Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why Anna Seck is Cool

Two weeks ago at the Winter Nationals, Joan Love had flown all the way from Connecticut to compete in the women's masters division. There was no one for her to play. Anna Seck, despite having refereed all day for two days, having to give up a fair bit of weight and not having trained for the tournament at all decided that she would borrow my gi and compete to give Joan a couple of matches. To be fair to Joan, she IS quite a bit older than Anna, but, on the other hand, she knew she was going to compete and had been training, so she had somewhat of an advantage.

Anna got in some really good attacks, including a couple of nice seoi nages, but in the end, Joan won.

So, why is Anna so cool?

First of all, there is that whole mutual benefit and welfare thing which so many people espouse but so few people embody. How many of YOU would have gotten out there and fought just to give the other person the chance to compete.

Most people would have a hundred excuses - I'm not in shape, I came here to referee, my back hurts. Anna just got out and did it.

More than getting injured, most people are afraid of the snarky comments they will hear afterwards - oh that wasn't such a great attack, your technique isn't strong enough (whatever the hell THAT means). I think facing that takes more bravery for most people than the actual physical act of competing.

I DO think referees should compete. The best referees, like Hayward Nishioka and Martin Bregman were all competitors and they competed for a LONG time, not just in their twenties. Hayward first placed in the nationals before I was born and was still competing in the senior nationals 20 years later when I first won. Martin competed in the masters divisions until he had to replace body parts. If you don't go out there and compete you don't really understand the tempo of the match, and you don't empathize with the emotion when you feel you are unfairly treated.

People like Anna get out there and DO it.

When Ronda competes at tournaments like the Winter Nationals it is easy for her. She knows she is going to win, she knows everyone is going to praise her and while she is fine with the fact that it benefits her opponents, too, she is doing it for HER, to help herself get back in the game.

For Anna, she doesn't know if she is going to win or not, she knows if she doesn't some people will talk trash (because some people are morons) and she was doing it to help someone else get better.

So, that is why Anna wins my prize for way cool which carries with it 1,000,000 beanie points renewable at any West Coast Judo Training Center practice. [You can redeem your beanie points to select a random word and make everyone shout it out whenever you feel like it and for other valuable prizes which I have not thought of yet.]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You don't have to be perfect to go to the dojo

I am so not perfect.

I have been feeling that a lot lately. I used to be that coach that criticized parents who did not bring their child to judo every practice, even though the child clearly had so much talent. I used to talk about people who wanted their kids to be "mediocre at everything instead of great at something". I definitely used to turn up my nose at people who didn't come to practice every night.

And then I got a life.

Now I am like one of those people who have perfect theories about raising children but no actual children to go with it, and who then have a child who throws temper tantrums in the grocery store and pees on grandma's foot.

Tonight we did not go to judo practice. We went to Julia's Christmas concert. She played the saxophone well enough not to induce hearing damage and then came home and did homework which she had left over because the time in school she would have been doing this she was doing some student council activity. She didn't go to judo yesterday because she was playing in a basketball game. She is a decent basketball player but I don't think the WNBA will be scouting her. Then she had a lot of homework. And so it goes. Other nights, I don't get her to practice because they have this odd notion at work that if they pay you, you should show up and do some work, and by the time I am done with that, it is too late to take her to practice.

So ... we are going to practice on Saturday and Sunday because that is when I can fit it into the schedule. If I can get Ronda to take her down to Orange County Kodokan for their practice on Monday or Tuesday morning when they have that winter camp, she'll go there, and we'll all definitely be at the camp in San Diego on the 29th & 30th because I have those days off.

You know what? I have decided that is okay. Maybe she won't join her sister on the Olympic team in 2016. I am raising a kid who is healthy, smart, hard-working and kind.

Yes, I won't be going to the World Masters - ever - even if I had two knees that worked. I go to practice when I can, teach what judo I know, and keep from turning into a complete Grandma Bowl-o-Jello .

Here is my advice to you - if you can only make it to judo on Saturday afternoons, then come Saturday afternoon and don't even feel bad about it. You will win a battle in your own personal fight against obesity and heart disease, spend some time with people it is enjoyable to be around and make your own personal contribution to making judo in America grow and improve.

Now, what could be more perfect than that?


Speaking of Saturday afternoon, in case you didn't know, Ronda Rousey (world silver medalist in judo) and Roman Mitichiyan (world bronze medalist in sambo) will be doing a clinic together at the West Coast Judo Training Center on Saturday from 1-4 . Cost for the whole day, including conditioning practice in the morning, is $10.

Well-meaning friends have given me the advice that Ronda should not teach for such a low amount, and believe me, the next clinic you see with those two won't be at that price, but hey, it's Christmas and it's friends.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Christmases are not like other people's

We were putting up the Christmas tree, nailing lights around the windows outside, playing Christmas songs, hanging ornaments - when I found the whip. It was a leather bullwhip packed in with the Christmas ornaments. I was about to yell at everyone in sight but then I remembered Christmas last year I had done the exact same thing.

"What the hell is this? Let me tell you, there is nothing you could do with a leather whip that is mother-approved in this house!"

Jennifer responded,
"Why do you look at me? Just because I lived in San Francisco for several years doesn't mean I am into S & M. It doesn't mean I am a wicca-practicing lesbian either, although I know that is what all you people in this house secretly think. Why don't you ever blame Ronda for anything?"

[Let it be noted that Jennifer took down the crucifix in the living room to put up a Christmas stocking, so wicca or not, she comes in first or second on my vote of family member most likely to go to hell. It is a close race with Dennis who encouraged her saying that having the cross up was tantamount with taunting the baby Jesus with 'You're going to die.' I am pretty sure they are both going to hell. ]

Suddenly, one of the older sisters remembered,
"Oh, yes, that is Ronda's whip."

Ronda defended herself,
"You're lying. I get calls all the time from creepy perverts wanting me to beat them up. That's disgusting! I don't have any whips. You guys are just trying to get me in trouble."
[It should be noted that Ronda complains that I put things in quotes when it was not exactly what she said. Oh well. It's not like I roam the house with a tape recorder.]

The sister (I don't remember which one it was) persisted,

"No, remember way back when Ronda got that outstanding player or whatever it was award and it came to the house and it was a glass fist with a leather whip wrapped around it and we all thought it was the award for athlete most likely to grow up to be a dominatrix."

At this point Ronda muttered, "I hate you" and there may have been some Christmas cookies thrown at the offending sister (in the interest of strict accuracy, it may have been an ornament, cinnamon bun or other non-lethal missile) who continued,

"And we gave it to Venice Dojo for the trophy case but we didn't think that the leather whip quite fit in with the family vibe at Venice so we took it off of there. And it must have been around the time of the Christmas party so the whip got left with the ornaments."

So, I remembered all of this and having accomplished the Christmas tradition of suspecting one of my daughters of harboring secret sadomasochistic tendencies, packed the whip back with the ornaments (apparently, that's where it goes now) and went out into the kitchen for more Christmas cookies.

This is one of the benefits/ drawbacks of getting old. You have the same experiences over and over because you forget that you had them before.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We All Need Someone to Lean On

I started out the week thinking,
"God, I'm lucky!"

and finished the week coughing like I was about to die of tuberculosis and thinking,

"God, I'm lucky!"

The Winter Nationals, as always, was a great tournament. It was nice to see Ronda competing again. It was nice to see some of these young athletes who I remember from the time they came up to my knee still in the game as adults, like Gary Zakarian, who won the middle weight black belt division. It's always kind of bittersweet when I see people like Gary, or Dave Overbury, from the old Ogden's Dojo, because I still cannot get used to John Ogden not being around after 50 years.

Mostly I felt incredibly lucky because our new board is amazing. We had Gary Goltz running the tournament, Joan Love competing in it and refereeing, Bill Montgomery, Paul Nogaki and Joan Love participating in the coaching clinic, Bill, Paul and Neil Ohlenkamp coaching players, Lowell Slaven running the jiu-jitsu event. Our first official meeting is January 23, 2010 in Las Vegas, but our board members have already jumped into projects from revising the website (Neil, working with webmaster John Moe) to single-handedly writing each person who volunteered to help the USJA in any way (Joan Love).

