Monday, November 29, 2010

You Suck at Armbars and You Don't Know any Chokes

If you don't know anything about a person your best prediction is the average. For example, if the average woman in America is 5 foot, 4 inches tall and you are asked to predict the height of the next person to come through the door, it would be pretty stupid of you to say 7 feet  or 4 feet, 1 inch. Your best guess is 5'4" and you probably won't be too far off.

This brings us to you. Yes, I'm talking to you. I have no idea who you are. Who ARE you, anyway?

Since I don't know anything about you, I am going to predict that you are like most people and your armbars suck. They suck in some specific ways.

First, you don't lock the arm against your body.
Look at the end of this video where Ronda has Autumn in an armbar. That's the position you want to be in. (Yes, it isn't the greatest video because the referee keeps walking in the way. You should have paid the $9.99 to see it on fight TV. Cheapskate. )

Second, getting your body into the position is easier if you start by locking the arm against your body, rotating toward her head to break the arm away and then back to a 90 degree angle from your opponent. You should do this, but you don't.

Third, you don't know enough ways to get into an armbar. Okay, I will admit that video was from an MMA match and the punching her in the head to get the arm free is not allowed in judo, although I can certainly empathize with the impulse.  However, I see so many people who only have a single way of getting into juji gatame. They do the same roll over move that Jimmy Pedro, Jr. does and that's it. There's nothing wrong with that move at all. It's great. Uchimata is great, too, but I don't recommend it as the only throw anyone ever does in their life. You can do juji gatame from seoi toshi, tomoe nage, on people coming in trying to pin you when you are on your back, when your partner is on her hands and knees you can do it turning towards her hips, towards her head or throwing yourself backward. (Keep your head tucked like in ukemi so you don't knock yourself silly and look like a moron.) Variety is a good thing. Try your armbars different ways.

Fourth, you don't know any armbars besides juji gatame. Right behind juji gatame I think the technique I scored the most with was ude garame.  For those of you who don't know any Japanese, juji gatame is sometimes referred to as a cross-body arm lock or a straight arm lock while ude garame is sometimes called a bent arm lock. This picture shows ude garame as a combination from a pin. Personally, I did it a lot from kesa gatame (another pin), where I armbarred the person with my leg.

Okay, and don't even get me started on chokes because you don't know any except that stupid sankaku which some people call a triangle choke. But that's a whole 'nother story. You know so few chokes we're doing a whole day at the West Coast Judo Training Center on December 11 on nothing but chokes. It's called

Masters of Submission - chokes, chokes and more chokes --
because certain people who are younger than me always wanted to be He-Man in Masters of the Universe cartoons when they were children and other people always wanted to be She-Ra Princess of Power. I wanted to call it the Great American Choke-Out but certain young people did not listen to me. Power of Grayskull my @$$!

Anyway, learn some chokes, damn it! Come down on December 11 and learn to choke people's lights out. Incredibly, this is actually legal in California.

Learn some more arm bars while you're at it. Ones that don't suck.

Variety in techniques and positions is good! That goes for your sex life, too.  Unless you are under 18 years old in which case I order you to unread that last sentence. Or one of my daughters. In which case, you should join a convent. Preferably one named after St. Jude.

Ronda Teaches O Soto Gari

As part of my continuing effort to get other people to do my work for me, I have today Ronda teaching o soto gari. She _says_ not wearing a gi makes it easier to emphasize placement of her right foot, how her leg is lifted and lifting the elbows. HA! The truth is that she is not wearing her gi in these pictures because she had just cleaned out her car, an annual event, so when she got to judo there was no gi in her trunk for the first time in several months.

By the way, for those of you who don't know Japanese, o soto gari in English is Major Outer Reap. As Ronda said yesterday, it is a basic throw but no matter how good you think you are at it, it's worth practicing and getting better because it really is a move that can score at all levels from the novice tournaments to the Olympics.

Step 1: She steps TO THE SIDE with her right foot. Not straight back. Note Ronda is doing this left-handed. If you were doing right o soto you would be stepping to the other side with your left foot.

Step 2: She had me take the next picture from the other side because she really wanted to emphasize that your elbows should be UP. You are stepping into the person and pulling yourself into her.

