Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Christmas Present Ever

Merry Christmas!
If I was more predictable, normal and maybe just a better person, I would say that the best Christmas present was spending time with my beautiful family.
But that wasn't it, beautiful as they are. I even have photographic evidence of their beauty in the form of the picture of Jenn, at right.

If I was more curmudgeonly (oh, wait, I am!) I would say that my best Christmas present was that Jenn graduated from college so my monthly bills have been cut in half.

That wasn't it, either, nor was it my first grandchild on the way, the many medals Ronda won this year or the fact that I finally finished the first draft of that final report on the Disability Access project that I have been working on the past two weeks. Give up?

On Christmas Eve, my husband walked into the room and said the last thing in the world I expected to come out of his mouth. No, smart-ass, it wasn't,
"I want a divorce."
In fact, as outspoken as I am in life in general, Dennis and I almost never argue, due primarily to the fact that he is one of the most laid-back people on the planet. It's fortunate that we are married because if he lived alone, he could probably be dead for three or four days before anyone noticed. They would just think he was quieter than usual. No, he came into the room where I was working on Christmas Eve and said,
"Would you by any chance want to not work and be a housewife?"
He went on to explain that he had been looking at our expenses now that Jenn has graduated from college and he figured that we could get by on just one income. I laughed and said,
"You're joking, right?"
He shrugged and said he thought as much, but he just thought he would bring it up as an option. No, this is not the blog where I announce I am going to ditch the whole corporate thing and have the cleanest floors in Santa Monica. Still, I have to say I was really touched. I left home 34 years ago when I was fifteen, have been married three times and never for a day in my life have I ever had anyone else support me while I didn't work.

The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I was by the idea. Well, right now, I have two more reports to finish and a grant to write, but in February, here is my Christmas present - I am going to take a month off for the first time in my entire life.

Some of you may be skeptical. Specifically, those of you who are aware that I went to the Bahamas three times to try retirement and my record of time without working was 72 hours may wonder about my ability to take a month off work.

Those of you who think that I am going to just quadruple the time I donate to the USJA and other judo organizations, think again. I am not sure what all I am going to do but I am very excited and looking forward to it. Here is my list, for now:
  1. Write articles for publication in scientific journals using the data that has been collected and analyzed on the projects on which I have been principal investigator over the past two years.
  2. Learn more about HTML, CSS and PHP. I already use HTML pretty well but CSS I am far below proficient and PHP I should know more than I do, which is almost nothing.
  3. Listen to all those podcasts I have downloaded on wikis, moodle and other tech topics and never got around to listening to.
  4. Finally watch some of those judo DVDs that I have had around the house forever.
  5. Read a book a day, including books on web design, education and just general books with no socially redeeming value like Agatha Christie or Harry Potter (actually, I have read al the Agatha Christie books but my niece informs me that there have been two Harry Potter books published since the last time I actually had the leisure to read a book for fun).
  6. Update the Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. website and move the disability section to my new company, The Julia Group .
  7. Walk to the beach every day the weather is nice.
  8. Play baseball with Julia (the child, not the company).
  9. Read other people's blogs, not for information on technology or even judo but just for the hell of it.
  10. Get rid of 90% of the stuff in the closets, in the drawers and under the beds which was just shoved there because nobody had the time to figure out what to do with it.
  11. Go riding on the bike path through Venice and back.
  12. Take Julia to San Diego to the museums.
What would YOU do if you had a month off just to do whatever you wanted?
----------------------- REQUIRED JUDO TIP -----------------------------------------
Background: When Ronda was 12, the local black belt association (Nanka) started a program for high school and college students, one of those perennial efforts around the country to help our young people move "to the next level". Hayward Nishioka was running the program, and, although Ronda was just a skinny little green belt in the eighth grade and not old enough or a high enough rank, I brought her any way. They let her stay, not because she had shown any amazing promise at that point but rather because I am a rather difficult person to say, "No," to. Let's just leave it at that.

The first day they met in the classroom instead of on the mat. Hayward had all the players watch videotapes of matches and discussed analyzing why one person won and another lost. He talked about gripping, false attacks, strategies when you are ahead or behind, and how those differ at different points in the match. I told him afterward that I thought it was way too much for Ronda at her age, but Hayward urged me to try it anyway. Since Ronda won almost all of her matches, even at that age, and like all kids, she liked to watch herself winning, I didn't see the harm in it. My view on judo for young kids is that anything that makes them enjoy it is good. The other day, Ronda says to me:

I think I really benefited from you and Hayward having me analyze films of myself and my competitors from the very beginning. I see a lot of U.S. players who will lose the same way over and over. Because you drilled it in my head from the very beginning, whenever I get a chance, I watch my matches and try to analyze every mistake I made. I also look at myself and think, if I were the other player, what would I be doing to beat me. I don't see other people doing that. They say things like , "I beat myself," or "My judo is better but he won."
I think that is just stupid and arrogant. Obviously, your judo isn't better because you lost. I know other people are studying me looking for my weaknesses, so I am studying myself and trying to find those weak points first. I want to be like trying to hit a moving target. At the same time, I am trying to see weak points in other people that I can take advantage of.
I admitted that, although I was all in favor of her doing videotape analysis when she was 15 and on, it was Hayward's idea to start so young. She must have been feeling in an unusually sweet and complimentary mood that day because she went on,

"You know, Mom, I think the thing that you did - that we did - right was to always be looking at what I needed to work on and who could help me with what I needed next. Like, you took me to those practices with Hayward. Then, when I was 16, do people really think we shut our eyes, put a finger on the map and came up with Boston? Remember how much we talked about what I needed to improve and how well Pedros was just the right fit for that? I think that is what I learned first from you and later from Hayward, to really analyze my judo. I don't see many other U.S. players doing that and I think that is one reason more of them don't win."

Ronda: Living proof that not all blondes are dumb.
P.S. For those of you who now think you are going to watch videos and become great judo players, I want to throw in the reminder that Ronda trains her ass off, too.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2007

Working and Getting Old in the Middle of Nowhere

For those of you who read this for information about judo, today, you are bound to be disappointed.

For the past couple of days I haven't exactly been in the middle of nowhere. It's more like the place nowhere ends up when it has been lost for three hours. The really insane part is we spent 20 hours in LAX and on planes to get here.

It wasn't a complete waste, though, I spent twelve hours in the airport grading final exams, answering phone calls and emails on our new Ethics Course and working on the final report on our Disability Access project.

Lately, I have been doing nothing but working. It's been the flip side of those days of the USJA Nationals when I did nothing BUT judo. It's a good balance - sort of. Once the nationals were over, I didn't want to think about judo for a while, and I had all of this work piled up on my desk.

One of the reasons I work so much, I realized, is that I want to live exactly where I live. I hate snow and I hate cold weather. People are always asking me don't I miss seeing the snow at Christmas. No. If I wanted to see the snow - which I don't - we have the weather channel. I work seven days a week so I can afford to live wherever I want. Everything has a price.

On the other hand, I think I reached my Pareto optimum with regard to time and money a long time ago. Pareto was the economist who said you reach a point where no one can be made better off without making someone else worse off. Earlier this year, I decided to switch jobs, and I think the likelihood I will draw the same salary is low, but the likelihood that I will work from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. is about zero. My New Year's Resolution is to leave my desk the same day I sat down at it, every single day of the year.

On the way to do a judo clinic in Springfield, MO, Julia and I had dinner at Cracker Barrel and just hung out. As Al Franken said, what his child gets from him is not quality time, it is great big bunches of quantity time.

Four hours driving in the dark gives you a lot of time to think and one of the things I thought about was that I am not sure I will be ever ready to get old. Maybe I will think differently some day. When I was young I used to think it would be depressing to be retired from competition, that I would hate my life and that all those people like Dr. Jim Wooley and Professor Hayward Nishioka who appeared to be happy with life when they were no longer competing were just faking it. Today, I am pretty happy with my life, so maybe it is possible I will one day be ready to be old. Not today, though. I have too much to do.

