Saturday, December 29, 2012

Don't Throw Up, Throw Down! Ronda Rousey Fights Eating Disorders

Here is how my parking in Ronda's garage led to raising funds for the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Clinic....

Her friend, Marina, was moving to LA from New York and had her boxes shipped to my house, since they were driving across country and no one was home at the new place in Venice. When I dropped the boxes off, Marina and I walked to the beach for coffee. That's when Ronda came back, found my van in her garage and had a bit of a panic attack, going off about how she couldn't park her new BMW on the street and how hard it is to find parking by the beach. In my usual sympathetic manner, I said,

Check yourself! Your biggest problem is that you temporarily can't park your $130,000 car that the UFC gave you in the garage at your house on the beach. You do realize that some people have real problems, don't you? Take one minute to think outside of yourself. You have some money and a bit of celebrity now. Is there any group of people you feel strongly about helping?

Instantly, Ronda answered,

Eating disorders. People with eating disorders. No one is doing anything for them. 

Her friend, Wetzel said,

Well, there has to be somebody. Let's think of a celebrity with an eating disorder.

I said,

There was Karen Carpenter, but she died - of anorexia

In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The cost of treatment is high and often not covered by insurance. Despite that, you don't see a lot of discussion or fund-raising. It's not an illness that has adorable babies tugging at your heart strings and pocketbook. Eating disorders are much higher among elite athletes than in the general population, and much higher among athletes in judged sports (like gymnastics) and sports that have weight categories (like wrestling and judo).

Wanting to find a credible organization, I contacted one of the staff members for the Didi Hirsch clinic, who happens to have lived on the same street as us since we moved to Santa Monica in 1997. She told us how hard it is to find the funds to give the therapy needed by teenagers (and even some younger kids) with eating disorders.

SO ..... Ronda decided to start the Ronda Rousey Fund. Any money raised between now and March, she'll match with a check of her own, up to a total of $5,000. One way to make sure that at least $5,000 gets raised is that she'll be doing a clinic shortly after her fight.  The facility will be donated as will Ronda's time. All the money from the clinic will be donated to the Didi Hirsch fund for youth with eating disorders. This is only the second clinic Ronda will have done since she started MMA and there are not any plans for her to do another one any time soon. It will be in Los Angeles. I'm pretty sure I know where it is going to be held but since it is 1:30 a.m. in LA and I am out of town, I'm not going to call Ronda now and ask her. I don't really know a lot of the details, but I will post them here as they get hammered out in the next few days. I think the clinic will be limited to 50 people or less and the cost will be $100 or more. I also expect a few spaces will be raffled off.

If you can't make it to the clinic but want to help, you can send a check with the note "Don't throw up, throw down" to

Joel Safranek
Vice President, Development
4760 Sepulveda Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90230

You can also donate online here. In the menu where it says "I am giving in response to" pick OTHER and type Ronda Rousey Fund in the box below it.

If you don't have any money but would like to help another charity, there is also the free rice group, you can join and donate rice. I'd think a good prize for the top donor could be a space at the clinic - but I don't know so don't count on that. It definitely would not be transferable.

As I said, details are being hammered out now - just thought it was interesting and I would post a heads up. Anyone with fundraising suggestions, please chime in.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Another way to start matwork

Here is another drill that is perhaps not as useful in the development of kinesthetic sense but is a variation of how to start matwork. The players sit up three times on my count and on the third sit-up they both start attacking.

What both of these drills try to do is instill the habit of attacking suddenly. Almost always, one person will be a little quicker out of the metaphorical starting block than the other. You want that quicker person to be you.

Free Rice Prizes Because Just Feeding the Hungry Isn't Enough

Just to summarize, because I know how annoying it is to read something where you have to go to a link to find out what it is about, and some of you already linked here from twitter ...

In case you don't know, Ronda Rousey - also known in our house as "Darling Daughter Number 3" and "MOM! Make her quit punching me!" is going to be fighting for the UFC on February 23, in Anaheim, California. You can buy tickets here or watch it on pay-per-view.

Before each title fight, Ronda runs a contest to raise food for the hungry since she is cutting weight and hungry.  As of now, enough rice has been donated by Ronda-fans to serve 10,000 meals to people in refugee camps and other places the World Food Program works.