Step 3: Notice where she is in this picture. Her hips are actually PAST Crystal's. That's really important. You don't want to be reaching for the other person in o soto gari. That's a good way to get countered. Ronda said,

"Pretend you're running to kick a soccer ball. You want to get your momentum going. You're not going to run bent over with your butt sticking out."

How NOT to do o soto gari

Step 4: Pick your leg UP ! This has got to be one of the most frustrating things for all judo instructors. No matter how many times you say this, you'll still see students many time each practice trying to throw someone with the left leg planted on the ground.

See how Ronda's leg is up in the air there? That's how it is supposed to be.  Also, she normally would have kept her arms bent and followed the opponent to the mat, but this is a demonstration and not a contest so she was going easy.

I was supposed to include a picture at the end of Crystal looking like Ronda had killed her but I did not because
a) She didn't really look all that dead.
b) Her butt looked HUGE in that picture and I was sure she would not appreciate it. Her butt is not actually huge it just looked huge in the picture. Not that I have been checking out people's butts at practice or anything. I think I'll just stop typing now before I get into trouble.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How NOT to do a Judo Camp

Today, I was talking to Bill Caldwell, from San Shi Dojo in Vista, CA about the camp that California Judo, Inc. sponsors every year between Christmas and New Year's Day. We got on the subject of what we hate in clinics and camps and it turned out to be the same thing - those sessions you attend where the person shows 1,487 different moves and you get to practice fifteen of them two times each. At the end of the day, there isn't a single thing you can do, but you leave thinking,

"Wow, Sensei Joe-Bob sure knows a lot of judo."

I've been to camps and clinics where the person before me taught a bunch of extremely advanced moves and then it was my turn and I would teach a throw, a pin and an armbar. I've heard (some) people mutter afterward,

"She isn't very good is she? How did she ever manage to win the world championships?"

That always amuses me. Here is an important point that I believe about judo camps and clinics - the purpose is not to show off but to show judo.

As Bill said, what he wants in a camp is,
"Less talking, less showing, more doing."

Judo skill isn't a disease. You don't catch it by hanging out next to someone good. You get it by practicing over and over. No one wins with 396 different techniques. If you're amazing, you might have a few dozen. If you're a normal person, you have, at most, a dozen techniques you score with regularly. More likely, you can count them on one hand.

The awesome Serge Boussyou at Mayo Quanchi once gave me this really good advice  - don't just tell people what NOT to do, you need to tell them what to do, also.

My suggestion would be, when you go to a camp, if the clinician shows six techniques, pick one or two that seem like they would work for you and practice those over and over. In picking those two, consider what you already do. If you have a killer uchimata and the person shows an entry into uchimata, or a combination from uchimata or a set-up to uchimata, do that, it fits into your arsenal. If you are just beginning judo, do whatever looks cool to you. You don't have an arsenal yet. Still, pick one or two techniques and try to get those down at least well enough that you can practice back at your own club.

It's always a good idea when you go to a camp to have a teammate with you. At a camp, do randori with people from other clubs but drills with people from your club. That way, you get practice against people who don't know your techniques (from the randori) but when you get home and want to work on the new techniques, you and your teammate can put your heads together, and hopefully, remember what you learned.

It's funny, a few weeks ago, I was giving almost this exact talk about how, if you don't want to end up irrelevant what you need to do is focus not on impressing your audience but informing them. It was to a group of statisticians (and I bet all of you who clicked on that previous link are now disappointed.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Men Coaching Women

{That's Jimmy - this blog is kind of about him -- >}

When I was talking to Jim Pedro, Sr. today about Kayla Harrison having won in Abu Dhabbi (congratulations, Kayla), it occurred to me that he has coached three women to world medals (Kayla Harrison, Ronda Rousey and Barbara Fest) out of the eleven medalists this country has had. (The other eight were Mary Lewis, Darlene Anaya, Eve Aronoff, AnnMaria (Burns) De Mars, Margie Castro, Lynn Roethke, Liliko Ogasawara and Christine Pennick).