For the last few days, I have been in bed with the flu, so it was a good thing Ronda is around to run practice. [Gary Butts is around but he is like me, he is always there so no one is impressed. They just say, 'Oh, it's you.'] On top of all of that, we have a camp coming up in San Diego December 29-30th. I could not go to practice (with the coughing, sneezing and none of that crap you see advertised on TV doing any bit of good medicine) but there were still another 10 people who signed up for the ashi waza camp today. Two of them don't count, though, because they live in San Diego. Well, they count, but my point is I think we can still take 3 or 4 more people from L.A. We currently have enough people to fill nine rooms at 3 to a room. I am going to lay in bed tomorrow, too, because I feel like I was run over by a steamroller and sound like I am auditioning for the part of Darth Vader.

Still, I realize how lucky I am to have other people around me who can pitch in, help out and make judo better.

I AM really lucky! Except for the sneezing part.


Two points when doing an armbar. First and foremost, lock the person's forearm against your body. It should be your whole body weight leaning back and her/him trying to hold you up with one arm, NOT your two arms pulling against his/her two arms, that's too close to an even battle. Second, squeeze your legs together to make it more difficult for the person to maneuver. You don't have to scissor your legs together like Ronda did in the picture above. Some people prefer it that way, some people prefer having their legs tight together and doing a leg curl. Either way, the aim is to keep the opponent's arm locked tight against your body.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun & Games from the West Coast Training Center

Pay attention to the first group to the left. I took this picture today because it illustrates a common problem for many dojos. That is, you have a group of people training but one person is the odd man (or woman) out. Here is one solution. Today we had enough people who were 48 kg and up but we had three smaller people. Two were about the same size but Erin was right in the middle. Too big for the smaller people and too small for the bigger people. In this particular drill, players are pulling their partner across the mat by pulling up their belt hand over hand. It develops hand strength in both players as well as developing the same muscles as rope climbing. This exercise is often preferable because:

A. Most dojos don't have a rope to climb.
B. Many people don't have the physical strength to climb a rope, they need to work up to it.

Since we didn't have a match for Erin, she is going two on one. She is pulling Bradley while Angel sits on him. When they get to the end of the dojo, they switch and Bradley and Angel pull together in a tug-of-war type way. Angel, who is the youngest and smallest, does the least work, Erin, who is oldest and most advanced, does the work of her two partners and Bradley, who is in-between does in-between in terms of work load. At the same time, everyone else has a partner and is doing the same drill.


Too easily distracted to ever do a puzzle with more than two pieces? Well, here is a judo puzzle just for you, then. Ronda throwing Allen Wrench with harai goshi

Print out this page, cut out the pictures and match them up. See, the USJA really does provide judo activities for everyone.

You're welcome.

P.S. Practice is 11-2 tomorrow (Sunday, November 29) 537 Vine St, West Covina, CA
Show up. You know you want to.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

YOU are a recreational player and we love you. Deal with it.

At the USJA Town Hall meeting in Connecticut a very insightful woman commented,

"I am 41 years old and started judo late. I am a brown belt. I will never be an elite competitor and I feel as if most people in judo place no value on me because of that. Being small, middle-aged and female makes that doubly so."

Is it true that we don't value recreational players? Speaking for myself, I would say that I do, very much so. One reason is that I know that people like this woman are much more likely to stay in judo, become a black belt and eventually teach the next generation than the 13-year-old who won the junior nationals this year. Think about the difference in persistence, maturity and just knowing your own mind that you have at 13 versus at 41.

As I told her, the people like me, who competed internationally and then stayed on to teach are RARE. I can think of hundreds of people I knew as competitors who have not been on a judo mat in years. Many of those who do still teach, such as Randy Rhodes in Missouri, I think Lee Naumann is still in judo - these were guys from my club but not household names or Olympic medalists. They were, if we were honest about it, recreational players.

Our recreational players are likely the real base of the pyramid and we better start treating them right. Our USJA board member, George Weers, once asked,

"What does the USJA offer that the average club coach really NEEDS?"

I would answer that we could offer programs to help develop their skills and those of their players. I was just on the phone with John Moe inviting him to bring players to a technique competition we will be hosting at the West Coast Judo Training Center. This program is funded by the USJA and USJF to be a development program. We often try out new ideas and host clinics with people from Sensei Okada to Chuck Jefferson to Richard Elizalde to Ronda Rousey. We have a new clinic coming up with sambo world medalist Roman Mitichiyan. All of these are just to teach more judo.

Back to the technique competition - this is for people to show what judo they KNOW, not how tough they are. Being tough and knowing judo can both happen in the same person, but they don't always. What if you start judo at 40 years old and have to go to work on Monday? Maybe you would like to be recognized for your technique and we certainly want you to have good technique because odds are you will be teaching the next generation. Maybe you are just 13 years old and would like to show off. I'll give more on the specifics in my next post.

Bill Montgomery, one of our incoming board members, said in his inimitably tactful manner,

"I have news for you people, ALL of our judo players in America with the exception of one or two, like AnnMaria's daughter, are recreational players. I hear people say, 'My son, Joe is an elite athlete.' No, he isn't. Your son Joe is ten years old! He still needs to be reminded not to wipe his nose on his sleeve. He is beating other ten-year-old orange belts- oh, excuse me, green belts - that is NOT an elite athlete. Almost ALL of our judo players are recreational. They don't work out seven days a week, 52 weeks out of the year. That's okay. I can accept that as long as they are good people. And, if they're not good people, we don't want them around anyway."

I agree with Bill completely. I see a lot of silliness with people asking me, "Where should I take my 11-year-old to compete?"

I will say the same thing I always do ... You should take your child where he or she will have the most fun. I plan to hit the AAU Nationals this summer because Julia can visit her cousins and grandmothers in Missouri and I want to stay with her in a cabin and take her to swim in an honest-to-God river, which she has never done. Tournaments in between are primarily chosen based on whether we can stay at a hotel with a pool, because she needs to be a very capable swimmer by this summer. I can fish her out of a swift current, but I would rather not. Our other deciding factor is whether there is accompanying fun stuff - we are definitely hitting the All-Women's Tournament in Las Vegas in January (despite the name, competition starts at age five). My little girl has won the USJA junior nationals once and placed in them several times. She is a recreational judo player. You know why? BECAUSE SHE IS #@!ing ELEVEN YEARS OLD !

I am probably going to judo hell for this but when I was in Boston this week I did not take my daughter to Pedro's Judo Club, even though they teach very good judo there. I took her to the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium. Although she made and 'A' in science, I was not too pleased with her standardized test scores and I thought she might benefit more from seeing a scaled-down model of the solar system and learning about marine life. We also spent a lot of time in the pool and babysitting my granddaughter, Eva.

Do you see those two people in the picture ? Only one of them is an elite athlete but they both do judo and I love them both. This ad has been brought to you by reality.

Please, please, please, if you are a player, or a coach, or a parent, trade in all the medals for a share of stock in reality. Love your children, value everybody on your mat, because those people you are lavishing all of your time on because they are this year's silver medalist in the senior nationals or a three-time junior national champion at age ten - they aren't much more likely to win world medals than that 40-year-old.

Coincidentally, I ran across this article in Black Belt Magazine from 1975 about women's judo. My name isn't mentioned anywhere. My coach's name certainly isn't mentioned. I was 16 years old and did not even compete in the senior nationals. I was a freshman in college at the time and it never even crossed my mind to go because I could not afford to travel across country.

So, is my point that those recreational players are worth attention because some of them might turn out to be a world champion, like I did?

No. My point is that I wouldn't have BEEN a sixteen-year-old college freshman if it wasn't for the good influence of my recreational judo coaches.

Everyone who steps on that mat is important. That's reality.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Judo Outliers

I really liked Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, which focuses on people who are outstanding performers in fields from music to sports to programming. Gladwell's main conclusion was that people who are outstanding don't spend more hours practicing than people who are simply good, the spend MANY, MANY more hours practicing. He estimated it took around 10,000 hours to get to the point of outstanding performance.