I have been asked about prizes and we have picked up a few more. So far we have:

  • T-shirts and sweatshirts from Fightchix (thank you!)
  • A t-shirt from Down2scrap. (There was a long-sleeved shirt but the youngest sister swiped it. She says she did not swipe it, "it was eminent domain". Someone is studying for SATs.)
  • A copy of the armbar encyclopedia by Steve Scott
  • A Gene Lebell gift pack complete with Gene Lebell NSFW really bad joke book, bronze cast of Gene's cauliflower ear lapel pin and Gene patch
  • Ronda Rousey patches

Ronda will autograph all the prizes. Last time the top two got signed Topps cards but those were from a pack made especially for her and I'm sure she's keeping the rest.

She's donating her fight gloves to the school auction for her sister's school,  and she gave two other pairs to the MMAClothes4Homeless and West Coast Training Center fund raisers so those are out. (She needs the rest of her gloves to train.)

She is also doing a clinic fundraiser - but NOT for the free rice group, but for her OTHER charity project to benefit low-income children and teens with eating disorders, "Don't Throw Up, Throw Down!" Of course, the person who started her first free rice group with "Because it sucks to be hungry ..." would come up with that.

Anyway, more about that later,   go here to join the free rice group. where you answer questions on topics like math, Spanish, English vocabulary, science - the questions are pretty easy in some categories. For every question you answer, the advertisers on the site donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program.

How to win, what to win, when to win details can be found here if you need them. First of all, join the group and donate rice.
Make sure when you are playing that it shows rondaUFC as your group at the top right if you want the group to get credit.

If you have ideas on prizes or stuff to donate for prizes, tweet me at @drannmaria or post in the comments below.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Free Rice - Help Hungry People, Win Stuff

The free rice contest begins again now.  Free rice is a website where Ronda Rousey (a.k.a. daughter number 3) has a group. where you answer questions on topics like math, Spanish, English vocabulary, science - the questions are pretty easy in some categories. For every question you answer, the advertisers on the site donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program.

In case you don't know, Ronda is going to be fighting for the UFC on February 23, in Anaheim, California. You can buy tickets here or watch it on pay-per-view.

Before each title fight, Ronda runs a contest to raise food for the hungry since she is cutting weight and hungry. Between the last two fights, the group has raised over 30,000,000 grains of rice. Since one bowl of rice is about 3,400 grains and comes out to about 3 cups of cooked rice, that is enough to feed approximately 8,850 people.

How to win, what to win, when to win details below. First of all, join the group and donate rice. How it works is if you click on the link to join the group, you answer questions and for every correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated by the ad sponsor. (The ads vary.) 
Here is how to win stuff:

1. Be in the top five donors OR donate a million grains of rice (easier than it sounds - four people have done it so far).

By the way, if you are in this group and will be at the fight LET ME KNOW. We will try to catch up and give you your winnings in person.

Here is some of the stuff the nice people at Fight Chix donated. Ronda will autograph it all.

2. Be lucky.  Out of all of the rest of the people who have donated, we will pull three people out at sort of random. We'll weight your chances by the amount of rice donated. I'm a statistical programmer so I can do that sort of thing. If you have donated 300,000 grains of rice you have 30,000 times the chance of the person who donated 10 grains - but they DO still have a chance. Hey, people buy lottery tickets, right? Those people will also get prizes.

When: As of weigh-ins on February 22nd.

Thank you for feeding hungry people, by the way. To quote Ronda, "It sucks to be hungry".

Make sure when you are playing that it shows rondaUFC as your group at the top right if you want the group to get credit.

(Even though I said this, there will be at least 40 times when people don't do it and then write me to complain they did not get credit. I know because I have done this and I am estimating at least 10% of the population is as dumb as me.)

Notice this is a new group. We could not get the old one re-set to zero, and since this is her first UFC fight, it seemed only fitting to start a new group.

