Thursday, October 30, 2008

Captain Obvious visits the West Coast Judo Training Center

But first ... a word from our sponsor ...
======= Drum Roll which I did not put it out of consideration for readers who have low bandwidth =====

For all of you who have asked, here is the information on practices for this weekend and the rest of November....

Hello Everyone,

Here is the schedule for this coming weekend. On Saturday, November 1st, we will be training from 9:30am to 2:00pm at the following location:

Goltz Judo Club
1700 Danbury Road
Claremont, CA 91711

On Sunday, November 2nd, we will be doing conditioning at 10:00am at the following location:

Sand Dune Park
33rd & Bell
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266.

For November 8th and 9th some of us will be in Seattle competing while others will be competing in Michigan. There will be no practice on this weekend. We will resume our training on November 15 at our regular Location (i.e. 123 S. First St. La Puente, CA).
Practices November 15, 16, 22, 23 are as always, 10-11:30 and 1-4 on Saturdays and 10-1 on Sundays.

Please remember $10 a day for practice, except for this weekend when apparently $10 covers training for both days because Yazmin said so. I hope to see you all on both Saturday and Sunday.

Yazmin Bott
WCTC Manager
------------------- NOTES FROM CAPTAIN OBVIOUS-----
The training at Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach is on a beach with a giant sand dune (hence the name). The photos I saw looked really cool so you should get down there.
Adults are not children - Whenever I fight teenagers, especially younger teenagers, I am somewhat amused by the things they do, especially in matwork. They will do things like try to crank on your jaw so it hurts and you move your head, allowing them to choke you, grind their knuckles in your back and so on. I am sure some coach taught them to do that and it worked on other kids who were 13 years old. When they get to the senior level, the people who are still competing are not going to flinch when those little tricks are tried. I will give Ronda credit since I stole this line from her:
"Anything that counts on the other person being uncomfortable to work is not going to be successful at the international level. People are just tougher than that. I fought three matches in Germany with my elbow dislocated and won two of them. Do you think I am going to give up because you rub your knuckles along my jaw?"

Now matter how good your excuse is for missing practice, it doesn't stop the person who is training from pulling ahead of you. Even if your mom had cancer (which would be terribly sad), when you come back from missing six months of practice, those people who have been training every day will have improved and you won't.

So, you are welcome to tell me why you missed practice if it is something good (hey, you won the state science fair, amazing!) or bad (you had to have your dog put to sleep, that totally sucks). Regardless of the reason or what I think of it, people who practice more will get better than you.
Carrot Juice Tastes like Carrots: After practice at Sawtelle, we almost always stop at 7-11. Last week, Julia noticed the carrot juice and asked who would drink something that gross. I saw it for sale at lunch today and I thought it couldn't taste like juice from carrots, because who would drink that. So, I bought a bottle. It was gross and disgusting. It tasted exactly like carrot juice. At least you can't accuse them of false advertising. I took two sips and poured it down the sink. When I told Julia about it on the way home from practice tonight, she said,
"Next time, you should listen to me. Don't trust your judgment. Trust my judgment."

I am in the right job and judo coach isn't it. Today, someone called my office and the conversation went like this:
"I need a reference on nested logit models that gives the exact commands in Stata and the library doesn't have one and I can't find it on-line."
"I just happen to have a book on my desk with a chapter on nested logit models."
"I thought you would."

Later, I was writing a web page where I said,
"... for more detailed explanations, one would need to read a book specifically on categorical data analysis. My two favorite books on categorical data analysis are ..."

It occurred to me as I was walking back from class:

  1. Who just happens to have a book lying on their desk with a chapter on nested logit models, in Stata, no less, and

  2. Who the heck has even one "favorite" book on categorical data analysis, much less two!

Also, in the next two weeks I am going to not one, but two, conferences on statistical software, taking a class on tagsets, another class on statistical graphics and I am very excited about it and looking forward to all of it.