Rusty Kanokogi, who was a HUGE proponent of women's competition, and the first Olympic coach for a women's judo team, had a healthy dose of skepticism for men coaching elite women players. I understood her position, while I did not always agree with her.  In general, she did not believe that male coaches would be as supportive of female athletes or as empathetic or understanding as a female coach. If you knew Rusty, you know that she didn't mean empathetic in the "Oh my poor baby" way, but as far as understanding, for example, that women are naturally a higher percentage body fat, that women are more flexible, making some techniques easier, etc. She also thought (correctly in my opinion) that female coaches were more understanding of the sexual harassment and general disrespect that women had to tolerate just to get on the mat.

So.... I got to wondering what was it about Jimmy that made him a good coach for women. Not only has he had success lately but he used to have a terrific women's team back in the 1970s, not exactly a heyday of enlightenment for women's judo (in fact, I don't think there's EVER been a heyday of enlightenment for women's judo). It is NOT that he had women working out with the men, although he did do that. Jim was certainly not the first or only person in the country to have women training with men in his dojo. I would agree with him that is a necessary condition for women in the U.S. to be a successful competitors. There just aren't enough tough women in any single area to limit your training to other women.

What I noticed about Jim today, and Ronda has mentioned it before as well, is that he treats the women the same as he does his male players, and he does it very un-self-consciously. For example, today he was talking about the other players in Kayla's division, each one she had to fight, what each player's strengths and weaknesses were. He used to do the same thing with Ronda. For both of them, he would talk a lot about their potential, their physical strength, their work ethic.

{That's me. AnnMaria - this blog is by me -- >}

Many (not all) other male coaches have a noticeable difference in the way they talk about their male and female players. Even coaches who are coaching elite female players, when I ask them about the competition will say, 

"I don't follow women's judo. All of the women in Mary's division do s--- judo."

If you don't have respect for women's judo, you aren't going to do what Jimmy does and scout the opponents in detail. You aren't going to focus on how your player matches up against her competitors and you aren't going to study your own player's judo in detail because you are limited by your own prejudice against women's judo.

While nothing is a guarantee, it seems to me that having a sincere respect for women's judo as a sport and your player as an athlete is related to greater success internationally. 

I've noticed that in Europe, and yes, in Japan, too, there is more respect, both among male athletes and male coaches, for women who win international competitions and I suspect the greater success of their women's teams is no coincidence.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Things I Know about Judo (for those of you too tired to read)

Well, yesterday I posted some things I knew about judo but, when I gave it some deep thought, I discovered there were even more things I knew about judo. Amazing, huh?

Some of you have commented that you would like to read my blog but you are too tired after working all day and going to judo practice in the evening.

Just for you, I have prepared today's podcast so you can learn about judo and still rest your precious little eyes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Things I Know about Judo

If you did not attend the clinic at San Fernando Dojo this week you missed the opportunity to learn about judo (see cool but unrelated video of San Fernando sensei Richie Endow doing hane goshi here). Clinicians included yours truly, Dr. Jacob Flores, Ronda Rousey, Kyle Taketa from Gardena Dojo, Dave Honda and Vanessa Cualquim from South Bay Judo and Naynay (Amelia) Fulgentes from Mojica Judo. The last four, including the young lady from Mojica whose name I am sure I completely butchered in spelling (sorry) just came back from the Junior World Championships. They, along with Ronda, provided the youthful good looks and athleticism quota of the room, while I held up my end by providing the quota of snarky comments.

As a public service, I am including here some of the profound points I made.

Judo has enough rules, you don’t need to make up your own. When someone says about a person who is not doing anything illegal, “That's Not Judo. I'm Fine With Losing If That's What You Have To Do To Win”, then yes, he/she is going to lose more often than someone willing to do any legal technique. If you refuse to do matwork because you would rather win by a spectacular throw than 'grubbing around down there on the mat' then be prepared to lose occasionally on the mat. If you don't practice grip-fighting because, "I prefer to be able to throw you from whatever grip you get," then you are just being arrogant. If you refuse to practice transition from standing to matwork because, as one coach told me, "It's just bad sportsmanship to jump on a guy when he is down", then you are going to lose to people who are better at transition than you. I want to emphasize that I am NOT talking about cheating. I have never, ever been one of those people to say if the referee doesn't see you do it, it's not illegal. Deliberately breaking a rule is cheating. Fighting tactically - for example, doing low risk attacks when you are ahead by a waza ari and there is a minute left, stalling when you are ahead by a waza ari and there are ten seconds left, those are tactics. Following your opponent to the mat to an armbar is just good judo. Making up these "My judo is better than you" rules about gripping, combinations, transition or whatever makes no more sense than deciding you won't do o soto gari because only forward throws like uchimata are "real judo".

