Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Fighting, Fame and Popularity: Advice from Elders

Many years ago, after I won the U.S. Open for the second time, an older judo player, took me aside and gave me some advice. He said that I would start to see people trying to pick fights with me for no reason at all. One of his equally talented friends standing nearby nodded in agreement. I was skeptical, why would anyone want to do that.

He patiently explained,

A few years ago, I was in the exact same position as you, where I was winning everything in sight. How does someone get attention? They come up and they start an argument with me. Now, other people are noticing that asshole because he must be somebody important if I'm talking to him. Say my buddy here takes my side - now he's got two guys on the Olympic team to argue with. The more attention you pay, the more other people notice, because they're looking at YOU and the more attention and satisfaction that guy gets out of it.

I asked him what he did and he replied,

I just walk away.

He must have noticed how stunned I looked (trust me, this guy was a bad ass), because he explained,

All those guys are doing is trying to get attention. Even if I kick their ass, they're happy because then they can go and complain to everyone about what a terrible guy I am and brag about how they got in a fight with me. Ignore those people. They're maggots trying to feed off the results of your hard work.

About the same time, another judo player who was a few years older gave me equally good advice. He said,

Never leave it to the judges. Look at my opponent, the number two guy in my division - face that looks like it ought to be on a Wheaties box. Look at me, face that looks like it ought to be on a wanted poster. You're like me - you're not from the right club, the right family. Your coach isn't any big name famous coach and your parents don't donate money to the judo association. If it comes to a decision, know that your going to lose. So, never let it come to a decision. You have to be so much better than everyone else in your division that it would be an embarrassment for the referee not to call it for you.
Any of you who did judo back in the 1970s and 1980s want to guess who the two men were who gave me this advice?

15 comments:

Al B Here said...

I was a wee babe in the 70s, so I have no clue who these two would have been. However, their advice seems pretty much spot on to me.

Unknown said...

The only high-level guys I know from that era are Wayne Erdman and the late Allen Coage, the latter of whom was probably the poster boy for being a supremely-talented "wrong side of the tracks" judoka.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any guys would've picked a fight with you. Guys don't really feel "contested" by women, as strange as it sounds. That's why female security guards and cops are hired more these days. If a guy approaches another guy who's out of line and tells him to calm down, his precious monkey ego is threatened and he becomes more irritable. But if a woman approaches him and tells him to calm down, his ego is not threatened. Take Ronda, for example. How many guys have went up to her and tried to pick a fight with her when she became famous? Yes, there was that incident in the movie theater, but that was a different story. Those guys were just jerks and they didn't know who Ronda was until Samantha spilled the beans. I'm sure more guys would rather have sex with Ronda than fight her, hence, all of the attempts to come onto her via the internet or otherwise. I've had guys try to fight me when they found out I was tough and that advice is sound -- just walk away or tell them "Sure, just get to the championships and I'll fight you." One guy actually tried it, but got eliminated in the first round and we never got to fight. I won 1st that day. It wasn't Judo, though, it was an open arts tournament.

River Song said...

Who told you that? Now I have to know. I really like your' BLOG.

G. Marx said...

Well I didn't do judo... ever, but I'd hazard a guess that one of them was Mr. Pedro, Sr.

I obviously don't know any of details behind the recent, unseemly backbiting from some of the judo community, but I do know that the advice given you is very true. I was hoping you'd weigh in on the situation. The whole thing feels a bit gross, even from the way outside.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Jim Pedro, Sr. gave me lots of good advice but neither of these was from him. As far as guys picking a fight with me - there have been a few, as well as a good number of women, but I think he was also referring to arguments.

I think I'll wait for a few more guesses and see if anyone gets it before I spill. Another hint - both won U.S. National championships multiple times as well as medals in international competition.

Corinna West said...

What about sort of the opposite, when the big guy knows you can kick his ass and rigs all the tournaments to avoid the match? Like how the mental health system refuses to meaningfully engage with psych survivors?

Anonymous said...

Travis Stevens is not a maggot feeding off the hard work of Ronda Rousey. There! I had to say it; however, I am not sure I totally believe it. I agree with G Marx it is gross.

If he is doing it for money to survive then I can understand it though I disagree with . He has the same options as RR to parlay his judo into MMA. If he has a axe to grind with you he should do it privately.

You all represent Judo so well. I hope this gets shut down and everyone just moves on

cameron delacroix said...

Judo Gene???

Canadian-Ice said...


Don't know these guys, but my previous kickboxing coach, former WKA champ and authentic tough-guy Stan Peterec, used to have guys show up at the events he organized to challenge him after his retirement. Maybe they still do since he had a comeback fight at 53 on youtube. Some were former opponents who wanted a rematch. Other guys wanted to build a name as street-fighters. Stan never responded, never fought outside the ring unless he had no choice. One guy he had no choice against approached him in a bar when he was with a journalist from Blackbelt magazine. That guy got knocked out and it was the event that ended the article. Guess the moral of the story is that being a famous and talented fighter has risks no matter how well you handle it.

Anonymous said...

Mike Swain one of the 2?

robthornton72 said...

I wasn't aware there were judo champions older than you? I keed!

I'm gonna guess Hayward Nishoka and Paul Maruyama.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Since no one guessed, the two people who gave me such sage advice 35 years ago were Pat Burris and Tommy Martin. Good guesses from you all, though.

Anonymous said...

They did try to pick a fight with you? But why and how did they know who you were? Judo isn't really perceived as a "tough" sport in the USA by most people because most people don't understand it. If someone would've tried to challenge with a Judo background back then, even if they were an Olympian, I would've laughed at them and been like "Judo? I just hope you can take a punch in the face, pal and by-the-way, we don't stop after the first hard slam in Lei tai and there are no throw escapes and reversals in Judo". I'm sure you know the story of Judo Gene LaBelle and his fight with Milo Savage. It started due to the ignorance of what Judo was, but not only that, the audience went crazy afterward because they thought Gene killed Milo Savage. They didn't know what a submission was.

These factors considered, what would prompt a man to try to challenge a 5'2" woman who was a world champion Judoka? I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just curious because even after taking Judo and attaining a Green Belt as well as taking Dan Nan Wan Ryu, a very rare and lesser known form of Judo commonly referred to as "combat Judo" I couldn't imagine myself wanting to a pick a fight with a female world champion. I'd be like "You're a world champion Judoka? That's cool, shrimp!" in a friendly and joking manner. Heck, even a large and powerful woman like Ronda, I'd be like "you're an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Judo? 2 words: Snake Style! I can morph my hands into snakes and they'll bite you. Haha, kidding, you're too cute to fight, can we not, say we did, call it a draw and just skip to the part where we kiss and make up?"

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Some of the people who tried to start fights with me were at judo tournaments, so that's how they knew who I was. Sometimes people try to start a fight not in the physical sense but try to start an argument to get attention.

In the case of the man who made this comment, probably more people tried to start a fight with him physically than with me, you're right.

Also, judo used to be better known in this country than it is now, although it has never been very mainstream.