Sometimes I get annoyed when people act as if I don't know very much judo, but very seldom and not for very long. Coaching the Olympic team has never been my goal in life. Like a number of coaches in America, I think I have a fair bit to offer, but unlike a lot of coaches, after a day's practice, I am perfectly happy to go back the next day and explain to graduate students why stepwise logistic regression isn't necessarily the best idea. Some might argue that is lack of focus, others might say it is a good balance. Me, I would just call it Thursday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A time to live, A time to die, A time to eat burritos

I was reading Ronda's blog about taking a break from competition, and I was going to post a comment. Yes, she was actually lying on her bed in the room down the hall but getting up and talking to her would entail moving from this spot on the bed, lifting my laptop off my lap and walking over 15 feet. So, I got an even better idea, I hadn't posted anything to my blog for a while...

Especially given the changes in IJF rules, some people have questioned Ronda's decision to take a year off from competition. In her blog, Ronda was saying that she was so happy being home in the sunshine, eating real Mexican food that she had to ask herself why she would want to ever move back to freezing Boston.

I think she is doing exactly the right thing.

Long before that song from Iron Maiden, it was actually the book of Ecclesiates in the Bible which said,

"There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die... A time to love, and a time to heal, a time of war and a time of peace."

An interesting post on this subject, also on Blogger, made a very good point that we need transitions in our lives. He gives several examples, including how he would never have met his wife if he hadn't been dumped by a girlfriend.

Changes in life affect us in two ways. When we have changes for the better, we appreciate what we have so much more because there is a comparison. For example, there was a time when I had to work three jobs to pay the mortgage, keep the kids in private schools that I thought were really important for their education, pay off my husband's medical and funeral bills and so on. Often, I would work until I was just too exhausted to work any more, set the alarm clock for early in the morning and drag myself out of bed to write another grant or lecture or evaluation report before driving the children to school and teaching my morning classes. Now, every time I go to bed when I am tired, I realize how fortunate I am to have that luxury.

Whenever I do anything that is not an absolute necessity, from going to Universal Studios with the family today to paying for the other stupid cat's outrageous vet bill to searching on-line for a mountain cabin for a family vacation, I realize how lucky I am. There was a time when I could not have afforded anything but the absolute necessities and I appreciate all of the luxuries and extras of my life now, large and small.

In the same way, having those days when she was running in the snow in Boston, waking up at 5 a.m. far from home - all of those experiences make Ronda appreciate every sunny day in paradise a lot more. She doesn't take sitting by the beach eating good Mexican food for granted.

Having been there, I have no doubt Ronda will go back to competition. When she does, it will be a stronger, better Ronda than before the Olympics. Taking time off gives your body the opportunity to heal. All of those stresses and strains put on your joints and muscles can heal 100%. Push the human body to the edge of the envelope too many times and it tears - I am living proof of that fact, as are most other athletes who succeeded internationally.

The time an athlete has to rest, relax and pursue other interests provides the same advantage psychologically as it does physically. There is plenty of research on the negative impact of a long period of high stress.

Now, don't all of you who work out three times a week take off next week and say that I recommended it! However, it is a long, hard, road to the top of the world, as I have said approximately 43,287 times. Let's say you really have been pouring your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into competition for three or four or five years. I'd be willing to be that 95% of you who think you have been could have worked harder, a statistic I made up based on watching judo players for 38 years. Assuming you are one of the other 5%, I don't believe it is possible to train at that level for 10 years straight without crashing and burning at some point. By definition, you cannot peak every day. Most people will see a drop in performance right after a peak. If you have truly poured everything into hitting a high point in a competition, then, logically, you have nothing left.

Your two options are to continue to compete and give other people a chance to take a shot at you during your low point, or to step away and recharge your batteries.

As anyone in the family can tell you, Ronda is the slowest moving ambulatory human being on earth. Whenever we are out anywhere, we are always yelling at her to hurry up. Her sisters would marvel over the fact that she could work out for four hours a day but couldn't keep up with a five-year-old walking through Sea World.