If you can’t beat someone at her own game then you play a different game. If your opponent is stronger than you on the mat, try to play standing up as much as possible. If he or she is stronger than you standing, go to the mat. If your opponent is better than you at grip-fighting, try to get the first grip and attack immediately before she can control your grip or take off your grip.

You play people, not principles. While going to the mat is generally a bad idea with 20 seconds left on the clock when you are behind, since it is usually more likely to get a yuko or higher score while standing, if you are much better than your opponent in matwork, it's wise to go to the mat. Similarly, it is usually a good strategy to go to the mat when you are ahead and eat up the clock - unless your opponent is  much better than you in matwork. The same is true of techniques. If your best throw is seoi nage but your opponent's only really good move is a tani otoshi counter to seoi nage, then, duh, do o soto gari or something else.

I'm surprised I would have to explain this, but, then it occurred to me that people don't emerge from the womb knowing judo and they have to learn these basic ideas at some point. For relatively new judo players, those who just haven't been paying attention and some of you who are a little too in love with your own ideas sometimes, the above explanations were necessary. You're welcome.

Since I know that you are just crushed at the missed opportunity to hear me talk, in my continual effort to meet all of your needs and desires, check back tomorrow for an actual pod cast of me talking about matwork drills and some other random stuff.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coaching Questions and Answers: Part 2

 This is the second guest post on this topic by Jim Pedro, Sr.

How do you handle people/students with short attention span?
It depends on their age. Usually it is the little kids who have difficulty paying attention. Call their name and they pay attention for the next ten seconds. Then they are back to playing with their belt. When they are little, they don't have much attention span. They grow out of it eventually. I yell their names to startle them but I never yell at them for real to scare them or get angry. They're just being kids. If you expect little kids to act like adults you're going to be frustrated your whole life as a coach. So, I would say, yell, “Johnny!” when he is not paying attention and Johnny will pay attention for 15 seconds. Show something in that 15 seconds, and don’t worry too much. He’ll get a longer attention span eventually. They almost always do.

What is the ideal age to let your student compete in tournaments?
The ideal age is when they want to compete. We let them start at five and six years old if they want the experience of competing. At 5 or 6, if they don't want to compete, we don't push them. A lot of kids don't want to compete because they are scared of letting their parents down, that  their parents won't have the same opinion of them.

We have a separate competition class and the kids who are in that class are required to compete. However, they can stay in the regular class as long as they want, forever, if they want to, and they are not required to compete.

 All of our kids compete in the in-club contests. We don't force them to compete outside of the club. Competition is good for children. Life is competition. You compete for jobs, for grades. If you aren't used to handling setbacks it is harder for you to learn when you are older. When they get older they are going to have to compete and they will have had the experience of losing and not achieving what they wanted to get and trying harder.

What do you do when kids start your judo class and they are really out of shape? Do you ever tell people they need to get in better shape before they can do judo.
If they are out of shape and they start judo, they will get in better shape than when they walk through the door. It depends on how you structure your classes. Our classes start with 20 minutes of calisthenics. You just encourage them to do as much as they can do and don't make a big deal out of it. Tell them if they can't do 10 push-ups correctly to do one, the next week they do two and eventually they do three. Focus on the improvement rather than what they cannot do. If they come to practice regularly, they will improve.