Old women clean. Old men putter. Puttering is how my grandmother described the way men walk around the house muttering to themselves about things that need to be fixed, bought or moved to a different spot. I think the word must be a combination of the word "mutter" and some word that begins with p - maybe penis, because it seems that this tendency is yet another one of those things that only men have.

We are staying at my sister-in-law's house. She moved here over a year ago and the pictures she meant to hang up are still sitting against the wall by the front door. If she had a retired husband around the house, those pictures would have been up the first week. His friend would call and ask him if he wanted to go to the hardware store and buy stuff - which is, I have noted, another predominantly male characteristic - and the husband would say,
"I can't go. I have a lot of stuff to do today."
In my life, here are some examples that fall into the category of
"Stuff I have to do"
  • Final reports to federal agencies which will not pay me until they get them.
  • Driving four hours to do a coaches' clinic that I promised to do months ago.
  • Making sure Julia brushes her teeth.
Things that do not fall under the category of "stuff I have to do".
  • Returning crap that doesn't work to Wal-Mart that you shouldn't have bought in the first place.
  • Dusting anything that is not a body part. If your body parts have dust you probably have issues that need to be addressed.
  • Sewing. Buy a new one. If you have had it long enough to rip, it's probably out of style anyway. Since I have so little idea about style that I am lucky there really is no such thing as fashion police, I better buy a new one just to be on the safe side.
Although I have been at the computer for the past few days virtually non-stop, including on an all-night flight, I am pretty happy with the balance in my life. I think the key factor in getting old is not having enough real "stuff to do".

Now I am so sick of working that I am delighted to be teaching judo again tomorrow. Julia has her own ideas. She mentioned three games we learned from Chuck that she wants to do at the clinic. Next year, I will have less money but more time to get back to writing articles for academic journals, developing a new web application I have had in mind for a long time, organize more opportunities for our youth at the USJA/USJF West Coast Training Center and teach Julia a better tani otoshi. Speaking of Julia, it is past 1 a.m. in Missouri and she is still watching TV, so I am going to quit writing and make her brush her teeth and go to sleep. Now that is definitely "stuff I have to do".

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Do You Want to Make Players or Take Them?

We were discussing the number of people who call me with the exact same line,
"I am offering a program, but I only want elite players. A minimum age of 15 and brown belts. Really, this is for your young black belts. You know, the people who are ready for senior national competition."

More than once, I have had people say to me,
"I am really not interested in that 'Little League Judo' stuff you do. I am more of an elite coach."
Ronda nodded understandingly and said,
"So they don't want to make judo players, they want to take them, is that it?"
That is it exactly and I had never heard it put so well. (Plus, as she pointed out, it rhymes!)

ULTRA-SENSITIVE ADVISORY WARNING: This is one of those posts where I am going to be - well, uh, me - so if you were looking for Strawberry Shortcake, you should quit reading now. If you ignore this warning and get offended, don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. A fifteen-year-old brown belt is not an elite player.

  2. It is not that difficult to win the U.S. Senior Nationals, unless maybe you are in the 70 kg division and not Ronda. In almost every division you have less than 20 players. In some you have less than ten. Winning the senior nationals doesn't give you a pass to have an attitude. Placing third out of six or eight people certainly doesn't.

  3. The above is a fact and I have to state it because when other people do they often get told by some smart-ass, "If it's so easy, why didn't you do it?" I did. Three times. If someone tells you not to do footsweeps standing still, they are right. If you have won 17 national championships and they never won anything, they are still right and making smart-ass comments like that makes you both wrong AND annoying.

  4. Most of our young brown and black belts start out as genuinely good people. They have a little success and then all of the people who are "elite" coaches come out of the woodwork. Next thing you know, that young person is convinced that he or she is the next Olympic champion, based on having placed third out of eleven at the last junior nationals. Because most of them were raised by very good parents, and really are deep down still nice people, they don't actually say, "What do you know? You never won anything?" but they begin to have that attitude, and their judo pretty much stops improving at that point.

Yes, I actually did win some things, but they reason it was a long time ago, so people like me don't know anything either. It's actually amusing to watch some of those 'elite players' with Ronda because she has won a lot, and recently, too. I can actually see them trying to think of a reason why she can't tell them anything because they are 'elite' players.

It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad, and I have seen it through generations of players now. What is the solution? There are a few, really.

  • Focus on developing players and let them have a good time. This is why Chuck Jefferson, shown above, is one of my new favorite people. He was willing to come out to the USJA/USJF West Coast Training Center this weekend and work with a group of kids age ten and under for two hours, and then stay and work with our more advanced players for another three hours. As a very insightful coach from Texas once told me. I firmly believe that for the cream to rise to the top, it must have something to rise from" For kids to stay in judo, they have to enjoy it. Your next Olympic champion is going to come out of those hundreds of "Little League judo players" who are having fun. And the hundreds of kids who aren't going to the Olympics are having fun, which is great in itself.

  • Focus on making our players at ALL levels and ages in better physical condition and better technically Below is a photo of Chuck helping our young players with uchimata. He didn't come in with the attitude that, having won international gold medals he should not be teaching kids ten and twelve years old to have a better uchimata or that he was doing anyone a favor teaching them. He conveyed to everyone in a very businesslike sense that this was important. Okay, we all had a good time playing games and now we are going to get to the serious work of making your judo better. If we did this for all of our young players, they would be better when they were 15-year-old brown belts, not elite, but better.

  • If you are one of those "developing elite" players or if you really are at the international medalist level, be humble and be hungry, two traits I have seen far too little of. In the U.S., you can get recognition for being a national champion at age 11. In most other countries, they don't even have junior nationals for that age group. What if you were the toughest ten-year-old in the entire world? As Ronda said yesterday, "One, no you're not and two, who cares?" Must have been her day for one-liners. If you really want to make it, you should be trying to learn every day. I know that there are suggestions for different techniques or different ways to do a technique that Ronda hears from me or Jim Pedro or other people that she is skeptical about but she tries out anyway. Sometimes she concludes she is right and no, that won't work for her. Sometimes, she finds a new way to win. Right up until the day I won the world championships I was convinced my judo wasn't as good as it should be. Twenty-three years later, I still feel that way. The key is to never be satisfied that you have all the answers, to always be looking for a way to get better. HINT: The way to jump up another level is seldom to keep doing the same things over and over again faster and harder. SECOND HINT: If you weren't working very hard to begin with, ignore that first hint.

  • When you really do get to that developing stage, always go after the one person in the dojo who you think can beat you up There was a great article by Nobel Prize winner James Watson. One piece of advice he gave was, "Never be the smartest person in the room." His reasoning was that, if you can learn from the people around you, you will get better and better. Below, the last picture of Chuck is with Victor Ortiz. I was proud to see all of our players at the training center lined up to randori with Chuck over and over. They wanted to fight the best person in the room, rather than grab someone smaller and less experienced to show off. It's times like that I am reminded that it is all worthwhile and we are moving in the right direction.

Well, I remembered I WAS going to post this time on the discussion Ronda and I had about why most U.S. players don't win, but well, I didn't. Maybe I will do it next time. Or, then again, maybe I won't.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Makes a Champion?

"When I was 13 and 14 years old, no one but you thought I was going to be anything special. What made you think I would succeed when other people didn't? What was it you were looking at?"

Ronda wanted to know, she said, because she was going to be coaching some day and she wanted to learn all she could about it. Here are a few things I look at:

When a junior player is winning, is it early physical development, or is it technical ability and mental toughness?
Often, the winners in the 13-14 or 15-16 year old divisions are physically men and women, fighting in a kids' division. If I see someone who is still physically a kid but winning anyway, on technique or pure determination, I know that as soon as that kid grows full strength, he or she will be walking through the division like nothing. Ronda was a skinny, scrawny little kid. The picture above is a year before Ronda qualified for the U.S. Junior World Team for the first time, two years before she made the U.S. women's team for the first time at 63 kg. She was a little girl beating women. That was one of the things that set her apart from the other junior national champions. The other girls who were placing in women's divisions were physically already fully grown. I knew that when Ronda put on another 15 pounds of muscle and developed the strength and coordination of an adult that everybody had better run.

