Thursday, July 31, 2008

Judo, death and life

"You'll be bothered from time to time by storms, fog, snow. When you are, think of those who went through it before you, and say to yourself, 'What they could do, I can do.'" - Antoine Saint-Exupery

Sadly, a lot of the people who went before me have passed on, have gone before me in the most metaphysical sense now. Isao Wada passed away this week. Services will be held on Monday at the Gardena Buddhist Church at 7:30 p.m. Wada-sensei was the real deal. With all of those people walking around with inflated ranks who want to be called sensei, he stood out, head and shoulders above. I have never known him to be anything but gracious and dignified, even on the rare occasions that he was angry. He was president of Nanka Yudanshakai and probably on every committee at one time or another. There is a lot of talk of judo politics, about how you "have to understand politics" to explain a lot of unethical behavior. I never knew Sensei Wada to speak a false word. He was the Head Instructor of Gardena Dojo, one of the oldest and largest judo clubs in the country. No matter who you were, no matter what race, gender, whether you were on the Olympic team or visiting from a small club in a small town, you were welcome at Gardena Dojo and he made you feel like it was their honor that you had trained there, rather than the other way around.

People call me a judo leader in the sport, but I have never been like Isao Wada, or Kenso Kiyohiro, who was the head instructor of Venice Dojo, and passed away a few years ago, or John Ogden, of Ogden Dojo, who died last year, or Frank Fullerton, the PJU Sport Director and former president of USJI, who died this month. Every single one of them, when they died there was no one who was anything but sincerely grieved. None of them were perfect - who is - but they were models for all of us in ways to be better people. Both Isao Wada and John Ogden had a terrific uchimata, something I could never do very well. Kenso Kiyohiro had a good seoi nage, which he passed on to his sons, Tracy and Marshall. Frank wasn't a great judo player, but he was a good referee, an honest one and he was a completely by the rules person. On the other hand, if there wasn't a rule specifically forbidding something he would do anything to help you out if you were an American and he thought you could bring home gold medals for the U.S. He was the most patriotic person I ever met.

Not only have many of my mentors and role models in judo passed away, but so have those in other areas of life. My doctoral advisor, my mentor in statistics, Dr. Richard Eyman, was another brilliant and scrupulously honest person. He passed away several years ago. Ironically, the university where he received his Ph.D. is now where I am the senior statistical consultant.

Lots of days, I feel that I am not ready to be the person people turn to. I am happy to have people like Wada, Ogden, Kiyohiro and Fullerton there. When I was young, of course, I thought I knew everything, was ten feet tall, bullet-proof and ready to take over the world. Now, every time we lose one of our elder statesmen and women (like Elizabeth Lee), I think, "Wait a minute! We still need you here."

Isao Wada's life was a lesson for a lot of people. He carried judo, grew judo and embodied judo for many decades. Now the people my age need to stand up to the challenge and try to be better people. It's up to us now. We have to be up to it, because soon, we are all that will be left.

Once a week or so, I teach a class at our Health Sciences Campus. To get to the classroom, I have to pass through the cancer hospital. Each day, I walk outside into another beautiful sunny day in southern California, see daughters escorting their mothers who are leaning on their arms for support, wives pushing their husbands in wheelchairs. So, maybe your child did not win the Junior Olympics, maybe the other coach made a rude remark to you, maybe you're mad at the judo club down the street.

Today would be a good day to get over it. We're alive. What a precious gift that is.

Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo:Matwork tip, no one's head ever pops off
, the video blog, will be posted tomorrow. The fact that Sensei Wada died was about a billion times more important.

If anyone has an article or photo of Sensei Wada for the August issue of Growing Judo, I would love to receive it. The July issue can be found here

No one's head ever comes off: Matwork tip


No one's head ever comes off, this important tip for matwork seems to be missed by many people trying to escape from pins.

This week's video blog was filmed a week ago as judo is at camp in Big Bear this week. Next Thursday, Julia has her own idea on belt promotions, so you can check back for that.

P.S. There IS practice tomorrow morning, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., West Coast Judo Training Center, 123 South First St., La Puente, CA. Show up !

P.P.S. July issue of Growing Judo can be found here

Monday, July 28, 2008

(Almost) Everything I Needed to Know as a Mother I Learned at Judo Practice

... and most of the rest I learned from my mother and grandmother.

“A mother's love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking”

Nice quote from Helen Rice. Not sure it completely describes me. Although I love my children very much, I do believe that certain behaviors are less likely to re-occur if they are followed by a hard rap on the child's head. On more than one occasion, I have threatened to sell a child for scientific experiments or skin her alive and tack her hide upside the door as a warning to her sisters.

Despite all of that, they turned out okay. I learned a lot in college, I did get four degrees after all. Recently, though, I was watching a youtube video from last year of my daughter, Maria, receiving the Emerging Journalist Award from the National Hispanic Journalists Association.

What struck me is that the comments her editors and mentors made about her in the video, were the same comments Ronda's coaches make about her, that Jenn's friends make about her and that Julia's teachers say.

"Maria does not possess the deadliest sin in journalism - fear."

"This kid (Ronda) fears no one. She will throw it down with Olympians, national champions, anybody."

"The really cool thing about Jenn is she is not afraid to stand up to anybody and say what she thinks."

"Julia came up to me (the principal) and said she had a complaint about the way the other girls were treating a new girl in her class. She said, Yeah, she's a little bit annoying but she is not that annoying. They're being mean to her and that's not right."

Years ago, one of the students in an Educational Psychology course that I was teaching wrote a paper on Character Education. The state had something like six "pillars of character education" while the Catholic school curriculum had twelve. I don't recall all of the additional 'pillars' that the Catholic school had but I remember that two of them were courage - courage to stand up for one's rights and courage to stand up for the rights of others.

Maria's award was based on a series of articles she wrote in response to attacks on her for writing her articles in Spanish and English. In her acceptance speech she says,

"You need to know that you do have a voice ... and to take a stand for what you believe in."

Even in high school, Jenn knew to stand her ground. Maria warned her that grade school friendships don't stand up in high school, that everybody is like that. Jenn said simply,

"I'm not everybody."

When she was home last weekend, now a college graduate, her two best friends from elementary school and her two new friends she had met in high school all dropped by the house and dragged her out to celebrate life, friendship and being twenty-two. (Yeah, I hate 'em, too!)

