Friday, October 26, 2007

Are you smarter than a fourth-grader?

As we were leaving for school this morning, my daughter, Julia turns to me and says,

"My coconut shampoo is good luck. Usually I have a great life, but lately even more things have been going good than usual. You should really try it."

Lessons learned from Julia:
1. Life really is great. We live in a beautiful place, the weather is lovely, the fires have been put out, we have more than any reasonable person could ever want.
2. When you find something that makes your life better, share it.

This is not going to be one of those syrupy sweet essays on "reasons to be happy." I read an entire book on that topic when I was in the middle of Indiana with nothing to do (I believe those last two prepositional phrases are redundant). The book should have been titled, "Reasons to be happy if you have the IQ of a pineapple."

Julia's advice was as different from that book as the difference between telling someone to be happy by thinking of puppies and actually giving someone a puppy.

Having learned this from Julia this morning, here are some things on the Internet that improved my day today.

Good blogs.
I confess. I rarely read blogs. Most of them are about the boring lives of people I don't know.

"Today it rained. I walked the dog and then I ate an apple. Then Al Gore came over and beat me with a stick for wasting all the technology that went into the Internet on drivel like this. "

The Savvy Entrepreneur - is a welcome change. The recent posts on avoiding procrastination are highly recommended. I agree completely with her take on marketing as well. I get so tired of these small business sites that act as if the key to business success is scoring high on search engines. If you are interested in small business, this blog is worth a read.

Tom Peters - is my favorite management author of all time. His mantra of,

"If it works, do more of it. If it doesn't, cut it out."

has been a guide for how I run my business and for every judo organization in which I have held office. The world is full of people who are afraid to take action because the guy sitting next to them might give them a dirty look. Tom Peters is a breath of fresh air.

Great sites
I yahoo everything. I have been on yahoo so long I actually have my first name as an email address .

If you aren't a member, go to My Yahoo and sign up.

Perhaps some background is necessary. My life gives real meaning to the term "Road Warrior". Between travel to conduct evaluations, review grants, do on-site training and for judo camps, tournaments, clinics and meetings, my longest single stretch at home in the past 19 years has been for six weeks. I go through about a laptop a year. In addition, there are three desks and six computers in my house.

So... the services yahoo provides on-line, like bookmarks of your favorite sites, a notepad where you can keep your to-do list are indispensable to me. I never know which computer I will be using or what city I might be using it in. I can't decide if the notepad or calendar is my favorite. I do like the fact that the calendar emails me to remind me about meetings and sends a text message to my iPhone. I like the local Yahoos so I can look up wherever I am. There is website hosting, an HTML editor, you can customize your page (so at least one thing will be constant no matter where I am).

Unbelievably, all of this is free!

-----------------REQUIRED JUDO TIP ------------------------------
Build a bigger repertoire, both standing and on the mat. Most people do the same two or three techniques over and over. When you come to practice and there is only you, a child two-thirds your size, an old man twice your age and two yellow belts, pull out a crash pad and do every throw you know on each one of them. Do moving uchikomi on each of them and see what throws give you trouble. Try to analyze what you are doing wrong. Do randori with each of them and try those throws that you usually cannot get on others of your skill and size. Do the same with your matwork moves. Let them pin you and you escape. Do matwork starting from on your stomach or all fours and attack from there. When you have weaker opponents, use this as an opportunity to work on your weak points. If you use it to work on your strengths then you are just a bully, plus you will still have those chinks in your armor.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Finals, Lunch and a Gold Medal (not in that order)

When I left off, we were hiding from Jim Pedro so we could watch the judo tournament ...
We got to watch Rick Hawn fight a few matches. Rick lost a match earlier in the day, but now he is on fire. He is behind by a waza-ari in the first match to a really young player from Spartak and keeps trying a drop seoi that doesn’t work. Arkady does a great job coaching those kids at Spartak. They look deceptively young and not so tough but don't let it fool you. Arkady's boys are good! Finally, after Jim has been yelling at him for two minutes to try a different throw, Rick comes in with o uchi and throws for a yuko. He is still behind and shortly before the buzzer, he comes in with beautiful standing seoi nage and throws for ippon.

We figure Jim is going to spot us and start yelling now the match is over, so we slip out with Michelle Toups for lunch. Michelle was a very good player back in the day, until she blew her knee out. During lunch, where we also met up with the team from USA Stars, Michelle tells a little about her career in commercial real estate and how her experience in judo prepared her to succeed in a male-dominated field.