Today, I noticed that we were all having to rush to keep up with Ronda. Her walking speed had quadrupled. When I commented on it, she said,
"I think before, I was always still charging my batteries, resting up from the last workout. Now, I'm fully charged."

Eventually, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Santa Monica Beach and Pancho's Tacos will get boring. Everything is like that. Right now, she is really happy with every workout at the West Coast Judo Training Center and really enjoying working with the athletes, but after a while, they'll be ready for something new. Now matter how great anyone is, they don't know everything. For now, she is happy running the workouts and I am happy having her to do it. It gives me time to get caught up on work, have conference calls with the other USJA officers on how to improve our organization, and still have time left over to go on the Mummy Ride and Jurassic Park (I DO recommend that, by the way).

When I was little, I would complain whenever it rained, because I always wanted it to be hot and sunny. When I was about ten, my grandmother sat me down and explained patiently,
"If you had your way, you know what would happen? Where it is sunny every day, you have desert. The rain softens the ground so that plants can put down roots and grow. When it is sunny, they grow upward, put out leaves and get sun. All of one, your plants drown. All of another, they wither and die. In every life, rain must fall. Remember that."

Then she gave me the Book of Proverbs to read and sent me upstairs, where I read it by the window looking out at the rain. That is actually one of the more memorable afternoons from when I was a small child. Incidentally, the Book of Proverbs comes right before Ecclesiastes. Bet you didn't think I knew that, did you.

There is ...

"a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
... A time to seek and a time to lose..."

Changes are good. God and my grandmother said so.

P.S. For those who are training oh so hard - Practice at Goltz Judo on Saturday, 9:30 a.m. - 2 pm, 1700 Danbury, Claremont, CA. followed by conditioning in the park.
Sunday practice at Santa Monica Beach. Tony has some great conditioning planned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blogs are for old people

Blogs are for old people. Email is for old people, too. So my children tell me. This would bother me except for the fact that I realize I actually AM an old person.

If there are any secrets to happiness, I am sure that one of them must be to quote the Delphi Oracle, "Know thyself."

Old people like to pontificate. Although I like twitter, it is difficult to wax philosophical in 140 characters or less. The communication many young people have does concern me, and I count young as anyone under 30. (The fact that I remember when the slogan was "Don't trust anyone over 30" is further proof of the fact that I am old.)

My latest philosophical revelation came tonight looking around at practice. I realized that Sawtelle is a recreational judo club. When this occurred to me, I felt perfectly satisfied because my daughter, Julia, is a member of Sawtelle and she is ten years old, which is a perfectly appropriate age for recreation. Because Kenji realizes that his job is to help kids in elementary school be in better physical health, develop skills such as public speaking when they explain a technique and problem-solving when they figure out why it doesn't work, he has a large and growing junior program. He knows what he is doing.

I have stolen a page from his book working with the players at the West Coast Judo Training Center. This year, I wanted them to win some regional tournaments, the state championships, junior nationals, ladders and national brown belt championships. Those were all stepping stones for them on the way up. They won a ton of gold medals, from the California state championships to junior nationals to the Ocean State International to the Golden State Open - just everywhere we aimed for to win this year, they won.

My goal for this year was not to recruit a lot of players from other places and pretend to be an Olympic training center on the west coast. We have plenty of people trying to do that already, all over the country, and they are pretty much all failing at it. You don't have an Olympic program with ten-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds who have only been in judo four years. What we do have at the West Coast Training Center is time. We have time to teach technique. We have time for extra rounds of randori, individual instruction, visiting other dojos. I said before that the benefit the coaches' kids have is all of that extra time. Well, now Gary, Ronda, Tony and I, along with a lot of help by people like Sarko Balian, Bill Caldwell, Blinky Elizalde and others are trying to give this advantage to other players.

Everyone wants to coach Ronda or "the next Ronda". Me, I want to develop 20 more Rondas. (I would normally say that I also want Ronda to do the dishes, but since she split the cost of a cleaning lady with me today, the dishes are done and I am happy.)