If you see a coach yelling and mistreating their student at a tournament, what should you do?
It would depend on the situation. Normally, I would not get involved because in most cases I wouldn't know the whole story. For example, once when my kids were little they were playing with a ball at a judo tournament after I specifically told them not to do it. The ball went out in the street and Jimmy ran after it. I pulled him back and swatted him on the butt. He was just a little kid and I  wanted him to remember not to run out in the street. I don't think having a talk with him about traffic safety would have done it at that age. If someone had walked by and seen me, they might have wrongly assumed that I spanked him for not doing what I wanted in the tournament, which had nothing to do with it. I just wanted to keep him safe. As far as seeing a coach actually beating or physically abusing a child at a tournament, that’s entirely different but I don’t think that really occurs that often. In most cases, I would rely on the parents to handle it. It’s their child and they know a lot more about what is going on than I would as the coach from another club

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coaching Questions and Answers: Part 1

Guest Post from Jim Pedro, Sr.

1. What is the BEST Trait you can have to be a Great Coach?
I would have to say, ‘caring’. You have to care about your players. If you really care, you will always be trying to learn better ways to help them, all of them.

As a Coach/Instructor at YMCA what do I do when the YMCA is against competition and most of the Coaching Program is about competition?
I cannot imagine there is a coach out there who does not want his or her players to get better. Whether you call yourself coach, sensei or instructor, it doesn't matter. We all have this element in common; we all want our players to improve. How can you tell if your student really knows how to do o soto gari or ippon seio nage or the mat move you just taught this week? Do you have them do shadow uchi komi with no partner? Do you have them fit half-way into the throw and then have the other person jump for them?  I don't think so. Even when I did kata, I didn't expect the other person to jump for me. Having your students able to do the technique against a resisting partner demonstrates that  they have really learned.

This doesn’t mean they need to enter the senior nationals. You can have them compete within their own club. Then critique their fighting on what they are doing wrong. This way you can couch it as a learning experience and if you are questioned by the YMCA you can honestly point out that  this is one of the ways your students learn.

The point of competition is NOT to beat your opponent into the ground. In fact, when we had a camp after the junior nationals, I had a long talk with some of the young players about that. Within your own club or in inter-club workouts or camps, you are supposed to be learning. That's what it's all about.

I am in a community program where they have a lot of rules about what we can and cannot do to discipline students. How should I handle a kid that acts up when my hands are pretty much tied by the center?
You can make him sit out and learn while watching. Tell the student, “Sit over there and when you think you can behave in class, let me know.” Punishing kids by making them sit out of judo is sort of a quiet psychological way of convincing the kid this is a good thing because he is being punished by not being allowed to do it. At the same time, it removes the disruptive influence from your class by having him sit out.

There are a few kids in my class who would be great judo players but their parents are unwilling to support them. Either the parents don’t want to bring them to extra practices, they think I am working them too hard or the student is in eleven different activities and cannot make the commitment to judo.
Those are three different cases. In every case, talk to the parents.  For those parents who think you are working too hard, explain to them that you will take care of the child. Invite them to do judo if they want to put a gi on and get an idea of the activity that their child is involved in. Having the whole family in judo is also a good way to promote retention for your club.

For the parents who have their child in everything, advise them to pick a couple of activities and enable their child to be excellent in a couple of sports rather than average in a whole bunch of activities. Tell them, “Your child doesn't have to pick judo but let her pick a couple of things she wants to do.”

Often the parents don't have the time to make the commitment to judo. This sport places demands on parents that other sports don’t. With other sports, they can drop the child off or they are picked up or just attend after school. In judo, the parents need to be more involved and that is hard after they worked all day. Reinforce them about all the good they are doing for their child. Remind the students to thank their parents for taking them to judo, for the effort they are putting out for their child. 