Today, I was evaluating the West Coast Judo Training Center, since I am the kind of person who is constantly ruminating on every aspect of life. It occurred to me that since we had started it a couple of years ago we have had our ups and downs, but the overall trend is for more people to come to practices. Some days, when part of our group is gone to a tournament, we have fewer people than usual. Gary, Victor, Sam and I discussed canceling practice on some of those days and we came to the conclusion that no, we would have practice every single Saturday, as well as Sundays when there is no tournament scheduled. (So, we will be there every Saturday this month AND both Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving so you can work off all that food you overate).

I feel pretty good about the training center, for two reasons.

First, I can see individual progress made by players who come regularly.
This is even easier for Ronda to notice because she is not home that often. She mentioned Sammy, who she is using as an uke in this photo,

"I have never seen a kid improve so much so fast, conditioning, technique, he is light years ahead of where he was when the training center started. Yeah, Frankie and Eric are good coaches and Guerreros is a good club, but you don't see all their people improving that fast, so I think it must be the added workouts at the training center."

I think that is true for all of the players who train with us. They get good instruction at their home club PLUS they get 250 extra hours a year. A person who works out ONLY at the training center will hit 10,000 hours in 40 years. Not too good. However, let's say that person ALREADY works out ten hours a week (two hours a day during the week). They'll be outstanding in 20 years. Add in the training center time and they hit the 10,000 hour mark in 13.3 years. Does that extra 6.7 years matter? Well, let's see. Ronda started judo at 11, so 13.3 years will put her at that 10,000 hour mark at age 24.3, about 16 months before the 2012 Olympics. Twenty years would have her peaking at age 31, after the 2016 Olympics. I think it will matter to her.

Second, I take a long-range view. Just as all of the other good programs I see around the country - Pedro's, Mojica's - and around the world (think the Cuban women's program, the French program) - did not spring up within a year or two, I expect development of the training center to be a long-term process as well. I am very proud and pleased we have hit our second year. Statistics for small businesses give the failure rate as somewhere between 20-50% in the first year. Okay, well, we aren't really a business primarily but we do need to take in enough money to pay the rent. Being still standing after two years and still having people coming to practice is a good thing for a new concept. We have more people coming regularly to help teach and train and I have every confidence great things will come. It just takes practice.

--------------- Judo Tip -----------------------------------------

ANALYZE your performance. For example, I was listening to how a player did in a recent tournament. She had thrown the opponent for three yukos, then was thrown for a waza ari in the last few seconds and lost the match. My question was this:

"Don't you practice transition? If so, how did you end up with three yukos? Why didn't one of those yukos end up with a pin, an armbar or a choke?"

I don't know, but I do know if I was her I would go back and look at those videos. Did she always throw the player near the edge, so that the referee called matte and she didn't have a chance to follow up to matwork? If so, she needs to work on attacking inside.

Did her opponent immediately turn on her stomach or in some other defensive position? If so, she needs to work on attacking a player in that position.

Or, horrors, did the player just hesitate in her transition to matwork? I don't know the answer to any of those question. I do know that those are the questions she, and her coach, need to be asking and answering for themselves.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Foot sweeps - what did Victor do?

At practice today, Victor Ortiz taught foot sweeps. I never saw a group of people pick it up so quickly. Of course they were mostly experienced players but none of them do footsweeps very much. I cannot for the life of me tell you what he did differently. They did them moving forward, backward - the standard drills.

It is driving me crazy. I asked my youngest daughter and she just shrugged and said he was fun. The only thing I can think of at all is that he emphasized doing it hard and that if you do it right they fall and if you do it wrong it hurts, both you and them. Also, since it was a smaller class today, he was able to correct every little mistake with each group. Of course, this is at the training center, so we had quite a bit of time and they worked on foot sweeps for an hour.

Still, having seen many many times when people were taught footsweeps and spent the entire practice looking as if they had multiple physical and mental disabilities as they kicked away at their partners with no discernible effect, today was noticeably different.

I don't know why everyone was doing so much better today but my plan is that we will go over this many more times.

Speaking of ashi waza, it is experiencing a bit of a resurgence. Two of the sessions at the National Coaches Conference in Las Vegas in January will be on ashi waza. Bill Montgomery will be doing ashi waza drills and Hayward Nishioka will be doing a session on teaching ashi waza. I asked Hayward to bring copies of his book, Ashi Waza, to autograph. I am pretty sure this is the first book Hayward ever wrote.

Norm Miller (the AAU Judo chair) makes fun of me for all the Japanese terms I use but the name of the book IS "Ashi waza". So There.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why I do this !@#$

My husband called me from the phone downstairs. Since the election, I have been taking calls from so many people, he probably figured that was the only way he could get to talk to me.

"Can I get promoted to black belt?"

He asked, joking (he BETTER be joking, with the day I had!)

Julia was yelling at him,

"You're not even a white belt! You've never done randori! You don't hardly ever even come WATCH me fight! How do you think you should be a black belt?"

He said,
"Hey, I know your mom. I sleep with a world champion."

Julia made one of those faces that eleven-year-olds use to let you know you are veering into disgusting territory. My husband said to me, seriously,

"Why do you do this !@#$, anyway?"

I have been asking myself that question a lot lately, I wrote a "professional" editorial for Growing Judo on the direction the USJA is going. Seriously, I had a major operation, I have been working at home for a month because I can't walk and have been on pain medication and in between and after hours doing things like editing the magazine that is still not done.

I was talking to Karl Geis today and here is a brief summary of what I told him:

"Ask anyone who knew me when I was young and they will tell you I was not a very promising child. Make a list of things you don't want your twelve-year-old child to do and I did all of them with fighting at the top of the list. I was GOOD at fighting from the day I started judo because I already had lots of practice. My mom was a very small person, raising five children, working full time and when the school called there wasn't much she could do. If it wasn't for judo, I would be in jail now, no question about it. One day, I came to practice and the coach said,

'Miss AnnMaria, front and center.'

I came up thinking he was going to tell me how well I did in the last tournament. Instead he said,

'I heard from one of your teachers at school that you got in a fight last week.'

I said, with an attitude, as usual,

'Yeah, so?'
He said,
'If it happens again, don't ever come back here.'

In judo, I fought other kids and I got medals and pats on the back for it. People I had never met, like Frank Fullerton and Bruce Toups, sent plane tickets in the mail because they saw some potential in me. I fought in Paris, London, Vienna, Caracas, Hongkong. At 16, I was in college, at 18 I was an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, where I went to study judo. At 19, I was a college graduate. From there, the path was clear, graduate school, a profession, a world championship, more graduate school, family.

If it wasn't for that first coach, I guarantee you I would be in a women's prison somewhere. "

How do you pay someone back for saving your life? For setting you on a different path? My first judo instructor wasn't an Olympian, he wasn't a very high rank, he didn't have a red and white belt. He learned judo in the Air Force, I think, when he was stationed in Japan. He taught for a few years at the local YMCA while he was going to college on the G.I. Bill, then he got married and moved away. I asked him once why he taught judo and he didn't give me any high-minded lecture. He said something like it seemed like a good thing to do. Three of his students are teaching judo still, Randy Rhodes in Missouri, Tim Schultheis in Illinois and me. There may be more.

So, that is why I do this !@#$ . It's not for all of those people who think they are so important. It's for the people who make up the majority of the USJA, those coaches just like Bill Shelton at the Alton YMCA, who are so important in kids' lives and those kids who could be on the mat or who could be holding up a liquor store and could choose to do the former because those coaches made that choice possible. They are who make judo grow.

I donate money to support judo because I can now, thanks to the educational opportunities I gained as a result of judo. I don't do it so I can get recognized as a sponsor. I do it because Frank and Bruce did it for me, giving me opportunities to help me win because they saw how hard I trained. I do it because this is what I can do. It's not as if I can give Frank his money back (he died a little over a year ago). Bruce is still around, cracking jokes and teaching sasae but I don't think he's going to miss a payment on the Mercedes if he doesn't get a check from me.