Ronda talked about how much she did not want to turn into one of those awful, cocky judo players who just are such jerks.

Michelle, very seriously, in a soft, southern accent, says,

“My dear, there is a world of difference between self-confidence and cockiness.”

Not only did we just invite ourselves to eat with the team from USA Stars, but lunch for all of us gets paid for by their coach, George Stanich (who in one of those random six-degrees-of-separation coincidences was a brown belt at the Alton YMCA Judo Club where I started judo 37 years ago).

After sleeping at the hotel for a couple of hours until the finals, we head back. Jim calls me on the bus and says he wants to see Ronda before the tournament.

USA Judo has decided to give Ronda $10,000 for her world medal, right before she fights. Wisely, Jim does not want her to be distracted right before the match, so he tells her about it and orders,
“Now, you go out there, warm up with Kayla and FOCUS. When they call you, you come get the check and get back to warming up as soon as possible. You are here to win, not pick up checks.”

When they do call Ronda up, she comes up, gets her picture taken with a giant check and a bunch of officials and runs off to get back to warming up. They ask her if she wants to say something but she just laughs. Ronda is SO not the speech-making type.

Kayla throws Jennie Bossant (is that how you spell it?) from Canada with o soto gari. The referee calls “Ippon” but the judges change it to waza ari and everyone is yelling, ‘Get on her!’ but by the time she turns back, it is too late to get the pin. There are a couple of times Kayla is almost caught on the mat. Once it looks as if she might get armbarred. The American men around me are groaning because they think she is done. I disagree, women are much more flexible than men, and sure enough, Kayla twists around escapes. Less than a minute later, the buzzer sounds and Kayla has the gold medal.

Ronda has competed in the U.S. Open five times before and won it twice. I wasn’t there either of the first two times and I am hoping to get to see her win a gold medal. Adding to all of the things that have gone right this tournament, her godfather, Dr. Jake Flores, gets to the tournament site five minutes before Ronda fights. She has Gemma, from Great Britain, who is a pretty decent player. Left-handed, good counters, including to uchi mata. Ronda had a problem with left-handers at one point but she has really worked on it and they don’t give her so much trouble any more. The match starts and I can breathe a little easier. I have known Ronda since she was born and I can tell if she is going to have trouble. (And if you think I am going to reveal her weak points on the Internet, you are truly insane). Gemma has obviously planned how she is going to fight Ronda and is trying to keep her from getting a grip. Everyone on earth has probably seen that video of her throwing Bosch in the worlds with sode and they are really fighting for grips. Ronda does go for the sode a few times and tries a ko uchi when Gemma blocks by leaning back. Gemma gets a shido for not attacking.

Ronda goes for a sode (as if Gemma has not ever considered the possibility she might have done that!!) and then switches to uchimata. She only gets a yuko. She does the sode again and switches to o soto gari and slams her for ippon. Ronda gets her third U.S. Open gold medal in a row and I finally get to see her win one.

I would post a picture here of the awards but I couldn’t stay. I had 40 minutes to get to the airport and it was 35 minutes away. So, Jake and I give Ronda a kiss and hug and haul ass out of there. An hour later, I am on the plane heading back home to Los Angeles so I can teach judo at Hayastan in the morning for our first all-girls’ class and at the USJA/ USJF West Coast Training Center in the afternoon. (A practice, where, I might add, Tony Comfort jams my poor little 52 kg fingers during grip-fighting so I am typing this with nine fingers. Be appreciative!)

Ronda Does Good Judo for a Total of 42 Seconds

U.S. Open Preliminary Matches

Tournament Day (or how I almost missed seeing Ronda fight after flying 4,000 miles to watch her)

My former teammate, Karen Mackey, had a hotel room, so I crashed with her and we talked about judo stuff and the old days - kind of like a sleepover party for really old people. Andi (Andrea) Bongert was competing the next day and I told them,
“When you get up at 6 a.m. for the weigh-ins, don’t feel the need to wake me up.”

Well, I didn’t realize that they were not coming back after the weigh-ins so I wake up and it is 10:45 !!! The tournament was supposed to start at 9! I cannot believe that I have come all of the way out here and might miss Ronda’s preliminary matches! I have to be at the airport by 8:30 so it is very possible I could miss the finals, too and not see her fight at all.

&$^%&$^&*((%&^!@$%$^& (or something like that).

