Sunday, September 23, 2007


Some people don’t like me. Yes, I know, I find it hard to believe myself, soul of sweetness and light that I am. The funny thing is, it isn’t that they don’t like me for the reasons you might expect, like that I said to them during one practice,

“If you don’t start doing those throws faster than that I am going to skin you alive and tack your hide up on that wall as a warning to other people not to waste my time.”

That, I could understand.
No, some people don’t like me because they think I focus too much on competition. They think I should not mention in a magazine like Growing Judo that Ronda won a silver medal at the world championships last week. They say it has nothing to do with grass roots judo. I completely disagree. It is good for young girls to have someone to look up to who is successful in her sport, who is a strong enough physically and emotionally to win. When I was a twelve-year-old girl at the Alton YMCA (you can’t get much more grass roots than that!) I would read about people like Diane Pierce from Minnesota, winning the U.S. Open and British Open and think, “Some day, I want to be just like her.”

We are just starting a clinic program with some of our USJA members who have been on World and Olympic teams. The purpose is to keep more teenage players in the sport. Every club has a problem retaining high school age students. As much as I hate to admit this, people my age are not considered very cool. (I am sure the word we’re not isn’t even “cool” any more, it is “phat” or “rad” or who knows what.) We will be having clinics with players like Ronda, like Asma Sharif who is not only a world team member but also graduated from UCLA with a degree in biochemistry and now works at Harvard University. Talk about a role model for your girls! Asma, Ronda, Rick Hawn and others will be doing clinics in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Texas, California, Mississippi and Indiana, for a start. We have been very careful in selecting our clinicians based not only on their competition experience but their teaching ability and rapport with young judo players.

The new USJA/ USJF West Coast Judo Training Center just opened, made possible through gracious donations from local judo supporters such as Jesse Jones , Frank Sanchez, Gerald Uyeno, Jai Hall, James Lally and many others. We hope this will be a model for similar programs throughout the country. This center is in response to requests from our local clubs who want additional training for their players so that the more dedicated, more advanced players in their clubs don’t need to move away from home to get the extra workouts they need. These training sessions are open to anyone 13 and over.

Some people send nasty emails to one another about me every time something good happens, like setting up a new training center or starting clinics with Olympic athletes. They say,

"All she cares about is competition. She doesn't care about grass roots clubs like us. She shouldn't be in a grass roots organization like the USJA."

I think what they mean is, "It should be all about me."

All of those people who say how much they care about their students. Do they? Do they really? Then why do they want to stifle their dreams before they even begin? Why do they want to make their children, their teens think small? Maybe you live in a small town in Arkansas. Maybe you live in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin like Olympic silver medalist, Lynn Roethke. Maybe you work out at a judo club for children in a community center, like Ronda did for years. Maybe you are at a club in a YMCA in southern Illinois, like I was. Who says you can't win a world championships, an Olympic medal? How DARE people assume for children that they will never accomplish something great. Yes I DO think it is a wonderful experience for people to represent their country, to win a gold medal, to watch the American flag go up and hear the Star-bangled Banner play. I think it is possible to develop strong communities, good people and great athletes, all at the same time. If you really cared about those children, you would want them to be part of something great.

I believe in shooting for the stars. Even if you miss, you will land some place high. I won't encourage anyone to be less than they could so someone else can feel greater than they really are.

With the help of many people generous with their time, money and talents, I am working on building something great. If people don't love me, well... I remember reading a quote from a woman executive twenty years ago when there were almost no women in management. She said,

"Men at work try to tell me how much they appreciate what I do instead of give me resources, the people I need to get the job done. They have me mistaken for their wives and mothers. I want love from my family. From the people I work with I want respect, cooperation and support for a common goal."

As for me, I want to see judo in America become something great. As for anyone who that threatens because it makes them feel less, who is afraid they cannot accomplish it, who is willing to hold back the children they teach so they themselves can feel more important, if they don't like me - good! That is kind of like being called ugly by a toad. And I remain unrepentant!