The best bet I know for producing 20 more Rondas is providing the same program I did for the first one, which actually includes a lot of judo practices at different places, meeting new kids, trying new techniques and getting pushed to go on to a higher level only when she was ready to win at it.

I also want Julia to have a good time at judo, which is why even though I notice that when she is doing randori with Hunter or Saki or Francis she is talking as much as she attacks, I ignore it. I know the difference between an Olympic athlete and a ten-year-old. If we had fewer coaches pretending they were coaching the Olympic team when what they are really coaching are ten-year-olds, developing teenagers and older adults who just want to socialize with exercise judo would grow in both quantity and quality.

Whether you are an old person with a blog, a judo coach with a recreational club or a ten-year-old, be yourself. You're probably good at that.

----------- REQUIRED JUDO TIP --------------
You need to do your matwork faster. I know that and I don't even know you. If you have ever had someone hit the mat, cover up and be saved by the referee saying "Matte!" your matwork is obviously too slow.

Here is a simple drill. Do ten repetitions of your favorite mat move. Do it right-sided. On the first one, try to do it as technically perfect as possible. The second one, try to do just as perfect but a little faster. Keep this up trying to make each repetition faster than the last one. Repeat on the left side. Now do it again with a second mat technique.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Starting Fires

Jerry Hays sent me a link to a cool site that has Billy Joel's song, "We didn't start the fire" with photos of nearly everything mentioned, from Doris Day to the Suez Canal to Bob Dylan to the Ayatollah Khomeini. It is a good reminder of the balance I always seek - and seldom find - in my life.

If you look at the pictures, they pretty much flash through political events, major news stories (not always the same thing - think the O.J. Simpson trial versus the war in Afghanistan), literary giants, such as Hemingway, popular films and who won the World Series. All of these snapshots represent a huge event to millions of people, and were defining events of their era.

I realize that, by comparison, whether one particular little orange belt learned to do a sacrifice technique correctly is not a life-changing event. On the other hand, most people's lives are determined by thousands of non-life-changing events piled on top of one another. Whether you did your homework for a thousand different nights is a huge factor in making it into Harvard. Whether you came to practice a thousand different days determines who goes to the Olympics and who stays home. Whether an adult thought you were important enough to spend five minutes teaching you 10,000 times over your childhood determines who wins the Nobel Prize and who is the Prison Inmate of the Month. So, I try to balance not taking what I do too seriously and not taking it too lightly. As I have said before, coaching in general, and probably judo in particular, a good coach needs to be smart enough to do it well and dumb enough to believe it's important.

Speaking of judo ... it was another great judo weekend in sunny southern California. First, we had practice at San Shi from 10-11:30, then from 1-4. After that, Tony Comfort took a group to the beach where they played football until it was dark. After dinner, everyone went back to the hotel for swimming, ping pong and meeting up with friends. Let me take this opportunity to point out that Tony got lost every single place we went.

After sleeping like a collection of rocks, we headed up to Temecula. The positive part of Sunday practice was that it was a really scenic drive. The downside was it was much farther than we had believe and so we all ended up there about half an hour late, with the exception of Tony who got lost yet again and was so late he gave up and went home!

Their dojo is really cool. The side of it opens up, so on a warm day like today, it is almost like working out outside. Julia got some really good pictures of Paul Nogaki teaching uchimata. I thought the lighting effect was pretty cool.

If you are ever in Temecula, you should definitely stop in and see their judo club. They were unbelievably nice. Not only did they invite us to their dojo, and did Paul teach his signature uchi mata, but they barbecued hamburgers for us afterward. Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch.

So, let's add it all up - 7 1/2 hours of judo practice, football, swimming, barbecue, dinner and the Sheraton Resort. Getting back to work on Monday is going to be very relaxing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quotes and other dumb things

At the practice with West Coast Judo Training and Pasadena Judo Club, when 10-year-old Haykus asked Ronda to sit on him so he could see how she did that pin where she squeezes all of the air out of a person and they can't breathe.

