Friday, January 1, 2010

Six Things I Learned at Ashi-Waza Camp

1. The single biggest factor in improving judo in America is increasing the number of people who practice.

This week, Ronda was getting over the flu, Aaron was recovering from an injury. We had a few young black belts to randori with one another but if we had 50 young black belts we would have not noticed the fact that a few of them were under the weather. On the other hand, we probably had 25-30 kids who were in middle school and high school. All of those kids got to work out with others who were their size, some of whom were better and some were worse. They also all met new friends. The more people you have, the better the work out and the less likely you are to burn out or get bored.

2. We have really good teachers in America at all levels, and we don't take advantage of them nearly enough.

One great thing about this camp was the number of instructors who taught, all of whom had very different styles. I was talking with a couple of the other instructors at the camp about those people who are always putting themselves forward - "How about ME? How about having ME teach? How about ME?"

Unfortunately, those same people often teach over and over because they are so pushy. Some of those folks aren't bad but what they don't realize is that they are NOT the possessor of all judo knowledge and by constantly putting themselves forward players lose the ability to learn from others who are also good. Below is a picture of Terry Kunihiro teaching ko uchi makikomi to two young children. When Aaron Kunihiro was asked who was his favorite sensei he ever had, he responded, "My dad."

When Jim Pedro, Sr., one of his current coaches, heard this he said,
"That's what he should say. That is the person who got him in judo and got him to the point he could be on the world team."

3. You can learn a lot by watching other people teach.

Ana Hankins and I were watching Jake Sugiyama (I hope I got his name right) teach the youngest group and commenting on how effective he was with teaching a difficult technique to small children. He began by having everyone stand up and go through what he was doing by themselves. First, sweep like this. Okay, now, get your hands like this and get your elbows up, pull like this. With 15-20 kids under age 11 it is difficult to keep their attention. He did it by having them physically do each movement with him as he explained it.

4. We don't take enough advantage of our young black belts as instructors.

During the camp, Jake Flores, Jr., Ross MacBaisey, Aaron Kunihiro, Ronda Rousey & Victor Ortiz all taught a session or two. Overall, they had much more focused attention from the younger players than did the older instructors. In part, I think, this is because it is easier for a 13-year-old to visualize himself in Aaron's place than as someone who is over 50. We know from social psychology that people identify more with role models who are similar to them.

Also, we need to admit that those my age, and older, are often talking about techniques theoretically. Yes, I can do an o soto gari or ko uchi makikomi but not anywhere near as well as I did thirty years ago. I once overheard a player comment:

"I don't want to hear how Moshi-moshi Sensei who was a twelfth-degree black belt did uchi mata back in the day. I want to see YOUR uchi mata. Show me how to do it."

Many of us older folks tell how to do a technique because our bodies have worn out with age and we flat can't do the techniques the way they should be done. Accept it folks, talking is not the same as doing. When Sensei Richard (Blinky) Elizalde taught uchimata at the camp he had Ronda, who was one of his former students, demonstrate, telling the young players that here was someone he had taught when she was their age and now she was going to show each part as he explained it. A very creative use of a visual aid !

5. Great things can happen when we all work together.

This camp was co-sponsored by California Judo, Inc., USJA, USJF (through a grant to PSJA Yudanshakai). There were over 90 players in attendance, 88 the first day and a few more who came only for the second day.

People really instrumental in pulling this off included Bill Caldwell, Development Director for Southern California for CJI who organized the camp and paid over $1,500 for hotel rooms for athletes, coaches and chaperones, Walter Dean of Pacific Southwest Judo Association, Robert Fukuda from the USJF (who assisted PSJA to get a grant that paid $500 toward this camp and will pay $500 toward another in 2010), Paul Nogaki, the Mini-camp coordinator for USJA who helped Bill organize the event. Of course, great thanks are also due to all of the instructors who assisted in the camp and who sent their students.

6. Don't take anything personally.

This was a great event. It follows a pattern we established with many USJA events. Instead of funding an individual athlete, we would have him or her teach at a clinic and pay a clinician fee. The athlete gets some funding, those who attend get a free or reduced price clinic and it is an activity the USJA can point to as club support - what a national organization can do.

This time around, you'd think this was a great event, as did those who attended, but there were a GREAT many complaints from a FEW people, never to me personally, but to others about how money was being spent, why did MY player not get paid to give a clinic? (Answer, we asked the two world team members in southern California as their travel costs were zero.) Why did you not give the money to MY club, why did you have it in California, is it because it is where you live (no, actually it is where Bill Caldwell lives and he and California Judo Inc of which he is director committed over $1,500 to this event, so the USJA donation would have been matched 3 to 1.)

The USJA donation was going to be to pay for Ronda Rousey. She does clinics for the USJA at half her regular rate. She normally receives $500 a day, but because I am her mom and president of the USJA and we pay EVERYONE the same rate for a full day, she does it for us at half price. (Jim Pedro, Sr. says the fact that we pay everyone the same rate proves that I am a Communist. Pooh!) I say was going to be because some people (none of whom actually came to the camp, by the way), complained so much and accused me of so many things that I thought it was simpler to just pay Ronda the $500 myself. (Did I mention that Ronda has won gold medals in four world cups, a silver medal in the world championships and a bronze medal in the Olympics?)

Ronda said she felt bad about taking the money but I told her to go ahead because the reason I had an extra $500 is that I had originally planned to pay part of the travel expenses for those exact same people who were demanding to know "Why does AnnMaria get to decide who gets their expenses reimbursed?"

Well, because the truth is that often it was not the USJA paying it, it was actually me. I just did not want to say so and embarrass anyone if they found out they were taking "charity" from me, so I would pick up the checks and say it was paid by the USJA.

I told Ronda I was sure it was nothing personal to me or her. Some people are just like that. We walked down to the doughnut store, got a couple of chocolate doughnuts and by the time we were back we were both over it. (However, Ronda ate BOTH of the chocolate doughnuts when I wasn't looking and I didn't get one. I am not quite over that yet.)

So, now the truth is out. A nicer person than me might not have said anything, but I am not a nicer person, I am me.

I think we did a great event this week and 90 people attended a two-day camp including meals, hotel and clinician for a cost of about $22 a person. On top of that, two of our world team members were assisted with money that can off-set the cost of their travel expenses. Good job everyone.

And now you know the rest of the story.


Loren said...

You rock. I just wish I had more funds to attend the stuff you coordinate!

Anonymous said...

Screw the complainers, they are always going to be that way. It's not your job to change them. Having those under your guidance for judo grow is really what is important, not those who always say "ME, ME, ME."

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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