I shower and dress in four minutes flat, run across the street to the host hotel and see Tammy Liddie in a van getting ready to leave. I ask if I can ride with them as I jump into the van. With a slightly surprised look, she says, “Sure” while the other people look suspiciously at this stranger who just leaped into their car.

Arriving at the tournament, Ronda is match #33 and they are on match 25. She had a bye the first round, so we watch the first round in her division. Along with a few Americans we know, there are players from Canada, Great Britain, Japan and Israel. The Israeli wins her fight so she will be Ronda’s first match.

Match #1: Ronda’s match with the Israeli player is over pretty quickly. They get a grip, and Ronda hits a sumi gaeshi for ippon. (If you don’t know what sumi is – it is a sacrifice throw, where you lay down on your back, shove the other person’s arm down, use one leg to lift and one arm to pull them in a full circle over you.) The whole match is much less than a minute.

We go back to watching the rest of the division. Two British players, one Japanese, one Canadian and one American are left. We notice that one is left-handed, one does a lot of counters. Katie Sells, the number two American, loses to Gemma (from watching her, she is the better of the two British players). Katie makes the fatal mistake you should never make with a female left-handed player who favors hip throws, she gets a high right grip on her, and I can see it coming the second Katie does that. Gemma grabs her waist, pops in with a hip throw and throws Katie for ippon.

Match #2:
Ronda has the other British player. Her last name is Fletcher. The match lasts a few seconds. They bow, Ronda gets a grip on the lapel and does a running leg pick for ippon.

I am so proud. I remember doing that with her when she was a little kid at Venice Dojo, telling her,
“No matter who it is, almost no one is going to be able to run backward faster than you can run forwards. Just run it and they will go down eventually,”

and now here she is doing it in the U.S. Open to get into the finals. She is in the finals and has done judo for a total of about 42 seconds. Jim tells her to go back to the hotel and rest before the finals, but both of us want to see more matches, so we go around the corner where he can't see us to watch more of the the tournament.

Time to get ready for judo, I will write about the rest of the day after I get back from practice.

For those of you who read this blog and are looking for information on Native Americans or disabilities and have found it all to be about judo lately, sorry.

I do have a blog on my work website that has been focused on other topics.

Beauties and the Beast


U.S. Open Day Zero - Was it Andy Warhol who said that everyone is famous to fifteen people? I think our family is kind of like that. Most people in judo know who we are, which makes us famous to a few thousand people in America, maybe.

My oldest daughter is a sports writer who says it is only her professionalism that keeps her from beginning an article one day with the lead,

“Some judo websites claim that judo is the second-most popular sport on the planet; a claim this reporter personally considers pure bull-shit.”

Seriously, I love judo but there are not more people playing judo than there are in soccer, swimming and track. Regardless, I thought for those fifteen people or more, it might be interesting to write a brief summary of the U.S. Open. For those of you who wanted to be a fly on the wall in the family room, your wish is granted.

For those of you who hate it when I write about my family and email to tell me so… get a clue. This isn’t a class assignment. If you hate it, don’t read it. Do something else in your spare time. Learn to knit. You won’t be aggravated by my opinions, plus you will have warm sweaters.

How I ended up in Atlanta, Georgia after swearing I was never going to go
I told Ronda I was not going to Atlanta because I am getting old and I need to start paying off all of my bills, maxing out my 401 k and doing all of the other things you do when you plan for retirement. This plan of fiscal responsibility does not include dropping a grand and flying across the country every other week.

Parents- Have you ever had a discussion with your children when they completely agreed with you and then the next day or the next week were saying “Yes, but….”

Ronda and I had discussed the fact that Maria was getting the Emerging Journalist of the Year award and I had to make the choice between going to Washington or Atlanta, and since this was a huge honor, I was going to the National Hispanic Journalist Association awards.

TWO DAYS after I get back, Ronda calls and says,
“Mom! What are you doing Wednesday? Wouldn’t you like to come watch me at the U.S. Open?”

I explained we had already discussed this, I needed to give a lecture at Pepperdine University on Wednesday night and there was no way I could blow it off and go to Georgia.

On Wednesday (this being two days before she is scheduled to compete), Ronda calls me from the airport and says,
“Mom, are you sure you can’t come and watch me fight? Don’t you have like a bazillion frequent flyer miles from all that work you do?”