When I looked at the results from the election, I was humbled. The first thought that went through my mind was,
"Damn! I hope I don't let these people down."

I mean that with all my heart and the people I thought of were my first coach, the kids at the Alton YMCA, Frank, Bruce, the cute little boys at Hayastan (they have to get more girls in that place), the teenagers at the West Coast Training Center.

I guess that is why I have this blog, because in my editorial in Growing Judo, I need to be presidential and give my vision for the USJA, which can be summed up in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "“The great thing in life is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” Although, of course, being me, I took a page and half more to say it. Still, this is what has been going through my head every day since the election results were announced.

"Damn! I hope I don't let these people down."

Friday, October 16, 2009

We got elected, now get to work!

The USJA election is over. I must say that I am pretty pleased with the outcome. The 11 people elected to the board all ran on the same slate with me or I with them, however you want to put it. Not only did we win, but we won by A LOT, a factor of two, three or four to one, compared to the opposing candidates. Several people called and emailed congratulations, which I very sincerely appreciate. The most amusing had to be my daughter, Ronda, who crowed into the phone,

"Woo-hoo, Mom, you kicked some old people USJA committee @$$ !"

In case you did not know, here is the new board, to take office at the next official board meeting.

Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, CA
Jim Pedro, Sr., NH
Gary Goltz, CA
Paul Nogaki, CA
Roy Hash, TX
Neil Ohlenkamp, CA
Marc Cohen, NY
Lowell Slaven, IN
Joan Love, CT
Bill Montgomery, CT
Dr. Jim Lally, CA

If you are interested in serving on any committees, or have suggestions, email me at and someone will contact you. If you want to donate money to support our programs, email me and I'll write you back twice !

Now we have to get to work. I have about 100 things I'd like to see happen. Here are some in no particular order.

* Work with USJF to have another USJA/USJF/ Judo Forum camp after the junior nationals. These are open to anyone with a gi (and $75). We give tons of scholarships to deserving people and they are great. Everyone who won the 2009 or 2010 junior nationals gets to attend free. There is always a lot of judo, pool parties and good times.

* Continue to improve our electronic communication. For a start, I really want to get our coaching materials more organized and more available. We have had a couple of people volunteer/ coerced to help with that. Neil "Mr." Ohlenkamp will spearhead this initiative, I hope (Neil, if you are reading this, hint, hint)

* Provide more outreach to clubs. This can be scholarships for camps and clinics, coaching materials, information like Growing Judo, the new Kodokan Technique program Hal Sharp has developed.

* See the All-Women's tournament that Deb Fergus and the Southside Dojo crew pioneered continue to expand. Roy Hash is now hosting one in Texas and there are some folks planning another tentatively scheduled for Las Vegas in January.

* Get more member services, like the arrangement we have with Golden Tiger Martial Arts , who give a 10% discount just for entering your USJA number.

-------------- REQUIRED JUDO TIP ----------------------

Learn ashi-waza and sutemi-waza (foot techniques and sacrifice techniques). As Bill Caldwell pointed out, I do ko soto gari, ko uchi maki komi and o soto gari, which are foot techniques, but I mean the techniques like foot sweeps - okuri ashi barai, de ashi barai, sasae tsurikomi ashi. I also do tani otoshi, which is a sacrifice and a terrific counter. What I don't do enough is tomoe nage, sumi gaeshi (although I do it more now). Do you see the pattern? Things that require timing more than strength, I don't do. That's a mistake.

Now here is a tip for coaches - don't try to have your players be like you. Ronda does a really good sumi. My goal for Julia this year is not to win the junior nationals but to develop some foot sweeps. In part I can't do certain techniques, like tomoe nage, because I hurt my knee when I was young and just physically could not do it. Another reason, though, is that I was extremely strong for my division and I used techniques that took advantage of power versus timing, which worked for me. However, I would have been even better as a judo player if I had learned both types of techniques well. I made the mistake that many successful competitors do of focusing on the small subset of throws I could score with NOW. The mistake was that BEFORE I was a successful competitor, when I was a kid, I should have been learning both of those things. Argument # 1,102 for not emphasizing junior competition near as much near as young as we do. AFTER I was a successful competitor, I should have spent more time learning these techniques. Well, it's not too late now. And I even have a new knee, which the doctor PROMISES me will not hurt and will actually work some day soon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I would come to judo practice if they had free cheese (West Coast Judo Training Center is BACK!)

I was talking to Ronda the other day about someone who I had once thought would be a good judo player and turned out to never win anything past the junior division of the state championships. She said,
"I TOLD you that kid would never be any good."

Then I mentioned someone else who had placed once or twice in senior nationals and she said,
"They're never going to amount to anything either. You know why? Because they always have an excuse not to come to practice."

She is right, too. The biggest deciding factor over the years I have seen between those who made it - by which I mean in this case winning senior international medals - has been their ability to take an adult perspective of judo.

Let me give you an example. As an adult, when was the last time you said to someone at work,
"I'm not going to work with you on that software design because I don't like you."

You are supposed to get over behavior like that by the time you are sixteen, and that's if you're a slow learner. I teach graduate school and I also run a small business. I give less than a damn whether employees or graduate students on a team are BFFs or hate each others' guts. You don't come to work for love and friendship, that's why they have to pay you to show up. You come to achieve a goal and you are expected to act like an adult while you work on it.

People don't come to practice because:

  1. I don't like Sensei Schmoe.

  2. I don't like that guy in the smelly gi I have to work out with sometimes

  3. They spend 20 minutes on conditioning and I can do that at home. (Note that I have seen the people who say this and none of them look like they spent three hours on conditioning this morning. It is possible they have a perfect body and just keep it covered with a layer of fat to protect it, but I doubt it.)

  4. I have to study. (And none of the other 160 hours in the week are available for you to study.)

I have heard a thousand excuses for people not coming to the West Coast Training Center. If it was closer to my house, on a day besides Saturday, in a regular permanent gym, in the morning, in the afternoon, served free cheese because I am lactose deficient.

Well, thanks to the generosity of one of our parents, we now have a new location in a permanent gym, with practices on Saturday and Sunday. Both Saturday morning and afternoon. It is in West Covina so it must be closer to SOME people's houses. We still don't offer free cheese so people who were looking for an excuse will still have one.

Please share this invitation with your club members. You are very welcome to attend.

GRAND OPENING - New Location

West Coast Judo Training Center
537 Vine Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790

Saturday, October 24
Practice 10- 11:30 and 1-4 on Saturday
Cost $10 for the whole day !

Sunday October 25
11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Little Changes All the Time

My daughters accuse me of using the same lines over and over. They will roll their eyes, look at one another and groan,

"Mom saying number 10,342."

The worst thing about these accusations are that they are true, but I repeat myself because, damn it, they aren't doing it yet (whatever it happens to be), or, I want to make sure they keep doing it. In short, I am uncertain of the details but I am sure I am right.

One of these sayings, particularly applied to judo, is

"Always be a moving target."

In this video from her junior clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ronda is showing two variations of ko uchi makikomi. Notice the first one she grabs the leg. The second, she does not. To comply with the new rule changes, you can do the same exact combination with that little bitty change.

Sometimes people improve by making big changes, they move to Sensei O-Greatness Dojo and learn the Move of the Killing Antlers and defeat all of their opponents. Far more often, though, people improve by small changes added together.

I said this is one of my sayings for judo but I think it really applies to business as well. You should always be looking at how you can get better. Lately, having weeks to lay in bed and stare at my singularly uninteresting ceiling, I have seen how I have gotten into a bit of a rut and made some decisions regarding how I am going to make some changes in my professional life. These aren't dropping the whole statistics thing and becoming a milkmaid changes, but more like Ronda's switch from grabbing the leg to more of an arm drag, a modification here or there that may make a better whole.

One day, my niece, Samantha, got irritated with me (how that could happen I do not know since I am, as I frequently tell her, the soul of sweetness and light) and she complained to Ronda,

"Your mom says, 'Go to college'. I go to college and bring home my best report card in years and she says, 'A B-average is not bad but you are smarter than that. Next semester, you could probably make all A's.' Isn't anything ever going to be good enough for your mom? Isn't there ever going to be a time when you are good enough and there's no more improving expected?"