"Haykus, did you just ask me to sit on you? When guys ask me that, I always say no, so I'm going to have to say no to you, too, buddy."

When Julia forgot her belt and I tied my red and white belt around her three times so she could keep her gi top closed, an ancient judo instructor almost beside himself sputtered,

"That little girl shouldn't be wearing a red and white belt. She isn't a sixth-degree black belt."

"What tipped you off? The fact that she's 3 1/2 feet tall?"

"Did you wash that gi?"
"It's not dirty, I only wore it once."

Sam: "Julia, why are you watching TV and not doing your homework?"
Julia: "I don't have a pencil."
Sam: "How are you going to find your pencil by watching TV? Did Hannah Montana take it?"

Old guy (overheard): "I don't think that AnnMaria should be allowed to be president of the USJA. She is always talking about her daughter who won an Olympic medal."

Me: "WTF? First of all, mothers talk about their daughters. It's in the job description. Second, I think you are just jealous because my kid won an Olympic medal and yours didn't. Third, what do you want me to talk about, how stupid you are? Happy now?"

Ronda: "I don't want to help clean the house. I just want to lay here and read my book."
Dennis: "And I don't want to go to work, I want to have my bodily wastes be legal tender."
Me: "You have to admit that would make for an interesting scene at the checkout counter in the grocery store."

Maria, after hearing that someone at work claimed to have done structural equation models by hand using a pencil and paper (only slightly less likely than having built a nuclear reactor out of wood using only his teeth as tools).
"Yeah, and at the newspaper, we didn't use layout software. We just cut out our stories and glued them on a big piece of paper."

Today, I went to work, went to judo, appointed people to committees, called the USJA office, did nage no kata badly, taught a class on SPSS, met with a person on LISREL and generally was useful. Nope, I am not going to try never to offend anyone because I am president of a national organization. I don't care what anyone else thinks - I am happy with my life and my family.

I believe Dr. Seuss was on the right track

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter.

Bothering My Friends

Julia stayed home from school sick today. I wasn't feeling so hot myself, so I stayed home with her. After so many hours laying in bed, I got bored, so I called up Jimmy Pedro, Sr. and bothered him.

When someone whose competence I respect makes a different choice than I would have made, I wonder about it. One possibility is that they are just dumber than me, but the more interesting alternative is maybe they have an idea I haven't thought of. Jimmy had mentioned taking his team on a trip overseas and I was curious. It seemed to me like a repetition of the same failed strategy I have seen over and over, which is:

  1. Young players win a couple of matches at U.S. Open or lower level tournament, placing third, fifth or not at all.

  2. Coaches and parents are convinced that said player is the "next Jimmy Pedro", or now it is the "next Ronda Rousey"

  3. Large quantities of money are spent to send the player to tournaments with athletes who have placed repeatedly in the world championships and Olympics, to whom player loses in the first round. Occasionally, player may beat one of these players but never places in the tournament.

  4. Coaches and parents cite the fact that the player lasted the entire five minutes or beat one player in the top 10, 20 or 30 in the world, as evidence that player is "coming up".

  5. This continues until the parents run out of money or the player runs out of interest. Then it starts all over with some new young players.

I asked Jimmy why he was doing this and what would be different. He said a couple of reasons, some made absolute sense. Some, I am skeptical. The first difference is that he said he would go with them to analyze what they did right and what they did wrong so they did not come back and make the same mistakes over and over. That's an excellent point. There are words for people who think they can coach themselves. "Stupid" and "arrogant" are two that come to mind. It's enormously difficult to compete at an international level against top players. When you do, you are on automatic pilot. This is when all of those thousands of repetitions pay off. The notion that you can compete with 100% of your attention and simultaneously analyze your performance with the remaining percent of your attention should be obviously blatantly ridiculous for those of you who passed third grade math.

Jimmy isn't just any coach. He has a proven track record and a game plan. I don't say this just because I like him, although I do. The fact is, if you have players on five Olympic teams, players who win gold, silver and bronze medals in the worlds and Olympics, then you do have some claim to knowing what you are doing. When he goes to these events, he has specific objectives for the players, what he wants them to do and what he wants to look for.