Can she take being roughed up in a match?
Judo is a tough, physically demanding, sometimes painful sport. There were other junior players who were bullies and sometimes they would throw Ronda and land on her, grind her into the mat and generally beat her up. One day, as I was watching this at practice, Ronda's sister, Jenn became upset that I was so calm,
"You're a bad mother! How come you don't do anything? Those girls are hurting her!"

I told her that Ronda wouldn't die and that she would get them all back in the end. Ronda learned three things from those practices. First, that she was tough and that a little pain wouldn't kill her. Second, that no one was going to rescue her or feel sorry for her, so she better figure out how to take care of herself out on that mat. Third, she learned not to be a bully, because she saw how it made her feel.

I really want to emphasize here that I am NOT talking about me as an adult throwing around a kid. I've seen that kind of behavior and I think it is pure child abuse. I also don't condone that kind of behavior in children. However, they weren't my children and it wasn't my club. When kids act like that at my club, I pull them aside and tell them it is not acceptable.

As for those other kids, they all ended up quitting. That's another thing I have noticed. People who are bullies, people who win by cheap shots, by physically trying to hurt the other person - they never make it in the long-term. That may work in the kids' divisions and it may even work on the local level, but the higher up you go, the more likely you are to run into someone like I was as a competitor, that won't give up unless you break something on them, and maybe not even then. At that point, you had better have some judo to fall back on and you better be able to take it as well as dish it out.

She never accepted that anyone had a right to beat her.Many people don't expect to win. When they get behind by a score, they are relieved, because, to them, the uncertainty is over. They expected to lose, and they are losing. Whenever Ronda got behind in a match, or couldn't throw a person, she was pissed. One time sticks out in particular. She was 13 or 14 and Kazuo Shinohara came to our club. He must have had sixty pounds on her, plus he had been U.S. Grand Champion and a bunch of other titles. Ronda REFUSED to ever accept losing. She cried all the way home,
"Mom, I tried and tried to throw that guy, and I just couldn't do it - and he was old! I suck at judo! I'll never be any good."

Here is where I think I am different from most people. I did tell her that of course she was going to be great and no she did not suck, she never sucked at judo and never would. I did NOT tell her that she couldn't expect to beat a sixth-degree black belt who had been All-Japan champion. Quite the opposite, I told her,
"You'll get him, beanie. He's old. You're young. He's never going to be any better than he is right now and you get better every day. Just keep working on that left uchimata and o soto gari. His days are numbered."
Now that is one of those lines I repeat all of the time.
"NO ONE has a right to beat you."
It is so totally true, and yet most people don't believe it. I see players go out to fight and they are already convinced they will lose because the other player is Japanese or European or a black belt or from a certain person's club.

Can a person come from behind? Whether she was a green belt in the black belt division, or fighting two divisions up in weight and down by a yuko, Ronda always expected to win the match. If someone scored on her she was furious. When she was young, I pushed her as hard as I thought anyone that age could go, so, during a match, she had all of that behind her. It was as if she was thinking,
"Do you have ANY idea how hard I trained for this tournament? How DARE you throw me for a yuko! "

If you want to know who will win, watch how people practice.
Since Ronda was too young to drive, I was with her at almost every practice. When she was 16, shortly after she had started training at Pedro's, she was back home for the holidays and I took her to a local dojo where there were a couple of players from Japan. She trounced the young woman pretty well, and then I guess her teammate, who was 60 kg decided he had to uphold the honor of their university because he went after Ronda. Remember that line from the song,
"You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won't back down."
It was kind of like that. In the middle of it, Jimmy, Jr. called to find how Ronda was training at home. I told him,
"Well,right now her and some Japanese college guy are playing King of the Mat."
He asked,
"Are you going to step in?"
I looked out at them and said,
"Nope. She's holding her own. I'm just going to let it go and see who wins."
After over ten minutes, the instructor called matte and ordered everyone to change partners. In case you are wondering, and I know you are, I would call it a draw.

Here is another key point for coaching. This may make it sound like I just let people pound on Ronda right and left. That's not true. I never took her anywhere unless I was sure she could hold her own. There have been times when I called her off the mat and told her not to work out with someone because he was too much bigger and I didn't know him - or sometimes because I did know him. There haven't been many of those times and Gene LeBell and I still argue sometimes to this day and Ronda is 20. Gene thinks I worry too much and treat her like a baby if I don't want her to randori with a 200 pound green belt. It is my belief that you are most likely to get injured when there is a big disparity in size and not a lot of skill.

Ronda always went after the toughest player in the room.
One day, when Ronda was 14 or so,Justin Flores was visiting and came to a regional practice in LA,sponsored by Nanka. Afterward, he commented on one of the players and I said,
"He's never going to make it."
Justin asked why I said that, mentioning a number of events the young man had won as a junior. I answered,
"When we were doing matwork and I called 'time!' he practically ran away from you. He was one of the best guys in the room, you try to train with the best people to get the hardest rounds, so you told him, let's go again, and he argued that you had just gone the last round, right?"
Justin nodded. I asked him how often Ronda tried to go with him whenever we came to San Diego to visit them. He said,
"Are you kidding? She's like a little tick! I can't get her off me. Every time I turn around she's in my face wanting to go again. About the only person I work out with more is my brother. Everybody else runs from me at practice."

Here is the last thing I look at:
How do they train when no one is watching? I'm a little person and more than once, I have sat up in a corner of the bleachers or on a pile of mats or stood at the edge of the door out of sight and just watched. There are those people who are going after the hardest people, doing the fastest uchikomis and climbing the ropes when they are being watched. The second they don't see anyone around they want to impress, they are slacking off. When Ronda was at Hayastan Dojo and the only one sitting in a chair was her big sister, doing her biology homework and not paying the slightest attention, she would still train until she was still soaked with sweat when she walked in the door at home 45 minutes after practice.

This is another of those things I say all the time,
"If you want to know who is going to win in the end, don't look at who won the junior national championships this year or who placed third in senior nationals. Go to the extra practices and clinics and see who is there. If you go to ten in a row and you see the same kid, that's the one to bet your money on."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This Internet Thing is Pretty Cool

You can only be late once. After that, you can only be later. So, since I am already late on getting out Growing Judo for November (seeing that it is December), I decided to slack off even further, having wasted my day working at my corporate job. It turns out that this whole Internet idea has caught on and there are some interesting articles on judo,even about people I know.

The Edinburgh News has an article on Maurice Allan, great judo player, replanted Scotsman and the only member of the USJA Coaching Committee who talks like a pirate, even when it is not Talk Like a Pirate Day. (And you thought I made that up.)

The highlight video of Nicholas Gill on the judo podcast convinced me that if I did not already think he was a very nice man, the armbar and choke on this video would have won me over. He also does a disproportionate number of counters. We don't see enough of those. I am going to sit down with my nine-year-old daughter and have her watch it. He uses some of the throws she is just learning so I am hoping it will be a motivating factor for her. Or, I will just have my kid sitting in my lap and watch judo with her. That's good enough in itself.

Ronda and I were discussing judo (what else) today and she had some pretty interesting comments and questions. She is already thinking ahead to when she will be coaching, and she asked me what was it that made me believe she was going to be so successful. Years ago, when she was only 14 or so, I was telling people she was exceptional and no one took me seriously. There are specific traits and habits that set certain people apart so that they are on a whole different level.

We also discussed one of the major errors players who are unsuccessful at the international level make and how some of the teaching she received when she was younger helped her avoid those errors. This is particularly ironic since I remember arguing with Hayward Nishioka that videotape analysis was going to be over her head, that she was only 12 years old and Hayward saying,
"Just trust me."

I have to get back to work, so next time I will talk about what I saw in Ronda that I didn't see in others and what she learned young that other people didn't.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Our rescuers have arrived and they are us!

"We have met the enemy and he is us."
I remember when that line was first published, in a Pogo comic, as the final statement in a not very interesting drawn out saga in a not very interesting Sunday morning comic strip. Still, it was so profound that by that evening, everyone from talk-show hosts to my father were quoting it.

