutality than the honesty. So ... I don't say anything.

Maybe those delusions are all that keep those people going. And how sad is that.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What I think of you (honestly)

Occasionally, people feel the urge to write in the comments on this blog what they think of me, that I must be arrogant, why do I feel the need to mention what I am doing for a living, where I went on a business trip, etc. etc.

This is a bit puzzling since this is a blog, not the New York Times or someone's math homework assignment, and I write it for the following reason - because I feel like it.

It's like Ricky Gervais said on twitter, following someone and then complaining about their tweets is a lot like eavesdropping on a conversation and getting upset because you don't like the topic.

This is MY personal blog that I have written for years. So, one thing I think about you people is,

"What exactly do you think a blog is and what does "personal" mean in your language?"

I'm also really puzzled by why anyone would read one of the millions of blogs on the Internet, of the hundreds of millions of web pages and then complain that the content is not to their liking. Do you think I care? I really don't.

Please don't misunderstand me, if you think I named a technique incorrectly, or showed something that was wrong - and, like everyone, I do make mistakes and say your left hand should be grabbing the lapel when I really meant the right - please do correct me. I don't want to give the wrong information.

Also, if you have a question, like how do you transition from an upper four corner hold down to a straight arm bar (tate shiho gatame to juji gatame), please ask and I will try to answer it when I have time, especially if it is an interesting question I haven't thought/ written about. That is the whole reason I write this blog, just to remark on whatever has struck me as interesting that day.

For those who write lengthy, repeated tirades about me, or my daughter, or, less often, judo, and how we individually or in combination, suck. Here is what I really, honestly think about you ....

Today, I was driving to judo, after having accomplished quite a bit on our latest game, Fish Lake, that my company, 7 Generation Games is producing.  My youngest daughter is home for the weekend, I was going to pick up a student from Gompers Middle School who had called and asked for a ride to practice so he could get in some more work this week. I was just thinking what a wonderful, beautiful day it is. I must have accidentally cut off some guy in a truck as I turned on Lincoln Blvd. I didn't mean to and I didn't notice I did it. Suddenly, he swerved in front of me and slammed on his brakes.  I slowed down. He did it again.

Then, he stuck his arm out the window and gave me the finger.

When I was younger, I probably would have yelled back at him, but the truth is, I didn't really care. At the same time, my friend called me on my cell phone. I answered and talked to her about meeting her for lunch next week. (Yes, I have controls on my steering wheel so I was actually complying with the law about hands-free driving.) During the whole two or three minutes I was talking with my friend, the guy in the truck is gesturing at me and mouthing obscenities in the mirror.

Here is what I thought,

Wow! This guy's life must really suck that he spent five minutes just furious over something I did that was unintentional, didn't harm him in any way and that was done without giving him a thought.

And then I went on to have a lovely day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

So .... I got arm barred

I got arm barred at practice on Sunday. I am not one of those assholes who believes that practice is a tournament. If you are working out with someone and they catch you, tap. The same thing if you are being thrown, take the fall. I think it is fine to turn out of it if you can, but doing something stupid like sticking your arm out and dislocating it is just that, stupid. So, no one wins practice because it is just that, practice.

Still, someone arm barred me and it would have taken an unreasonable amount of effort to get out of it. And I think he is only 13 (he might be 14 because he's in high school). He's been coming to practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center for five years and he's bigger than me now. The fact is, he caught me. At first, I wasn't sure whether to be upset that I was getting old and slow or proud that Nathan is getting fast and good. I decided to be proud.

Way to go, Nathan!

How is it possible that I don't have a picture of him. Nathan, do you hide when I am taking pictures for this blog, or what?

Friday, October 4, 2013

My view on building the perfect fighter

In the interest of maximum efficiency with minimum effort (or maybe just minimum effort), I posted my response to the Building the Perfect Fighter post about Ronda & me here.

I'm Ronda's mom (-:
Just FYI, I have three other children, including one who plays soccer, and I had to smile at your description of the little ones playing soccer.

You might be surprised to find that I am in complete agreement about hoping your nephew isn't a great athlete. It's a hard road in many more ways than you might suppose. I think being a good parent is helping your children reach their goals and be the best they can be.

In fact, being best in the world is what Ronda wanted to do and having been a world champion myself, I had an idea of how to help her succeed at that. One of her older sisters wanted to be a journalist - she writes for Fox News Latino, after stints at ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Another sister wanted to be a teacher and she is a wonderful middle school history teacher. The youngest sister is still busy being a kid - and playing soccer.

Oh, by the way, after I won the world championships, I got a PhD, started a couple of companies, including my latest, 7 Generation Games which makes educational games to teach math. We received enough grant money to give it away free to low income schools. And, I wrote a book on matwork this year. The answer to what people do in "the outside world" could be to apply that same drive to other worthwhile endeavors.

AnnMaria (bored in the airport on the way home from a long business trip)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thank you thank you thank you

The AAU Judo Nationals was an absolutely amazing trip, from the nice staff and nicer facilty at Kansas City Embassy Suites  (from the fountains everywhere you might guess why it's called the City of Fountains)

to the historic sites that Mr. Gonzalez, the supervising teacher from Gompers Middle School insisted we attend, and which to my surprise were really quite fun and interesting

to, of course, the tournament itself, where our kids learned A LOT, had a lot of matches and came home with a lot of medals.