There has been a lot of attention in the media lately about Fletcher Thornton resigning after the New York Times article on the multiple charges that he drugged and molested teenage athletes as well as related articles many other places, including the Associated Press. Credit, deservedly so, has been given to Ronda for first drawing attention to this in her blog and a post on the Judo Forum.

Yes, I am proud of Ronda for standing up, but some, no A LOT, of due has to be given to the girls, now women, who have come forward. One of them is a friend of mine from way back and the other is someone I have just recently met over the Internet. The courage they have shown to speak out knowing that, in at least one case, what was done to them has now become public knowledge, downloaded by thousands of people - it is pretty amazing. What Ronda did was lend her voice to stand up for the rights of others.

What Maria did in Fort Wayne was lend her voice to stand up for people in the community who cannot often speak out.

Jenn is equally amazing. When girls are under so much pressure in high school to conform, to fit in, to turn their backs on old friends, she never blinked. None of my girls have ever been perfect (unlike their mother!). In high school, Maria wore all the right designer clothes, was a cheerleader and on the track team. Ronda had a lot of trouble fitting in during elementary school and was very unhappy. Maria said,
"You just need to decide what part of yourself you are willing to give up or hide to be popular."

Laying on the couch in her overalls, Jenn piped up,
"That's easy to answer. Nothing."

When Julia, who had just barely turned ten years old, ran for student council, she had to stand up in front of the entire school of 300+ students and give a reason for everyone, even the seventh and eighth graders, to vote for her. She said,

"I think I would be a good Commissioner of Publicity because I am a good speaker, I am in the Debate Club, and I have three older sisters so I have a lot of experience speaking up loudly to be heard."

She got elected.

So, what did I learn from judo that I passed on to my kids?

Don't be afraid of anyone. Never back down. Your mother loves you enough to kick you out of the house and make you go to judo practice, debate club, soccer, cheerleading, computer animation classes - anything just to get off the couch and do something. Not exactly all the secrets of life, but it is not a bad start.

In other news...

Jim Pedro, Sr. told Ronda to take the post on her blog down. When I reminded him about that this week he said he didn't say it was wrong for her to post it, just that she needed to focus on the Olympics and that she HAD been training and completely focused so he was right. If you have not met Jim, one thing you should know about him is that he NEVER admits he is wrong. No matter what happens he can turn it around so it comes out in the end as if he is right. It is a gift he has.

Still, it was very cool to hear Jim won the Goodyear "Get There" award for his support of Ronda. This is an award for those who helped Olympic athletes get to where they are. They selected three "medal winners" from around the country and Jim was one of them. He deserves it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grumpy old people (and one young judo player)

If my friend, old and seldom grumpy judo coach Bruce Toups, is correct and the best classroom is hanging around an old person, Ronda ought to have several graduate degrees by now.

Jim Pedro, Sr. has had Ronda training these past few weeks until she could barely do anything by the end of the day but lay in bed and watch movies for a few minutes before dropping off to sleep. She is often convinced that her tombstone will read:

"Here lies Ronda Rousey. Her coaches trained her to death."

As much as it would probably pain both of them to admit it, Ronda and Jim agree on a lot. Each Olympics we see people after the Olympic Trials whose goal was to make the team. They have met their goals and are satisfied, training no harder than they were before the trials. There is certainly nothing wrong with setting a goal to compete in the Olympics and achieving that goal. That's just not Ronda. Jim has had her training harder than ever, and one of his big areas of focus has been conditioning.

This week, he insisted that she watch the movie, Million Dollar Baby. (Short plot summary: Young woman wants to be successful boxer. Grumpy old coach trains her really hard, she progresses, but in the last match she is injured and dies.)

He told her she needed to get that attitude. One day, she turned to him during practice and said,
"We're working out harder than that girl in Million Dollar Baby."
Jim answered without batting an eye,
"Yeah, well she lost. That's why you're training harder than her. You're going to win."

I think people misunderstand Jim's focus on conditioning. It is not that he doesn't believe technique is important. It is that he understands that you can do more judo techniques when you are in condition. Further, sometimes conditioning can make up for less than perfect technique. When I was younger, I often fought people who had better technique than me if you were measuring us like a nage no kata competition. If they could have gotten me moving, they maybe could have done a foot sweep or a beautiful uchimata. Unfortunately for them, I was strong enough to get a grip, lock them in one place, knock them down for a koka and do matwork. Who says matwork is not a technique? My matwork is full of techniques.

I see a lot of people with great technique who try to use that to make up for a lack of conditioning. I also see people who are in great shape who try to use that to make up for lack of technique. Both of those are just laziness, taking the easy route.
This is one of those lines Ronda has heard so many times she rolls her eyes every time I say it,

"It's a long way to the top of the world."

I can guarantee you this, the easy route doesn't get you there.

A few other lessons Ronda may have learned, these came from Bruce Toups, and I added in parentheses my advice.

  • It's a bad idea to corner anything meaner than you. (Since you intend to own every square inch and corner of that mat, you better be the meanest thing out there.)

  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. (Judo advice: If you are in a match, you do something and you get countered or blocked, the next time do something different. While this may seem brain-dead obvious, watch a few matches at the next tournament and see how many times a person will, e.g., try tai otoshi, even when it is not working, because, well, tai otoshi is what that person does.)

  • Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled. (My children say I yell at them. This is a lie. What I do is say things they don't want to hear. As a parent and as a coach, there are two things I think you should say only sparingly and when you do, you better mean them - "I am proud of you", and "I am ashamed of you". If your opinion matters, those words will mean a lot to the person no matter how loudly or quietly you say them. If your opinion doesn't matter, you're wasting your breath."

Another bit of wisdom from Bruce was that I might want to consider retiring to the south because it is the only region of the country where, "He needed killin' " is considered a valid defense. I'm thinking about it.

-------------- Breaking News Links ------------------------

Accusations of molestation by USA Judo official, Fletcher Thornton, New York Times article

USA Judo: A voice on the web - is a New York Times blog on, in an Escher-type way, blogging, and how it is changing how athletes can communicate about the national governing body

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do not put your butt up in the air

In today's episode of Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo, we emphasize that timeless judo adage,
"Do not put your butt up in the air".