P.S. We have gotten organized. In the past we had some problem with people getting their stuff. Some of it seemed to have disappeared en route and then we had to send them something again. Or we'd think it got mailed out with the last bunch of stuff and it was still sitting in the supply closet in my office. So, this time we will be sending everything out in one fell swoop after the fight, and keeping tracking numbers.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yet another reason not to start matwork back to back

Maybe I should call this series of videos 101 to start matwork other than back to back, but I have reports for clients to finish before the end of the year, so I will save that rant for another day. I keep harping on about kinesthetic sense. One example of that (or lack thereof) that is demonstrated at the very beginning of this video occurs when they start close to the fence. A person with better developed kinesthetic sense would realize that as soon as they started moving and spinning they would likely run into the fence. In addition to the not running into the fence, both the person on the top and bottom should learn to react immediately regardless of position.


These drills make players comfortable reacting on the mat because they have been put in all sorts of situations and had to respond immediately. Well, they were a little less than immediate in this drill, but it was the last practice of the year and everyone was a bit distracted.

Besides, that's why we call it practice.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Simple matwork start for kinesthetic sense development

Ooh, does that title sound impressively academic or what? So many people start matwork back to back. That's neither very realistic nor creative.

Here is another way to start matwork. Players start at opposite walls. They do a forward roll, and when they meet in the middle of the mat, they start matwork.

As I say in the video, this drill develops your kinesthetic sense.
As our dear friends at wikipedia can tell you,
Proprioception, the kinesthetic sense, provides the parietal cortex of the brain with information on the relative positions of the parts of the body.
Hopefully, you can see how a well-developed kinesthetic sense can be a good thing for a judo player to have.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another matwork drill for transition

A few days ago, I put up a video of a matwork drill to practice transition. Even though no one commented on it, possibly evidence of lack of interest in my transition drills, that has never stopped me before.

This next video is interesting - to me - because it shows a situation that happens often in teaching. You have players at different levels. In this case, there are a couple of young players who are pretty inexperienced and there are several more players who have been doing judo, grappling and jiu jitsu for years.

What I do is teach a technique where you throw and go straight into a pin, because as you know if you have read this blog before, I harp constantly on transition, even for six-year-old white belts.

As Aristotle supposedly said,
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
So, you may as well start getting in that habit from the beginning. Our young beginning players start out doing the throw into a pin and that is all they do. Fortunately, I have the inimitable Crystal Butts helping with this drill so when we split up she can go with that pair and help them get it down perfectly.

The next part of the drill has an arm bar combination from the pin, followed by another arm bar if the opponent escapes the first one.

So, it is - throw, pin, arm bar, arm bar again.

I am just going to keep putting these transition drills up, so there!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Does disapproving of this photo of Ronda make me look old?

We got the proof copy of our book on Monday. Jim and I got our edits to the editor today. There was not much to change. The editor says it will be available by March 29th at the latest. Maybe we'll luck out and it will be available as an ebook sooner.

It was interesting to me to see the photo they chose for the first page of the book. I didn't include it myself because even for my extremely low bar it seems not quite ladylike enough.

I guess I was bothered by the fact that she had a triangle choke and was sitting on Travis' neck. Not for the first time, though, it was pointed out that I am old and overly conservative when it comes to my daughters.

Ronda's comment was that for God's sake, she wasn't wearing a thong and that's how you do a triangle choke. I can vouch for that because poor Travis kept almost passing out when we were taking the photos. She kept having to - literally - let him up for air.

My husband thought the picture was really cool because she was choking, arm barring him and punching him all at the same time. Since he was the one who threw away her Eminem CD for being too obscene, I guess it is established then. I AM an old lady.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some matwork drills for fun and profit

The profit you will get out of these drills, I hope, is a development of kinesthetic sense, that awareness of where your body is in space and relative to other objects, like your opponent, and the mat and the out of bounds area.

I do a lot of drills like the one shown below. I stole this idea shamelessly from Sid Kelly.

Players lay at each end of the mat. Then they roll toward the center. When they get near each other they start matwork.

About half of the book, Winning on the Ground, is on transition. My belief is that "golden seconds" happen often in a match. Those are that second when your opponent is not quite ready to attack or defend, the second when you pounce.

Once they are set, it is too late. That's why it can be hard for jiu-jitsu players to switch to judo (that and the fact that the judo rules seem to change every third Thursday of the month).  In jiu-jitsu, and grappling, you can stay on the mat for a long time. In judo, you just get a few seconds and they make you get up. So, how do you practice for that second of transition when 30 times as long is trying to get your technique on someone who is already on their guard?