Without a pause in her unending quest to defeat Zelda the Crystal-Emerald-Cavern of Fornication video game, Ronda answered,


Why do they say this like it's a bad thing?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

If a man wants to saw off parts of your leg, tell him no

Warning: If you are looking for a post to encourage people to start judo, this is probably not it.

People keep telling me that after I see how much more I can do after this surgery it will be all worth it. They are wrong. I know this because the only thing that would make it worth it would be if I develop super-powers. And I don't mean Ronda-type able to lose the Eiffel Tower in her purse and do juji gatame from a back-bend super-powers. No, I mean honest to God, leaping tall buildings with a single bound, catching speeding bullets in my teeth and flying super-powers.

That picture above is my leg (and Julia's monkey shorts). There are just as many bruises on the bottom and the middle part in between is that nine-inch gash stapled together. Here is what happens in a nutshell. They cut open your leg, saw off the ends of two bones, the tibia and femur, and replace those with Titanium or Titanium and plastic parts. If you have a strong stomach, you can see photos here.

I was thinking that maybe I am just a wimp because I have not heard how bad this was from other people but let's just revisit this a moment. They cut open your leg and saw off the ends of your bones. There is no way in which you can frame that where the natural human response is not,
"F###! That's got to hurt."

In fact, I am pretty sure I saw devices in the Museum of Torture that had similar purposes. I used to say that having a baby was no worse than having knee surgery and once labor is over, it pretty much stops hurting and you have a baby. Where, with knee surgery, you only have a scar, no baby and it hurts for a few days. Having your knee replaced is NOTHING like having a baby. After this, I could have quadruplets in the middle of randori and it would be a piece of cake.

So, why did I do it, other than the obvious answer of stupidity? Well, my doctor said there was no choice. That it was essential was pretty obvious for two reasons. First, this surgery has a much higher risk of failure for people under 50. I turned 51 in August and was on the operating table within a month. Second, my insurance company approved it right away. Insurance companies never approve anything without an argument. They give you responses like,
"Yes, Mr. Fishbein, your doctor does say you could die without this surgery but that doesn't mean it is medically necessary as our statistics show that death is the usual condition for people of your age."

Generally, when doctors give me medical advice, I go along with it, based on the presumption, as Jake Flores is always reminding me, that it's amazing what you can learn if you stay awake during medical school.

One reason it turns out that this operation was advisable is that I have been putting it off for years and there is a point where you damage your leg so much that the operation isn't likely to be successful. Ronda said she would have been mad at me if I didn't do it as it would mean I would not be walking eventually. I guess she is right, though at this point, it is not just the pain, it is the nausea from the medication, the not being able to do ANYTHING, the giving myself injections of blood thinner medication, and the whole just being a patient thing.

"So, how have your bowel movements been lately?"
"Just fine, how have your bowel movements been?"

It turns out that the reasons the nurses always ask that cheery question is that one of the side effects one of the medications I am on has is constipation. I told the nurse I had solved that problem by puking up all my food.

Here is the really, odd crazy thing, though. If I could go back to my 17-year-old self the day before I first tore my knee up in practice and told her everything that would happen, I know that I would have gone ahead and done it anyway.

One of the cheery nurses chided me this week,
"If you'd believed those doctors and physical therapists way back then,you wouldn't have kept competing at judo and be needing this surgery at your age."

"On the contrary, I never doubted they were right. I just wanted to win that badly and this was a price I was willing to pay."

The nurse walked away shaking her head.

Like I said, this was probably not the post to show people to convince them to start judo.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not Dead: Vote !

I know how unusual it is for me to not blog, tweet, post or email, having been practically surgically attached to my computer ever since microcomputers were invented. Before that I programmed with punched cards (yes, I did) and then "dumb terminals" that we used to think were the greatest thing since sliced bread. No, I don't remember when sliced bread was invented.

So, speaking of surgically attached, I am having surgery tomorrow to replace my knee. They are going to cut off the ends of my tibia and femur and replace it with Titanium. I just looked at some photos of a surgery. It is pretty gross.

Everything I have read says that running and contact sports are absolutely to be avoided after the surgery, which is making me mad because the only reason I am doing this is because the doctor said I would be able to run again. And NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT NOT DOING JUDO !! I used to have to run to cut weight for judo. One day, right after Title IX had passed, the newly-hired track coach saw me running on the track and recruited me to run the mile on the new women's track team.

(For you youngsters, Title IX was a landmark legislation in the U.S. that forced universities to give female athletes equal opportunity to participate in athletics. Right after it passed, a whole bunch of opportunities opened up, which was great for me.)

After college, I kept competing in judo and kept running. Occasionally, I would compete in 10 K races. I wasn't amazingly fast but I was one of the faster of the women who worked in offices who entered the same kind of races, and I was super-competitive so I won the odd medal now and then. After I quit competing, I'd still run during the day, especially when I was telecommuting or on travel in North Dakota in the summer. It's very relaxing to run on the trails through the woods, or along the beach. I got some of my best ideas that way.

Unfortunately, between all that running and a few judo tournaments and training against doctor's advice, my knee pretty much has disintegrated. (That time I was back on the mat training for the world trials six days after surgery. Yeah, that wasn't too smart. Hurt like a #$%, too.) Competing in the world trials three weeks after surgery was probably not high on the brilliance scale, either.

Well, you make your choices and you pay the price. So, I will be in the hospital the next few days and not on the Internet too much. All of the websites I have read give me a far worse prognosis, say I will be unable to drive far longer and be able to do far less after surgery than my doctor had said. On the other hand, as several people have pointed out, most people who have this surgery done are much older than me.

Just because I am not nagging you about it does not mean:

A. I am dead, or
B. I want any less for you to vote in the USJA election ( )

I will just be too drugged up to talk about it. Now that I think of it, I wonder if Ronda bribed the doctor just so she would not have to hear about the election for a few days.

I have received an outpouring of sympathy from my friends and family - not!

Lanny Clark called and said,
"I hope you don't kick off on the operating table."

My husband was a bit miffed he brought it up (do men get miffed?) until my daughter Jenn said,
"Well, if you DO die and Dennis dies of a heart attack from the shock, I will still get to live here, right? And you'll leave me SOME money so I can pay the bills until I graduate and get a job?"

Maria, equally concerned, added,
"You better leave something in writing that says I get all the money to care for Julia because I can just see Jenn saying, 'Oh, I remember Mom saying you were supposed to care for Julia, all right, but she said I should get all the money because Maria and Eric both have jobs already.'"

Ronda didn't say anything. Actually, the last time I talked to her was after an unfortunate Margarita episode that involved the church,me, a few octogenarians and a designated driver. The less said about that incident, the better.

So, take-away messages:
1. I am not dead.

2. Vote for our slate for the USJA board. You only have until September 30th to mail your ballot you slacker!

3. Stay away from people older than your grandmother bearing Margaritas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's next? You do what you do

I was going out to compete at the Panamerican Games. Coach Willy Cahill tells Brett Barron to go out and do his uchi mata, he tells Robin Chapman (now Robin Chow) to do HER uchi mata. Incidentally, both of them won gold medals that day. Then, he turns to me and says,

"Yeah, and AnnMaria, you go out and you do whatever that is that you do. Take 'em to the mat and kill them."

I won a gold medal, too. Afterward, I had a talk with Willy, who was a coach I really respected for all of his judo knowledge. He mentioned that people who trained with him did stand up judo, not at all like that dragging them to the mat stuff I did. I asked him if he thought I should change. He looked at me as if I was crazy and said,

"Hell, no! You're winning! By ippon. Keep on doing what you do. It's working."

Everyone always talks about "What's wrong with American judo." I rather suspect that in other countries people have the same conversations, just substituting their country's name. I want to focus on what is working and what we want to do more of.

Electronic communication - podcasts, our electronic magazines, Growing Judo and American Judo, the USJA section of the judo forum, Facebook (younger people than me), the USJA Headlines and more. We have a good number of smart people in the USJA (and other judo organizations) around the country. Technology gives us the chance to bridge the vast differences in this country and share that knowledge. We need to do more of that, bringing in such technology heavyweights as Neil Ohlenkamp.

