Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Olympics Won't Get You Hired

For some reason, friends of mine who have been in the Olympics have a very distorted view of their place in the rest of the world.

Now, without resorting to Google, name one woman who won a gold medal in weightlifting in Sydney.

If you're like 99.99% of America, you can't, which is funny, considering an American woman was the first American to win a gold medal in the sport in 40 years.

If you make it to the Olympics, that was a goal you strove for your whole life and it means the world to you. Good for you. I say that without a trace of sarcasm.

Now let me give you some career advice - unless you are going into something directly related to your sport, no one cares.

Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and I disagree about this. We were having lunch earlier this month and he argued that I am not impressed because I have a two-time Olympian in my own family and won a world championships myself, but that other people are extremely impressed.

Maybe. But it still won't get you hired. We have hired Justin Flores several times to do artwork and doubtless will again, but it has nothing to do with him being a world team member for judo. It has to do with being a fabulous artist. (Judge for yourself - here's a sketch of a turtle doodem he did for our next game - these are the animal symbols for clans you see on totem poles.)

I've been on many university hiring committees, for both faculty and staff positions. There have been occasions when an applicant has been NCAA All-American, Olympian or other sports honor. Invariably, a person on the committee will remark that shows work ethic and discipline. Also invariably the committee goes on to discuss the person's education, work experience and other points related to the   job.

I have seen websites and resumes for people who were Olympic team members that are all about their Olympic experience and don't mention the person has a graduate degree, relevant work experience, internships or publications. I have gone as far as to rewrite resumes given to me before I passed them on because they emphasized so much of a person's athletic accomplishments and so little related to the job advertised. This was after a colleague called me and said,

What the hell do I care that this kid was on --- teams and won --- ? Half this resume is about judo!

A week after the 2008 Olympics, I mentioned to Jim Pedro, Sr. that those of us who are involved in international competition have a very skewed view of their place in the rest of the world. I said that none of the hundreds of people in the technology building I worked in even were mentioning the Olympics any more. He said sarcastically, 

"Yeah, well you work with a bunch of nerds. I can just imagine the kind of physical shape they're in."

He was absolutely right, and I laughed. The truth is, though, us nerds hire a lot of people.

Take my advice - if you are applying for a job as an artist, accountant, engineer or zookeeper, start out with everything you've done relevant to that. Even if you are applying for a job in sports writing, start out with your writing qualifications.

I went to a party once attended by a lot of very successful sportswriters.  When I commented that I was a bit surprised they weren't more, um, athletic, someone pointed out to me -

Sports writers aren't necessarily people who were good at sports. They're people who are good at WRITING about sports.

Pretty much unrelated to this post ... Check out Winning on the Ground. Lots of people say it is a good book (besides me, that is)

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Black Belt (can get paperback, Kindle, nook & more) 
And on Barnes and for the Nook 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Success is what you leave behind

Today, my friend Jerry Hays passed on this card. I don't know where it originated. Spanish is my second language, so this is a loose translation. Feel free to dive in if you can do better:

Prayer for those who have passed on

It has been five years since you went to everlasting life in the Lord. You went in peace and serenity, with the joy and confidence of one who had completed a beautiful mission on this earth.

Thanks be to God, because we know you are enjoying the infinite love of the father.


Judo continues to miss a great man with a great history who will always remain in our memory and in our hearts.

To: Frank Fullerton, June 25, 2008

The fact that I am not in Chino Women's Prison right now is due  to a few people, large among them Frank Fullerton, Bruce Toups and my grandmother, Emilia Maria. It is no coincidence that my daughter and granddaughter are named Maria and Emilia. If I had a boy his middle name probably would have been Bruce.

I still miss Frank. One of my treasured memories is running into him on the plane on the way back from Athens when he said to me,

You were so much trouble when you were young. I'm glad to see that you turned out to be worth it.

Frank and Bruce were the president and director of development of U.S. Judo, Inc. when I was young. They were as fair as anyone could possibly be in selecting teams and when people like me could not afford to travel internationally, they often provided the funds out of their own pockets.

When I teach judo now, whether it is at Gompers Middle School or at a clinic or camp, it is to pay them back for the time, money and faith they invested in me.

In the end, I don't think it matters how nice of a car you drove, how much money you made or what your title was.

As Walter Lippman said,

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in others the conviction and will to carry on.”

