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.