You can find more photos at the Ronda Rousey fan site, Armbar Nation, which helped raise money to send the team.

Thank you to Ronda who donated (literally) the shirt off of her back, to Jessica and Ryan of Armbar Nation for running the auction, to Kenny and Michelle Brink for running the tournament and being SO welcoming to us, and to Steve and Becky Scott for their years of support.

It was SO much fun for everyone, as well as educational.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ultimate Fighter: I am not amused

Since it is no longer a secret I showed up for a day of The Ultimate Fighter show, I guess I will write about it before I head off to the AAU National Judo championships, en route to a meeting with a charter school in Kansas City about our game, then to North Dakota to meet with more schools, give a keynote address at a conference and then head home before heading out to a software conference where I am a speaker five days later.

Which is to say, when Ronda called me and asked could I fly out there, on my way back from another business trip, I said,

"Aren't there lots of people with no job you could ask to come out there? I've got shit to do."

However, as in her whole life, Ronda can be persistent, so I ended up changing my flight last minute to go to Las Vegas instead of Los Angeles.

That being said, I only had one day to observe some of what went on (did we miss the 'shit to do' part). I'm trying not to be a hypocrite and judge someone (cough Dana White cough) on just a small bit of what I have observed, especially if Ronda gives them a good recommendation.

From the fraction of the entire time I observed, it appeared that Ronda was taunted quite a bit without being allowed to respond, with a deliberate intent to create  a certain image for television.  Maybe they'll show some of that on the episode, maybe not. For those of you who say she cries too much - she's always cried like that all of her life. Who the hell are you people  to enforce a crying quota? If she cries over sad movies, happy endings and losing her car keys, what's it to you? I'm the opposite of that. I've cried three times in the last twenty years, and one of those was when Ronda's father died. So, she can have my share of the quota and it averages out.

When people ask me,

Are you proud of your daughter?

Yes, I am extremely proud of all of my daughters.

Let me tell you a few things about the real Ronda.

Right before she left, she autographed some t-shirts to be auctioned off to raise funds for Frida Wahlberg, who was injured in a world boxing title fight. They raised $2,000. (I think it's actually still in the bank for Ronda to send her when she gets back from Bulgaria.)

She also gave her hoodie from the TUF show and autographed some other shirts so we could send four kids and a teacher to a tournament in Kansas City. We raised $2,400 auctioning the stuff on ebay and then she donated $500 of her own money so we can take a fifth student. So, this is what Ronda has been doing.

Incidentally, she started the program at Gompers Middle School and taught there as a volunteer for two years before her mixed martial arts career heated up.

This is just a FEW of the things she has done for charity, for the community. There are a lot more. And yet, she's not a nice person because she says, "Fuck". Are you fucking kidding me?

You know, of those thousands of people who were fed from her various free rice contests, I'll bet not one of them would have been happier to go without food unless it came from someone who talked like Strawberry Shortcake.

Since Ronda steals my lines all of the time, I'll take one of hers,

To be a champion, you have to be willing to let your heart be broken.

Ronda cares if she wins. When she loses it feels like the whole world fell in. She's extremely loyal to people and when they are hurt, it hurts her.

People are sometimes offended by Ronda because she does not fit how they think she should act. At Ronda's age, given the same degree of provocation, I would have punched out a few people, hit someone with a chair, told everyone to fuck off and walked out. This is why our family cannot do a reality TV show. So, no, I am the LAST person to ask don't I think she should behave differently.

Some of those same people will argue, "I don't care what the instigation, you should never  ---- " fill in the blank. They are entitled to their opinions. I am equally entitled to my opinion that they have their heads up their asses.

The Chokey-Chokey

Here is what you missed not coming to practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center - my demonstration of the Klaus Glahn choke, complete with song and dance.

If you want to learn more matwork from me, I'm doing a clinic at the AAU Judo Nationals on Friday. Cost is a measly $25. I won't have copies of Winning on the Ground with me, because I'm in the middle of a business trip, actually and flying straight from there to give a keynote address at the Tribal Disabilities Conference. The title of it is "On the Internet, no one knows you're disabled". (Pretend you care.)

You can get The Book on Amazon or

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Arm Bars and Lady Bits

My fellow coach was a bit embarrassed today when I explained to the students to get the right position for an arm bar, you should pretend that the opponent's elbow is your boyfriend (or girlfriend) as the case may be.

I'm not wearing a gi in this pictures so you can see the exact placement of the opponent's arm.

Once you have the arm locked in position, to break it, you make the exact same movement with your lady bits (or man parts, as the case may be) as if you really DID have your girl/boyfriend there. This will cause your opponent's elbow to bend in the opposite direction that God intended it to go and then all will be well - if we define all being well as the opponent tapping.

Now, every time I give this graphic description, people groan and say, "I can't believe you just said that."

However,  I noticed that while Blinky was saying, "Get your crotch on it more" people did not have the exact correct position, once I explained it, they understood much better.

(Kids aren't as naive as you think. Better tighten up those parental controls on the cable.)

Come to Kansas City for the AAU National Judo Championships and I will also be hanging out after weigh-ins on Friday from 6:30 - 8pm  teaching matwork. I will be slightly more socially appropriate, since there will be children present.

Also, buy the book Winning on the Ground, by me & Jim Pedro, Sr. It's good, and I'm not the only one who says so.

Also available for the Nook