As illustrated on the video, there are few situations in judo, as in life, when it is advantageous to stick your butt up in the air. If you are looking for one of those situations here, dude, do you ever have the wrong video!

Anyway, as you can clearly see, it is far preferable to settle your weight down and put your stomach on the mat.

Also included, a shout-out to Ronda. Oh, and pumpkin, we got your voice mail and we all feel really bad about your nipples.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Random Thoughts on Judo in My Life

One of my things on is to be grateful every day. This is actually pretty easy because I have a generally great life.

Today, we took Julia to a camp rally. The skit by the counselors was kind of funny, but the meeting was longer and more boring than I would have picked if I was Queen of the Universe. Still, the whole reason we were there is because we have this healthy, bright kid who is going to camp with a bunch of friends. When they said kids could sign up for a cabin together, Julia had three friends sign on her sheet. I know that part of her being happy, healthy and self-confident is judo. Part of it is the grace of God,and I mean that literally. I have spent much of my career working with children with disabilities and their families.

Julia got a good start in life and her family and community have helped her get better. Everyone from her older sister, Jenn, who brought her a new Roald Dahl book when she came to visit, to Kenji Osugi who lectured the kids last week on trying to be a USJF Academic All-American by getting at least a 3.75 GPA to the other kids at judo saying, "Yes, I got it last year", everyone encourages her and supports her.

On the way home, we stopped to eat because I was starving and, although I miss a lot of things about competing, I am so grateful that I don't have to cut weight any more. That is something I kept from judo. After a decade of cutting weight every time I eat I am grateful.

This weekend, after lunch with a friend, we were discussing how nearly all of the women we knew my age are 40, 60 or 100 pounds overweight. I am grateful that even though I eat peanut butter and chocolate yogurt with chocolate syrup, potato chips and a BLT for dinner, I still can wear the jeans that fit me when I was competing. It is because I do judo five or six hours every week that I can.

Speaking of random thoughts, I am certainly not saying we all need to be the weight we were at 23. I may be the same number of pounds, but I can guarantee you that those pounds are located in different places than they were 26 years ago. Still, I think people who are high-ranking judo instructors, who claim to have a sixth or seventh degree black belt or be some mucky-muck woohooshidan ought to at least make an effort to be a good advertisement for judo. People stop me all the time in line at the grocery store or as I eat a banana split and Ben and Jerry's and say,
"Wow, you're really in good shape, what do you do to work out?"

and I tell them that I do judo and tell them a little about it. Now, I know that what they are really thinking, is,

"The old wrinkled lady looks good for her age."

Still, that is better than what I am sure they thinking looking at some older "judo players",

"Dude! That fat blob is a seventh-degree black belt in judo. Whatever that judo stuff is, it obviously doesn't burn calories."

Come on, work out, try to be a decent advertisement for your sport instead of an embarrassment.

I watched a video of Ronda winning her first match in the Olympic trials. She was in a bad mood that morning. No, this doesn't have anything to do with what I was just talking about. Did you not read the title?The match lasted seven seconds. Just everything was going wrong. We didn't have time for breakfast. When the muppets sang about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, they were thinking of Ronda, who probably eats half her calories before 10 a.m. We didn't have time for her to shower. I don't understand why it is that these kids take three times as long to get ready as I do. It's not as if they have any more parts to wash or anything. Anyway, we arrived later than Jimmy wanted, she was hungry, needed a shower and Jim yelled at her. So, yeah, the match went pretty quick, and you can tell by the look on her face that at the end of it she was still ready to fight some more.

I am grateful that my little pumpkin is such a great judo player. These days, she is making all of the right decisions. Jim worries about her and pushes her hard, as he should, but she really is training to beat the world, and it shows.

I am grateful that she has her older sister around to keep an eye on her and balance the pressure to win a gold medal with babysitting and just generally admiring the fact that Eva Ortiz is the most amazing baby in the world.

On another random note, I ran across Keith Morgan's blog today. I wouldn't know Keith Morgan if I bit him on his cauliflower ear, which I just assume he has because hey, he is a judo player. His is unlike a lot of blogs on judo I read, which can be summed up as follows,
"MONDAY: I did judo today. Then I ate.
TUESDAY: I should have gone to judo but I laid on the couch and ate potato chips instead.
WEDNESDAY: I thought about going to judo but it was raining.
THURSDAY: I did 11 uchikomis today. Judo is hard. I ate a burger."

He's actually articulate and gives a good picture of what it is really like to be training. I was even interested enough about him after reading his blog to read and see that he graduated from McGill (for you Americans that is kind of like the Canadian version of Harvard or Yale) and that he competes at 100 kg. Maybe I will actually watch him compete in Beijing. I thought maybe he was 90 kg and would be on the same day as Ronda.

Speaking of Ronda, my tickets for the Olympics showed up today. No one else is going with me, I have to get my visa at the Chinese embassy this week, I will be sitting all by myself in the stadium but I expect to see Ronda get a gold medal so I won't mind if I have to sit on top of a garbage can.

Speaking of cauliflower ears, I don't have one. I am not sure how that happened since mostly all I did in judo was matwork. Someone asked Ron about that once. He said you don't get cauliflower ears if you are always on top. So, I smacked him. He protested that he meant it completely innocently but I knew him better than that.

Actually, I did get whacked in the ear plenty of times, so I think I have just been lucky, not that it really matters. I can't say I am so grateful that my ears are fine because I am pretty certain that men notice things about women other than their ears. In fact, if you asked my husband,

"How many ears does AnnMaria have?"

He would probably give you an answer something like this:
Two. That's the normal number, right? Wait a minute - is this a trick question? She doesn't have another one, like a third one, a vestigial one, maybe hidden under her hair? Is this one of those things like our anniversary and her birthday that I am supposed to know about but don't? Yeah, she has two. I'm definitely sure of it."

And he would be happy that he knew I had two ears. So, yeah, the cauliflower thing, that doesn't matter.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Judo, honesty, courage, lies and USA Judo

I used to joke with my friends in karate that judo was an honest sport. You always hear people in karate say,
"Oh, I could have pulled your heart out through your left nostril right then but I pulled my punch."

