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.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Continuing USJA Election Coverage: Ronda Rousey, Part 2

Having narrowly averted the Ninja attacks, we now continue with more USJA Election coverage, endorsements of candidates by Olympic bronze medalist, world silver medalist, junior world gold medalist and (full disclosure here), my daughter, Ronda Rousey. This brings the percentage of my daughter endorsements to 75%.

In case you are too impatient to watch the video or have a slow download connection and gave up, here are Ronda's endorsements.

Dr. Jim Lally
Jim Pedro, Sr.
Paul Nogaki
Neil Ohlenkamp
Gary Goltz

(She supports me, too, but I did not ask her about that on the video. Take my word for it. Or maybe she can write a blog on it, as you can see her excitement about the election is palpable. Or maybe that was excitement about Zelda - or Michigan. It's hard to tell.)

In all seriousness, I think Ronda's reasons for supporting the candidates she does are very well thought out. There are other people who I personally would support, including Roy Hash, Bill Montgomery, Joan Love, Marc Cohen and Lowell Slaven. However, this was Ronda's list of the people she felt she knew the best and on whom she could contribute some inside information.

USJA Election Endorsements by Another Rousey

Here we have the first part of the interview of Ronda Rousey as she gives her endorsements for the USJA Board of Directors, starting with Dr. Jim Lally. This endorsement is interrupted by Jennifer. A long intermission ensued involving discussions of possible Ninja attacks, specialized knee-attacking Ninja teams and more. Since this was not particularly pertinent, it has been deleted.

Two conclusions are that:
A) You should vote for Dr. Jim Lally.
B) The Daily Show should definitely keep Jon Stewart as a host and not replace him with Ronda or me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More USJA Election Coverage: Endorsements by Rousey (not that one)

In a surprising development, my daughter endorsed ME as USJA President. This was not Ronda, who was not in the house at the time. Later, we will have her endorsements.

The first endorsement is from Jennifer Rousey,whose endorsement is valid because:

1. She is one of two older sisters of Ronda Rousey, so she has actually watched judo.
2. She is a graduate student at USC, meaning she must be smart.
3. She is very good-looking (come on, that is why we have celebrities endorse candidates - like do you really believe that George Clooney or Gwyneth Paltrow knows jack about fiscal policy? So why do you care who they want for president? Because they're good-looking, duh! )
4. She actually met Jim Pedro, Sr. and thought his mustache was cool. Plus, she likes that he treats her little sister well.

The second endorsement comes from a judo player in cape, Definitely Not Julia. From Utah Judo, which is somewhere close to Japan, I believe.

=== > Also a shout-out to Erin Butts for winning the Junior U.S. Open. Erin, you are definitely bad-@$$ for a midget.

For those of you who have asked - the ballots for the USJA Election will be mailed to clubs soon as well as a link to download the form posted on the USJA website. I will post the link here when it becomes available, which should happen within the week.

Sneakerdoodle Zebra Judo USJA Election Coverage

Tonight we begin our coverage of the USJA Election with an endorsement for the USJA Board of Paul Nogaki by someone, Definitely Not Julia.

As noted in this endorsement, Paul is "like a math person". Actually, Paul has two masters degrees, including one in finance from the University of Southern California.

Paul is vice-president of a software company and head instructor of the Temecula Valley Judo Club in Temecula, California, known by some as slightly east of nowhere. As Paul says,
"It doesn't get any more grass roots than this."

In addition to the unknown person in a kimono, Paul is endorsed by yours truly (AnnMaria De Mars, current USJA President). He has been the mini-camp coordinator as part of the USJA Development committee. He organized the coach certification at the USJA/USJF Winter Nationals. He was also director of the fabulous camp after the USJA Junior Nationals this year, also co-sponsored by the Judo Forum and attended by Neil Ohlenkamp, Mr. Judo Forum himself. Neil is also running for the USJA Board, by the way, and will be another great addition.

Another person endorsing Mr. Nogaki is Lowell Slaven, the current USJA Treasurer. Lowell IS running for re-election to the board but he is very comfortable having Paul assume the duties as treasurer. As Lowell noted, Paul has a terrific background in finance and accounting and,
"We need to not let egos get in the way of having the best person in a job."

Lowell himself is very interested in working with the USJA over the next few years to develop jiu-jitsu and to bring judo into more jiu-jitsu clubs.

You can read more about several others running for the USJA Board on the website I set up in my spare time, of which I have none, The New USJA. I will be adding more to it over the next couple of days.

On an unrelated note -
I am reading Gene LeBell's autobiography, "The Godfather of Grappling".

It is a great book. I have met Gene many, many times. He is such a nice, modest person, I never would have known he had done half of the things in this book. Of course I knew about the stunt work, TV work and movie roles because I have seen him on TV and in the movies, but as for the rest of it - unbelievable.

It reminds me yet again how many fabulous people we have walking around in our midst in the judo community who never draw attention to themselves and are sometimes overlooked in the babble of those self-proclaimed judo greats calling "Look at me! Promote me! Make me a seventh-degree black belt! Let me be first in the buffet line!"

It's a great book to remind you of the varied, full lives one of our judo greats lived. Well, he is still living. As I am sure Gene would be the first to tell you, he is not dead yet!