Frank was a true leader. So was Kenso Kiyohiro who was the heart and soul of Venice Judo Club for many years. So was John Ogden, whose Ogden Judo School hosts the West Coast Judo Training Center. Years after John has passed away, his legacy carries on. 

Who will miss you when you are gone, and try to justify your belief that they were worth the trouble?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Random Conversations with Random People

Him: I wasn't around then, that was when I was in prison for attempted murder.
Me: Why was that?
Him: Because I shot a guy.
Me: Why did you shoot him?
Him: Because I wanted to kill him.
Me: Well, I guess the verdict was correct, then.
Him: I guess so. You know, I shouldn't have shot him in front of so many witnesses.
Me: Well, it was probably a poor choice on a number of levels.


Me:  It is so weird when I look at the sales ranking for books on Amazon and my book is way above those written by real authors.
Husband: You're a real writer.
Me: Yeah, but these are people who write books for an actual job, not people who do it when they get around to it after their real job. I mean, there are people whose books I actually go looking to see if they wrote another one and their books are selling way less than mine. It's weird.
Him: You wrote a real book. It's read by real people. That makes you a real writer.
Ronda: I miss home.
Me: We miss you, too. If you're gone much longer, I'm going to have Julia just start going around the house and randomly losing shit.

Text from Jenn: I went running three days in a row.
Text from me: Who are you and why do you have my daughter's phone?

Text from Julia: Mom, what time do you wanna come get me from Jourdan's house?
Text from Me:  I'm in Florida
Text from Julia: Um, yeah, well maybe I'll call Dad then.

  ------------- Allen Wrench says you should buy Winning on the Ground

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Black Belt (can get paperback, Kindle, nook & more) 
And on Barnes and for the Nook 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There's more than one way to makikomi a ko uchi

Here, for comparison, is how Ronda does a ko uchi makikomi (minor inside winding throw) and how I do it.

Her way is more risky. You are more likely to throw the opponent for an ippon in judo and win the match. However, if you DON'T get the ippon you are in a more vulnerable position.

Which way is "best" depends on your goal. If you are behind in the match and there is very little time left, do it Ronda's way. You are more likely to get a higher score and win. If you are ahead, I'd suggest my way. You may not score a full point, but you aren't very likely to get countered or choked either.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

There's more than one way to ko uchi makikomi

Ronda does this throw one way and I do it another. It's not because her way is wrong and mine is right, or vice versa. Both are right for different purposes and wrong for others. As I demonstrate here, mine is best for a low-risk attack. It is hard to counter and easy to transition to matwork.

If you are better at matwork than standing (I raise my hand at this point), this may be a better choice for you. If you are ahead in the match and don't want to risk getting countered, it may get you a yuko, getting you even further ahead. At worst, you won't get a score and you'll still be ahead.


 Learn math. Save lives. Learn culture. Kill things.(Relax, it's a game)

Monday, June 24, 2013

A look at celebrity

Take a look at this picture. It was just Ronda and I goofing around waiting for a clinic to start. Notice something?

There are three cameras in this picture. The guy to the left who is taping for a documentary. The guy next to him who is recording an interview. The woman on the right who is a photographer for a newspaper. There was also a fourth person with a camera who took this picture.

Some people say that I always stand up for Ronda, as if that's a bad thing. Well, I do. In part, it is because family comes first and I am always on the side of my family, no matter what.

Also, I have learned to have a little more understanding for celebrities. Yes, people who live in homes by the beach and make a seven-figure income don't generate too much pity.

However, think about yourself. If your life was scrutinized from all angles seven days a week, how likely is it that you would NEVER say something that makes you sound unkind, uneducated or untruthful, particularly if it was taken out of context? I'll bet most people regularly say things and then say, "No, wait, I didn't mean it like that, what I meant was ---" or later realize what they said wasn't worded the best way.

If it is most people, though, no one remembers if five minutes later, and everyone goes on with whatever they were doing.

My suggestion for the day is that next time you read something in the tabloids or hear it on some celebrity gossip show, compare it to the dumbest thing you've said this month and just be glad no one was around to film you.

Oh, yeah, hey, buy my book, Winning on the Ground. And go write nice reviews of it on Amazon or Barnes and  !!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bad People are Bad People, Whether They Do Martial Arts or Not

If you sleep with dogs, you'll wake up with fleas.