Two-way communication - I know I said communication twice now, but it is important. I like the fact that the coaching committee, with Jim Pedro, Sr., Bill Montgomery and the rest of our experts is soliciting comments from coaches around the country in setting the criteria for the A & B level certification. I like the way they did the same in establishing the original E, D & C level certifications. I like the work the regional coordinators, headed by Joan Love, are doing reaching out to meet the needs in their communities and conveying those needs back to the board and the rest of the USJA. The regional coordinators have been really important in pointing out local needs and getting clinics, tournaments and camps organized. Areas that always had a little judo now have a little more, and, in some cases, a lot more. That is a good thing.

Encourage diversity - one thing I like about what I see happening in America is that we have people from Gary Goltz, who runs a huge club out in Claremont with everyone from five-year-olds to grandparents on the mat, like Roy Hash, with another large club, more focused on competition, in Texas, like Dr. Jim Lally who is the CEO of a major hospital and major donor to the USJA, to Jim Pedro, Sr. who is a world-class coach in the northeast to Lowell Slaven, Deb Fergus and Randy Pierce in the Midwest.

Reach out, get out of your bubble - Jim Bregman and George Harris gave me this advice -
"You need to get out and visit those clubs all over the country. See what they need. See what their concerns are. See what you can learn from them."

They were right. I have learned a lot. I don't think I have ever done a clinic anywhere that I did not find an idea or two that I could use for my next class or my next clinic. The next step is to encourage more of the same. If you run a club, do something different this year. Like Willie Williams in Connecticut, create a league with other clubs. Or, like Paul Nogaki and Neil Ohlenkamp, create a camp around a theme, such as the Judo Forum. Like Butch Ishisaka and Jeff Domingo, send a big group of your kids to Camp Bushido West. Or, be really dramatic and start a new club!

Whatever you do well, do more of it. Then, think of something new that might be fun and do that, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Judo Podcast

Interesting judo podcast today with Gene Shin and Mike Darter. The original plan was to have Jim Pedro, Sr. and I interviewed, followed by Paul Nogaki, Roy Hash, Joan Love and Bill Montgomery, all members of the New USJA slate.

However, the discussion with Jim and I went over an hour and a half so they will have to reschedule the others for another day. I am a pretty straight-forward person but Jim even outdoes me. Here was my favorite part:

It has been asked on the Judo Forum what is your Plan B. What if this bid to de-certify USJI/USAJ fails. Aren't you worried that you will have a more hostile relationship with the USJA?

You mean more hostile than it is now? What more could they do against us than they have already been doing that is negative towards our organization? Execute us? AnnMaria, the USOC hasn't given them powers to hold executions have they?

No, Jimmy, I am sure not.

Well, that's all right then.

The latest Judo Podcast should be up in a day or so. I'll post a link here when it is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't tell lies about people's mothers

This is one of those brain-dead obvious things I thought I would never have to tell you, along the lines of,
"Lying is bad."
"No, you cannot win the Olympics working out twice a week, even if you work really, really hard."

"Why can I not hit my sister in the head with a chair? This is not a 'why' question! It isn't even a question!"

My business partner, Dr. Erich Longie, wrote a blog post on how his ancestors, the Dakota Sioux, put liars to death. More people should read it.

Here is the truth ....

A few years ago, Jim Bregman got one of those brilliant ideas that after someone tells it to you, you slap your forehead and exclaim,
"Why didn't we think about this years ago?"

His idea was this... many of us in judo travel for a variety of reasons, our professions, to visit friends and family, or just because we feel like seeing someplace new. If you are a fairly accomplished judo player and you happen to be in Georgia, Virginia or Missouri, how about letting the local clubs know you would be available? They can have a clinic for a very modest price, because they don't have to pay travel expenses, and you can do judo with some new people. How modest? Our clinicians are paid $250 a day. They do it as a public service. So, someone flies in from three thousand miles away, teaches for the day for 25 or 30 people at a cost of $250. Many of the clinicians donate the money to the USJA Development Fund, others give it to their own club. Very few that I know spend it on cheap whiskey and expensive women.

How do we contact the local clubs? Well, this is where the idea of regional coordinators came up, people who would be willing to organize events for a region. Doesn't all this sound like a win-win -- getting people involved, getting instructors who were world, Olympic medalists, outstanding coaches, for a cost of next to nothing?

I happen to be one of the people doing a LOT of those events. I was in Washington, D.C. at the SAS Global Forum (a conference on statistical software). The university paid for my ticket to the east coast. Chuck Wall had me do a clinic in Virginia before the conference. Marshall Coffman picked me up, drove me to Maryland, where I met and stayed with a lovely couple from his club, taught another clinic and then went to my conference. I have a daughter and granddaughter in Boston. I flew up there and, after visiting her, and just before going to D.C., did a clinic in Rhode Island. I stayed at Liz and Serge's house. Liz made me coffee. I think this was my total payment. It was very good coffee, I might add. Maurice Allan picked me up at my hotel in Washington one night and I did judo there. Maurice bought me a beer after practice, so I guess I did get additional payment.

Four clubs, three states and a whatever D.C. is - district, I guess because that is in the name (if you read this blog often at all, you know I am notoriously bad at geography) - my total payment was a beer and a cup of coffee and the total cost to the USJA was nothing.

Another example, I was in Missouri, for my cousin's wedding. I caught a ride with my sister and mother to Kansas City, visited with them, went to the AAU Nationals, taught a coaches' clinic with Steve Scott, stayed at Steve and Becky's and then flew home. Kenny Brink gave me $250 for doing the clinic. Total cost to USJA $0. I do recall that Steve and Becky gave me a lot of coffee, plus a great dinner at an Italian restaurant. I used the $250 to pay off part of the ticket from the week before when I went to Little Rock, Arkansas to do a coaches' clinic and a clinic for athletes the next day. This was supposed to be part of the trip to Missouri - I was supposed to see some friends but it fell through and I had given those folks my word I would be there so I bought a ticket and off I went.

What are we up to now, five states and a whatever?

I could go on and on. Anyway, in the proof that some people believe that no good deed should go unpunished, a few people have emailed/ called me and said that some people running against our slate in the election have been telling the bald-faced lie that "AnnMaria is in the USJA because they pay her expenses and fly her all around the country."

This isn't one of those cases where someone misunderstood or misinterpreted something. I don't expect anyone sending me flowers saying 'oh you do so much good for the USJA'. It was great to see Becky, Steve, Liz, Serge, Marshall, Ed, Chuck and all of the rest of the nice folks in Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, Rhode Island and Virginia. However, for someone to take things I did out of a sincere effort to help judo, at substantial personal costs and LIE about that and say that I was taking money from the USJA is just a little much. Now, I don't mean this to offend all of you who think Rhode Island in slushy March or Little Rock at 98 degrees is the optimal vacation, but here are my non-USJA vacations before I became USJA president:

Athens, Greece
cruise to the Bahamas
resort in the Bahamas
different resort in the Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island)
Beijing, China - with a stop in Tokyo coming home on my 50th birthday
resort in Palm Springs

Here are my 'USJA junkets
West Warwick, Rhode Island
Kearney, MO
Fredericksburg, VA
Sonora, CA
Big Canoe, GA
Little Rock,AR

(It seems there should be a Medium Something,ST in between Big Canoe and Little Rock, doesn't it? If you live in Middletown, call me up. I owe you a visit!)

I have a Ph.D. with specializations in Applied Statistics and Psychometrics, work a full-time job as a statistical consultant for a major university, teach statistics at another university and own a consulting company. Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that I want to be USJA president so that I can escape from the dreadful Santa Monica beach where I live via fully-funded vacations to Bob Byrd's judo club in Georgia?

It is all a lie. I have never taken any travel money from the USJA. Although the USJA has traditionally had a president's travel budget, I believe I am the only one who NEVER took any money from the USJA. Our total expenses for board travel since I became president are $0.