On the flip side, I have had an epiphany lately. For years, people in judo have been waiting for someone to rescue us. If we only had a major corporate sponsor give us millions of dollars, if we could only get several hundred thousand dollars of that money the government is giving away, if we could only be the subject of a major motion picture, that would rescue our sport and we would have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people competing in judo. With those millions of people, we would win fourteen Olympic gold medals - maybe we would win twenty, because with that influx of ten million new judo players from the U.S. there would need to be new weight divisions added and ... and...

Fade to reality ....

Corporations sponsor activities which are already done by millions of people, to get themselves more publicity. Federal grants go to programs that can demonstrate need, capacity, a good evaluation plan, qualified personnel. When you get the money, you have to spend it on salaries, facilities. Take it from someone who does this for a living- you would be truly amazed how fast you can burn through a million dollars. If you have a half-dozen employees for three years, you have pretty much spent it all.

Motion picture? When is the last time you watched a movie on, say Double-Dutch jumprope competitions or a cheer-leading squad and said to yourself, "Wow! I can't wait to join that."

Judo is growing in this country in both quality and quantity. It is growing because we have people like Greg Fujimoto organizing host families from Nanka Yudanshakai for a Japanese high school team to visit and Gary Goltz from the USJA offering his club so that 90 judo players can attend a clinic on Saturday morning (shown above). You have the USJA Development fund, thanks to wonderfully generous donors, sponsoring Pedro Dias from Portugal to give clinics for Nanka and USJA kids at Tenri Dojo in East L.A. on that same afternoon. You have Frank Sanchez that evening opening his home and throwing an all-out party for all of the Guerreros Judo Club judo players and their families. The morning after, kids from age five through twenty-five showed up for three hours of extra training at the USJA/USJF West Coast Training Center.

We have coaches who are working everywhere to learn more and teach more. The recent National Coaches Clinic with Jim Pedro, Sr. Hayward Nishioka, Jim Bregman and moi was attended by 65 coaches. Of these, five were recognized for their outstanding teaching and technical ability and certified to teach coach education workshops. (Congratulations to Mike Noriega, Gerry Lafon, Dan Alef, Neil Ohlenkamp and Paul Nogaki.) The fact that we have volunteers from throughout the country attending these events at their own expense speaks volumes about what we are all doing to grow judo. If we had a million dollars, it would not cover the valuable professional time these individuals donate. On December 22, I will be in Springfield, MO doing another coach certification workshop and I am sure I will meet just as many terrific people in the Midwest.

I have been called some very creative names, as well as some more common ones casting aspersions on my mother, had people say truly unkind things about my children, been accused of everything from assault to extramarital affairs... and that's not mentioning the money and hours I have poured into this sport, the arthritis from old injuries and training through pain. Those people who say, "No pain, no gain," are correct but they seem to under-emphasize the fact that the pain part is well, uh, painful. Yes, there are times I thought it really wasn't worth it. After all, we are really talking about involving more children, adults and families into a relatively minor sport. As usual, Ronda fought her heart out in Japan and I am very proud of her. The Kano Cup is the toughest tournament in the world and she earned a silver medal despite injury, despite everything. On the other hand, she won a tournament almost no has heard of in a sport almost nobody knows what is. Why even bother? A good answer to that question can be found in Lord of the Rings

Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

What we are fighting for in the USJA and all our associated activities with Nanka, with supporting clubs like Southside Dojo and Guerreros, with supporting organizations like USJF, is to have a sport be more accessible to more people at a higher quality. What we are fighting against is everyone who has darker motives, who wants to be a coach for access to children for sexual abuse at the most extreme end. We are also fighting against those who want to teach to make other people feel smaller so they themselves can feel more important, against those who want to be involved in organizations so they can be promoted to judo ranks that are wildly out of proportion to their knowledge, giving a false portrait to the world of what judo is and what the people who excel at it are really like.

A retired judo player said proudly,
"You may have never heard of me, but I was once one of the best in the world at something worth being the best at."

That our children twenty years from now may say those same words, is one of the many things worth fighting for. I think that every day as I look down (or, in some cases up, those teenagers are getting big!) at the faces of the people learning judo around the country.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Waiting for the phone call

It is 9 a.m. in Tokyo,so my next-to-youngest child should start competing about now. I don't know how mothers who don't work can deal with the stress. At least I have work to take my mind off it a bit. I am writing an article on Autism right now which drives home the fact that whether Ronda wins or loses I won the lottery big time having four healthy kids. Still, I worry.

Anxiety is a result of uncertainty regarding a possible negative outcome. There are people who know they are not going to win this tournament unless a team of crazed Ninjas drops from the roof of the Tokyo Dome and kills everyone else in their division. These people aren't nervous because they know they are going to lose. Sometimes, you are so far above the competition that you know you are going to win, and so you aren't anxious then, either.

Last week at the USJA Winter Nationals, I wasn't too nervous. While Ronda had never fought Patricia before, I had seen them both compete and I was pretty certain Ronda would win. I must admit, though, that Patricia gave us a scare at the very beginning of the match when she almost countered Ronda. That is one of the attractions of judo, I think. Anything can happen, no matter how good you are, you can make a mistake, and a person who isn't afraid of you can take advantage of that mistake. Still, the tournament was double elimination and I was pretty certain Ronda wouldn't make two in the same day.

Today, at the Kano Cup, there is no one who knows he or she is going to win. In every event, this is how it is at the top of the world. The five best people are so close that any one of them can take it on any given day. When you look at Olympic records in swimming or track, the differences are often in seconds or tenths of seconds.

When she wins, she calls home right away, often from the side of the mat, borrowing someone's cell phone. When she loses, we don't hear from her for a week.

I worry enough that whenever she goes to another country I have the time in that country on my iPhone, so I know when it is past time she should have won and called. I try not to start worrying until then.

Why do I worry? Because no matter how big and strong she gets, she is still my baby. This is something important to her. She pours her heart into it and it hurts her to lose. So, Julia came home from school, we lit a candle together and said prayers.

Now I am going to go back to writing my article on Autism and waiting for the phone to ring.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

USJA Winter Nationals: Judo by the Numbers

  • Six countries represented.

  • Over 500 competitors.

  • 65 coaches and coaches-in-training attending 16 hours of on-the-mat, classroom and practicum education

  • Four mat areas of clinic taught by clinicians aged 16 to 73, from three countries.

After four days of clinics and competition, a week of visitors from around the globe where that leaves me personally is with 20+ papers to grade, 181 unanswered email messages and a voice mailbox that is full.

It was all worth it, though. The photo above, of Crystal Butts showing how left harai goshi should be done, was one of many, many amazing displays of judo during the tournament. This blog is part of my behind-schedule-life at the moment. Over the next few days, I will post more about the tournament and maybe even in an organized fashion- as we learned from Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - anything is possible.

One of the highlights of the tournament for me was watching the Japan versus U.S. Team match. I know that some were expecting it to be an all-out wipeout of the U.S. in the first thirty seconds of every round. After all, this was the #5 high school team in Japan versus some guys from L.A. Aaron Kunihiro tied the first match. The third match, Ross Nakamura threw his opponent for a yuko and was ahead until getting thrown in the last four seconds. The next match, Gary Zakarian threw his opponent for ippon. In the last match of the team competition, Kai Ishisaka also threw his opponent for ippon. The Taisei High School team was very good and they did end up winning the team competition. However, the really important point to me is that in similar matches I have seen, all of the American players went out expecting to lose to the Japanese. In this case, they did not. Some of them went out with every intention of winning.