I told them that in judo, if you could throw, choke, pin or armbar the other person, you did it. There is no,

"You hit him too hard and knocked him out, you are disqualified."

In judo, the unconscious person loses.

I may have to take back what I said. Even though I try very hard to teach young people to be honest, to show courage, it appears that USA Judo is the exact opposite.

A while back, my daughter posted about the affidavits alleging that Fletcher Thornton, a member of USA Judo had molested female athletes from 12-16 years of age. You can read some of the posts and accompanying public commentary on the judo info site under

Judo News


You can even see a picture of the alleged child molester
in case, like any normal parent, you want to keep your child away from people who have had multiple affidavits filed saying that they molested children.

Now USA Judo has posted a statement on its website saying all of these allegations were investigated in 1983. I know this is a lie because I wrote a complaint in 2005 and a friend of mine wrote another complaint, also in 2005. Below is the letter I faxed to the Olympic committee today.


Date: July 20, 2008
To: United States Olympic Committee
From: AnnMaria Rousey De Mars
Subject: False statement by USA Judo Regarding Alleged Child Molester Fletcher Thornton

Let me state unequivocally that the statement issued by USA Judo regarding Fletcher Thornton is FALSE.
Complaints were made in 2005 by both me and by a young woman who was sexually abused as a minor female athlete. NEITHER of us were EVER notified of any hearing that occurred in 1982 or 1983. How we could appear as witnesses when neither of us were notified that a hearing occurred is baffling to me. I won the Senior Nationals in 1983. The young woman who wrote the 2005 complaint that she was molested by Fletcher was at the same event. Neither of us were among the original complainants nor were we even aware at that time that a hearing had occurred nor any investigation. If anyone had wanted to ask either of us about these events at either the U.S. Open or the Senior Nationals we were there. Anyone could have found us on the medal stand.
I filed a complaint of sexual harassment. The other young woman filed a complaint of sexual abuse occurring when she was 16. I am one of her witnesses as I had heard about it at the time at the junior nationals. There are other witnesses to similar events as those reported in the affidavits in the 1980s who were provided alcohol by Fletcher when they were under age. They were not notified either.

There is no evidence to show that I, nor the woman whose 2005 affidavit your attorney has, were ever notified a hearing occurred. I would have gone as her witness, had I been notified. There were others who would have gone as witnesses, had they been notified. All of us are willing to state under oath that we NEVER were told that an investigation was occurring or had occurred. I had no knowledge about this until I received the affidavits in the mail from an anonymous source in 2004 and I immediately contacted USA Judo.

The USA Judo argument seems to be this:

In the 1980s, some people stated that Fletcher Thornton had sex with them as minor athletes. They did not appear at hearing we held. Therefore, we are not going to hear any more complaints from women who say Fletcher sexually harassed or molested them even if they were not one of the original complainants, did not know a hearing occurred, were never contacted and did not know the findings existed.

I would think that if you had several complaints of sexual abuse at one point, and then later you have an additional person come forward who also states she was sexually abused by the same person, you would take that MORE seriously, not dismiss it.
AnnMaria Rousey De Mars
1982 U.S. Open Gold Medalist and 1983 Senior National Champion

If you are a parent of a judo player or just a member of the public who thinks child molesting charges should be taken very seriously, please feel free to contact the U.S. Olympic Committee. Contact information copied from the Judo Forum is posted below:

"US Olympic Committee
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
Main Telephone: 719-866-4837
Fax: 719-632-2884

I also found these two numbers listed as well. (888) 659-8687 or
719.632.5551 "

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Judo, Monkeys and Paintball

In this latest edition of Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo, Julia De Mars, USJA Junior National Champion in the 9-10 middle weight division, interviews USJA Chief Operating Officer and Tournament Director for the USJA/ USJF Winter Nationals Gary Goltz on rollerblades. (Julia is on rollerblades, not Gary).

Julia asks some hard-driving questions, such as why judo is not more popular in the United States, what Gary's plans are for marketing judo and whether or not these plans include monkeys and paintball.

Also, it should be noted that Julia is a member of the 2016 Olympic Judo Team at 70kg. We have a plaque to prove it.

New Quiz Feature -- Are you brain-dead?

If an official had multiple signed affidavits stating that he had molested female minor athletes, would you:

A. Say that it was okay as long as there was no proof that children had been molested in the last ten years.

B. Appoint him Head of Delegation for a junior world team including two sixteen-year-old female players.

C. Suspend or expel him pending a full investigation.

D. Are you f#@$ing kidding me ? !!!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Variety (and harai goshi) are the spice of training center life

So, here is how it ends up (photo at right) - harai goshi: sweeping hip throw.

Since Victor Ortiz and Gary Butts had both headed up to the National Novice and Brown Belt Championships, only Tony Comfort and I were left home to run practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center on Saturday. Several of the players, Yazmin, Rachel, Sam and Amber were competing, along with Gavin, Tuoi and Eddie from Goltz's. With only 14 of us left behind it was a great opportunity to work on technique.

This is one of the needs the training center was designed to meet, enough coaches and few enough players to work on all of those little nuances of technique. Julia, Harout, Crystal and Elanette all use harai goshi in competition regularly. Tony worked on getting a dominant grip to begin.

Next, he emphasized getting your right foot (in right harai) placed correctly in front of your opponent's foot. He also emphasized the importance of getting your center of gravity lower than your opponent's.

Several times, he demonstrated each part of the throw, had the athletes practice on their own doing first uchikomi, then throws on the mat, then throws on the crash pad. Then he called everyone back and demonstrated again, correcting any errors.

Yes, I taught some stuff, too, but this post isn't about me or Tony or even harai goshi. It is about the training center and the fact that we do have short-term and long-term goals. In the short-term it is to work with each athlete individually to build on what they gain at their home club during the week, to correct any weaknesses we see, and, in the case of Julia, Harout, Erik, Elanette and Crystal this weekend, work on their strengths. In the long-run, we are aiming to build international players. In China, if you believe the LA Times, which I generally do, children are taken from their families and trained in sports schools from the age of 7. I don't advocate that but I am in favor of training talented youngsters with a long-term view.