There are a million reasons for me not to go, but I get to thinking back when I was 19 years old. I wasn’t on the best terms with my father, who had never once seen me compete, but I called him up and said,

“Dad, the senior nationals are in Chicago this year. I really think I am going to win. You might want to come.”

My father answered,
“I have no interest in judo. What on earth makes you think I would want to drive 300 miles to watch a tournament?”

I hung up and we did not speak again for years. I did win the senior nationals, and, a few months later, won the U.S. Open for the first time. Thirty years later, I still resent the fact that he didn't come watch me win.

This is insane, right? I have no plane ticket, no hotel room, need to leave in the next 24 hours, fly across country and be home 36 hours later. Oh, and by the way, I want the ticket to be free! So… I check two airlines on which I have enough miles but no flights are available. The third airline - bingo! There is an LAX-Atlanta non-stop flight, the plane has exactly ONE seat available. What great luck, finding the one seat on a sold-out non-stop flight!

Sitting on the plane between two elderly gentlemen going to their 50th college reunion, I mentioned my reason for going to Atlanta. One of them nodded sagely and said,
“You made the right decision. You never know how life will change. Our friend was supposed to go with us. In fact, he had booked the seat in the middle, but he passed away two days ago!

Did I mention that Ronda had lost her phone in the Boston airport? So, I had no way of calling her.

Every elite athlete is an experiment of one. They are the outliers on the distribution of humanity.

That’s another quote I don’t remember the origin. I believe it is profoundly true. Ronda has never been a person who likes surprises. I called Jimmy Pedro, Sr. (who had not lost his phone) and asked him to tell Ronda that I was coming. The last thing I wanted to happen was that she would see me on Friday morning, get distracted and lose.

Running into Jimmy on Thursday night, I knew that Ronda was a good shot to win the next day, even better than usual. Jimmy, whose nickname is Grumpy, was in an uncharacteristically good mood, which I interpreted as him thinking that he had prepared all of the athletes as best he could. My prediction for the next day – Ronda and Kayla winning gold medals. I was so sure of it, I had him pose for a picture with them after he gave them his pre-tournament talk.

Since people very seldom tell me “No”, (And, if they do, I ignore them), I was able to eavesdrop on Jimmy’s pre-tournament pep talks with Kayla and Ronda. Whenever I can, I try to learn from watching and listening to great coaches. I had always thought he was a great coach and this confirmed it.

To Kayla, who needed more encouragement, he told her how she had trained the best and hardest she could, she had made the sacrifice to come to Boston, she had chosen to do judo and give it her best and done everything she needed to do to win.
Then he turned to Ronda, who was maybe a little too confident, and told her,
“No one is going to lay down for you just because you are Ronda Rousey. You are going to have to fight and earn every win. You should win this tournament, but there are no guarantees. You need to make it happen.”

The key point here is that Jimmy did not have a one-size-fits-all strategy. He gave each athlete what she needed. One needed to be made more confident and one needed to be less so and after he finished talking to them, I saw it in their eyes. Both of them were ready to win.

I just got home, it is nearly 1 a.m. and I have two judo practices tomorrow, one at Hayastan and one at the West Coast Judo Training Center, so I will post about the tournament tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You're Not so Tough! (And I love you for it)

"Your children and, in fact, all of the young people you coach, need to believe you love them." - Dr. Jacob Flores, San Shi Dojo

"For a dad to spend time together with his daughter is very special. To spend it together doing Judo is a very special bonding time for the both of us."
Paul Nogaki, Temecula Valley Judo

"To get to go on the mat and coach your kids is precious time. You go in the car together and have time to talk to one another, you are on the mat together, you travel together to tournaments. There is no real down side."
Maurice Allan, Sport Judo

"It doesn’t matter if my child never goes anywhere in judo. My youngest is eight and if she gets to being a stronger, more productive more confident young lady out of judo and never becomes the national champion, that is fine with me."
Gerald Lafon, Judo America

"What made me feel good is that I did something that mattered to the kids and not just something for myself. They feel that way about me, too."
Jack Wade, Gardena Dojo

"I want what is best for my kids, not what makes me look good."
Jim Pedro, Sr., Pedro's Judo Center

Fine bunch of tough guys you are! The coaches quoted above between them have represented the U.S., Japan and Great Britain in international competition. They have coached their own children to medals in Greece, England, Finland, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Korea and all over the U.S.