A second highlight of the tournament was seeing the young women and girls line up to fight Kayla Harrison and Ronda. In other tournaments, players would cut weight for hours to keepfrom fighting someone who is a top competitor. I have always noticed this difference about USJA clubs and tournaments, and it is a GOOD difference. More than others, they emphasize not being afraid to try over results. Rather than hearing people say,
Oh,no, I have to fight Ronda

There were several players I overheard say,
I get to fight Kayla and Ronda

Kayla and Ronda each took a line-up of four players in a row. The youngest was Sarah Crosby, a 13-year-old who fights 63 kg. She didn't win, but she didn't give up, either. As I told Sarah's coach, the first step is not being afraid to go out and take on players like Ronda. After you have done it a few times and realize you didn't die, you start to think you can beat them. Thinking you can beat them is the second step. Crystal certainly thought she could beat Kayla Harrison. She almost did, too. Four minutes into the match, Kayla went for sumi gaeshi and Crystal went for ko soto gari. The match was called for Crystal but then they changed the ippon for Kayla. The point, though, as Kayla said afterward with real respect,
"That girl is so young and she isn't afraid of anything."
Speaking of Ronda (even though we weren't) she had some beautiful throws in the tournament. I'll see if I can find some pictures and post them.

Ronda is in Japan right now at the Kano Cup. So, if you are Catholic, say prayers and light a candle for her. If you are atheist, bite the head off a chicken and mutter or whatever it is that atheists do instead of pray.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What We Teach Our Children

Three seemingly unrelated things happened in the last twenty-four hours.
I received a link to a Youtube video of an acceptance speech by Maria, my oldest daughter, receiving the emerging journalist award.

I had a long talk with Hayward Nishioka, one of my judo heroes ever since I was a kid.

My two middle daughters, Ronda and Jenn, came home for Thanksgiving.

All of these events together brought into focus what we really should be teaching our children. As we went around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and gave thanks, each person began with, "I'm thankful for my family and..." I truly believe they meant it, too, and didn't just say so because they were afraid I would whack them in the head with a turkey leg.

Hayward and I were discussing judo (what else) and he said,
"If we produce someone who is a champion and they have a bad attitude and bad behavior, what have we really done for that person? I would say we have failed him."

Maria, who is a sportswriter, has a daily window on the fleeting career of athletes, even Olympic and professional ones. As she asked me the other day,
"Really, Mom, if you meet someone who won the Olympics, say, in the shotput, what do you think? You probably think to yourself, that's nice. That probably took a lot of work. And that is ALL THE AVERAGE PERSON THINKS ABOUT IT. Do you think, 'Hey, I'd like to hire that person' or be their friend? No, I bet you don't."

They both had the same point. Now, I am as competitive as the next person. Okay, let's be honest, I am as competitive as the next person, their mother, father, sister, brother and Uncle Marv all combined. Still, I have finally realized the truth of what people like Jim Pedro, Sr. , Hayward Nishioka and Martin Bregman have been telling me for years. It is the journey and not the destination. When I was younger, I believed that people said that because they had not won the world championships or the Olympics and so they said that it didn't matter to make themselves feel better. Now that I am older and occasionally smarter, I realize they said those things because it was true and they were right. How did my daughter figure this out at twenty-five and it took me until I was twenty years older than that? I chalk it up to her having better parenting than me!

Don't get me wrong. Winning is great. Winning is awesome. It is better than money, better than drugs, better than sex - okay, well maybe it is not better than sex. That might depend on who you are with and what it is you are winning. HOWEVER... with both winning and sex, no matter how great it is at the time, when it is over, it's over.

Well, in the case of sex, I had four great kids. Two out of three husbands weren't bad either.

For judo, for competition, at the end of it, I gained a lot and I have tried to pass those gains on to my children. The great concern to me as a coach, and as a parent, is exactly the one that Hayward shared. Winning is by no means a guarantee that athletes will succeed in learning those lessons we want to teach. On the positive note, being less than a superstar as an athlete doesn't necessarily mean we failed to teach them the important values in life.

Ronda is on her way to the Kano Cup and should be in her second Olympics next year. When she was 14 or 15, she went to a camp at the Olympic training center. In the coach's notes on her, at the bottom of the page, he had written and underlined twice the words,
"This kid fears no one!"

If you watched the video of Maria's speech, the presenter begins by saying,
"Maria does not possess the deadliest sin in journalism - fear."
Reginald Stuart, of Knight-Ridder News, said,
"Maria is very passionate about what she does ... she is focused... she never backs down."
Maria herself said,
"I decided wasn't going to back down... You do have a voice and you need to take a stand and you can't be afraid of what other people think and I want to thank my mom... who is, for better or worse, the reason I am outspoken as I am."

My daughter, Jenn, who was always pretty much of a homebody, moved to San Francisco as a nineteen-year-old college junior. Now, at 21, she graduates from college in a few weeks, and has saved enough from her part-time job to be moving into her own, non-parent-paid-for apartment and starting her career.

The lessons I hope athletes learn from sports:
Work hard. That includes doing the things you DON'T want to do, like running sprints uphill, taking classes in Earth Science when you are a history major or moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana to get your chance as a sportswriter. Too many people confuse hard work with sweat or hours put in. Last week, my niece asked my husband when he came home how was his day at work. He answered,
"Work pretty much sucked. I was in meetings all day. That's why they have to pay you to do it. So you come into work even on the days when you know it is going to suck."

Unfortunately, too many of our athletes fail to learn that hard work and discipline don't mean just working out hard on the days you feel like going to practice. It means working out even on the days you'd rather go to a prom, sleep late or watch a football game. It means working out even when some of the other people you have to practice with are kind of jerks or if you think the coach is a dick and doesn't like you. You'll meet people who are jerks your whole life, and no matter how awesome you are, some people just won't like you (look at me, for example, soul of sweetness and light that I am, some people still don't like me, yes, hard to believe, I know). Trust me, no one is looking for employees who brag, 'I come to work 80% of the time', yet we have athletes who expect a kiss on the cheek and a box of doughnuts for showing up at eight out of ten practices.

Courage. Aristotle said that courage is the virtue upon which all other virtues depend. As C.S. Lewis explained it, years later, if we don't have courage, then we are virtuous so long as there is no cost. If we are honest, but afraid, we do nothing. If we are hard-working and intelligent but afraid, we do nothing. Maria had the courage to speak out to those who tried to silence her. Ronda has the courage to face opponents around the world, opponents who many, in the U.S. and abroad, think she can never defeat. They are wrong, by the way. Jenn had the courage to move hundreds of miles away, on her own, to a city where she didn't know a soul, and make a success of it.

Never give up. My little Julia is only nine years old. Yesterday we got the brilliant idea to ride our bikes to judo. Since she is only a little kid, it took us an hour. Then she worked out for the hour remaining of the kids' practice and worked with me for another half-hour of the adult practice until her father came and picked her up. She felt like giving up lots of times, I could see it in her face, but she didn't.

Finally, be thankful. All the teaching you get is not because you are some great prima donna talent. It is because people in your family and community love you and cherish you. They are not lucky to be teaching you. You are lucky to have them teaching you. If you are really thankful, you will show it when you are older by teaching others, not because you are doing them a favor, but to repay the favor done to you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Day in the Lives ...

My niece was talking on the phone to her friend and answered,
"What does my aunt do? Well, she is vice-president of this company she started that does on-line training and statistical analysis and stuff, then she teaches graduate courses at two universities. On the weekends, she does this Judo Training Center for young athletes and she is always trying to raise more money for that. Of course, she's a mom. She's also vice-president for the United States Judo Association. I don't know. That's a good question..."

She holds the phone away for a moment, looks at me and asks,

"Just how many lives DO you have?"

Two judo coaches from Connecticut, Bill Montgomery and Joan Love, have accused me of having escaped from a Star Trek episode they saw, with a race of mutants who did everything at twice the speed of normal people.

The truth is, I am one of those people who is always doing two or three things at once. In an article I read, multi-tasking is related to Type A personality, stress and heart disease. According to their statistics, I am pretty sure I should have died at age twenty-three. Here is a Saturday in my life ...

Put coffee on. Take a shower while coffee is brewing. Poke Julia to wake her up. Put my judo gi in a bag. Poke Julia again and tell her I really mean it. Run Julia's bathwater while I find her judo gi. Threaten Julia with a beating if she doesn't get ready to go. While Julia is in the bathtub, run put gas in the car and to the grocery store for cases of bottled water for the training center. Call optometrist from the grocery store and ask for a new pair of contacts. While standing in line at Starbucks, call Julia to make sure she is dressed and ready to go and find out what she wants for breakfast. Buy breakfast at Starbucks. Pick up contacts at optometrist. Drive back to house and pick up Julia. This is the first forty-five minutes of my day --- before I drive thirty-five miles to the training center for the first practice of the day. While Julia sleeps in the car I listen to my voicemail and return phone calls.