Ronda and I talk about her coaching at the training center in the fall and I know she has some definite ideas as far as drill training, gripping, conditioning and standing techniques she wants to teach. Before September comes, we want most of the players to have several solid throwing and matwork techniques that they can do fluidly. They will have a basic understanding of gripfighting, how to break a sleeve grip, how to break a lapel grip, how to block a high grip. In short, they will have the building blocks. All of the older players will have a couple of good armbars.From last September until now, if you look at the players' judo, conditioning and attitude, they have taken a step up. From this September to next year, with the addition of our new coach, they will take another step.

Champions are made, not born and this is how you make them, one step at a time.

Note: If you get this blog on an RSS feed and you don't see the pictures, you can find the whole blog, including photos at:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Judo: It beats vacuuming the cat

I have a confession to make. Almost every Saturday, I do NOT want to get up and go to practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center.

First of all, it involves getting up early in the morning, which is against my religion. It is because of people like me that the Catholic church instituted 6 p.m. mass. Secondly, there are always a thousand other things to do. For example, today I wanted to read a book on Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance and another on Cohort Analysis, neither of which I got to read. I wanted to watch a tape on gripping and read more of Ron Angus's book, Competitive Judo, neither of which I had time to do, either.

What I did do when I came home from judo 8 hours after I left home was take some aspirin because I have arthritis and when I work out, all of my joints are killing me shortly thereafter. After a nap to compensate for the getting up early thing, I spent the next few hours changing three guinea pig cages, cleaning the bird cage, doing the dishes and vacuuming up the cat hair which has filled the house. It occurred to me that I might be much more efficient to vacuum the cat directly, and hey, it was laying right there.

So, why am I doing this? I was just reading Jason's blog on quitting judo. He makes very sound arguments. He is busy with work and other obligations. He has injuries.

Someone like me must be crazy to devote so much time to something that interferes with other interests, pays no money and causes pain to boot.

Julia has been complaining she hurt her knee - she hit it on a tree playing on a rope swing. She then conveniently "forgot" her running shoes. I borrowed a pair from her friend, who lives right next door to the training center. Julia cried for the whole half-mile jog to the park. Then she cried a little during the first couple of sprints. By the water break she was in an animated discussion with Erin, the gist of which, I believe was, "Boys are stupid and Crystal is mean."

In the half-mile jog back to the training center at the end of conditioning, Julia beat most people by a good city block.

During the second practice, Erik's head hit Julia's shoulder and they both hit the mat. She sat on the couch with tears in her eyes, insisting her arm was broken. A few feet away, Erik told his father with absolute certainty that his skull was broken. At the end of the five minute break, both were out on the mat with a new partner.

Little incidents like these get replayed several times each day. Each one teaches an athlete that she is stronger than she thought.

There is also the plain judo part of it. Today we worked on harai goshi, gripping against left-handed players and breaking grips. Even though a bunch of our regular participants were in San Francisco we decided to have practice anyway, and 14 people came to put in 4 1/2 hours on the mat. In a previous post, I talked about the benefit coaches' kids get in terms of time and attention to developing their judo. These kids get all of that, the full package. They get tougher, they get conditioning and they get someone saying,
Eileen, don't collapse forward on your harai goshi, pull and turn."
"Harout, sweep with your leg."
"Julia, get that left leg back."
"Crystal, snap that hand straight down and pop it off your gi, like this."

At the end of each day, it is the sum of those little things that made me glad I went and which get me up at 8:30 am again the next Saturday.

Tomorrow, once I find my iPhone, I will post pictures of Tony teaching harai goshi.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Judo Wisdom

Two people who made a big difference in my life were Frank Fullerton, who died recently, and Bruce Toups,who claimed not to be dead when I talked to him today. Both men had a lot of wisdom.

During the years I competed, they helped me a lot both financially, through the support for my travel expenses and administratively, making sure that I got to tournaments and training camps that I wouldn't have known existed without their efforts. They gave me opportunities that I did not even realize I needed until looking back years later.

When Bruce was Director of Development and Frank was president of USJI Americans won two world gold medals, a couple of silver medals and several bronze. Over the years, they still were available to anyone in judo smart enough to seek their sound advice.

Bruce reminded me recently that at some point in our lives, we need to just look at what makes us happy. It occurred to me a big part of what makes me happy is the really good people I know, most of whom I met through judo.

Every time I talk to Bruce, I learn something about business, about judo, about life AND he makes me laugh. You can't get much better than that. Tonight, Julia was gone until late because she was hanging out with a friend she had met at judo a couple of years ago. Gina isn't doing judo these days but Julia still really enjoys spending time with her. They are both genuinely nice kids. Skye, who is a few months older than Julia, fights her at about half the tournaments. They go back and forth on which one wins, but they are always happy to see one another. Being almost fifth-graders, I believe their conversations can generally be summarized as,
"I like judo. Boys are stupid."

Judo has been part of making Julia happy, not so much the winning but the friends and the being a strong, healthy, confident kid. Those qualities all reinforce each other, as healthy, strong, popular people tend to be self-confident and more people want to be friends with someoen who is self-confident.

When I was talking to Jim Pedro, Sr. yesterday I could hear him and Ronda arguing, as usual. She could not understand the absolute illogic of someone who would have salsa but no chips in their house, suggesting that for lunch he was going to give them peanut butter and jelly that they would have to eat with their hands, because there would be no bread. Jim has her and several other girls working out all day long, running, lifting and doing judo, with jumping in the lake and jet-skiing thrown in but they both have the energy to argue about whether tortilla chips are a basic necessity of life.

Bruce said to me,
"He's doing what he loves helping those kids develop to their potential and instead of being anxious about whether she is training right, Ronda has the luxury of worrying about chips with her salsa."

In judo, sometimes we find people who are good for us in all sorts of ways, even if we seldom admit it. Even if they tell us that chips are bad for us and we need to run sprints at 5:30 in the morning.

Off the top of my head, I can think of people who would give me $5,000 to support judo camps, give me good legal advice, review a mortgage offer, write me a letter of recommendation for a job, explain university politics, make a house call when I have sick family members at home, teach a judo clinic for free a thousand miles away, pick up my youngest daughter from school, find my daughter a hotel room in Japan and talk me out of taking a job that looked good on paper but that I didn't really want to do. I know this because I have friends who HAVE done all of those things for me. That's just a start. The complete list is REALLY long. If you have been in judo any length of time, I'll bet you could come up with your own list in no time flat.