The second point he made, with which I agreed, was that those players would not just fly in, compete in the tournament and go home. They were going to stay and train for a week, working out with the players they fought in the tournaments. He also thought that the style of the competitors they would train with in practice was similar to the style his players would most need to learn to beat, especially given the new rule changes.

Where we disagreed, which is one place we always disagree, is that I think you shouldn't go to a tournament unless you have a solid chance to win it. Yes, anything is possible but if your possibility involves your entire division, minus you, taking the earlier bus to the venue, which is then commandeered by a crazed serial killer who mows them all down with a machine gun and then eats their livers - well, I would say that does not fit my definition of a solid chance to win.

Jimmy thinks it is important for people to get matches and to get experience fighting players at the top level. He says that the players he wants to take have all improved dramatically in the past two years (I agree there), that their judo has gotten significantly better recently (I haven't seen them recently, but if he says it, I am sure it is true), that he certainly doesn't think they are so far out of the running at these tournaments that they will be an embarrassment to the country (I also agree there).

I am still unconvinced. Definitely what he is planning is smarter and better than what we have been doing. He was too polite to ask me if I had a better idea. I am not sure. I might. I am hatching one.

Something one of my professors said thirty years ago, and I have never forgotten,

"Ladies and gentlemen, we must always remember that while Burroughs had all of its engineers at work inventing a better adding machine, Steve Wozniak was in his garage inventing the Apple computer."

Jimmy is an amazingly great coach. He's designed an adding machine better than anyone else. If I was an athlete, at this very moment, I would do whatever he said because it would be my best bet.

What we really need in this country, though, is a computer. Excuse me while I go out to the garage ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Product of the Choices We Make

Some really good people called me today and talked to me about serious concerns they have about the failure of some coaches to safeguard their junior competitors, especially females. They gave examples of tournaments where coaches were at parties drinking where players far under legal age were present, and the coach did nothing. They mentioned clubs where it was common knowledge that underage players were having sex and everyone turned a blind eye. These very good people very articulately stated their belief that these types of behaviors made it hard for us to retain female athletes in the sport and just in general caused problems all the way around. As one of them pointed out, if a high school teacher was at a party at the school, say for the Biology Club, and students were drinking and he/she didn't do anything, that teacher would be fired. As the president of the USJA, they thought I should do something. They did not have a good idea as to what that something was, but thought the issue should be brought up.

I agree it is an important point and I don't mean to abdicate responsibility. However, I do want to point something out, I told them. All of those parents chose the places they sent their children. Some may have made mistakes or been unaware of the situation. However, in some cases, the parents were fully aware. More than once, I have been very upfront with parents about why I thought their child should not go to a particular club. I do this largely because I wish people had been more forthright with me when Ronda was younger. Everyone was too afraid of offending someone to tell me the truth. Now, if I feel there is no way on God's earth I would send my child to a judo club, camp, clinic or tournament, I find it impossible to reconcile in good conscience standing by silently while you send your child there.

The same is true for athletes or students or anyone else. Over the years, I have known a number of athletes who drank regularly, some who smoked marijuana and some who used steroids. Now, I cannot claim to be Mother Teresa. In fact, I am sitting here writing this blog drinking a glass of red wine (very good red wine, too). However, the fact is that I am 50 years old and not competing in anything. As a competitor, I made the choices that would help me succeed. I didn't drink because judo is a sport with weight divisions and with the limited calories I could take in, there was no room for having six beers in a night. Athletes who do drink regularly have to cut those calories in other places or do drastic weight cutting, sitting in the sauna for seven hours before weigh-ins and other efforts that just make them that much less able to compete the next day. I only feel a little bad for them when they lose, because I actually felt bad for them weeks or months earlier when I saw them making those mistakes, when I knew they were going to lose.