After two judo practices are over, I drive thirty-five miles back home, grade papers, add several web pages to the on-line course in Ethics we are writing, read Dr. Davis' comments on our webcast slides which are due on Monday, make the corrections, read several chapters on developmental education for our next grant, answer 15 email messages about USJA activities (most of them are nice emails today), read a request for proposal for a grant competition we are considering, write an entry for my company blog and go to bed.

... And it is only as I write this I realize that -- this is my day off!

This blog is in answer to Carlo who asked me why I do not start a judo program for Native Americans, as well as everyone else who has asked me why I do not start my own judo club, run for any more offices, make a DVD, write a book or have my own line of judo gis.

Despite appearances, I am not complaining. I will be 50 next year,so I am now on a mailing lists to receive catalogs for courses designed for people in "my age group". I paged through one of these and the classes had such titles as,

"Dealing with Bereavement and Grief"
"Preparing your will"

and my personal favorite (I am not making this up) ....
"The Life Review: Tell your life stories to people who care."

As opposed to what I guess many old people do, which is tell their life stories to people who don't care. For now, I think I will try to have a life rather than talk about the life I had.
------------REQUIRED JUDO TIP ------------------------

If you are looking for a coach and (even secretly to yourself) you look down on people if they can't beat you up, you, my dear, are a moron.

I forgive you for being a moron, though, because I was just as stupid and far stupider. I used to think to myself, "Why should I listen to this old guy. He is a lot bigger than me and I can still kick his ass."

Not only that, but in my late thirties, I was thinking that I should give up teaching judo. Because, as I told Steve Bell, I was getting too old and slow to be able to pin and armbar these young people on the mat. I didn't have the strength to power through the turnovers on just about anyone any size.

He said, "We think that to be the coach we need to beat up everyone in the room. Do you realize how stupid that is? Do you really think that Bela Karolyi gets up on the parallel bars with those little girls?"

Then you look around to other sports and you realize that in boxing, wrestling, basketball and every other event you can imagine, the coach is not out there competing with the athletes.

If you are looking for a coach, don't look for the person who can beat you up. Look for the person who is coaching the people who can beat you up. And if you are that coach, then feel good about yourself and the job you are doing, quit worrying that your uchimata looks more like Inoue's grandfather's than Inoue's. I'm sure Ojii-san Inoue is a really cool guy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cranky Old Person Complains: Quit Being Ignorant on Purpose!

When did it become okay not to know stuff? Was there a memo sent around and I was left off the distribution list?

Now, I am not saying that I know everything, but when I was younger it was not acceptable to just write off entire areas or skills as “I’ll never need to know that.”

It isn’t that I was any brighter or more focused than young people today. For example, I remember many of my classmates arguing,
“Why do we need to take these stupid programming classes? It’s not as if we are ever going to use a computer after we graduate.”
The only reason I didn’t complain much is that I actually found the classes in Fortran, Basic and Systems Analysis to be interesting. I did agree with my friends that these courses were totally useless for “real life” because:
1. Only programmers used computers and
2. I was never going to be a programmer.

I turned out to be wrong on both counts, but that is not the point (except to my children and a few close friends who have probably quit reading now and are gleefully emailing the link to this blog to all of their friends with the exclamation that I have admitted to being wrong).

The point is, I was not allowed to decide that I wasn’t going to learn something that I didn’t think was useful. The university, in its wisdom, had decided based on the collective experience and knowledge of the faculty that there were certain things that undergraduate or graduate students should know and they really did not give a damn what I thought or felt about it.


I did not want to take a course in qualitative research. In my doctoral program I specialized in research methods, applied statistics and psychometrics (tests and measurement). The people I knew looked down on qualitative research as a fancy name for creative writing. After arguing with the dean’s assistant for twenty minutes about why this was something I would never use and should not have to take, she said,

“Yes, AnnMaria, you are right. You don’t have to take a course in qualitative research…”

as I got up to leave, satisfied that she agreed with me, she continued,

“… only if you want to get a Ph.D. from this university.”

In my lengthy career (this means I am old) I have used qualitative research, system analysis, a few programming languages and much more of the “useless information the university crammed down my throat.”

Over the last few decades I have spotted a trend toward letting the monkeys run the circus, so to speak.

Now I truly believe, that as a general rule, teenagers and young adults are far more intelligent and capable of making decisions than we give them credit for. Part of the reason that high school is so soul-deadening is that we treat people who are developing intellectually as if they are incompetent morons and criminals to boot, restricting way too much of their individual decision-making.

BUT … anything can be carried too far. Much more than in past decades (I really AM old) I see students who don’t know how to read statistical results, cannot write succinctly and don’t know what a scientific report even looks like.

In judo, I see the same trend, students who don’t know the names of throws, cannot explain why a technique succeeds or fails, are not aware of rule changes.

LISTEN UP YOUNG PEOPLE! (and the old people who care about them)
Learn everything you possibly can. Quit excusing mediocrity and laziness with "Who needs to understand the three parts of a throw?" or "What difference does it make that my writing is redundant?"

You know what the difference is between the person who draws blood in the doctor's office and the doctor? The doctor learned all that other "useless" stuff that enabled him or her to understand chemistry, the course of diseases and diagnosis.

------ REQUIRED JUDO TIP ----------------------------------
Rules to know
1. We all know this but we forget... if you are being thrown backward and you fall on your back and do a throw like sumi gaeshi or tomoe nage and throw the other person four feet up in the air and slam her to the mat, guess what - you LOST! As Dr. Martin Bregman explained it, "When you are being thrown to your back,you cannot escape by throwing yourself on your back."
When your back hit, you lost the match and whatever happened next was irrelevant.

I said a while back I was going to mention the second most dispute rule and I forgot so now I did.

Also, I was corrected on the rules for gi length (thanks to Glenn Koyama and Dan Takata for the correction).

FROM THE IJF RULES The jacket shall be long enough to cover the thighs and shall at a minimum reach to the fists when the arms are fully extended downwards at the sides of the body. The body of the jacket shall be worn with the left side crossed over the right and shall be wide enough to have a minimum overlap of 20cm at the level of the bottom of the rib-cage. The sleeves of the jacket must reach to the wrist joint at the maximum and 5cm above the wrist joint at the minimum. A space of 10 to 15cm shall exist between the sleeve and the arm (bandages included), along the entire length of the sleeve.
The lapel and collar must be a maximum of 1cm in thickness and 5cm in width.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Testing, testing ....

For nearly all of my working life, new jobs have come to me. Once I was actually walking out of the gynecologist's office as someone I knew was walking in. She stopped me and said,

"I need a statistician, what are you doing these days?"

In pursuit of my new career life goal to never again be in a North Dakota airport at 5 a.m. on a January morning, I have decided to make an actual effort. After this morning, though, I just may go back to my original plan of sitting home with the door open and waiting for people to throw in bags of money.

On the hours-long qualification exam there were thirty reading comprehension questions, all along the lines of:

"When learners are self-motivated to engaging in writing activities pursuant to aspirations for development of professional communication via networking options heretofore not available prior to the current technology which has lagged in implementation due to fiscal budgetary constraints, the appropriate response is :"

and then it would give four choices, A through D, not one of which was,
"Who in God's name writes this kind of bull-shit?"

so, I helpfully penciled it in next to "E". I am expecting extra credit points.

Then there were several questions about where one places commas. COMMAS? I'm a statistician. Commas go after every three digits:


See how I correctly placed the commas?

If that wasn't enough, there were ostensibly logic questions such as

If A is greater than B, and
C is 20 degrees colder than D, but
D has more feet than A, then it logically follows that

B is a trapezoid
D is a polar bear
The polar ice cap has melted
A is greater than B

If you read the example above carefully, you can see that the logic problems weren't too hard.