Anonymous said...

I'm an italian judo girl.I'm 26 year old and brown belt. I'dlike to know your opinion about judo and religion. I'm catholic like you and I'm interested in the links between religion and judo. Do you think are they conciliable? Or is judo too "oriental"?
My e-mail is

Anonymous said...

Don't you ever worry about them folks sending emails back and forth. In the 35 years that I have been in this glorious sport of Judo, I have learned that jealousy and control are powerful motivators. So much so that people become convinced of the BS they spew about those that are successful. When I read about your West Coast Training Center, I smile.

Just remember, Competition is but 1 piece of the puzzle.

You Go............Lady!!

Cheers.......The Judo Dog...Ruff

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I think religion and judo can go together. There are actually a few clubs in the USJA that are part of churches. The Dunkirk Baptist Church Judo Club is part of a church. Team Havok is also run through a church. For both of those clubs, the church pastor is the instructor.

I know of clubs in three states that run their practices and/or tournaments out of Catholic schools.

My grandmother was Venezuelan, very Catholic and she always told me that if you work hard and have faith you will win in the end, that every talent you have is a gift from God and you owe it to do the best you can with it, that your only way of re-paying God for all you have been given is to do good whenever you had the opportunity.

I would say that fits very well with the judo ideals of mutual benefit and welfare and maximum efficiency.

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy to talk with you. Does your Ronda do weight training for judo?
Which are her records with single exercises?
What do you think about abdominal respiration and zen meditation in judo practise related to catholicism?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Ronda does a LOT of weight training. She moved up from 63 kg to 70 kg in a very intelligent way, by putting on muscle.

I think relaxation techniques are important at a high level of competition. Or you can pray. Or both. There is no commandment, "Thou shalt not meditate."

Anonymous said...

You are very fine to respond to my questions, thank you.
What do you think about olympic wrestlers. Can they slam most of olympic judokas for ippon or judokas are superior in confrontations. Have you seen some matches between them in olympic training centers?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Judo and wrestling are different sports. I have seen a few matches between Olympic level judo players and wrestlers about the same weight, who were friends. If you are at the Olympic level, friend or not, you are pretty competitive. These are people who have won world or Olympic medals. All the matches went the same. If they wore a gi, the judo player won. If they did not wear a gi, the wrestler won. At the highest level, the person who gets to play his or her sport would win.

In the U.S., wrestling is much more popular than judo and I would think almost all Olympic wrestlers could defeat Olympic judo players. Ronda is the exception. She could turn the Olympic wrestler women her weight every way but loose. I guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever slammed on the mat men in your belt rank or with more weight?
How were they faces?What did they say?
Can you tell about a randori in particular?
Thank you and greetings.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Sure. Lots of times. Usually the reaction of my teammates would be to say "Good job!" or to laugh and say, "You caught me."

Don't get me wrong, we were very competitive with one another but also as a team we wanted to help each other win.

Occasionally someone is a little upset, when this happens it is almost always younger people, say 13- 16 years old who are still trying to feel like men and are sometimes bothered if a woman throws them. I still armbar lots of men, though I am getting pretty old to work out much.

Men who are sure of themselves are not bothered at all and I have found that the better judo player someone is, the less it bothers him or her to be caught at practice on a throw. That is why we practice. To discover our weaknesses and work to become stronger.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that female body is more suitable for judo than ,ale body?
Do our wider hips help us in randori much more than strong arms?
Thank you.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Women are better at some things and men at others. Being more flexible, you will see more women doing a switching hips type counter for uchi mata, harai goshi or other hip throws. Being stronger, you will see more men doing pick-ups and other throws that rely on strength. It is not 100%, though, of course. Some women rely on pick-ups and some men will do those same counters.

Anonymous said...

Its wonderful for me to talk with you.
I'dlike to ask you for a question.
Do you think that judo,in long terms, can break my links to my country traditions, like to be a traditional woman, my religion and culture?