When I decided to interview coaches for a special issue of Growing Judo magazine on coaching your own kids, I expected to run into those demonized Little League parents we are all always reading about. Funny thing, though, after teaching judo for decades myself, I have run into very few of those parents. Surely, though, parents who have coached their children who are now no longer doing judo, who have chosen some other activity or who are being coached by someone else now have their regrets. Right?

Couldn't be more wrong. As Jack Wada said,
"You know, as coaches, we never talk about these things, what judo had done for us, how we feel about it. We just talk about techniques and strategies for competition."

It turns out that these coaches all look back on their experiences fondly - and so do their kids. Those kids that quit judo were not their parents' failures but their successes. They are succeeding in other areas of life - working full-time, attending medical school full-time, succeeding in top music programs. None of their parents considered the years spent coaching their child in judo as wasted but rather as something that paid off then in time they enjoyed spending with their child and is paying off now in their child's success in life.

Did former super-star athletes, like Maurice Allan, shown above, named the Scottish wrestler of the century, ever feel as if their children needed to achieve to a certain standard?

"Not a t'all. I considered it a privilege to coach me daughter."

It often seems that the national past-time is putting people down, and that attitude hasn't left judo untouched. I hear comments all the time that people in judo are 'cheap', 'untrustworthy' and a host of other negatives. There are people like that in judo, just like there are in every other area of life. Most of the people in judo, though, are caring, giving, thought-provoking, insightful - and tough.

That's why I love them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Picking Winners

Did you ever notice how many people remember things differently from how they really happened? It has been many years since I won the world championships, and you will hear people telling about how they "always knew I was going to win" because I stood up above all the other young brown belts, etc. etc. It's the same with Ronda, all those people saying they knew she was something special from day one. Those make really good stories. Too bad it wasn't anything like that.

I remembered this the other day when I got email from Dougie Tono, who was on the U.S. team for about ten years. He won the U.S. Open, Dutch Open and two silver medals in the Panamerican Games and a lot more. The reason I call him Dougie is that when we were kids, the 'real' judo players included two black belts named Doug, one was a heavyweight "Big Doug" and the other was a lightweight, called Doug, and because he and Tono were about the same weight, "Little Doug" didn't make any sense, so all there was left was "Dougie".

We were two high school kids who placed in the senior state championships, which qualified us to go compete in the senior nationals. There were practices on the weekends for everyone going to nationals and a lot of attention from the coaches lavished on those who were 'going to be great judo players'. Dougie and I were not in that group. In fact, the coaches weren't quite sure what to do with us. They would be working with this "name" player on his tai otoshi and that "top" player on his foot sweeps and we would come up and ask,

"What do you want us to do, sensei?"

Whoever we asked would usually absent-mindedly wave us toward the corner and say,

"Go over there and do randori."

So, we would. Sometimes they would forget about us and Dougie and I would go a forty-five minute round of randori. Mind you, this wasn't a round we knew up front was going to be 45 minutes long. We would start out thinking it would be a five-minute round and go all out. When no one told us to switch partners, we would think, "Okay, ten minutes" figuring sometimes senseis would have you fight a ten-minute round so you were prepared in case a match went into overtime. Half-an-hour would pass, then more time while the black belts were doing drills, changing partners, doing two rounds and then a round off, getting instruction from the coaches. Later, rather than sooner, someone would notice the two of us off in a corner and say to another coach,

"How long have they been fighting?"

Invariably, the other person would shrug and the first coach would yell,

"Hey, you two, you can stop now."

We would stand there a minute to catch our breath. (It is true what your coaches tell you, we did not have water breaks in those days, and if you brought a bottle of water to practice, people would laugh at you. Real judo players drank after practice and they drank beer. Except for me and Dougie, since we were way too young for beer. We just went home.)

What struck me when I got the email was the fact that all of those "top" judo players in our region are gone. Most of them never made it past the point they were back then. A couple went on to win senior nationals, and that was the last we saw of them. Between the two of us, Dougie and I won ten times as many gold medals as the rest of them put together.

Interesting fact: When the Nanka Shorai program started, it was for high school and older. Aaron Shiosaki and Ronda were both in the eighth grade. At practices when just the two of them showed up with a few brown belts, it was considered to be a real disappointment. In fact, we almost dropped the program. It was supposed to be for our senior black belts, just like that program Dougie and I were tangential to back in the 1970s. Funny thing, only six people who came to enough practices to get funded for high school/ collegiate nationals when Ronda was a freshman in high school. Three of them were Ronda Rousey (junior world gold medalist, world silver medalist), Aaron Shiosaki (junior world team member) and Asma Sharif (2007 world team member).