Actually, I think I did quite well on the test. I finished before everyone except for one girl who tore the test and cried, so I am pretty sure she didn't get done before me because she knew all of the answers off the top of her head.

If this doesn't work out, maybe I'll get this job like I did the last couple, with a message on my voice mail,
Hello. We need someone with a Ph.D. to teach statistics and we heard you are good. Could you start on Thursday?

Hopefully, they won't ask about aspiring professional communicators or trapezoidal polar bears.
--------------------REQUIRED JUDO TIP ----------------------------------------
I am a big believer in situation drills. One of my more evil ones is the instant Golden Score. That is, we have groups out for five minute rounds but then I will pick two or three groups and they go a second five minute round.

How this differs from a regular ten-minute round of randori is that you don't KNOW you are going to go ten minutes from the very beginning, so you can't pace yourself, which is what people do when you announce they are going to go for 10 or 15 minutes of randori. In a real tournament situation, you are going all out for five minutes and there is no score and now you have another five minute match in front of you. Even the toughest person in the bunch at that moment thinks, if even for just a second, "Oh, crap!"

An even better simulation of the actual tournament would be if we picked a couple of groups and had them go another five minutes or until the first score. I haven't been doing that, but I am going to start.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All the Ages I've Been

Madeliene L'Engle said,
"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."

Obviously, Ms. L'Engle had a much better memory than me. On a regular basis, I catch myself trying to remember when I did not know how to write a scientific article for publication or what it was like learning judo or statistics for the first time.

Tonight, Kenji Osugi and I taught a self-defense class at UCLA. I am not sure why, other than that Kenji thought it was a good idea, a good way to get more young people to learn about judo. So, there I was throwing Kenji on the carpet in the commons room at UCLA student housing. Vaguely, I remembered living in the dorms as a college freshman. Did I really have all that much energy? Was I actually as nice, outgoing and interested in trying new things as these young people?

I am pretty sure I wasn't. I think the people who are like me as a freshman probably didn't come down to the self-defense demonstration and were instead in their rooms reading statistics books.

Horace Rumpole said,
"There's no pleasure on earth that's worth sacrificing for the sake of an extra five years in the geriatric ward of the Sunset Old People's Home."

He was right. Jim Pedro, Sr. got back from Europe today, and I called him to get information on a number of things. He had a shoulder replacement and it hasn't really worked. I need to get both of my knees replaced. We spent half the phone call comparing things that hurt. That's what old people talk about.

Still, for all of the years I trained, the miles I ran, the matches I fought, the countries where I traveled, the research I did, the lessons I learned, it was all worth it. What I remember of it, anyway.

------ REQUIRED JUDO TIP ---------------------------------------------

Terry Kunihiro said this recently, but I think it is a quote from somewhere,
"No one should put their child in sports if they are not prepared to see their kid lose."

This is true. In the October issue of Growing Judo, we had a special feature on coaching your own kid. A few of the coaches mentioned how it had been easier for them to coach their own children because they were successful and usually won.

The more you win, the more prone you are to put pressure on yourself that you need to win all of the time or ...or....or what?

It's hard enough for the athlete without having the coach or parent put extra pressure on them. Some parents and coaches see how an athlete does in every tournament as a reflection of their own worth.

Guess what, if your child wins, it doesn't make you a better parent or a better person because you "taught them a work ethic." If your child loses, it doesn't make you a better parent or a better person because you "didn't make them focused only on competition".

People win. People lose. The sun rises in the morning and 99.999% of the people in the world don't even know that the event happened, much less who won.

Get over it. After all, when you were young, were you undefeated?

(Actually, that last line came from Jim Pedro, Sr. but he is old and won't remember he said it, so I am stealing it.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Like Judo and the People Who Do It

It seems to be fashionable to criticize people in judo. I am not going to bother to repeat some of the negatives I have heard. I am just going to disagree. It is MY blog, after all.

In my experience, judo is full of people who are nice, fun, hard-working and intelligent. Yes, there are some jerks, but they are the minority so it is not too hard to avoid them, most of the time.

Today at the tournament in San Diego I had the opportunity to watch some really good judo players. Some of them won. Even more fought their hearts out. There was a lot of great technique.

I was also able to watch some of the players from the USJA/ USJF West Coast Training Center and get some ideas on what they should work on more. Everything I saw reinforced my belief in the great potential of these young people who come for an EXTRA five to eight hours of practice every weekend.

A few points were hammered home by this tournament. First of all, there is a lot of unwarranted snobbery in judo where it is assumed that people who live outside Los Angeles (or whatever metro area where one lives) really don't know much judo. Actually, in San Diego, there were an impressive number of counters to uchimata, foot sweeps, juji gatame and other sweet techniques. This assumption that everyone but "us" is a bunch of local yokels is fallacious. A lot of good judo players have come from such places as Kalamazoo, Michigan (Olympian Martin Boonzayer, U.S. National Champion Chris Snyder), Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (world and Olympic silver medalist Lynn Roethke) and I could go on and on.

Second, the judo community is full of people like Ernie Smith (who I have known since I competed against his barely teenage daughter, long before he thought about being a grandfather), like Dr. Rob Oishi who seems to be everywhere coaching and helping out, along with the rest of the folks from Gardena Dojo who embody what judo really is about. Gardena Dojo is one of the largest clubs in the country because they realize that most people who ever take judo are doing it to learn to be healthier and more disciplined, to be part of something with a history and philosophy. If you are a national champion you are welcome at Gardena. If you suck at kata (for example, me) you are still welcome. If you want to learn judo but never compete and can just come to practice twice a week, you are welcome then also. Sawtelle Dojo is like that, too, but they did not go to dinner with us nor share in the Chianti at the Italian restaurant we all went to after the tournament so deduct ten brownie points for them!

Third, judo is full of really SMART people. In addition to Dr. Oishi coaching, Dr. Mark Yamanaka refereed at the tournament, Dr. Jake Flores was the medic, Judge Walter Dean was helping run the event, along with Jesse Jones, who is an extremely successful businessman, and others too numerous to mention. It is quite a contrast with some other sporting events I have attended where the majority of participants seem to have the same IQ as your average house pet and all of the spectators seem to think (and I use the term loosely) they are entered into some "Who is the dumbest in the building" contest. Really, by comparison to most sports activities, judo participants are College Bowl finalists.

Speaking of Dr. Jake, because my doctorate is in psychology he always thinks I know the answer to such questions as why people put down the groups with which they are associated. Unfortunately, he is wrong. When they issued crystal balls at graduation, I was in the wrong line. Maybe it is just human nature to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and if I was in tae kwon do or football or boxing or wrestling it would be a better deal.

It aint so. Besides, in what other sport can you pick a person up three feet off the ground and slam her down? Wrestling, you say? Yes, but if afterward, you jump on the person and start choking him, in wrestling they consider you a psychotic danger to the sport whereas in a judo tournament they are just as likely to give you the fighting spirit award.

Judo is so cool!

----------------- REQUIRED JUDO TIP ---------------------------
1. Get a smaller gi. Okay, I argue with my daughter Ronda about this all of the time that it is overkill to get your judo gi tailored. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean you should be wearing a gi that is two sizes too big. The rules say 10 cm from your wrist. Get a gi top that ends 10 centimeters from your wrist, not one that goes over your wrist. If you are 18, you are NOT going to grow into it!

2. Learn the rules. Let's start with this one. An ippon means largely on the back, not the largest part of the back. If I throw you and you land on your shoulder blades with none of the rest of your body touching then 100% of where you landed was on your back. It was not on 100% of your back, but the rules don't say that.

There are a lot more rules than that, by the way. I mentioned that because that is the most often cause of disputes where the disputing player or coach is in the wrong. Next time I will try to remember mention the second most disputed rule.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Even Workaholics Need a Break

It is 10:30 a.m. I have managed to shower and get dressed before falling back into bed,laying here with my second cup of coffee balanced on my chest. Even with extra strong Starbucks wake-the-dead roast, my eyes refuse to open.