So, here is my judo wisdom for the day. So often we get caught up in annoyance about the petty politics, the people who are self-centered, arrogant or just plain bigoted and we forget that the VAST majority of people we meet in judo are smart, funny, generous and interesting. Enjoy those people and forget about the rest, because you only get one life. Spend it with people who make you laugh, who make you feel better about life, instead of worse.

Frank Fullerton and I were on the same flight back from Athens, after the last Olympics. He looked over his glasses at me, laughed and said,
"You know, AnnMaria, you were a lot of trouble, but I am glad to see you turned out worth it in the end."

What turns out to be worth it in the end? It's like that old poem by Emerson, the respect of honest men, the affection of children, the friendship of good people. I've never been interested in being on all these judo boards and committees, although oddly, I ended up president of California Judo, Inc. for two years and vice-president of the USJA for four years. It is odd because, as Lanny Clark pointed out, while other people have political allies, I just have friends.

Speaking of Lanny, a few years ago, a bunch of judo people went to dinner after the state championships. Someone came up to me the next day and started berating me,

"You're the President of California Judo, and I am on an important committee. You can't have a meeting without inviting me!"

Lanny stepped between us and interrupted,
"It was not a meeting, it was a group of friends. And we don't like you."

So, I may never get to be an Olympic coach or eighth-degree black belt or president of any more things, but that is okay. I have good friends, I get to laugh a lot and I am the world's only woohooshidan, all of which makes me happy.

Julia and AnnMaria's World: Learn Counters

It occurred to me that today it is Thursday, all day and all night and that I had promised that every Thursday we would do an edition of AnnMaria and Julia's videoblog, Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo. On the off chance that anyone silly enough to actually pay attention to what I say and remember it would have nonetheless have mastered the concept of Thursday well enough to apply it, a new edition of the video blog is below.

This is the feature of this blog which caused my oldest daughters, Maria and Jennifer, to conclude with absolute certainty,

"The rest of the people in this family are complete dorks."

Of course, if you are getting this blog through an RSS feed that does not include the video, you have no idea what I am talking about. Your two options are to actually go to the blog at

or read on....

  1. It bugs me when people do lousy throws off balance and do not get countered.

  2. Countering people who attack off-balance is sort of a Darwinism of judo. They will either learn to adapt and do their throws correctly or quit and take up badminton.

  3. A tani otoshi counter is in that minority of techniques that you can do effectively if you have an outside grip and your opponent has an inside grip.

  4. If the other person has an inside grip and you have an outside grip, you are at a disadvantage. If they are stupid enough to use that disadvantage to attack on a not very good seoi nage then you must counter them. Otherwise, you are voting in favor of stupidity and we should all be against that.

For those of you who have written me to tell me that these videos are shot in my living room (I knew that) or that these are not of the professional quality of some other videos that you have purchased let me point out a few facts, Captain Obvious. Professional videos most likely:

A. Do not co-star a ten-year-old wearing a bike helmet, and
B. Do not have a studio audience made up of 8 stuffed animals being walked over back and forth by a cat.

C. Tani otoshi is still a good counter for seoi nage

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Mom Thinks I'm Cool

Why have a very disproportionate number of American international medals come from people who are coached by their parents?

Consider these records:

World Gold Medalist: Jimmy Pedro, Jr. - Jim Pedro, Sr's son
World Silver Medalist : Liliko Ogasawara - Nagayasu Ogasawara's daughter
World Bronze Medalist : Darlene Anaya - Tony Anaya's daughter
World Silver Medalist : Ronda Rousey - my (usually) lovely young daughter

What advantages do these players have? Yes, they all had pretty good coaches, but there are other really good coaches in this country - Yonezuka (okay, well he did have Mike Swain who won a world gold medal and Olympic bronze), Nishioka, Legros, Cahill, Doug Tono, Maurice Allen, Evelio Garcia, Israel Hernandez. Besides, these same coaches had other players. Ogasawara coached Celita Schutz, who did well, but not as well as his daughter. Jim Pedro, Sr. had a lot of other people who made world and Olympic teams, but none as successful as his son.

I would suggest that one advantage these players have is the luxury of TIME. Today, I glanced over at Julia at Sawtelle. She was doing matwork with Saki Watanabe, who is 11. They both competed in junior nationals in the last week and both were, not surprisingly, a bit flat at practice after that. Normally I would yell at Julia to train harder, but I let it pass because I knew that this was just one random practice and I would have plenty of time at the training center to work with her this weekend. Time is an advantage not to be underestimated. Because I know I can take her to other practices to make up slack time if I deem it necessary, I can relax and let her be a kid sometimes. If I notice that she needs to work on her conditioning, I can take her to the Ugly Pink Building Hill and make her run sprints uphill.

(Thanks very much to Jerry Hays for the video below of Ronda winning the finals of the Olympic Trials.)

The other big, related advantage that coaches' kids get is ATTENTION. Look at the words I just used. I glanced over at Julia. If I notice she needs conditioning..

There is a great line in the movie, "The opposite of sex," one character is explaining to his fiancee that he is hurt she did not think of him first when she needed help, instead of trying to solve the problem herself, he said,
"In a crowded room, you look for me first, and I'll do the same for you."

There is a whole area of research in psychology called "attachment theory", beginning with the attachment of infants to their mothers, and then later, to their fathers. Attachment is often defined as,
"The recognition of one person as unique among all others. "

Coaches are human, too, and they love their kids. Any coach who claims to treat his/her children just like all of the other kids in the dojo is a liar. Even if it is only subconsciously, we NOTICE our children more. We notice if they have trouble fighting left-handed players, if they are not as physically strong as the other kids, if they are off-balance doing tai otoshi. Yes, you may treat them all strictly the same during practice - although, in my experience, most coaches' kids are expected to do more and get less slack - but when you get home, or on the way home, you inevitably start in on,

"I saw you fighting Anthony and he kept countering your harai goshi. Never get a high grip on a person taller than you. It throws you off balance and you are more likely to get countered."

There are the subtle things you do because you have paid more attention to this child you love and so you are more tuned into the things they need. Last week, I was doing randori with Julia at Sawtelle and I was fighting her left-handed. She stopped and said,
"I know what you are doing. You are fighting me like that because I had trouble with that one girl at the tournament that fought left-handed."

