Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Collect the arm turnover: Legs and Being Lethal

This turnover is part of a series of lessons I give that I call, "Being lethal on the mat."

Yes, I actually do have a whole series of lesson plans in my brain - and often a written outline in my bag, in case I forget anything. You can read about it after the video. And you just thought I made this shit up as I went along. Well, fooled you, didn't I!

This video gives a good demonstration of how your legs should be working in the "Collect the Arm" turnover. You can see an explanation of it and a good illustration of the upper body portion in this post.

Often the turnover doesn't work, though, because people get the legs wrong. Notice that the player on bottom has one leg on the INSIDE and he LIFTS with that leg. His other leg is sweeping. So, you lift and sweep.

When you roll, you want to roll in the direction of the arm you have collected, that way, they can't put an arm out to stop you.

So ... what is being lethal on the mat about? It means there not being any position where your opponent feels safe. As any of the students in my class at Gompers Middle School can tell you, lethal means that you are dangerous to people.

This turnover is one position you could be - on your back with your opponent on top, but not so tight that you can't get one leg in to lift and turn.

Incidentally, that is one of the things people ask all of the time that drives me nuts,

"Sensei, I can't get my leg in to hook his leg from here."

"Well, then, MOVE, damn it!"

What is another position you could be in? You could be on top of your opponent, who is in a turtle position (on his hands and knees, elbows bent and head tucked in). You could be the one in the turtle position. Your opponent could have just thrown you and be still standing. You could have just thrown your opponent and be still standing. Your opponent could be flat on his stomach. You could be flat on your stomach.

If you want to be lethal on the mat, you need an attack from every one of those positions. So, over a couple of days, I will teach an attack from each position. Other times, I will be more specific and teach an arm bar from each position. It takes me more than one day because there really is not time to teach and practice a move from six or eight different positions, and do all of them right and left sided.

Do I really have an arm bar from every position? Yes.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How much does strength matter in learning martial arts?

Let me just call bullshit right off the bat on those people who say size and strength don't matter in martial arts. I cannot speak for all martial arts but I can tell you having competed in or coached judo for 42 years, that damn, I am really old! Well, in addition to that, I can tell you that size matters. Of course a very skilled 110 pound female can beat an out-of-shape unskilled 145 pound male. That same female will get crushed by a very skilled, fit, 145 pound male and that same 145 pound male will get slammed by the 230 pound male.

If Ronda and Julia got in a fight, I would not say size and strength don't matter. I would say, "Ronda! What the hell is wrong with you?! Leave your little sister alone!"

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I have said that - about seven hundred times.

Don't even start telling me about Moshi-moshi sensei who won the all-Japan championships in 1928 and only weighed 76 kilos (see, I can do metric weights just like the rest of the world).

A. Even the small people who won the All-Japan championships were significantly larger than the average Japanese person, especially of that time. Random diversion here - even more random than the rest of this blog - there has been a significant increase in height of Japanese people over the past 100 years, as noted in this article from the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In other words, Sensei Moshi-Moshi was pretty damn big for the time.

B. Even though there may be an occasional outstanding smaller man beat a much larger man, that is not the way to place your bets. This is why we have weight divisions.

I was wondering about this the other day when I was trying to teach tomoe nage (a circle throw) to one group of students and they were having trouble. The next day, I was trying to teach a matwork move to another group that involved scissoring your legs to lift and turn your opponent, and this group was having trouble.

So, I called up Jim Pedro because I hadn't bothered him recently and asked his opinion,

Do you think that people need a certain level of conditioning before they can do techniques effectively, and that is why some beginners have difficulty? Do you think that maybe it's necessary to say, do exercises to develop leg strength before doing throws that require lifting with your legs?

He said, "No." Well, actually, because he has a funny Boston accent it sounded more like, "No-o."

He brought up that when we were kids, everyone had the same rule,

"Be home when the streetlights go on."

And we were out ten hours a day running, jumping rope, climbing trees and playing in the park.

Now, kids watch vampire shows, play on the Wii and text their friends all day during the summer.  I asked Jim didn't that mean that it would be a good idea to work with them on getting strong enough to actually do the techniques but he thought it was coordination as much or more than strength.

So, his idea was to just have them to do whatever technique it was, a throw, or a turnover, and do lots and lots of repetitions. As they do the repetitions, they'll develop in coordination and strength and they'll learn the technique, too.

Interesting theory and I don't really have any better idea, so I'm going with that for now.

What do you all think?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sliding lapel choke

This is how I do a sliding lapel choke. Watch the video!

Points to note here that are often missed:

  1. When you begin, you CROSS-GRIP, that is, you grab the lapel across from your hand, not directly in front of it.
  2. Your top should only be about a hands-width above your bottom hand
  3. Both hands are on the SAME side of the gi to start
  4. You NEVER let go of the grip with either hand
  5. Swing your elbow on the top hand UP as your hand goes around the opponent's neck.