In the past month, I have averaged fourteen-hour work days and been in four cities in three states. Interestingly, the states have been on the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast. Add that to daylight savings time and my time zone has changed so often that I feel as if I am in a Star Trek episode. It's 7 a.m. and it's winter. No, wait, it's 10 a.m. and it's summer, no wait, it's 9 a.m. and it's fall. Speaking of daylight savings time, what genius came up with THAT idea? Try to imagine a group of people in a state legislature saying,

"You know what this country really needs? Fewer hours of daylight during the winter! Yes, that will really get people going. Let's have it be dark when people come out of work, and watch productivity soar!"

I suspect that even the most die-hard health food nuts go into a candy store and go wild sometimes. My life usually runs like this - about 400 days in a row of working twelve hours or more between my job and judo, then a few days in the Bahamas when I only average six hours a day and then starting all over again.

Today, my brain is on strike. There is nothing to be done but take the day off and play. I am sad to report that I failed miserably.

I did start out okay, going to lunch with my husband at a nice restaurant overlooking the ocean. After everyone left for school and work, I decided playing the Wii was the perfect opportunity to play hookey. Unfortunately, it took me exactly eleven minutes to get bored.

Surfing the Internet is a good time-waster. I see my husband and kids spend hours looking at website with things like videos of clay figures of celebrities mud-wrestling. I thought I would find really fun sites that I could post here and share with my friends. Well, as Crystal Butts is fond of saying,

"No, you didn't!"

No, I didn't. I did find some interesting sites, though.

ProBlogger job board is a place for bloggers looking for jobs. That made me think about my grandmother who, when I tried to explain to her that I was on a graduate fellowship said,

"Mija, you read books and you write what you are thinking about. That is not a job. That is what people do after their job while drinking a rum and coke."

I told her they did not let you have rum and coke in the UC libraries, which is why they have to pay you.

The rates for professional blogging can be summarized as, "Don't quit your day job." Still I did forward the link to some people who wrote about, e.g., Mac applications on forums all the time. I figured if you are doing it for free and someone pays you $50 a week for the same thing, now you are ahead.

Six work-related phone calls,twenty emails answered, two new web pages written and after checking our newest site on two different operating systems and three browsers, I decided to make another try at goofing off by surfing the net.

I am sad to report that the Internet has become mass media, with the result that there are now almost as many stupid people on-line as there are watching TV. I found, in no particular order:
A page on how to tie a tie.
A site on "girlfriends and female-bonding" which, after the All-Women's tournament, I was feeling all favorable of femaleness, until I read this site which was all about helping each other choose and apply make-up.
Blue Pine Studio- a blog made up of photos of old buildings, flowers and fruit - and not much else. I actually liked this one. The pictures were pretty. They reminded me of all of those L.L. Bean catalogs and Currier & Ives pictures that make you all nostalgic for the country living during the holidays. Next thing you know, you are getting sentimental about the old days around the fire, putting on your wool sweater and watching the snow fall.

Well, forget it! The reason that you have fires and wool sweaters is that it is freezing-ass cold outside. When it snows it is the worst kind of cold - wet cold that gets into your bones and makes everything ache and uncomfortable.

Okay, now I am over it. I have had my two hours of goofing off (wrapped in eight hours of working), along with half a pint of chocolate peanut butter from Haagen Dazs (which, incidentally, makes much better ice cream than websites - although I did learn from their company site that they have a new brand of Cinnamon Dulce de Leche ice cream coming out).

I have given up. I don't want to sit by the fire, play a Wii or read blogs on make-up. I am going back to write a section of our new Ethics course on the not-so-ethical bystander.

My friend says she would hate to be me and she doesn't want to die at her desk. I'd rather die at my desk than the make-up counter at Macy's, and what the heck, you're going to die somewhere.

----- REQUIRED JUDO TIP -------
I get tired of hearing people say they cannot get their opponent to the mat. If you really want to do matwork, you should be thinking about it in the air. When I get a grip I am thinking about matwork. Many of the throws I do, from tani otoshi, to drop seoi nage to ko uchi makikomi to tomoe nage end in matwork with the exact same grip.

Too many people think of the transition from standing to matwork as occurring at the point when you hit the mat. My transition starts the second the referee says "Hajime!"

When I roll a person for a koka with drop seoi, I HANG ON TO THAT ARM and turn on the person for the pin. When I do tomoe nage, I hang on to the arm and throw a leg over for juji gatame. When I do tani otoshi, I hang on to the arm and turn on my stomach for yoko shiho gatame.

PRACTICE. During randori, practice the transition to matwork.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Best Things in Life

The best thing to give ... to a friend, your heart, to your child, a good example... to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you, to yourself, respect, to all men, charity.

It was Francis Maitland Balfour who said that, and I think I would have liked him. Not only was he a gifted scientist but he was also a person who did not live his life in fear and conformity. He wrote books that intertwined Darwin's theory and his own observations as a biologist, but died about the time his career was beginning to take off, trying to climb a mountain that had never been scaled.

I wonder why I never noticed before how much good life has in it.

This weekend, I was at the All-Women's Tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had a chance to spend time with friends from around the country and got to know some people a little better who I think I would like as friends. It was a great idea having an All-Women's Tournament, an idea turned into reality by a whole cast of women and some really wonderfully supportive men. As Stacy Knapp said, this is the one tournament where, if someone hugs you after a match, you know she really means it.

All of us were good examples this weekend of what we want our children to be. The coach certification clinic ran until 9:30 p.m. Thirty coaches stayed to learn more about keeping women and girls in sports, physical conditioning, drill training and matwork techniques. They modeled the dedication and concern they want their students to emulate. Children learn what they live. I am sure that is why my daughter at age two was pretending to read Wired magazine. Not sure what to make of her writing all over her stomach in that photo; I have decided to blame it on her sisters getting tattooed.

The other day, another friend commented that,

"Raising good children might just be something you enjoy in retrospect."

I am proud of my children, for a whole host of reasons. They are not yet so old, though, that I don't remember the screaming fights when they told me that I was ruining their lives and that I did not understand anything and accused me of having children only so I could make them do the dishes. I think that bumper sticker is right,

"By the time your children are fit to live with, they are living with someone else."

There is justice, though. Maria is pregnant. Ronda is coming home for a few weeks and will be helping her little sister improve her harai goshi. Ten bucks says that when Julia argues,

"Well that's not how I do it."

Ronda will come back with the old mom line of,

"Well, you know what that means then? It means you are doing it wrong!"

Charity? This weekend, an amazingly generous person handed me $2,000 to help women's development in judo. It paid for the hotel rooms and meals for our team from California and will pay for rooms next month for some of the women competing in the USJA Winter Nationals.

I know that some people in the world have really horrible lives, are sleeping in cold mud, with no food to eat and only lice for company. The vast majority of people, though, especially in this country, are more like me. They have lives of a level of comfort that would have seemed incredibly magical to most of the people who have ever lived in the entire history of the world and they are sullen because they have to get up off the couch and look for the remote control.

How do we ever fail to notice that we are surrounded by the best things in life?

--------REQUIRED JUDO TIP -------------------------
When teaching young children or beginners forget all of that stuff about strategy, grip-fighting and tactics. Concentrate on basic technique.

It takes a long time to learn to throw well, turnovers, combinations and counters. Many people who coach young children focus on making their kids 'tough' so they can knock down the other kids. Some of those 'not so tough' kids get discouraged and quit. Others eventually get tougher and when they start throwing the ones who used to beat them, the tough kids have nothing to fall back on and quit, too. Kids can get in good shape in a few months if you push them a bit. It takes a couple of years for a child to learn good technique.

My friends, the Sanchezes, have a different view. Not wrong, just different. They teach in an area with high mobility and, understanding that, realize they seldom will have kids with them for five or six years. Eric said, "We teach junior judo. This kid may only be here for two years, so I want him to be successful and have a good time while he is in judo. Then, maybe he will come back to it when he is older, or maybe when he has kids, he'll put his kids in judo. If not, he got to win some and have a good time for a couple of years as a kid. What could be wrong with that?"