If you are at an event and you hear this lie repeated, do me a favor. Say, "That is a lie. Why would you say that?"

Why would someone say that? If you find out, let me know.

Speaking of people's mothers, Ronda was unamused when she heard this lie repeated. Her original working title for her post was,

"Stop! You could be voting for a bunch of @$&**!s "

The combined good influence of Bruce and Michelle (of Big Canoe, GA fame) convinced her she should tone things down a little. I will be interested to see what she has to say.

In the meantime, how is this for good advice.

Don't tell lies about people's mothers.
In fact, don't tell lies, period.
Lying is bad.

I never thought I would have to tell you this.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Four Year Plan: What, you think I just make this #$^ up?

You know that line from Men in Black,
"No ma'am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor that we are aware of?"

Well, I think that applies to the National Institutes on Health and to a lot of people in judo, too. I was giving a paper at a scientific conference a few years ago when someone from the NIH asked,
"Dr. Rousey, are you planning on publishing this research soon?"

I said,
"Hell no, I just make this #$^& up as I go along."

They did not laugh. In fact, I had to get married and change my name to have the possibility of ever getting an NIH grant for the rest of my life.

Some people in judo are like that, also. They email me all of the time to tell me, in the most pompous, snotty, possible tone, I should say, that I am not serious enough, that I did not follow article 11, section 6, paragraph b. Then, when I tell them, that, actually, I DID in fact read article 11, section 6, paragraph b and that whatever I did complied with it as verified by three lawyers and two accountants, that, as my friend Bill Montgomery has stated on numerous occasions, usually after several beers and being safely on the other side of the country,
"AnnMaria may be a ------ sometimes, but she's never a STUPID ----."

They run off screaming for the hills that,
"He said ---- !! And she quoted him !!"

I have been right about things in judo on more than one occasion. What I find interesting is how often when I am right, people are SURPRISED. They say things like,

"You said that it didn't matter if the Winter Nationals was a point tournament, if it was a good event, we would get over 500 people - and we did!"

"You said that if we had more electronic communication for our members, more people would join the USJA, and they did!"

"You said that if we made our coaching clinics more accessible to the membership with high quality clinicians we would have hundreds of certified coaches - and we do!"

Okay, people, why is it that when I am right, you are surprised? You really DO think I make this @#$% up as I go along, don't you? Contrary to what some people apparently believe, I actually do have a plan. Here are some key points, assuming the new USJA slate wins election, which, for most of us, will mean re-election to the board.

  1. Get a group together that has a common vision. This does not mean we agree all of the time, but it does mean we are committed to working together to get things done.

  2. The most important part of any plan is THE PEOPLE to do it. My plan is to include folks with expertise in management, technology, finance, medicine, fund-raising, education and coaching. We have people like Neil Ohlenkamp who runs the most read judo website in the WORLD and has been a legislative fellow advising the U.S. Senate on social security policy, Dr. James Lally who is the Chief Medical Office at a hospital has given over $100,000 to the USJA and traveled the world as the former president of U.S. Shooting, meeting with the International Olympic Committee. We have Roy Hash, a former Airborne Ranger and Green Beret, who has over 34 years of leadership, planning and problem solving skills garnered during active duty service with the US Army’s Special Forces , an AT&T Operations Manager, founder and head coach of TEXOMA Judo & JuJitsu, one the USJA's 10 largest clubs. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  3. Include individuals who can contribute. This isn't junior high, for crying out loud, we don't choose people based on who their friends are, we choose them based on their credentials. Twice this week, someone has passed on email from two different people who were convinced they would not be welcome in the USJA if our slate was elected because one of my friends did not like them. I recommended both of those individuals to committee chairs and asked them to reach out to them because they are two, smart, talented guys. A very good friend of mine said,
    "I don't like ---."
    and I responded,
    "Yeah, and a lot of people don't like you. He is really knowledgeable in that area. What's your point?"
    My friend answered,
    "I didn't say you shouldn't have recommended him. I just said I don't like him."
    I think this comes from picking professional people who have been very successful in life, some in judo and some in other areas. Anyone that successful has had to learn to work with people they don't like, to make selections on competence and not who you had a beer with last week.

  4. Make a serious effort to include diverse opinions on our board and on our committees. The youngest coach clinician we have is my daughter, Ronda, who is 22 years old (for those who suspect nepotism here, I hasten to add that she is a world silver medalist, junior world gold medalist, Olympic bronze medalist and has won a number of world cups. If I was a better mother, I would remember how many). The oldest is Charlie Robinson who is nearly 80. We have instructors in Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, California, Washington, D.C., Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Missouri, Rhode Island (I am sure I forgot some). I just forwarded to the committee recommendations for course instructors in North Dakota, Alaska, Utah, Wisconsin and Ohio.

  5. Operate for our MEMBER'S convenience. Especially try to offer a wide range of services, from electronic communications such as our publications, Growing Judo and American Judo (thanks to the wonderful Connie Halporn and her Associate Editor Dr. Ronald Charles), to the USJA Headlines managed by George Weers to local clinics everywhere, from Keith Worshaim's work in Mississippi to the many activities sponsored by Ed Thibideau in Arkansas, Joan Love & Bill Montgomery in Connecticut and Gary Goltz in southern California and much much more.

So, now you have seen a peek into my secret plan. I guess now that you have seen the secret documents I will have to send ninjas to kill you. Sorry if that is an inconvenience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Being a good teacher of judo (or anything else)

The first rule of teaching is to have something to say.
The second rule of teaching is that when you by chance have two things to say, to say first one and then the other and do not, for the love of God, try to say both things at once.

So begins a very good book, Writing to Teach Mathematics and Science. I thought of this the other day when I spotted a video by a very good judo player. A couple of years ago, I saw this person giving a clinic and while the other coaches in attendance were impressed I was extremely disappointed.

This person must have taught 50 different techniques in less than three hours. Other coaches were exclaiming,

"He knows so much! He's incredible!"

Yes, but ....

He certainly achieved the first rule, having something to say. However, he would teach at least ten techniques and then tell those attending to "Try it."

Everyone would mix up the first, second, third through the tenth techniques he taught. They'd have their hands in the right position for the first technique and their legs in position for the fourth one.

I think this gentleman was truly excited about judo and a genuinely nice person. However, he was so focused on what HE had to teach that he didn't really give the students time to practice it. I am not exaggerating, he would talk and demonstrate for ten or fifteen minutes, and then give everyone three minutes to work on the ten brand new techniques they had just learned. Then he would call us all back together and start over.

So, here are a few other rules of good teaching:
Give people time to practice. After you have taught something, let the students try it for themselves.

Re-teach. Since you are only teaching one thing at a time (you were listening, right?), you can observe how your students are doing, call them back together and re-teach the parts with which they had difficulty.

Accept that you are not going to teach everything in one day. If you only have one practice, don't show 36 techniques. Some instructors do this out of conceit, they want to show how brilliant they are. Some do it with good intentions, they want to show everything that might possibly help the students. And some have simply never thought about teaching judo. They do judo, here is some stuff they do. Done.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that their students would learn BETTER if the instructor picked a few (no more than three) techniques and taught those, giving ample time for each one.

This is how I teach and not a lot of people rave,
"Oh, she's so great, she's so brilliant."

That's okay. My goal is not to show the students how much of a better judo player I am than they are. It is to make them better judo players, even by a little fraction. So, I try to teach whatever technique I think will help those students for whatever level they are right now. Sometimes, those are pretty basic techniques.

At some point, it may dawn on those students that I actually do know a fair bit of judo. Or not, maybe they will always think that Videotape 150 Technique Man is far more knowledgeable than me. That's okay, too. Either way, I got to share with them a little bit of judo that I know. And either way, tomorrow will still be Tuesday all day and all night.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Truth about the USJA Board: Guest Blog from Jim Pedro, Sr.

I'm not much of an Internet person but I felt like that email from Contardo was so full of false information about the USJA and the board and so full of negative information that I felt compelled to give a response. If you can, please see that this email goes to as many people as possible who received the original one.

Thank you,
Jim Pedro, Sr.

