Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'm Pretty Certain I Could Take Your Grandma

23 rounds of matwork - and that was just the first hour and a half.

So, we did 23, three-minute rounds of matwork. I was going to include a picture of us from today but the photo above is BEFORE Julia and I had matburn all over, bruises and a fat lip. We smelled better in that picture, too.

I don't think this is what typical grandmothers do on the weekends, but I have never been a very typical anything.

We didn't JUST do matwork, of course, and by we, I mean other people, since I mostly just did matwork because I am old and my knees don't work. The young people also did 150 throws, 100 uchikomi and an hour of standing randori. They worked on chokes, too.

It was a very fun, great day. We are going to cut practice an hour early tomorrow,from 10- noon instead of 1 p.m. just because everyone trained so hard today.

Quotes of the day:

"I did not hit you in the mouth!"
"So, how do you explain the blood? Do you think I just spontaneously started bleeding on your gi?"
"Maybe you did."

To person being pinned,
"You know, I am sure your grandma is nicer than me and a better cook than me, but I am pretty certain I could take your grandma."

Person on the bottom,
"Yes, I believe you could."

"Okay you guys, I keep seeing AnnMaria pinning you. I realize she is more skilled - "
"Thanks for the 'more skilled', I thought you were going to say 'really old'. "

"Hey! You threw her and were on top of her and now she is on top of you. How the hell did that happen?"
"Yeah, I know, weird, huh?"

God, I LOVE judo!

I once said that no one should be allowed to be on any judo board or committes unless the person had matburn somewhere on his or her body. Today I am SO qualified to be USJA president, it is not even funny!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Children's competition: If you think you know, you're wrong

Last week, Ronda and I were at practice at Sawtelle Dojo discussing the upcoming state championships. I said that I had not yet sent in Julia's application because I had left it up to her if she wanted to compete and she hadn't decided. Ronda said,

"I think she should go. If you don't compete in a tournament because you are afraid you might lose, that just feeds on itself and pretty soon you area afraid to compete in anything."

I agreed with that, but I said,

"I really can't see the benefit of forcing an 11-year-old to compete in a state championships."

Thinking about this, I realized here Ronda and I are, both with gold medals from the Panamerican games, Austrian Open, Canada Cup/ Rendezvous, U.S. Open, both having competed in the finals in the world championships, and a lot more. Neither of us is 100% sure of the right answer, with 20 years and several continents of international competition between us. That's when it occurred to me.

"This parenting s--- is hard!"

None of us know what is right with 100% certainty. Are you putting too much pressure on your child or not holding high enough expectations? Are you letting your child give up on a shot at the Olympics or are you making sure that he/she focuses on education? If you don't force your child to go to practice several times a week is that accepting mediocrity, putting other priorities first or letting someone be a kid?

As the saying goes, everyone knows the right answers in parenting until they have children. I used to be one of those coaches who complained about children who could be "so good" but their parents had them in every activity under the sun, "mediocre in every activity rather than excellent in one", we coaches would complain, self-righteously.

Now, I have a child who goes to judo three practices a week. She only goes to one tournament a month, and I let her pick which one doesn't conflict with her friend's birthday party or going to see some new movie with Dad. She made straight A's last semester, was just re-elected to student council, accepted to the USC Science Camp for Middle School Girls, is in the Debate Club, takes piano lessons, and played on her school's basketball and volleyball teams. She could be a great athlete. What she will end up doing is anyone's guess.

I still hear coaches talking about parents who have their children in multiple activities "just so they can get into a good college" - as if that is a less valuable goal than making the junior Panamerican team.

I am writing a book on statistical software, it's on SAS Enterprise Guide for researchers, if you ae interested, which I know you are not. I mention it because I am progressing with glacial speed, although I AM getting something written every day. I read a quote,

"I hate writing, but I love having written."

Parenting is like that, although I do love everything about my children from the way they laugh to the fact that they are always thinking about what is going on in the world. Still, even years later, you're still not sure if your decisions were the right ones.

Ronda is 22. In a few weeks, she will buckle down and start training for the next Olympics, traveling all over the world and making her life happen.

