Becky was a teammate of mine on the U.S. judo team. She and I both went to the Panamerican Games and won gold medals, and both went to the world championships and won gold medals. I won mine in judo and she won hers in sambo wrestling.
Steve and I got to reminiscing about old times for over an hour and I made him late for dinner. I'm sure Becky will forgive me. In that time we ran over a whole host of subjects but here are a few I thought were particularly interesting:
- Hypocrite much? The lack of respect for judo matwork. I've talked about this in other posts and it is true that MOST judo players do not have matwork as their strong point. That doesn't mean that judo players who are excellent mat technicians don't have very, very good matwork. Steve mentioned some judo coach who was complaining when commentators said that Ronda's armbars were "jiu-jitsu skills". I told him that was the most hypocritical statement I'd heard this year because that exact same coach criticized me when I taught matwork at a jiu-jitsu school saying that judo people should leave matwork to "the experts". So, let me get this straight, I'm a world judo champion who won 99% of her matches with groundwork and good enough to teach my daughter who is an Olympic & world medalist in JUDO but not good enough to teach white through brown belts in jiu-jitsu? And then you criticize that judo matwork doesn't get much respect?
- The short memory for when judo in the U.S. didn't suck. Sad, but true, when I was competing we were at our peak, which is sad because I thought we would be going up from there. Women I competed with who also won world and Olympic medals for the U.S. - Darlene Anaya (world bronze), Margie Castro Gomez (world silver and bronze, Olympic bronze), Lynn Roethke (world and Olympic silver), Mary Lewis (world bronze), Eve Aronoff (world and Olympic bronze) and Christine Pennick Lincoln (two world bronze). These are women who were my TEAMMATES. How awesome is that?
- How people helped one another. Diane Pierce Tudela, who was my HERO when I was a kid, armbarred me in the finals of the U.S. Open when I was 17. Several years later, I moved to Los Angeles and when I saw her at Tenri Dojo the first thing I did was ask her to teach me that armbar - and she spent countless hours doing just that. I won more matches with that armbar than I can remember. You can see some variations of it in my last post.
- Ronda's decision to move from judo to mixed martial arts. I have mixed feelings about this (no pun intended). I love judo and it would be nice to see Ronda win another Olympic medal for the U.S. On the other hand, she is an adult and has to make her own choices in life. In MMA, she has her expenses paid, she gets paid when she wins, sponsors pay her to wear their gear while judo players are begging people to donate a dollar so they can go to tournaments to qualify for the Olympics. Obviously, I made different choices than her, but I can understand why she made the choice she did and I support her.
- Freestyle judo is starting to take off. There are competitions in several states and there will be freestyle judo in a world martial arts competition this year. I'm hoping I can take some players to the freestyle nationals next year. It really is a fun tournament. Some people don't approve of the lack of formality at freestyle tournaments, but that's one of the things I like about it. The referees stay out of the way and let the players decide who wins. If you want to wear a red gi with a pink shirt underneath, you don't get thrown out of the tournament. (Although Steve, Becky and I all reserve the right to laugh at you for looking like a complete dork.) In freestyle judo, if you pick the other person up and slam him/ her on the back, you win, you don't lose because you touched their legs without saying "Mother, may I?"
- Some people want to be the coach they never had. When Steve said that one of his players commented that "All your life you've wanted to be the coach you never had," Steve said that he felt that described him perfectly and it described Jim Pedro, Sr., too. Some people have a real dedication to coaching and I think it probably does stem in part from feeling that they didn't reach their own athletic potential due to lack of a coach. I love judo and I like coaching but I don't have the same passion for it that I did for competing. Personally, I was really lucky to have some very good coaches. On the other hand, I do try to give my children the family I never had. We try to be that which we never had - I thought it was an interesting idea that explained a lot.