You can see from the accompanying video, my feelings about retirement. Exercising great discipline, I did not do any productive work on Wednesday, no tying up of loose ends, no boxing up my files. I went to the beach, and with the assistance of a visiting niece, improvised the First Day of Retirement Dance.
After two and a half days of retirement I have read two books, three magazines and two newspapers, spent an hour on iChat with my daughter in Paris and read chapters from The Phantom Tollbooth to my little daughter who was sick in bed.
I read a lot of blogs on blogging (most of them deathly boring so I won't bother to link to any), several blogs on technology that were really good and an interesting post by Lance Wicks from the UK where he was actually talking about a blog I wrote a month ago. His main point was that it was fine if you want to coach the Olympic team but it is not fine if you don't want to be bothered with developing players.
Between retirement, Lance's blog and my new-found spare time, I began thinking about choices people make. In judo, and in business, one makes the choice about what level he or she wants to attain.
Take coaching, for example. Around the world, and in many places in the U.S., many judo coaching programs are structured based on the assumption that everyone wants to be the Olympic coach. This is a stupid assumption. It's like assuming that every elementary school teacher wants to be a college professor and instead of providing courses on how to teach multiplication encouraging all elementary teachers to take courses in Calculus.
I was listening to the judo podcast and Jimmy Pedro, Jr. made the comment that older generations of athletes had not "given back to the sport" when they were young. His opinions are no less wrong for being commonly held. Hayward Nishioka (world team member) has taught for over forty years. Lynn Roethke (Olympic silver medalist) has run a club in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for years. Robin (Chapman) Chow, a former Panamerican and Pacific Rims Gold medalist teaches at Tenri Hawaii. Christine Pennick, world bronze medalist, teaches in Bakersfield. Olympian Steve Seck teaches at Trade Tech. What we all have in common is we teach in community programs, very much like the programs many of us came from. As for me, I have taught for nineteen of the twenty-three years since I retired from competition. There were two years in a row when I was pregnant (I had two children, I didn't have a two-year pregnancy. I'm not an elephant!) Then, there were three years when my husband was very ill and in intensive care and two of my girls were still in preschool.
We all make a choice at what level we want to coach. The same is true in business. All right, I will admit that some people are dumber than a box of hair and are never going to make it past assistant mail room clerk. For many others, though, it is a choice of what you are willing to sacrifice in terms of leisure time, time with your family, income you pass up while you go to graduate school so that you can make more money later. Are you willing to give up doing work that really fascinates you to do work that is not quite so interesting but pays more money?
I learned all about deferred gratification from judo. I had to get out of bed to run and lift weights when I really wanted to sleep in. I had to go running in MINNESOTA in the winter where it was 20 degrees below zero. When I moved to Los Angeles and all I had to do was wind sprints up hill, but without the snow and ice, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. After all the matburn, aching muscles, bruises and thousands of repetitions of techniques, when I won the world championships, I chose to stop.
That's another valuable lesson I learned from judo. As my teammate Steve Seck said,
"Even if you win the Olympics, people will say, 'Yeah, but could he win it again?' You have to not worry about what people think, decide for yourself what your goals are and when you get to where you have satisfied yourself, then you retire."
There is a tendency, especially if you are a competitive person, to keep going and going and not want anyone to have more money, a higher position, because somehow it means they are better. I learned from judo how to stop competing when I was happy with what I had accomplished.
A friend of mine asked me,
"How can you be satisfied? After all, the cream rises to the top, you know. How can you let __________ be ahead of you?"
I told her,
"The cream may rise to the top, but so does the scum in a pond. "
It's almost unAmerican to say this, but the key to success for me is not necessarily having the biggest house or the newest car or the fanciest title. It's not being the Olympic coach. Most days I am not sure exactly what it is but I think it has something to do with watching Anthony and Julia and Haykas get better at gripping. It's watching Sammy and Erik get a better harai goshi. It is having good friends like Gary Butts and Tony Mojica and Blinky and Jake Flores who are always there to give me good advice about judo and are willing to let my children train at their club at any time. It's having raised children who still call me every day even now that they are paying their own bills.
Right now, for me, success is having TIME. It is being able to sleep until noon and then have nothing in the day ahead of me but drinking coffee, reading the LA Times, walking to the beach and playing baseball with Julia. That's my choice.
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Stupid judo choices people make - involving matwork.
1. You are ahead by a yuko or more, with thirty seconds left on the clock. Your opponent is down on her stomach. You are on her back. ..... And you jump up and run back to the tape line waiting for the referee to call matte and stand her back up. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ????! There are no stalling penalties on the mat. You are ahead. It may be that this person is twice as good as you and has some moves from lying on her stomach so you leapt off of her like a scared little bunny. More often, said to say, the true reason is that your brain is temporarily not functioning. Next time, try a half-nelson. Hook your legs in and try a choke. Put your knee in her armpit and try to hook the arm for an armbar. You may get a score. You will definitely eat up time on the clock. Don't leap up and give her a free chance at throwing you and winning the match.
2. You are trying to armbar someone. They are hanging on to that arm for dear life. You keep pulling to get the arm loose and the referee calls matte. HELLO? If someone is laying on his back, get on top and pin him -- duh! I pinned way more people than I armbarred because people would be so focused on their arms they would forget that I could just sit on them and pin them.
3. You are really good at matwork. The match starts, you go to the ground, the other person wants to get up - and you let her - over and over. If you are better than your opponent on the mat, stay there! When I competed, at least 80% of the time in nearly all of my matches was on the mat. The second someone went into drop seoi nage, a sacrifice or I knocked her down on one knee, I was on her like white on rice. Many of my friends have told me, "I want to win the right way. I still think throwing is the real judo." My friends have nice theories about judo. I have real gold medals. Judo has enough rules. You don't need to make up extra ones of your own.
4. I only saw this happen once, but it is worth mentioning. Years ago, they had a Grand Champion, when the winners of every weight division fought off. Diane Pierce had won the 120 pound division. She was fighting the heavyweight champion and they were down on the mat, with the heavyweight on all fours. Diane whispered, "Hey, look up!" The woman did and Diane choked her out. I asked her later why the heck she had looked up and she said that she thought if Diane said it the referee must have said something or there must be some other reason. She was a little ticked off and thought it was a dirty trick. Last piece of advice for the day - don't look up!