Jenn is 23. In a few weeks, she will buckle down and start graduate school at USC, meeting people from all over the world and making her life happen.

Did I go wrong with one of them? Did I make a mistake? Well, I'm sure I made a lot of mistakes but I learned a few things along the way. It's like the line from that movie, Pleasantville.

"There is no right house. There is no right car."
"It's not supposed to be like this."
"It's not supposed to be any way."

No matter how many degrees or medals any of us have, we all just do the best we can, wonder if it is the right way or if we should do something else. I wear a St. Jude medal all of the time except when I am working out. My kids ask about it from time to time. It's simple, really. It's a lost cause to think we can always have the right answer or do the right thing. The best we can do is buckle down, try our hardest and pray.

There is, however, a right game!

Check out Forgotten Trail - explore the country, help Angie and Sam prove they are extraordinary.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Everybody Brought their A-game

A celebration of good coaching (mostly)

The California State Judo championships was a great tournament. Watching it gave me a bit of encouragement about the state of judo in America, particularly in California. Mind you, this is the state championships, which is quite competitive, so it wasn't a random sample of players. Many clubs with 50 or 100 members only brought a dozen or so to compete. This was a good choice, I believe. There isn't much point in putting players, especially young ones, into a situation where they are over their heads.

I saw a lot of good judo players, all of the home grown. We have always had very good standing techniques in California. Watching the matches, it was evident that players' knowledge of grip-fighting has increased significantly over the past few years. Past age 10 or so, you saw very little of one kid just letting another grab him or her and then the match started. People fought for their grips, realized when they were in trouble, broke grips. Of course, as anyone would expect, the younger ones weren't as good at it as the older ones, but those changes will come with age and experience.

Among some players, I saw better transition from standing to matwork. This has been another perennial weak point and although it has not increased as much as the gripfighting, the improvement overall was noticeable.

This says a lot about our coaches. Those kids are learning from somewhere, and watching them gave me hope. Many of our coaches have "gotten with the program", they have had the commitment, and the humility, to learn new things and pass what they learned on to benefit their students. We are all blessed to have these coaches, and there are a lot of them.

The kids who lost just because they were younger, not very experienced, made a mistake or were just overwhelmed being at such a big tournament, I was okay with that. They still gained from the experience, learning to overcome their fears, learning to not attack off-balance, to off-balance their opponent and so on. They will go back to their clubs more motivated to work out, and their coaches will have some good knowledge of what that individual needs.

There were also players that fought the same way players from those clubs did a decade ago, and those players were generally on the losing end. That made me a little sad. Even if a coach donates a lot of time and is a generally good person, letting your own pride interfere with learning more and helping your players better is a little unethical. In the Darwinian scheme of things, those clubs will lose players and maybe eventually close. It's too bad, really, because some of those coaches do have a good deal to offer.

However, back to speaking of good ideas ... Just like our coaches and players are getting more sophisticated and analytical, so are our leaders. I heard Dan Takata, head referee and Mitchell Palacio, CJI President, discussing complaints. Their view was that anyone who wants to make an ethical complaint against another club or person should NOT do it at the tournament. This is when tempers flare, someone's child was unfairly treated (or, at least they think so) and is crying in a corner. Rather, a day or a week later, write it down and submit it. Given time to cool off and think it over, you'll often realize, sitting back in your living room in front of the TV, that even if you were correct, that it was not a nation-changing event that your child did not receive that yuko and not worth fighting over. The other smart thing that Jesse and Mitchell decided to do was give two third places. I wondered about this until I kept score at three different tables and saw several heart-breakingly close matches where one player lost on flags in overtime. There were a lot of GOOD players at this tournament and many of the differences were very small. When the player came off the match in tears and parents came over complaining I could say,
"I don't know why your son/daughter did not receive the win. It was a very close match and the referees had to make a judgment call. Still, there are two third places and your child tied for third. Make sure they get their medal."

The kids were happy to have a medal after they fought so hard, the parents were happy because their kids were happy, and they DID truly fight hard, and I trust they will all be back at judo this week.