Easy, you do lots of drills that just last a few seconds, where you practice that split second transition. Notice the drill above only lasts ten seconds.

I have a bunch more drills I'll upload all week. None of them are in the book. That's for our next book. I haven't talked Jim into that yet, so if you want to see another book, you better buy this one.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yellow Belt Tests Today

I hate those clubs where a student has come to class for three months or six months and then one day the instructor says,

"Hey, Sid and Johnny, come to the front of the class. Now you're yellow belts."

I think there should be an actual test demonstrating your knowledge. People should know what is on the text, practice it and them show they know it. What should you know for your first belt rank? There are some VERY rigorous systems where people say,

"Oh, our yellow belts all know 14 throws, 11 pins and can climb the Eiffel Tower."

As my highly intelligent friend, Bruce Toups says,
A. Those people are lying and
B. What the hell are they trying to do, preserve the sanctity of the yellow belt?

I think people should know several throws that they can demonstrate reasonably well, how to fall, a turnover to a pin and a couple of pins. To document that they know that, I either ask another black belt to come watch the test - which is usually easy in LA where you can find a black belts every mile or two - or, as today, I videotape it and have another black belt watch it with me and agree, yes, those people have progressed beyond the point of complete beginner.

Today, we did yellow belt tests. Mr. Gonzales, history teacher and our school sponsor, and Mr. Sanchez, humble assistant and paraprofessional, demonstrated first to give the middle school students a little confidence after seeing their teachers do it. You can see the beginning of the test here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Views on Matwork, Via Facebook

I don't always chat on Facebook, but when I do, I talk about mat work ...

Here is one side of my Facebook conversation

Wrote a book with Jim Pedro, Sr. that will be out March 29th so that is awesome squared

About matwork. The title is Winning on the ground
It's for judo, grappling and mixed martial arts. One of our tenets though is that GOOD judo mat technicians beat everyone because they have to pull off a score in such a short period of time.
Of course, so many judo people SUCK at matwork
Ha! I think the rules should change so if they do that drop and flop crap you should not only not get a shido against you, you should be allowed to KICK them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Agility-Ladder-less Agility Drills and Assessment

All teachers should have learned early in their career that periodic assessment is a good thing. Before you teach children multiplication, you give them a ten-minute test on addition. If they haven't mastered multiplication, there is no point in plowing ahead.

 The same thing is true when teaching judo. For many years, I had a problem with teaching beginning students to do forward throws, especially very young kids. One day, I had them do these simple agility ladder drills (I was at a more affluent club then where we could actually afford stuff) and I realized that the kids had trouble with the basic movement of just twisting your body around in the air.

 So, in every class now, from time to time I do some drills like this. Again, we do it in a relay race format, to make sure the students are putting out an effort, plus races like this are a good way to instill a competitive spirit without anyone getting hurt. Since we have no agility ladders, I just put belts on the mat and the students are to go as fast as they can down the line pivoting and then back again. Here is a few seconds in a clip to show you how it looks.


Warm-ups and exercises for agility without agility ladders

We don't have a lot of equipment at Gompers Middle School, but we do have a supply of good kids, good support from the school and good ideas. Not having an agility ladder, we improvised, using four belts.

This drill is very simple. Students are lined up in two groups and do a relay race. The first drill, they simply need to step both feet inside, one foot at a time, and both feet outside.

Today, we had worked on a foot sweep to o soto gari (an outside leg sweep). So I thought it would be a good idea to work on a drill that develops your ability to move your feet quickly and with coordination, without crossing them.

Notice the difference between the students who go earlier in the video and the student who goes last. It is his first day. I think the difference between the students illustrates the effectiveness of this type of drill.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ways and Whys of Warm-Ups

Dsimon, in the comments on this blog one day remarked that he does not do warm up exercises, that he thinks that doing push-ups during practice is a waste of time and he would rather have the kids practice a technique, even if they do it slowly.

I thought about his remark because I used to get irritated at some clubs where I would train when they would spend 30 minutes or more on exercises - jump rope, running sprints, push ups, sit-ups, squats, you name it.