Hey, just because I've never been closer to the country than seeing a cow close up at the LA County Fair doesn't mean I can't use country sayings.

The brilliant Laura Clark once commented,

You and Lanny talk about "but they're judo people" as if being in judo means someone is a good person but it doesn't. There are bad people in judo, too.

While this should be self-evident, it amazes me how often someone will act as if the normal rules of society don't apply to people in martial arts. Take this , for example,

Would you let your 16-year-old daughter go to a foreign country without you, supervised by someone you have never met? 

For most parents, the immediate response is,

Hell, no! Are you out of your mind?

And yet, we allow this with kids going to international judo tournaments, and some high profile sexual assault cases have resulted. By the way, this kind of abuse is not limited to judo, nor to girls, nor to international athletes, as the Jerry Sandusky case made sadly evident.

The point is that if someone is a bad person, if they give you that creepy vibe, you should stay away from them and keep your kids away, too. Obvious, no? Yet I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say,

I was at a tournament/ club/ meeting this weekend and the people running it are corrupt/ incompetent/ assholes but ....

Wait a minute, there is nothing that comes after that to make it right.

But they're the only game in town? Find a different town. Seriously, we don't have indentured servitude in this country. If your sport is so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice your ethics to pursue it, you ought to be able to move, too.

But they're the national governing body and I have to deal with them? Find a different sport. Ronda did it. I just want to point out that often in life while someone is saying a thing can't be done there is simultaneously a person out there doing it.

But they're like family to me? Well, if it is anything like the Irvin Jiu-Jitsu family, you're family is pretty damn dysfunctional and you'd better find another one.

Three reasons you should get the hell out of situations where you are dealing with people who are incompetent, unethical, corrupt or just generally bad people
  1. They will eventually take advantage of you. If they are screwing over people financially, literally or otherwise, your turn will come as surely as leopards don't change their spots.
  2. As I wrote on my other blog, you are your associates. You will become like these people. Yes. You will.
  3. The bad people drive away the good ones. In part, if someone doesn't know you and they see you hanging around with a group that includes a pedophile, an embezzler and a rapist, they are probably NOT going to judge you on your own merits. The same is true if most of your club is a bunch of rude, egotistical jerks. Even if I know you are a good person, most really good people don't have any tolerance for people who lie, cheat, steal or do any of those other things the Boy Scout honor says not to do. So, if you are hanging around with them, you aren't going to see some of the good guys.
If you are telling yourself it is acceptable to hang out with people you know are bad because they do a martial art, could get you promoted, could help you win a match, could  --- it doesn't matter. Who decides who is a bad person? Well, in the cases I'm talking about, YOU do. My point is that if you find yourself in a situation where you are saying ....

Yes, these people I'm hanging out with are bad people but -

There is no "but". Stop.

As Carly Fiorina said,

Once you sell your soul, no one can buy it back for you. 
7 Generation Games 
How you wish math class had been
3 games $35 on-sale now

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's No One's Job to Make Winning Easy for You

I really wish I had a video of the day after her first Olympic Trials when Ronda and her friend Lily were sitting in the living room watching the videos of her matches and doing cartoon voice-overs. Ronda was 17 at the time.

"Give me that arm! Give me that arm!" , she squeaked.

"No! No! No!" Lily squeaked back.

Serious for a minute, Ronda turned to her friend and said in disgust,

"Can you believe that girl? What a coward! She was holding on to that arm like, like - "

"Like you were going to break it if she let go?" Lily helpfully suggested, laughing.

"Well, yeah, but -- "

Attitudes like this are not limited to Ronda, nor to teenagers. Recently, I had a discussion over twitter with Alan who complained that Brendan Schaub's match was "disrespectful" and that it was hard for his opponent, a world champion, to beat him if he wouldn't come into his guard.

I thought it was funny, myself. If you are a multiple world gold medalist competing against a brown belt, you should be able to have your way with him, not be complaining that he didn't fight the way you wanted him to. 

I completely understand how frustrating and annoying that can be, and I am a little bit of a hypocrite because I have also complained about people being cowards, not willing to fight me at my own game - but really, why should they? People have gotten up from matwork and literally ran away from me to keep the match standing. The same has happened to Ronda.  If someone is competing against a person known to be excellent on the ground and they manage to keep the game standing, that isn't being a coward, it's being smart.

It's YOUR JOB to take them to the mat and keep them there and your opponent is certainly under no obligation to make it easy for you.