What more could you ask from a tournament?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Games People Should Play

Last Saturday, we went to visit Orange County Kodokan and had a great time. As he was leaving, one of the fathers asked his seven-year-old son,
"How was judo today?"
The little boy replied,
"It was good. It wasn't boring."

Here are is one drill we did and a game:

1. Ten-second drill : Get as close as possible to your partner without touching him while he is laying on his back. At Hajime, the player on top tries to pin before the bottom person escapes. This teaches both escaping and capturing the partner at the key transition point. Plus, it is fun.

2. Seoi nage freeze tag: One player is it and runs around and tags people. If you are tagged, you are frozen and can only be unfrozen if someone else throws you with seoi nage. This develops cardiovascular conditioning, is a good way to work on doing seoi nage quickly (before you get tagged). Plus, it is fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Want a job? What not to say

I have been working almost as much of my life as I have been doing judo. I started judo at age 12 and got my first job at 15. Over the years, I have also hired a good number of people and fired a very few. Given the state of the economy and the fact that it is graduation a lot of people are out looking for work. Here are some things NOT to say in an interview:

I am willing to work. That's good, because that's what we are paying you to do, work. If you are not willing to work, you should not be applying for a job. In all my years of interviewing applicants, no one has ever said to me,
"I'm a lazy slacker who intends to do as little as possible while collecting a check, preferably direct deposited so I don't need to come to work even on payday."

No,if you said that, you wouldn't get the job, but I would be impressed by your honesty.

I'm a fast learner. Again, I have never had anyone apply for a job and say,
"To tell you the truth, I'm actually kind of dumb."

That might get you a second look from me, depending on what openings we had at the time. There is some work that can be done by people who are not rocket scientists but are honest and reliable, and I like those kind of people. Being married to a rocket scientist, I can tell you that they aren't so error-free as they're put out to be anyway.

Also, not getting you points from me:
"I am willing to learn"

Well, yes, that's great, as opposed to Sally Lou who I interviewed last week who said,
"I never intend to learn anything new for the rest of my life. I know it ALL moo-ha-ha-ha."

(That last part is the evil scientist laugh, in case you were wondering.)

So, what SHOULD you say if you want a job? Try these:

"I worked at my last job for three years. I am sure my supervisor, Old Fred, would tell you that I very seldom missed work or was late and almost always got my work done on time."

Almost everyone is going to think he or she is a much better than average boss. If you could put up with Old Fred for three years, reasons the interviewer, definitely you won't have a problem putting up with me.

For anyone I hire, being willing to learn new software, new skills, is critically important because the jobs usually entail a lot of different tasks and it is highly unlikely we will find anyone below retirement age who already knows everything. Saying,

"I would like this job because it will give me the opportunity to learn _________"

automatically moves you to the top of my pile regardless of what you fill in the blank, unless it's something like "how to kill my co-workers with a hatchet".

This shows you have already learned something about what our organization does and you are thinking of yourself in this position. Of course, I don't have much time to train new people, so telling me what you already learned on your old jobs both shows me you are a fast learner and that I won't have to teach you everything.

So, there are a few tips for you job-seekers. I don't have time to add any more but I am sure that will be no problem for you to discover the rest since you are willing to work, a fast learner and ready to learn new things.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What it's all about: Having a great time at judo

Check out this youtube video on judo with some cute little twins and a wicked tani otoshi or two. Is that Ken Otto in the video?

This really nice video talks about all of the good in judo. I've been doing what I want to do in judo lately. Teaching people across a wide age range at the Gracie-Barra Corona Judo club Grand Opening.

Julia finally got her way and we did a whole practice of just judo games. Here is one below that develops both grip strength, since you have to pick up a really heavy person by their judo gi, and upper body strength as you carry the "dead man". It is a race around the mat, with the first team to carry their body all the way around winning. If you don't have the advantage of really heavy people, you can have each person in the group carried one at a time around the mat, like a relay race. In addition to building strength and teamwork, this is fun, as you can see from the winning team in the back of this picture celebrating their win.

By the way, I stole this idea from James Wall of Wall to Wall Martial Arts.