She was right, too. Would I have noticed if Sarah Crosby had trouble with left-handed players? Well, she didn't particularly, but I did notice some other things. However, unlike Julia, I didn't see Sarah the next practice because she was practicing at her own club. I am at EVERY practice with Julia, because I drive her home. There it is again, the element of time, blended with attention.

I asked David Matsumoto once about how he got along coaching his daughter, Sayaka. He told me that they left judo strictly at the dojo and didn't talk about it again once they left. If so, he is an exception. Most coaches' kids, I believe, get an enormous amount of "teaching on the fly" (a phrase I stole from the Harvard Preschool Project study of children who develop exceptionally well). That is, I don't sit down for hours on end and lecture Julia on the finer points of judo, nor did I do that with Ronda. However, I have dozens of judo videos and DVDs around the house and I watch TV less than an hour a week. During that hour, more likely than not, Julia will wander through the room while I watch Hayward's video on gripping or advanced judo tactics, Jimmy Pedro's Grip Like a World Champion, a DVD of Ronda at the Olympic Trials, the World Championships or something else. She may watch for 15 minutes, say "That's boring," and get up and go do something else. During that 15 minutes every week, she is likely to learn something.

On the way to judo and on the way home, which adds up to about 3 1/2 hours each week for Julia at age 10, and was probably 15 hours a week for Ronda at age 15, we talk about judo. We talk about why Julia/ Ronda had trouble with a particular player at practice, things that concern me that I think she should watch out for, what I think she should do to train more. And we also talk about other things, like how Julia wants to get her hair cut this weekend. A regular coach maybe has 5 or 10 minutes at the end of practice to discuss strengths, weaknesses and training methods with a player, and certainly not with every player. Don't fool yourself. Judo is a mental game and there are no stupid champions.

Resources. People always ask me when I knew Ronda was exceptional. There were two incidents that stood out. One was when she was about 12 years old. My friend, Jake Flores, Sr. said to her,
"So, I hear you've started judo. I know a little bit about judo myself. Ask me anything."
Ronda regarded him very seriously, with all of her scrawny 80-pound self and said,
"You've seen me fight, right? If you were coaching another girl to beat me, what would you tell her to do?"

Jake and I were both blown away by the insightfulness of that question from a 12-year-old green belt.

The second time was when I was sitting at my desk one day, Ronda was about 15 years old and fighting 57 kg. I heard Ronda yelling, "Mom! Mom!"
I ran into her room expecting a fire (it wouldn't be the first one in the house, although Ronda was not responsible on the last occasion). Ronda had a video from the Olympics on pause, was pointing at the Cuban and said,
"That's how I'm going to beat her. When she gets that grip, I'm going to do this, watch!"
and she grabbed me and demonstrated how she was going to beat the current Olympic gold medalist.

While both of these examples demonstrate some motivation and interest on Ronda's part, there is also the fact that she had resources. She had access to Jake Flores, Sr. who had coached three people who made it to the U.S. Open finals recently, and had two players in the Olympic Trials. She just happened to have a video of the last Olympics on a shelf in her room.

Time. Attention. Teaching on the Fly. Resources. These are advantages coaches' kids have.

What if you are not a coach? A couple of things you can do are provide the resources. You can get DVDs from Hatashita Sports or Fighting Films. Neither of which give me a cut, by the way. If you buy them at Golden Tiger Martial Arts, the USJA does get a cut and you get a 10% discount. Still no love for the AnnMaria Retirement in the Bahamas Fund, though.

Attention and Time: Let's face it, no matter how amazingly awesome your kid is, the coach is going to love his/ her own more. However, one way to get more attention and time is to take your child to camps and clinics. When Ronda was younger and I would take her to a camp or clinic with Hayward Nishioka or Pat Burris or Mike Swain and not that many kids showed up,the clinician might have felt a little depressed but I LOVED it. Come on, if there were only 15 kids there all day, mine got more attention. I have never understood the reasoning of people who spend thousands of dollars to go to all of the point tournaments so their child can make some junior team and then don't have money to send them to camp. Ronda made at least two junior Panamerican teams and one junior world team when she did not attend. However, she did go to training camp at San Jose State University twice, two Daiheigen Yudanshakai Camps, just about every Nanka clinic and practice from the day she started judo until she moved away, every camp after the U.S. Open except for one year when she was injured - in fact, this was the only age waiver I ever requested, was to get her into the camp when she was 14 and the minimum age was 15. The "elite" players couldn't be bothered with her so she went a lot of rounds with Pat Burris and Maurice Allen as the same elite players often couldn't be bothered with them, either. If the coaches see your kids more than the 20 minutes on the mat at a tournament they will have more time with them and likely begin to notice them more.

DO BE CAREFUL where you send your children. Not all camps take the care of your kids that you would and there have been coaches who have molested children. If at all possible, go with your child. If you can't go, find another parent you really trust and trade off going with your children.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Promote Yourself - Judo's Latest Trend

I am busy with work so I apologize to those who look here for serious judo advice. Tomorrow I should have time to actually write a post I have been thinking about a long time, i.e., what are the advantages children have when their parent is their coach and why Ronda and Jimmy, Jr. have won most of the international medals over the last decade. (Did you know i.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin id est, which translates as "that is"? See, now you learned something from this blog.)

Tonight, I was talking to Serge Boussyou who I think is a really cool guy in part because he talks to me despite all of those who warn him that hanging out with AnnMaria is bad political ju-ju. We concluded that, because of his recalcitrant behavior he will probably never make it to the lofty ranks of buttkisse-dan . This led to our further conclusion that we should just make ranks up and award them to ourselves.

This method is illustrated below.

There are several advantages to this method over the current means of garnering ridiculous ranks. First of all, it can be done in your living room, greatly reducing travel costs. Secondly, having the vote by stuffed animals or actual puppets requires the same degree of thought of many puppet boards but saves oxygen which could be used by trees - no, I guess trees produce oxygen. Well, oxygen is a good thing to have, anyway, and we shouldn't waste it. Third, you can make up your ranks so be far more creative. I have previously suggested a belt with hooks or pouches where you can have your snacks, like pretzels, and attach your beer. Honestly, if you look at some of these guys who have these seventh and eighth-degree black belts, they have stomachs bigger than I did when I was nine months pregnant. So, I think the addition of a cup-holder on the belt would be practical. Here are a few of the titles I have awarded myself this week.