(Yes, I have been slacking lately and not writing a lot of posts. Then, I followed that up by having other people like Richard (Blinky) Elizalde and Jim Pedro, Sr. write posts for me, what's up with that?  Well, the fact is that Jim and I are writing a book and I am putting together the first draft of it and trying to get as much as I can ready by the time he leaves for Japan so he can spend the tedious twenty-hour or so flights editing it. Between the two of us, we have written several hundred pages about judo over the last few years, and we retained the copyright on every word of it. We got to thinking it might be a good idea to put it together into a book on developing martial artists. Turns out to be a hell of a lot more work than it sounds. That, on top of actual work running my company, writing papers on statistics for conferences and trying to keep this damn cat, Beijing, off my keyboard, has taken up most of my time. Hayward Nishioka suggested "crowd-sourcing" the book. You'd think by the time a guy is near 70 years old he wouldn't be so up on all the latest terms, but Hayward can surprise you every day. Anyway, he said I should put up on my blog sections of the book and see what people recommended, what they liked what they didn't like.  So, any comments, suggestions, things you like/ dislike about this post? I'll put up Part 2 tomorrow. You don't get a share of royalties - which I doubt will be much - but we will acknowledge in the book any suggestions, so if you are willing to be recognized by name, please give your name. Or,  you are welcome to post anonymously. We are interested in criticism as well, because we would like this to be a good book. We're old - especially Jim - so we may not write another. Actually, I probably will but my next book will be on data analysis.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Do Tai Otoshi

Guest Post by Sensei Richard Elizalde

First, get a standard right hand grip. With your left hand, grip her right sleeve at the elbow, grip her left lapel with your right hand. Now with that right hand pull up and out (look closely and you can see this in the picture).  Notice that my right foot is between her feet. It makes a triangle with her two feet and my foot as the tip of the triangle.

Second, I pull her forward to her right as I step in, putting all the weight on her right leg. I pivot on my right foot and spin my left leg behind me. Both knees are bent. I pull her up as I go down.

Third,  shoot your right leg so it is touching hers between the ankle and the knee. Note the placement of the left foot. Most people have that foot too far back, trying to get almost between the opponent's legs, and, as a result, they themselves are off balance. My left foot is actually on the outside of the opponent's left foot and slightly in front of her. Notice that both of my elbows are up. My left knee is bent, almost touching the floor and my toes are behind her foot. A mistake many people make is they drop the elbow as they turn around and they are pulling down instead of up and out.

To finish the throw,TURN your body, pull around in a circle with your left hand so it ends up on the outside of the left leg. Push up with your right hand (your right elbow should be underneath the arm pit). It's a strong tsuri komi goshi grip, if you are familiar with that throw.

A common mistake is to forget to turn the head. Especially beginners seem to just keep looking at the opponent. If you must look at the opponent turn your head around so you can look at their feet flying up in the air.

(The aspersions that were cast at the West Coast Judo Training Center that I have a foot fetish because I prefer to look at people's feet as they fall rather than stare in their faces is completely false. It is just good technique to turn your head and if I happen to see their feet that is coincidence.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Can Always Run Slower

Today, I ran a mile for the first time in over five years. I still remember the last time. I used to run eight miles every other day, from pier to pier. Since I was telecommuting back then, I spent all day sitting in front of a computer. Every other day, I would run down to the beach, run from the Santa Monica Pier to the next pier south which is through Venice and by Marina del Rey. Then, I'd run back and run the seven blocks uphill to get home from Santa Monica Beach. The last time I did it, I was running uphill to go home and my knee gave out. This had happened so many times over the years, I just tried to put it back in and keep running but I could only go about two steps. So, that was it. I ended up getting my knee replaced, which, in short, means they cut a nine-inch incision down my leg and did generally painful, awful things. No one I knew that had their knee replaced said they were back to running, they just said it didn't hurt any more. That's why I didn't bother getting my knee replaced for several years. I'm up to biking six miles a day or more but it's not the same thing.

SO... yesterday, I was at Disneyland, chasing after my granddaughter, Eva, the human pinball, running up steps to Tarzan's treehouse and down the street at Toontown and I thought, hey, I can run again.

Walking around for hours is the kind of thing that used to kill my knee but I woke up this morning and I felt fine. So, I thought I would try running to the ocean and back. I was a little nervous about it since having your knee replaced is  one of those things that lets you understand how people survive torture. If you think I'm kidding, you never had it done. I was thinking, what if I can't run that far?

Then, I remembered Coach Frances Bailey. She was my college track coach. Coach Bailey is one of those coaches who is very calm, matter-of-fact and generally positive. She was the opposite of a lot of those screaming, yelling, negative coaches you see too often in judo. Of course, if she did call someone an idiot or a loser that made it ten times worse because you knew that she had considered it and she truly meant it. One track meet, we were all watching a race and one of the runners from another team slowed down and finally started walking.

