Friday, June 20, 2014

Priorities change

You wouldn't guess that McDonald's would be a likely site for an epiphany, but this week, you would be wrong.

I was in San Diego for two days, taking a class on text mining, and stopped on the way home in San Clemente to get a cup of coffee at the exit that just happens to be half-way between San Diego and Los Angeles. I had stopped at that same McDonald's hundreds of times in my twenties, as I drove back and forth between San Diego, where I lived and had a job as an industrial engineer, and Los Angeles, where I trained at Tenri Dojo and Orange County Kodokan all weekend.

Thirty years ago, those drives were the most important thing in my life, because I got most of my total mat time in on those three days. We had practice Friday night, twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. Winning the world judo championships topped everything, except for my baby, Maria, who usually was ready for a bottle, just as  I pulled into the McDonald's and ordered a coffee for me and a carton of milk to pour into the bottle for her.

Since school is out and I'm not teaching at Gompers, I hadn't thought about judo in weeks. It's funny, because back in my competition days, it is what I thought about ALL of the time. Even if I was sitting in a meeting or writing a program, still, "I have to win, I have to win" was running through my mind in the background.

As I pulled out of the McDonald's, I was wondering, did it really matter. Was it really worth it? I poured so much of my life into judo, and unlike many competitors, whose life continues to be dominated by their sport, I came back from the world championships and immediately veered in a different direction. I had four children, earned two more degrees, started a few companies, wrote some scientific articles, made some games.


Even if weeks go by now without me thinking of judo at all, no, it wasn't a waste of time. The self-confidence, health and discipline I got from judo have been major factors in my success in other areas. People I met in judo have been a network for everything from mentors on starting a business to advice on parenting to consulting opportunities. I was able to teach my daughters judo and one went all the way to two Olympics and then transitioned to world champion in mixed martial arts.

The next question, which I've pondered for decades, is whether it would have mattered if I lost. What if I'd come in second at the worlds? Lynn Roethke was a silver medalist in the Olympics and, after crying for a few days, she went on to have a successful life. Ronda got a silver in the worlds and bronze in the Olympics.

If I'd lost at the end, would I have been even more driven to succeed, to make up for it (hard to imagine what THAT would look like, isn't it?). Or would I have gone back to UC Riverside and jumped off the bell tower? I really don't know.

What I do know, is that you can't judge a situation when you're in the middle of it.

I was talking to Josh Hadley this week, when I was being interviewed for the Hart Attack podcast. Josh's wife suffered a severe injury that left her disabled and he is now at risk of losing his home. You can contribute to his gofundme here.  I told him that I had times that felt like the end of the world - when I lost a tournament or didn't get a job I thought would be perfect for me, it seemed like a tragedy. Then my husband died and it really was a tragedy. Other things happened that I thought I would never get over.

But I did. What I've come to conclude is that Nanny was right when she always said, "God knows what he's doing even when you don't."

At the end of the day, there's another day. If you work hard, never give up and try your best to be a good person, those days eventually get better and better. Not right away, and sometimes it takes a really long time, much longer than you hoped for, but it all works out for the better in the end, even if the end is much, much different than you had expected in the beginning.

------------ Speaking of judo ...

I wrote this book. You should buy it. People besides me think it's good.
And I have a real job, too. I make games that teach math where you can kill things and get smarter at the same time, kind of like judo if they let you kill your opponents and eat them - and your opponents were buffaloes.





8 comments:

dave schaeffer said...

Our family was,(is) a Judo family. We do not practice anymore, except when my oldest boy Jake, and my middle boy Josh start grabbing each other. Then Hajime!It's on. Personnaly, I stopped mountain biking, surfing, everything, just to practice and only compete a handfull of times. Judo was all consuming,along with soccer(for cardio in Judo). Was it worth it? Oh yeah. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Plus, name dropping Manny, Karo, Ronda, is always fun.

Mike Ripple said...

Mrs. D...

Love the photo of you and Maria. That is your daughter Maria Burns Ortiz, is it not?
This is a unrelated, random comment so, bear with me.
I was just reading comments on a article written about Ronda's interview on MMA Debate podcast.
Almost every comment focuses on the Ronda ducking Cyborg bullshit that has flooded the internet for the past 2 years.
I have come to the conclusion that 90% of MMA readers/followers must be just plain stupid.
Does anyone out there in MMA land realize that if Ronda fights Cyborg now (2014) and wins (which she will most assuredly do) her drawing power for any remaining fights in her career will be zilch. Don't get me wrong...I know there are people out there like me who would pay to watch Ronda fight the Easter bunny but, let's face it, everyone loves a REAL challenge.
Ronda and Cyborg are in a class by themselves and even though Ronda should never have to fight a cheat, she probably will end up doing so just to quiet all the retards and haters.
But why do it now? Ridiculous!