Thanks to Crystal for being such a good sport. It's amazing a college sophomore is more mature than me, but there you have it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Differences in Making Weight in Judo and Mixed Martial Arts

The question of weight divisions has come up recently and Jim Pedro, Sr. , said I should yell at Ronda for him because after her first Olympics in 2004, she had trouble cutting to 63 kilos (138 pounds) and went up to 70 kilos (154 pounds) in 2007 or so. Now, he said, she makes 135,  so she could have stayed at 63 kilos all along!

Of course he knew better and just likes to complain for exercise because he is getting too old to run, but for those of  you who are not aware, there is one big difference between judo as it was practiced at that time - you weighed in the morning of the tournament. In mixed martial arts, in contrast, you weigh in somewhere around 30 hours before you fight.

If you don't think that matters, then you have never had to cut a lot of weight to compete. Many competitors - I'd venture to say most serious ones - get into the lowest weight division they can, which often means they don't eat sometimes two days or more before and, depending on how much weight they need to cut, might not drink anything 24 or 48 hours before they weigh in.

They might sit in the sauna for hours or run in a plastic suit for an hour, and then rest and do it again.

I've done all of it (well, not the not drinking for 48 hours part, but I've drank very little). There is a limit to how much weight you can cut before it weakens you and you can't fight worth a damn.

However, if you get to weigh in 30 hours earlier, instead of an hour before you get on the mat, it's easier. You can rehydrate. Drink water. Eat food. Digest. Rest up from the 6 miles or however many you ran that day. And being an athlete in good condition, tomorrow, you can be 12 pounds heavier (or in the men's case, 20 pounds heavier) and feel fit as a fiddle. (Where did that analogy come from? Fiddles aren't fit. They can't do anything.)

Supposedly now judo is going to go to weigh-ins the day before, evaluate it and see what difference it makes. That seems very bizarre to me because I think it would be blatantly obvious the differences it will make.

  1. People will make weight divisions they could not previously because they will have time to recover and so, 
  2. People will take more extreme measures to lose the weight because 1

When this turns out to be the case, will anyone be surprised?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Matwork Escape Drill and Some Free Rice

The other day I was in a conditioning mood so we did a number of drills for conditioning. In the drill shown below, the goal is to prevent your partner from getting across the mat, or alternatively, if you are the person on the bottom, to get out from the bottom position and get across the mat.

You can see that this particular drill serves multiple purposes. The person on the bottom has to develop some skills to escape or just use muscle to get out of that position. The person on top has to come up with some way to stop the bottom person from reaching the other end of the mat. A smart person or particularly mean one would choke or arm bar the person on the bottom and refuse to give up unless they promised to stop and lay there. (Yes, I totally cheat.)

On a completely different note, Ronda's free rice group has had about 23,000,000 grains of rice donated since she started training for the fight February 23 and about 54,000,000 grains of rice donated for this plus her last two fights combined. This is enough for 15,400 meals.

I donated 45,000 myself, which is enough to feed about 13 people. Yes, I'm a slacker compared to some of you guys. My point is, go to the freerice site and play.

If you don't know what this is about and what you could win, go here. There have actually been more prizes donated since.  Thanks to April from Judo Unlimited for the latest.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What a combination is and is not

Wow, two posts in a row about throws  - this has to be a record!

This past weekend at the West Coast Judo Training Center we were covering set-ups and combinations. My biggest complaint about combinations is that most people do a half-ass throw followed by a real attempt at a throw. That's not a combination. That's asking to be countered.

You probably know this if you are reading this blog, but it is worth emphasizing. When you do your combination REALLY attack with that first throw.

Here is an example with Liam who is (I think) 11 years old. Maybe he's 12. Comment below if you know.

Notice something really interesting here? Not only did he do both throws with a pretty serious intent to throw, but he does the same throw twice.

Nothing says you can't do that as a combination. I thought it was rather clever.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Set-ups and combinations - practicing not to be a one-trick pony

I watched our kids at the West Coast Judo Training Center this week and I noticed something that I think is very common with most good judo players (and I think this is true of jiujitsu , grappling and mixed martial arts as well).

I asked them to do their favorite throw and they all looked really good. When I said, "Go!" they went right to it, did it without hesitation and good technique.

Next, I asked them to do a set-up to their favorite throw, and then throw. This took a little more thought and they hesitated quite a lot at the beginning of the throw. That, of course, is bad, because your opponent is not just going to stay in position, waiting around for you to throw.

After we had practiced that for a while, I had them do a set-up, followed by their favorite throw, followed by a combination.

Here is an example of this drill with Bradley, who is 11 years old.

Now, he did not do it nearly as well as Crystal, who is a 19-year-old black belt, but he did it pretty well for someone who had just been practicing this for a few minutes.

The point, I told them, is to not be hesitating thinking about what you are going to do, but to practice it so much that you can do it without thinking. Crystal seconded that, saying that often after she has won a much by ippon, people will ask her what throw she did and she'll respond,

 "I don't know. A hard one. Where they fell down."

She demonstrates the end result of this drill. Over a period of time, it becomes automatic.