Here is what I have learned about picking winners over the long-term. Don't bet on who won the nationals last year. Pick the ones who come to every extra practice. Don't bet on the ones who need to be bribed, enticed and cajoled to come to practice. Pick the ones you can't keep out even when you tell them they're too young, too little and not advanced enough.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Christmas Comes Early

I feel as if I am writing a Christmas letter. You know, those annoying epistles you get in the mail around the holidays that run something like,

"Dear Friends,
This year, Billy Bob won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his techniques of performing brain surgery using nothing but dental floss and a plastic knife from Starbucks. Mary Sue is in the Guinness Book of World Records after giving birth to octuplets, all of whom could speak, read and play the cello by age ten months.

Hope all is equally well with you and yours."

Of course, you know these self-congratulating relatives are no doubt secretly convinced that you and yours are living in a mud hut on the banks of the Mississippi, earning your living from bribes the captains pay you not to throw rocks at the passengers on the riverboat casinos.

Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the National Hispanic Journalists Association awards banquet where my oldest daughter, Maria, received the emerging journalist of the year award. The series for which she won the award was her articles on the world cup, published in both Spanish and English, and the editorial she wrote in response to the irrational hate mail she received from some people about having the audacity to 'ruin America' by writing articles in two languages. Can these people spell "free speech"?

Maria talked back (I don't know where my children develop these habits.)In her article that ran on the editorial page, Long before I was a sportswriter, I was a Latina she says, she learned that...

"...even if you don't want to, sometimes you have to take a stand."

I hadn't really given much thought to my children breaking gender barriers until so many people congratulated Maria about not only being such a successful journalist but also being a female sports writer. I found it noteworthy also, that when I looked for an article by her to link here to give anyone interested a sample of her current work it was a piece for ESPN on two siblings who are excelling, both in soccer but one went a very different path, choosing a collegiate career first.

In the airport on the way home, I got a call from Jenn saying she had performed her own slam-dunk, on the CBEST (the exam people need to pass before they can teach). Since she won't even start the teacher credential program until next year, that was pretty good news. In December, at age 21, Jennifer will become the first one on her father's side of the family ever to graduate from college. I am sure that it will be one of those times that we will all be really sad he wasn't around to see it, but come the graduation ceremony, we will definitely all make enough noise for us, him and several other people who couldn't make it.

Changing planes at O'Hare, I called Ronda to check on how the training for the U.S. Open was coming along. She said,

"I'm going 70."

I told her that 70 kg is a fine division and that I thought her decision to move up was good, not just for her, but as a good role model for little girls in American who often are fed a steady diet of unhealthy, near-anorexic images by the media. She laughed and said,

"No, mom. Not 70 kg. I am driving my friend's car right now and going 70 miles an hour! She's yelling at me, though, because I'm going over the speed limit."

Sigh. They can't all be perfect all of the time.
------------REQUIRED JUDO TIP ----------------------------------
Most of the time, the person with the inside grip wins. If you have a grip on the outside, and the other person is inside, with a grip on your lapel and sleeve, you are at a disadvantage. I would get in that position only VERY briefly, for example, as I took a grip and attacked with tani otoshi.

If you stay in a situation where your opponent has an inside grip and you have an outside grip, you are likely to get thrown. Your two best options are to break the grip or to attack. However, if you choose "attack" make sure it is a move you have practiced and not something just to get out of a disadvantageous grip, because your opponent may well be looking for a half-hearted attack that he or she can then counter. Also, when you do attack, try as much as possible to negate that inside grip. For example, when I do my tani otoshi, I crunch the opponent's right arm against her body, pulling her tightly to me with my right arm over hers, so that she cannot use it for something like a harai goshi or uchi mata. Also, I attack instantly when she gets the inside grip, not giving her any time to set up for a technique such as an uchi mata.

Other people will immediately break the opponent's grip or switch so that they, too,have an inside grip so that neither player has an advantage. That is an effective strategy also. One bit of contention I have, is that those players often believe theirs is the only effective strategy, and that is not really true.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dumb Enough to Believe It's Important

" of those things that you need to be smart enough to do it well but dumb enough to believe it's important."