War Ronda...sorry for getting off topic, Mrs. D.

As always, I am

M. Ripple, #1 fan of all things Rousey

Chris Opacki said...

I have a lot of regrets in my life, a lot of disappointments and many things that I am proud about. I could go on and one about myself and explain all of these things, but I won't bore you. :) One source of my pride is my daughter, my stepson and my service to our country, being a self-taught java programmer. The lessons, failures and achievements that I learned and made during my life ultimately became tools that I used for raising these children. Judo might not matter as much to you now, but if you didn't have your achievements in Judo during your younger years -- your children might be completely different people than they are today.

kid of topic: I'm 43 years old, a judo while belt and competing in my first judo tournament in a few weeks. Wish me luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Ronda is now claiming she can defeat any World Women's BJJ Champion - all weight classes. When this arrogant assertion came known to the Women BJJ Champions, they sounded off. They, in one accord, believe that Ronda is full of herself and they want her to face them in BJJ competition. They also concur that Ronda knows very little about BJJ. The BJJ champions were shocked at Ronda's arrogance. They want her to put up or shut up.

BJJ has a lot of ground submissions that Judo does not possess.

All we have to say is: Ronda please show up.

What a brat!

Mike Ripple said...

Mrs. DeMars

Just a short note to wish you all the best. Congrats to Jennifer for getting hitched. This is the school teacher, is it not? Hoping you and your family are having a wonderful time in Vegas for the wedding.
Good luck to Ronda at UFC 175 even though she will not need it.
Would love to see the whole lot of you walking out with RR after her win...not just you and Maria...the whole clan...what a photo shot that would be!!!!!
And throw in the new husband for good measure!

Mike

Mike Ripple said...

Mrs DeMars...
I know you are indisposed with the wedding and young Rousey's fight.
I just wanted to say that I am in instagram heaven and thoroughly enjoying all the well deserved coverage of UFC 175...provided by Layzie and all the GOOD ones...not the assholes that perpetuate 'out of context' journalism.
Watching your daughter this week and culminating this Saturday has by far been the most fun for me.
I hope that you guys have a great and victorious time.
Sometime in the future...I would love to read your expanded opinions on this rampant PED problem in sports, grappling arts, and MMA.
After reading the retaliation from the entitre BJJ world to Ronda's statement regarding confidence in her art, I was shocked to see a picture of one of the BJJ retaliators, namely Gabi Garcia.

As usual...all the best to you and yours,

Mike

Mike Ripple said...

OMG...another anonymous that, for some reason, just does not understand.
Real champions exude confidence in their abilities. Ronda is the epitome of both confidence and honesty. Some asshole back in the day wrote down a bunch of socially acceptable guidelines describing the way someone should act when they become a champion and Ronda said 'fuck no'
This is what people really dislike about her.
And this is what people really like about her...that no matter what...she will not yield nor will she falter.
And as far as I am concerned I love it!
Do you really think that the other champions doubt themselves and their abilities for one instant? Not a chance. And if they do doubt themselves and perpetuate that silly little 'humility' game when addressing the media, then they are liars and their championship tenures will be shortlived.
Ronda is one of a kind, borne and bred by her mother (and a bunch of bad ass male Armenians) to be a champion and when she opens her mouth she is stating what she knows to be the truth.

M. F. Ripple

Mike Ripple said...

Mrs DeMars,

Dispatch Zingano and 100% cheers will return
Congrats to your 'lil pumpkin'...simply amazing...my mouth remains agape.
Love the 'ordemarsey' moniker!!
Great to see the young one (Julia) at the festivities for a change...I can wait to see all five of you there simultaneously.

What a great weekend!!#!#
Can't wait for the years end!!#

Mike R. #1 ordemarsey fan!#

One last thing....I honestly felt sorry for that poor girl. It took her a good 20 or 30 seconds to realize that the fight was over. She is one of those that should retire before her ability to transcribe thoughts into words becomes more compromised than it already is.