Whether an athlete, a coach or a college student, the person who doesn't forego playing games on their Wii or computer, get up and go to class or practice and in general put a real, sincere effort into succeeding doesn't succeed. This doesn't take a Ph.D. in statistics to figure out. No one is going to check on you every night to make sure you studied or did your 100 matwork uchikomis, no one is going to poke you and make you get up in the morning to go to class or go out and run. If you don't do those things, you will likely fail, in school, in competition, in life.

My niece often accuses me of being judgmental. She'll ask me questions like,
"How can you say that person is a failure in life? Maybe he is happy working at a carwash at age 50 and sleeping under a bridge."

Maybe. Just like my children always accuse me of saying the same thing over and over (which I - usually - do on purpose), my grandmother used to tell me the same thing over and over - Every talent you have is a gift from God. Try to use it so he doesn't think he made a mistake in giving it to you.

If you have the ability to be a great athlete, a great writer, a great scientist, a great manager - or even relatively decent at one of those things - and you decide instead to spend your days playing video games, drinking beer and working out four times a week and leaving other people to, in Levinson's words, "Become a man and pay your dues to society and the species", then, in my judgment, yes, you are a failure at life. By the way, I looked up the meaning of the word judgment. It is the capacity of making decisions authoritatively, objectively and wisely. Engaging in judgment is not a bad thing, in my, um, judgment.

All of us, parents, coaches, athletes, students, need to take responsibility for the choices we make, because I guarantee you, those choices are what will shape the rest of your lives.
===== REQUIRED JUDO TIP ============
Along the lines of repeating myself over and over ... Ronda said that someone asked her at practice today why she always teaches the same thing. Her answer was that it was important they learn some specific gripping techniques and they had not learned them very well yet. She said that her goal as a coach was to make them better, not show how smart she was.

I am going to repeat myself because those of you I see at practices around the country don't seem to have been listening. I wonder about you people. I win a world championship gold medal. My daughter wins a world championship silver medal. I tell you, "Look, this is how we did it."

I would think you might at least try seriously following that advice. But no, people keep looking for the magic, easy shortcut. I will go to this club and Joe Cool will be my coach and I will live in Amsterdam for a year and I will win the Olympics.

It doesn't work that way.

I am telling you this for the last time (okay, well probably not), still, I am telling you this AGAIN.

Do matwork uchikomis. Do 50 of two different techniques, right and left-sided. that is 200 a night. Do these every night. Quit whining about not having enough partners, not having enough tough people, not living in an area with a lot of judo. Find a body. Find three or five bodies, nice people who will let you do 40 repetitions each on them. Pick a couple of techniques. If you have attentional problems and just cannot do 100 each of two different techniques, do 50 each of four techniques. Or vary, one night do two, another night do two others, the next night do all four. DO THIS.

That's the secret. There is no secret. It is work, repetition and sacrifice. Make the choice. Do it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Madame President

To steal a favorite line of my daughter's ...

Well, I'll be damned!

So, Jim Webb resigned today and according to the USJA by-laws, our corporate counsel and about 500 years of precedents, that makes me the president. I am not unaware of the fact that whenever I end up in a position like this it is definitely to the great gratification of some and the great dismay of others.

It is really funny because I know people who scheme, make deals, sell out friends so they can get elected to some position. Me, it usually happens because I just get really tired of seeing things not get done the way I think they should be, fume,
"Somebody should do something about this!"

and then some smart-alec like Hayward Nishioka or Martin Bregman steps up and whispers in my ear,
"You know, you're somebody."

On my list of 43 things, becoming USJA President is not even in the top 43. Actually, my list only has five things. Maybe I better make a longer list.

Actually, I think I'll probably be a better president because of that. Work is good, life is good, my kids are good, my husband still wants to be married to me after 11 years (I just verified this with him). I'll do the best I can for the next 15 months and, after that, if someone else gets elected, then I will learn to tap dance or something with the extra spare time.

Speaking of tap-dancing, I was in a meeting yesterday where the department bought lunch for our team for a job well done. We were asked what we would like as rewards for successful performance. I said I had always wanted a tap-dancing horse, but they did not give me one. So, why did they ask?