Coach Bailey said with disgust,

"Girls, if I ever see you do that, well, I don't know what I'll do but I'll come up with something and you better believe you won't like it. You never, never stop running in a race. If you get tired and you can't push yourself at the pace you were going, you can always run slower. There's no excuse for stopping, ever. "

Out of all the classes I have taken through college and graduate school, there are three pieces of advice that stuck with me the most and that was one of them.

"You can always run slower."

She told us that same thing many times in practice after that, as individuals, to one person or another when we were tired and wanted to quit before practice was over, before we had done the evil number of sprints she wanted or run far more miles than the average student with 1500 SAT scores ever dreamed about. (Washington University in St. Louis is known for its medical school and not its track team for a reason - a fact pointed out to the unsympathetic coach by more than one of my teammates.)

I remembered Coach Bailey about 50 times today as I ran a mile and a half down to the ocean and back.

... without stopping.


Off to Las Vegas right now. If you aren't coming to watch Ronda fight, you can watch it live here for $10

It starts at 7 pm Pacific Time and no, I don't know where she is in the line up.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Essence of Budo: A book that didn't suck

People send me books all of the time for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the author is a friend and is just keeping in touch, kind of a "Here's what I've been up to lately."

What I've been up to lately is writing five papers. One was on moving from Windows to high-performance computing, a second is on data visualization, and the other three are part of a series on design choices in programming. Actually, I did send those to some friends to read them. Obviously, none of you people reading this were those friends!

Sometimes people think I will be interested in reading the book. I now have several copies of The Art of War - in paperback, hardback and on my Kindle. Sometimes they are hoping to "improve me". These books range from religious tracts to books on the 'true meaning' of martial arts.  Hey y'all - I have a religion and a Bible. If fifty-two years of the Catholic church hasn't improved me, your book doesn't have a chance!

Sometimes the publishers are hoping I will write about the book. Most of these books suck so I never mention them. Not very friendly if someone sends you something for free and you trash it. That's like going to someone's house for a nice dinner of sushi and complaining that they fed you bait. Some people (including me) like sushi. If it's not for you, just politely shut the hell up.

I did receive an interesting book a while back called The Essence of Budo by Dave Lowry(who, coincidentally, has also written an, unrelated, I think, book about sushi). It's neither a book on how to be a die-hard competitor nor is it one of those new age-y books on finding your bliss through martial arts. If I ever decide to find my bliss, I'll look under the bed, where I find most things I'm missing.

The book was - interesting, really is the best word. For example, he talks about being a young teenager and matched up, for once, with a player who was smaller and limping. Do you take it easy? Do you slam him and show off (always the temptation for teenage boys)?

He has an interesting take on kohaku tournaments. As he sees it, the emphasis on the process - who won most instead of who won at the end - is a benefit of these tournaments. True. I think his comments overall though are more relevant to the way these tournaments used to be than to now when, with fewer players, there are a whole lot of mismatches with players fighting someone much older, bigger and more experienced, probably why this type of tournament is out of fashion.

The best part of the book is the last few chapters. The chapter on choosing a sensei is the best.
"I do not want a daddy. I have had one. I do not need someone to love me ...I do not want a sensei who is a budo teacher only because he isn't qualified - in terms of his formal education, his skills or his ambition - to be anything else."

This isn't the book I would pick to learn about judo - Steve Scott, Hayward Nishioka, Hal Sharp and Ron Angus are my favorite authors for coaching and technical information. ( Speaking of which, Hayward has a new judo book coming out soon. It would be a good Christmas present for anyone you know in judo who is hard to buy stuff for.)

If, like me, you are always looking for something new to read, and you are interested in martial arts in general, this book is an interesting way to pass an evening, and more intellectually stimulating than watching The Simpsons. (Yes, Dennis, I added that last clause just for you. Imagine me frowning disapprovingly. There! )

DISCLAIMER: I have nothing to disclaim. As much shit as I talk about everyone here you'd have to be out of your mind to pay me to write about you. Being mentioned by me probably brings your sales down. (Sorry about that, Hayward.)