Jim Pedro and I talked about this a lot when we wrote Winning on the Ground. Although we both focus on both types of transition, mine is more on transition from standing to matwork, while his is more on transition from one mat technique to another. 

Don't complain that your opponent won't come to you on the mat. Get up and take them to the mat. Don't complain the referee doesn't give you time to work your mat techniques (yes, I'm talking to YOU,  judo players!) Get the grip you need while standing and then transition to your mat technique while you are in the air. If your opponent escapes from mat work don't complain that he or she didn't stay and let you try an arm bar.

If your opponent is making it difficult for you to win - well what the hell did you expect? That's why they're called opponents and not "partners".

I am surprised that I have to explain this to you.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Champions Always Do More: Another Thing I Learned from Judo

From time to time, I wonder about what I got from judo, was it worth it? Unlike some people who competed at an elite level, I never went into anything professionally related to judo. Now that my daughters are done competing in judo, I have no intention of coaching at any more national or international tournaments.

So ...what did I get out of all of the time spent training? For myself, it really has been true that I developed habits in judo that helped me in life.

It was actually my college track coach who had a sign in her office:

It takes a little more to make a champion.

but I applied that to judo. I would tell myself every day,

Champions always do more.

Whether it was the number of throws, number of rounds of randori or miles that I ran trying to get closer to on weight, every time I was ready to quit, I would remind myself,

Just do a little more.

Those extra five minutes every practice added up to hundreds of hours more of practice over the years.

I still have that habit to this day. Having gotten up REALLY early to go to tournaments the last two days, I was unusually tired tonight and found myself ready to knock off work around 10:30 pm. I downloaded a video for the game, converted it to three different formats to accommodate different browsers and wrote most of this blog in between waiting for the conversions. I also solved a minor problem on one of the little supplemental programs in the game.

When I'm tired and want to knock off for the day, I still tell myself,

Just do a little more.

Whether it is writing a computer game or writing a book , it adds up , a little at a time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Can "Will to Win" Make Up for Training?

The short answer is, "No".
The slightly longer answer is, "Sometimes."

Saying "no" might seem hypocritical when my last post was all about how wanting to badly enough is key to winning.

My point is, though, you have to want to every day, not just at that moment of competition. In fact, the two feed into each other in a virtuous circle.

If you really, really, want to win, no matter how much you hate getting up in the morning, no matter how much you hate sprints, you will get up at 5 a.m. and run sprints up hill every day. Not only will you be in better shape than your opponent, but in the middle of that match, you will subconsciously be thinking,

Bitch, you are NOT going to beat me. Do you realize I got up at 5 a.m. and ran sprints up hill every god damn day for the last three months to train for this? Oh, no you are NOT beating me!
I was sitting next to one of my teammates on a flight to Europe once and asked her how her training had been going. She explained that she had to work, go to school, had some injuries, so that she had not been doing a lot of physical training but she had been doing lots of mental conditioning.

I asked,

So what you are saying is that you haven't really been doing judo but you've just thought about working out a lot?

She gave me a dirty look and responded,

Well, it sounds kind of stupid when you put it that way.

Guess which one of us won the tournament.

If you really want to win, you will be training. Someone who wants to win really badly isn't going to win against someone else who wants to win just as badly and trained more. You might ask if they wanted to win just as badly why did they train less? I'll pretend you asked that, anyway. The reason might be that the person to lost is just younger, newer to the sport, they had fewer years or months to train.  So, other things being equal (the Latin for this is ceteris paribus, abbreviated as c.p.  - when you get that question right on your SATs , you'll thank me), c.p., you will win if you are the one who wants to the most.

Wanting it more than the other person can make up some distance in technique, tactics or physical conditioning, but it cannot substitute for it completely.

I remember one of my brothers trying to put off cleaning his room asking my mom about some of the Psalms in the  Bible that say good things come to those who wait on the Lord. Without missing a beat, Mom turned on him and said,

Good things come to those who wait on the Lord. Better things come to those who work like hell while they're waiting. Get up there and get to work!

------------- Allen Wrench says you should buy Winning on the Ground

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Black Belt (can get paperback, Kindle, nook & more) 
And on Barnes and for the Nook 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Beyond Spiderman

My friends, Steve and Becky Scott of Welcome Mat Judo in Kansas City are two of the coolest people you'll ever meet and I have had some very memorable discussions with them. One of those was about superheroes.