Regarding the latest email from Peter Contardo, I don’t want to go into ALL of the particulars for the reasons he was thrown off the board. For all of the reasons, you would have to get a copy of the meeting minutes.

The reason I personally voted for his removal is that it was clear to me that he was working for the best interests of USA Judo and not the USJA. After USA Judo sent a memo out saying it would not support the Panamerican Masters, a USJA event, Peter told the tournament director he would not referee at the tournament. I felt strongly that as a member of the Board of Directors he should be supporting USJA events, and if he is supporting USA Judo over the USJA he should be on their board.

As far as his statement about us being thrown out of USA Judo, let me remind everyone that USA Judo took points away from the USJA and USJF Junior Nationals, they do not recognize our coaching certification, thus costing our members more money to coach. They cost the parents more money to pay for an extra membership and attend their tournaments to get points.

As far as us sending an official team to the Panamerican Judo Union tournament, we sent out a memo publicizing the tournament. We did not fund anyone to the tournament. We did not send an official coach or manager. We did respond to inquiries about the tournament. The coach who he is remarking about was suspended by USA Judo, reciprocated by USJA suspension. This same individual was at the USA Judo National Championships on the floor with his team. They had no qualms about that. Suddenly when he attends a tournament in another country as a private coach with his team it is the fault of the USJA.

What I find ironic is for three years, there was a proposal in front of our board to suspend Fletcher Thornton and Peter Contardo stonewalled and found every reason not to do it. All of a sudden, Peter is against something he seemed to have found okay before when a higher-up in USA Judo was involved. Make no mistake, USA Judo is trying to get rid of USJA. If you want that to happen, by all means, go along with Peter's recommendation and vote for people who would rather support USA Judo than you, the USJA members.

Bottom line is the only thing we have lost by being suspended from USA Judo is we don’t have to give them any of your money. We can still run our coaching certifications, run our tournaments and promotions. All we want is to be left alone, as we assume you want to be left alone, not be bullied and run your own programs. We’ll know how you feel by the way you vote in the election.

Jim Pedro, Sr.
Chair, USJA Coaching
Member, USJA Board of Directors

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Judo Tips & Off-the-Wall Comments

Lots of good tips came out this weekend at the West Coast Judo Training Center. Ronda was on a roll. I overheard her advising several young players,

"Analyze yourself. Write down everything that you do. Write down all the throws you worked on each day, how many times you did each one. If you write it down you might see something you wouldn't have noticed otherwise, for example, that you have only been working on right-sided forward throws, and that will reveal a weakness in your judo."

"Analyze yourself, too, by writing out specifics about how you do a throw - first I get this grip with my right hand, then do this with my left, then step in with my foot turned this way. Again, you can see where you are making mistakes. Or, you can see that you think of yourself as a right-handed player but you always do left throws from a right-handed grip. The important thing is to be thinking about what you are doing and always trying to get better."

Finally, at the end of her last practice at the training center as she heads off for the next Olympics, she said,

"You hear everybody talk about sacrifice. Well, I have a boyfriend I like, an apartment near the beach and my family, a dog, a car, a pretty good life. I could apply to the Coast Guard right now, which is my dream job. Instead, I am packing it all in and going on the road for three years to do whatever it takes to win the Olympics. It sucks but that's what I have to do, I have to give up everything in my life right now and I am doing it."

Other good advice,
NOT LOSING ON FOOTSWEEPS - speaking of analysis. For heaven's sakes, if you know your opponent is left-handed and does footsweeps don't go for a grip with your right hand and your right foot forward. Put your LEFT foot forward and punch in with your right hand. In fact, NEVER start out a grip by reaching with one hand and stepping forward with the same foot. It's just a bad habit. Someone who has an opposite side footsweep (e.g., a right-handed player against left) will nail you.

USE YOUR HIPS - if you find that when you are pinning people your legs often get entangled, thus breaking the pin, try switching your hips. Say, for example, I am pinning a person with yoko shiho gatame laying on my stomach, on the left side of her body, if I shift my hips to the right so that instead of being on my stomach I am on my right hip my legs will be further away and much harder to reach.

USE YOUR HIPS 2 - when pinning someone, whether it is yoko shiho, kesa gatame or any other pin EXCEPT kami shiho, I immediately lower my hips and try to put my stomach on the mat to out the person on his or her back as flat as possible. I may later, in the course of preventing an escape, switch my hips (see above).

--------- Random Comments from practice -----------

"You want a piece of this?"
"Careful how you answer that, he doesn't mean what you think he means."

"She threw you that many times? Where's your bag? I'm taking your manhood card out of your wallet and ripping it up."

"I accidentally gave him a black eye when I punched him in the face."

Election plug - Please vote to continue to grow and promote judo in the USJA. You can download a ballot and read about some great candidates here. You must be 17 or older and a USJA member to vote.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Judo with a Side of Mountains

(This was the view when we opened the door of our room at Camp Bushido. Nice, huh?)

"Careful, it's a trick!"

Ronda said to her sisters,
"Yeah, Mom is making this trip to Georgia sound like a vacation, but it is really going to be like that last time when we went up to Camp Bushido where it was really just judo with a side of mountains."

To set the record straight, I believe Ronda is still upset from when we were driving up the mountain road about 1 a.m., she was sound asleep and Charlie went in the ditch for just a little while. Ronda sat bolt upright and screamed and Charlie and I about fell over laughing. If you have ever been in a car when Ronda was driving you know that this was only poetic justice.

Camp Bushido was really great and it reminded me that I should have had a better answer for the young man who asked me after judo practice last night,
"What do you actually do on these judo committees?"

I mentioned something about making sure people going up for promotion were treated fairly and he shrugged. What I have noticed around the country is it means far more to most people that their sensei thinks they deserve a black belt than the opinions of some strangers across the country, or in some foreign country where they have never been. So, I tried again and I explained that we do some of the following:

  • Raise money so that we can award scholarships to camps and clinics

  • Help organize two major tournaments a year, the USJA/USJF Junior Nationals and Winter Nationals

  • Organize people to support electronic magazines, a website and other ways for our members to get information about judo activities, techniques and tournament results

  • Develop and offer a coaching program around the country

He said,

Not sure what I expected from a teenager. That's about what the response I get from my kids and I pay their college tuition.

When I thought about the judo part, though, as much as I feel overworked sometimes, as much as I feel all of the lost income I give up from my consulting work is unappreciated, that the fact that I pay my expenses everywhere is taken for granted, then I remember that I actually have a lot of fun at judo and related to judo. Like,just teaching judo at Camp Bushido, or getting a chance to talk about judo with the Fabulous Guerreros, Charlie Robinson, Joa Schwinn, Robert Gustaffson and his really cool daughter. I get to save Ronda from falling off another cliff.

And then I get to come back the next week and do it again, with Blinky teaching at the West Coast Judo Training Center his famous keylock sankaku which I never could do when I was younger but for some reason was able to master on Sunday.

What you do if you are doing it right, on those committees is you promote judo. I have read a lot of negative rhetoric directed at me lately, because, after all, there is an election going on, but the crazy part about it is those same people said NOTHING about what they had done positive for judo or what they want to do. They have only said, (and I am not making this up), "AnnMaria and her supporters don't go to enough meetings."

In my opinion, I go to too damn many meetings. I want to go to more judo, with or without a side of mountains.

========= REQUIRED JUDO TIP =================
When I was younger, I had the hardest time learning a key-lock sankaku. I could never remember which hand to feed the gi into. Blinky explained it on Sunday,
"Your hand closer to their hips is the one you feed the gi into."

And the light just went on. What a simple way to explain it. I took pictures step by step of Blinky teaching this move and will include it in this month's Growing Judo as a featured technique.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo Endorses Gary Goltz for USJA Board

Definitely Not Julia, from the USA, gives reasons for voting for Gary Goltz for the USJA Board. This includes his business acumen, his negotiating skills, that he is very good with people and that he looks like someone who could be on The Sopranos. Also, she likes his Lexus convertible. (Trivia note: So does Jim Pedro, Sr. because they can drive with the top down and smoke cigars.)