Take away lesson of today: Don't practice your throws in isolation.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bitch-slapping, Birth and Arm bars

It was a bit confusing today. I had received an email from a TV show asking if they could interview me on Wednesday morning. I wrote back and said that I don't do mornings but I'd let them in to do the two hours of setting up lights, etc. and then be interviewable around 11. Later, I got another email from a TV show producer saying having looked at the available space at my place they had decided to do the interview at Ronda's in the afternoon on Wednesday.

SO .... at 9 a.m., the doorbell rings and it's the TV people. They set up - outdoors, it turned out, and did the interview for a few hours. There is generally a lot of repetition in these interviews but this was the first time anyone asked me this question.

"So, who would you like to bitch-slap?"

I shared this with my husband, who made no comment. When I asked him why he didn't even want to know the answer, he replied,

"I've never really been interested in the whole bitch-slap concept."

Fifteen years of marriage left him confident it wasn't him and that was good enough. (In case you are more curious, you can find the answer here. It's this woman. My reaction when reading her article, and this is a direct quote, was "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.") I doubt that will make it on to HBO.

I feel obligated to point out that the ten-year-old on the left should have the arm locked against her chest, like her partner in crime on the right does. 
The interviewer also asked me why I taught my daughter something so painful as an arm bar. I told him that most of the time a person taps so nothing is hurt but their pride. He mentioned watching Ronda dislocate Miesha Tate's arm and said that looked like it hurt pretty much. I said yes, but at the moment the adrenaline rush keeps it from hurting too bad, and although it's sore the next day, it's nothing like childbirth. He said,
Come on, you've got to be kidding me?! Giving birth is worse than getting arm barred? I always hear women say how painful it was but seriously, it can't be that bad."
As someone who has both been arm barred and has given birth four times, I guarantee you that child birth is more painful. Giving birth is more like being arm barred over and over for 45 minutes.

After the interview, I turned back on my cell phone to see that I had three messages from Ronda. I called her and she said,
"Mom, why aren't you here? There is a film crew at my house and they're supposed to interview you."
I told her I was just done being interviewed but she said,
"Now, welcome to my life. That was a DIFFERENT film crew for a DIFFERENT show on a DIFFERENT network. Now you have to come over here. "
The second interviewer didn't asked me about bitch-slapping or childbirth. He did ask me a lot of questions about working out with Ronda when she was younger and whether it was true that I randomly tried to arm bar her - and then she randomly tried to throw me, which I personally think should be considered elder abuse and a chargeable offense but unfortunately, they had run out of film by then so I have no tangible evidence.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Is Judo Just Pretending to Be a Life-long Sport?

While I was swimming this morning, it occurred to me - judo gives a false impression of a sport that is appropriate across all ages.

 The masters divisions - for age 35 and over - at the national championships are a major source of income, often keeping the tournament from losing money. The same can be said of the very young divisions at the junior nationals - in some tournaments, children as young as five years old are competing to be national champion.

I think this is a bad idea on both ends. First of all, I don't think there is any sense at all in spending lots of money and your entire family vacation traipsing around to one tournament after another for a child eight years old or younger.

Spare me the bullshit about "my kid really wants to do it".
  1. Your kid, at a young age,  really wants to make his or her parents proud and happy. If you say the way to do that is to go knock down another kid, your child will do it, or at least try.
  2. As the adult in the picture, you are supposed to decide what is best for your child and you continually refuse to go along with what your kid really wants to do. My youngest daughter really wanted to spend her entire vacation watching vampire shows on TV, occasionally punctuated by snowboarding or hanging out with her friends. We made her study Geometry and socialize with the family, too, because we're mean like that.
Secondly, I think we are fooling ourselves as adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s who really ought to know better pretending that winning the world masters championships is anything remotely similar to winning the actual world championships. Similarly, I have heard people refer to a child who won the 9-10 year-old division in the junior Olympics as "an Olympic champion". Not even close.

Like most people my age, I am kind of beat up. I'm just not in the shape that I used to be as a competitor. I weigh the same and thanks to a $50,000 knee replacement, I can do a lot of things I haven't been able to do, even when I was competing. I swim or bike almost every day. I teach judo once or twice a week. And all of that being said, the judo I can do now is qualitatively different from the judo I did in my twenties, just as much as an eight-year-old child's is. I'm not as fast and no amount of training will change that. I'll never have the strength I did in my twenties.

Anyone who believes that speed and strength don't matter in judo competition is deluded. On top of that, I have a real job and a family. I don't have time to adjust my techniques for the rule changes that seem to come down in judo every six months.

Yes, people my age can do "judo". They can do kata, they can practice throws or arm bars in the dojo. Still, it doesn't seem any more like the sport I did in my twenties than water aerobics old ladies do seems like swimming. That is, it's a perfectly fine thing to do to keep in shape, but it is NOT the same thing. Not accepting this fact is one reason you see so many older judo players end up injured. You're not a 'world champion' or 'national champion'. You're a weekend warrior who went to a tournament. Deal with it.

(The same applies to juniors at the other end of the scale but I wrote about that earlier.)