Woo-hoo shidan
Judo Empress
Mistress of all of the Known Martial Arts and Their Devoted Followers
Bob (when you spell it backwards, it's still Bob, so that is a hard title to beat)

The other thing I have noticed people who are busy promoting one another like to do is get themselves inducted into Halls of Fame, which have as their primary requirement paying a large fee for famousness. We ALMOST had a Mayo Quanchi Hall of Fame. The conversation went like this:

"I think I'll have a Mayo Quanchi Hall of Fame."
"That'd be great! Induct me. I'll fly out there."
"I could induct you, and Ronda ..."
"And we could have a Hall of Fame Dinner and Party at your house."
"... and Jim Pedro, Sr."
"And we could drink vodka and shots of whatever else you have in your house."
"We could charge a large fee to be inducted in the Hall of Fame and use it to support my kids' travel fund."
"Fee? I said I'd fly out there to party and do judo. I'm not paying you ---- ! "

Safe to say that the Mayo Quanchi Hall of Fame and Raising Money for Serge's Kids has yet to be established.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Everything is different now - oh, wait, no it isn't

On a regular basis, I get told that judo is completely different now than when I was competing, that I may have been hard-core in my day but I know nothing about today's judo, etc. etc.

I get this from everyone from my older daughter (the little cute one is too young to know everything yet) to random people I have never met. This amuses me greatly since it is essentially people who were not born in "my day" telling me with authority what things were like back when I was competing. Unlike them, I was there when it happened. Jim Pedro, Sr. thinks I get offended or upset about this and he doesn't believe me when I tell him he is wrong. Of course, Jim NEVER believes he is wrong, but that is a different subject. Actually, I find it funny as hell, just like the time my oldest daughter (Ronda is the third daughter), was upset after a track meet and when I tried to talk to her she said,

"What do you know about winning and losing?"

Nothing. I know nothing.

So, what has changed and what hasn't? What still works and what doesn't?

What hasn't changed

Matwork has changed very little. I was watching a DVD tonight and I was very amused to see that the first drill was an armbar drill I had done about a zillion times and taught to Ronda when she was 15 years old. The next drill was another armbar drill I had done 30 years ago. I am NOT, by the way, saying you shouldn't watch training DVDs. That would be pretty hypocritical since I just said I was watching one. Actually, I wrote down on the training plan for tomorrow to do both of those drills.

There were a couple of other drills on the DVD that I never did to save my life. It wasn't that they did not exist back then - in fact, one of them was one of my coach, Jimmy Martin's, signature moves. I just didn't happen to do them. Rhadi Ferguson never does o soto gari, but it would be a mistake for judo players 20 years from now to use that as evidence that we didn't know o soto gari existed.

There are still two types of matwork and there is still no one I have seen who is equally outstanding at both types. Eventually, Ronda may be the first. Most people don't realize there are two types, or, if they do, believe that whatever type they do is superior. All of those people are wrong.

Most people are not very good at matwork, in large part because they don't spend much time on it and it is not taught very deliberately in most places. If you don't believe me, ask most black belts to name and demonstrate three escapes from pins, an escape from an armbar, two matwork counters and two matwork combinations.

The traditional throws still work if you are very good at them. People are still winning the world championships and Olympics with seoi nage, uchi mata and o soto gari just like people did 25 years ago. Not me, but other people.

The successful international competitors are superb athletes. They spend hours every day on conditioning, from randori to weight-lifting to sprints. Forty years ago, Hayward Nishioka was DRAGGING A CAR around Los Angeles to develop strength. Read Black Belt Magazine from when he was their Man of the Year.

What hss changed

Gripfighting is definitely different. We never did grip-fighting drills. I used to practice a lot of attacks right off the grip and that was considered kind of cheating, even though there was no rule against it. How un-judo-like, to attack before your opponent had her grip. The types of specific gripping drills people do now are new.

Some of the throws are new. Sode tsurikomi goshi is something I probably learned for my green belt test, but people do it differently now, twisting into it. There were far fewer leg picks. Vanderalle got famous for doing them but he was an exception.

People did not play tactically then nearly as much as they do now. Of course, the fatc that when I started competing it was only ippon and waza ari might have had something to do with it.

Bottom-line: There are people who believe that everything is like it was in the old days and they don't need to learn anything new. There is another group of people who believe that judo is completely different now and no one over 40 - and 40 is pushing it - has anything to teach them. Both of those groups are wrong. A key to being a champion is not having the arrogance to think that you are too good to learn. Thinking you are too good to learn except from your friends or people like you in age, location or attitude is just another type of arrogance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Just Judo

Having veered off into other topics somewhat lately, I decided to focus just on judo in the next few posts. Tuesday night, we were going to do a video blog showing the most common mistakes at the USJA Junior Nationals, but Julia had the opportunity to have a sleepover with Kiah and Lucy, and being 10 years old, she wisely decided to do that instead, so I lost my tori. Today, we had the opportunity to do three episodes of what is now going to become a weekly feature, every Thursday: AnnMaria & Julia's Judo Video Blog Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo. There are actual judo points in here but it is not wholly serious. I mean, come on, my partner is going into the fifth grade and our studio audience is comprised of stuffed animals.

Big mistake number 1: GET AN INSIDE GRIP!!!
Hello??? If your opponent has an inside grip, say, on your lapel and sleeve or both lapels, and you have an outside grip say on their shoulder or back, there are more options for them to throw you than for you to throw them. When your coach is yelling at you to get your grip, he or she most likely means to get an inside grip.

Big mistake number 2. COUNTER! I don't know how many times I saw one person go in off-balance on seoi or harai goshi and the other person did NOT counter when it was staring them in the face. The reason for this is obvious. Counters are pretty much a reflex to do B when A happens. They need to be practiced a lot in the dojo.

Big mistake number 3. LEARN TO FIGHT LEFT-HANDED PLAYERS: Notice, I did not say "learn to fight left-handed", which is a completely different thing.

That's it for now. Next Thursday, we will have another post on Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo. (Julia came up with the name, if you can't guess.)