I suppose I should be serious and issue a letter about my ideas as president. (And I do have some.) So, here it is.


It is gratifying to be given this opportunity to serve the USJA as President. We end the year with strong clubs, dynamic judo leaders throughout the country and a professional staff at our national office in Colorado Springs. I look forward to working with all of them to grow judo in the United States.

Our membership is over 8,000, our budget is balanced and we have active USJA organizers in every region. In Michigan, Deb Fergus, Bob Treat and co. are running the All-Women’s Tournament in November. The USJA will be supporting the coaching clinic and athlete clinic, with Olympic bronze medalist (and my little pumpkin) Ronda Rousey, long-time coach Vickie Daniels and other top female coaches from the Midwest.

[Ronda - Vickie and I have known each other since I was 13. We fought at Bill Horve's Decatur Dojo at a tournament every single month. Don't believe anything she says about me as a child. I was a perfect angel - just exactly like you. They were going to name the Good Behavior Award the AnnMaria Award but I was too modest and told them to name it after Mother Teresa instead.]

In Rhode Island, Serge Boussyou is already planning the next Great American Workout, an event that drew well over 100 coaches and players from New England, New York and throughout the northeast. In the south, James Wall and Jeff Miller continue to grow the USJA through clinics in every area from kata to referees to coaching. Roy Hash, in the southwest, is hosting camps, clinics and tournaments to grow judo in Texas. Heiko Rommelman and Jeff Giunta are teaching kata throughout the east coast, from the YMCA camp in New York to a clinic in Connecticut organized by our chair of regional coordinators, Joan Love. Four members of their club, along with USJA Board member Michelle Holtze and her partner all qualified for the IJF kata championships. Dr. James Lally may be moved up from Donor of the Year to Donor of the Decade.

The USJA leaders continue to work collaboratively with the USJF. Mark Hunter, in Ohio, hosts regular joint USJA-USJF workouts. Gary Goltz is hosting a joint USJA – USJF Winter Nationals in December, begun as a USJA event and now in its third year. The National Brown Belt Championships in San Francisco, hosted by Mitchell Palacio, was a USJA- USJF co-sponsored event. The USJA/ USJF West Coast Training Center continues to grow as a source for judo players and coaches from around the region to develop their skills. Several areas around the country are examining this model for possible replication in their area. Jesse Jones will be hosting the USJA Junior Nationals with strong support from USJF clubs throughout California.

Several steps are underway to support and expand the USJA efforts to provide services to all members. The USJA was never intended to be an organization run for a few members of its board of directors. It is for everyone. This means an expansion of electronic services, our website, USJA Headlines, USJA Forum, USJA Development Resources site and our two electronic magazines. Not only is the number of Americans on-line increasing annually, but the younger players, coaches and parents, the future of judo, is disproportionately on the net. I will be working with some young volunteers to bring more of the USJA on-line. If you are interested in volunteering, please email me at . Exciting times are ahead.

Jim Pedro, Sr. and his coach education committee will be working to increase the number of coaching clinics around the country to assist our USJA leaders in sharing their expertise with one another

I will be hosting a conference call with our regional coordinators in the near future. To find your local regional coordinator, please check here

Let him or her know what you would like to see happening in the USJA.

If you would like to be a regional coordinator – VOLUNTEER! All it takes is a willingness to work to develop judo, a good idea or two and a couple of folks to work with you. Ask Willie Williams, that’s how he started the Judo League.

I am sorry there is not enough space here to mention all of the outstanding judo leaders, instructors, players and parents throughout the USJA. Please do know that your contributions are appreciated.

Feel free to email me your comments or suggestions at any time. Together we can grow judo in the U.S.A.

Thank you for supporting the USJA!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sneakerdoodle Zebra Interview

Julia interviews Ronda on being a vegan and other important points.

and a follow-up ending to the interview with details on the surprise tastes of fellow training center athlete, Megan