Monday, January 3, 2011

Luck of the Draw is (usually) a Load of B.S.

Luck comes in a lot of forms. One that is greatly over-rated is the luck of the draw. Every time I hear people complain about a bad draw, I just want to slap them. Yes, there really is such as thing as the luck of the draw. Some people will just have a style that is harder for you to beat, and others will be easier. As Jim is always saying, “It’s all match-ups”.

Kind of, sort of, maybe. If you do everything else right - technical training, physical conditioning, competition, mental conditioning - then the vast majority of match-ups should favor you and luck should come into it only very rarely.

Let’s take me, for example. I was not particularly fast, but I was very physically strong and I had excellent matwork. I had a hell of a time with Diane Bell, from England, who had very good mat defense, the good sense to just defend until the referee called matte, and was very fast, for our division. She’d always hit drop seoi nage and then cover up. (There was no false attack rule back then so this was a perfectly legal and smart way to play.) I think I beat every single other person in my division at least once, and many of them more than once. In the early rounds in the world championships, Diane got choked out by Gerda Winkelbauer, the 1980 world champion, and that was it. So, having someone who has a style that is just difficult for me get beat in the first round is a lucky draw. And that is the only time in 14 years of competition that I think the draw may have mattered.

On the other hand, in 1984, to go on to the finals, I still had to beat the 1980 gold medalist, as well as another really strong player from Italy, and to win the finals I had to beat the 1982 silver medalist, Sue Williams. With competition like that, unless you've trained your heart out, every draw is going to be unlucky for you.

Eve Aronoff won a bronze medal in the world championships in 1982 (I was busy having a baby). For the next several tournaments, I had to beat Eve to go into the finals, and I did. It never occurred to me to complain about having a bad draw. If I wanted to win, I had to beat everyone, so what the hell difference did the order I beat them in make? I don't recall Eve whining about it either.

If you are one of those people like my world team mate and bronze medalist, Darlene Anaya, whose first match is always the worst, don’t whine about having someone tough the first round. Do what Darlene learned to do. Get a partner, go to the warm up area and have your “first match” before the tournament starts. Beat hell out of each other. Then go out and win.

Diane Pierce Tudela gave me great advice when I was a teenager. She said,
“I see these girls who come to a tournament, look to see what division I’m in and then move up or down so they don’t have to fight me. Don’t be like them. Pick a division and take it over. Make everybody run from you.”
If you are the toughest person in the division by far, you can’t get an unlucky draw because, you see, you ARE the unlucky draw.


Lex said...

There's always a silver lining to every draw. I've had to face Nick Delpopolo, Travis Stevens, Harry and Garry St Leger, in the first round.

I enjoyed those, because I'm such a huge underdog that I can relax and take big risks and go for big throws.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

When you're the underdog, it's a no-lose situation. If you win, it's great, and if you lose, well, they had experience, training, etc. on you. Also, if you've studied your competition, you know what they do, but coming out new, you're an unknown quantity to them.

Also, all the guys you mention are good judo players and perfectly nice people, but my advice would be, don't give your competition too much respect. I never considered myself an underdog from day one - which may just reflect my lack of common sense. But, hey, anybody can be beaten.

Your plan of taking big risks and going for big throws is much smarter than what most people do, which is to just play really defensive and hope to "last" the match.

BJJ Judo said...

I really like this post esecially the final quote.

If you are the toughest person in the division by far, you can’t get an unlucky draw because, you see, you ARE the unlucky draw.

Alex said...

Great post! I actually think that this is not done often enough in judo: to think about what your opponent thinks of you. Maybe that's the nature of a tournament-based sport. Just realizing that your opponent knows you are not an easy fight gives you that extra confidence to fight your own fight.

Easter said...

It won't really have effect, I think this way.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to meet Diane Tedula. She's a legend. Does she still travel the country giving demonstrations? Or is she retired from judo instruction?