While the original quote referred to coaching and politics, it can be applied to nearly everything that I do. Whether it's teaching graduate students about Analysis of Variance or writing a SAS macro to create programs more efficiently or teaching junior high school students how to do an armbar, it takes two things to accomplish it well. The first is technical knowledge and the second is commitment.

Dennis Conner, the skipper who won the America Cup, wrote that commitment made everything easier. Once you make a commitment to be a great programmer, to establish a training center or to become a recognized expert in your field, the rest of the way is easy. The sacrifices don't really seem like sacrifices because they are steps on a path you have chosen.

This is what keeps many people tied to a competitive athletic career long after their physical prime. They have made a commitment that drove every decision for years and to retire from competition, they would need to find something new.

Renewing your commitment is not as easy as it sounds. I am going through just such a choice right now. In a few months, I'll retire from the consulting business after 22 years. It is time for a change, and probably far past time. Much of those twenty-two years I have held two or even three jobs. I've won awards for excellence in statistical programming, teaching graduate students and coaching judo.

Now what? I enjoy programming. I find it very peaceful. Probably sounds crazy, but it's true. With all the chaos life can bring, there is something very calming about sitting down in a quiet office, working out a difficult problem step by step and having it all come out exactly to meet what the customer wanted. Peace,quiet, interesting work and money. How can you possibly beat that?

Then there is teaching. As I warn all my classes - I love this stuff. Research is fascinating to do alone and in collaboration. Graduate students always are full of interesting questions. The reason they are in graduate schools is because they have a passion for a particular field, but much of the methods and theories are new to them. Teaching gives me a chance to question the findings I have taken for granted and, in answering student questions, to draw connections between different areas of research. I am very lucky in having worked as a consultant in business, psychology and education, and having done research that crossed disciplines. Teaching lets me put it all together and try to help the people who will be our leaders in the future make better decisions.

Consulting offers variety all of the time. I can jump from one project to another and use skills in areas from writing to programming to research design. One day I can be looking at Internet usage on Indian reservations and the next at standardized test scores of students in California. After over twenty years, I am pretty good at it. And people pay me so I can buy stuff like iPhones and tickets to the Bahamas.

Judo is just about the most fun you can have without getting naked. And, at my age, no one wants to see you naked. Coaching is a way for me to repay all of the people who helped me and to give other people a chance at some of the greatest experiences in life. There is nothing in the world to match standing on a podium and hearing the Star-Spangled Banner play and watch the American flag go up. Is it important on the scale of curing cancer or finding world peace? Not really, but I go by the starfish theory. You know, the little boy who when told it made no difference to throw starfishes back into the ocean because there were thousands that were dying on the beach. He answered, as he tossed the next one out to sea,

"It made a difference to that one."

I know that judo makes a difference in lives. People learn about strength, discipline, courage, fear, success, friendship and failure. All of the lessons they learn in judo will help them throughout life. Unfortunately, there isn't a country in the world, where even the national coach makes close to the income of a pretty good programmer.

I've thought about retiring and just teaching judo, or learning to knit. Okay well, maybe not knit. Still, going to the county fair like I did last week makes me aware all over again of the huge number of things in the world I would like to learn to do or learn to do better. Everything from cooking to interior design to art - there is a whole world of activities that I haven't even scratched the surface. That is one reason to look forward to old age and retirement. Or, I could retire next year, read all of those books I want to read, walk to the beach - oh, who am I kidding? My longest non-working vacation in the last twenty years has been 72 hours.

Actually, in writing this blog, I have figured out the answer. And no, I am not going to tell you.
----------------------REQUIRED JUDO TIP ------------------------
Learn some armbars. Learn some armbars that work. I see people do the same move over and over like they all want to be little Jimmy Pedro, Jr. clones. Now, that move Jimmy did where you hook the arm, switch arms, turn toward the hips, pull the person's leg over you , lean back, tickle their feet, put your left thumb behind your right ear and kiss them on the tip of the nose (okay, well maybe I added a few steps) - that move worked for him but wouldn't you think most people would have seen it by now? Even if it works perfectly for you, don't you think you ought to have a second move? There are two reasons. First, maybe the person won't be considerate enough to be on her hands and knees. Maybe she will be on her back or her stomach or you will be on your back. I have armbarred so many people in the last week with yoko shiho to ude garame, kesa gatame to ude garame, tomoe nage to juji gatame and every other possible combination. That is the second reason to do more armbars. If you have a better offense you will have a better defense because you will see that armbar coming.