Every superhero had something special - Spiderman got bitten by a radioactive spider. Superman was born on another planet. Batman had a billion dollars to build a secret lair. People are waiting to get hit by the blue light that makes them a winner.

Here is the bad news, young people. There is no blue light or radioactive spider. There's just you.

Here is the good news. That's enough.

I'm going to buy Chael Sonnen's book and read it for the sole reason that it contains this quote.

An old wrestling coach of mine once told me something brilliant, and it applies to every fight I've won and, sadly, every fight that I've lost: "Chael, you can tell when a guy breaks." And you can, even (nay, especially) when it's you.

That is totally true. I've NEVER lost a fight because I've given up, and as a result, I've lost very, very few fights. I've beaten plenty of people who had better technique, better coaching, were better liked by the crowd and the referees, had more international experience, more training partners, better training facilities, were bigger, stronger, faster. In short, I've won lots of matches that I should have lost.

One reason many of those people lost is that they just didn't care about winning as much as I did. That doesn't make them lazy or cowards. It just makes them different from me. My lovely daughter, Julia, didn't care that much about winning in judo but she loves doing stunts on the trapeze, which you couldn't get me to do for a million dollars. I'm afraid of heights.

If you DO care about winning down to your soul, your odds of winning are dramatically greater. As my friend, Bruce Toups says,

"It's all about the want-to "

 Fighting is hard. It hurts sometimes and it requires your 100% undivided attention. You can't be wondering what the crowd, your coach or your friends are thinking of your performance. You can't worry about that stupid mistake you made in the first minute of the match.  You can't, in the middle of a match, think, even subconsciously, that this is too hard, it hurts and why the hell are you doing this.

Decide that you are going to win. This isn't something you do once. It is something you do every day when you wake up and go running, no matter how much you want to stay in bed. It's something you do every second in a match.

After all of that training, though, in the middle of the match, you need to have that voice screaming in your head and your heart

You are NOT going to beat me!

It's there. Believe me, it's there if you care enough to listen.


Shameless ad - Buy our book, Winning on the Ground

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Black Belt (can get paperback, Kindle, nook & more) 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

No Judo Practices after this month (because I am not an idiot)

Since several people have asked me why I said I would not be at judo for quite some time except for the two visits I already promised on June 2 and June 23, I thought I'd explain here. No, I'm not dying of cancer or anything. It's far more mundane than that.

In short, I hurt my elbow from spending 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for thirty years working on a computer.

I co-founded a company with two partners, 7 Generation Games, that is producing computer games. On top of that, I already have a consulting company that occupies much of my time. And ... I teach judo a couple of times a week.

The doctor pointed out that most people, even if they spend five days a week doing some repetitive motion, take off on the weekends, but  I don't.  When I told her that I had done judo my whole life - well, four-fifths of it - she said that yes, but if you have an injury to your elbow you should not be doing push-ups and pulling people around.

I've tried taking a couple of days off to go wine-tasting in Ojai and it was nice. I even discovered guerilla knitting (I am not making this up.) I should be doing something like it again, and not blogging.

So, I have some pills that I'm supposed to take to reduce the swelling in my tendons and I am simultaneously doing activities that make it worse. Not too bright, huh? It's not just that it hurts, but much more annoying to me is that I can't DO some things I used to do, like carrying around my granddaughter, after a few minutes carrying her on the right, I have to switch her to my left side. I can't carry anything really heavy with my right arm.

Several people have told me that they would ignore the doctor and do it anyway.

Well, as my friend Dr. Jake Flores often says, it's amazing what you learn when you stay awake in medical school.

And for those of you who say (and I believe you) that you would blow the doctor off and keep doing judo anyway, I wonder why. I'm not training for a world championships. She didn't say to never do judo again or to quit working. She said to try not using the computer on the weekends, to take several weeks off of judo and see an occupational therapist about changing around my work area.

Sigh. Yes, obviously since it is Saturday and I'm writing this blog I'm ignoring the not using the computer on the weekends part. I AM going to try do cut back. Tomorrow when I'm at Gracie Barra Corona I'm hoping to get someone to video so I can do some video blogs.

If you're at practice, please remind me that I wanted to show three ways of doing ko uchi makikomi - my way, Ronda's way and a third way I don't recommend, which I am showing because I want to discuss why I don't recommend it.