Here are my thoughts on warm-ups.

If you are spending 20% or more of your practice on warm-ups it's a waste of time. Judo class is not gym. Let them get in shape at home.

For beginning students, spending 10-15% of the practice on warm-ups is not a bad idea, for two reasons.  One, most new students are not in very good condition. Very few schools have daily physical education classes and your students are a lot more likely to spend their after school hours playing video games than playing soccer. So, warm-ups are good to gradually get them in condition. Two, they don't really know anything yet, so it's not as if you can have them spend the whole time doing throws and pins if they only know one throw and one pin. That's going to get boring pretty fast.

You can use warm-up exercises even with advanced students to break up the monotony. No matter how dedicated they are, some days it's going to be hard for your players to get motivated. I remember one day at the West Coast Training Center, Coach Tony Comfort (the guy throwing there) was running the morning practice and took all of the team to the park and had them play football for over half an hour. I thought that was really odd and I asked him why he did that. He explained that, first of all ,it was a beautiful summer day after several days of rain, and he could tell how much people wanted to be outside. Secondly, we had been training very hard for a long time and he thought mentally, people just needed a break. And, finally, running to the park, running sprints after the football in the park, and running back was no, well, um walk in the park.

Your warm-ups shouldn't be one more bit of monotony. Some people don't mind push-ups, sit-ups and other calisthenics. Some hate those exercises. I try to mix up what we do for warm ups.

Warm-ups (and every game you play) should be targeted toward judo. I do push-ups and sit-ups because they build muscles you use in judo. We don't have ladders to do ladder drills, but we put belts on the mat, and they work just as well. (In case you don't know what ladder drills are, you can see a few examples here. I'll try to remember to video some tomorrow that have even more applicability to judo.)

There are judo alternatives to jumping jacks, suicides, etc. For example, you can have one player at each end of the mat and have a third player in the middle running back and forth and doing uchikomi. Yes, I have heard people say that doing uchikomi is bad and teaches you how to not follow through on a throw. I know plenty of people who have won world championship medals (including two in this family) who do uchikomi so I don't buy that it necessarily hampers your judo.

My whole point is that warm-ups should not take away time from judo instruction but rather lead into and supplement it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Statistics on Why You are Single

Today is one of those days I randomly rant. I've been trying  to expand my horizons beyond statistics, programming and martial arts, so I have taken to reading books reviewed in the New York Times and LA Times and random novels checked out of the library.

I have reached two conclusions:
  1. It was a very good choice on my part not to major in anything related to literature.
  2. People younger than me sure are whiny.
There are a lot of books by single people, mostly women, on "the truth about single life" and how nearly impossible it is to have a relationship with anyone who is not a complete loser.

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? By age 38 I had been married three times, two of which (so far) are in the 'till death do us part' category, putting me way ahead of the odds for marriages. And look at me, I'm short, my only domestic quality is that I live in a house and I've never owned makeup in my life. In any women's magazine rating of how to get a man, I score below zero.

Today, I will give my advice to women. If you are interested in advice to men you can read something I wrote a long time ago on my statistics blog, A geek's guide to meeting women.  It actually applies to non-geek men also.

LADIES ... listen up - your problem is that you are completely, stupidly unrealistic. Jacob or Edward or whoever on that stupid ass show you watch is a fucking vampire or werewolf or something. No! And he's paid to give those smoldering looks. One of my graduate students is married to a celebrity. She laughed about the women who were so in love with him, saying,
"My husband is great, but it's not all listening to that dreamy voice. It's also listening to him snore and washing his underwear."
You get FIVE, no more than five points that are a deal breaker, cross him off your list, non-negotiable. I cannot believe the women who have a hundred reasons why they won't date a guy again from, "He's a Republican", to "I just couldn't get serious about a man named Ed, it reminds me of the talking horse" or ....

Let me give you my not-for-me points. These are just very personal for me. Not everything in the world can be crucial to you. For me, it is family, religion, employment and intelligence. Plus, I have never once been attracted to a younger man. You get your own five. 

1. Does not want children - since I have always wanted children, anyone who I was going to get seriously involved with better want them, too.
2. Is not really intelligent - as in, can look at the beginning of a simulation application and say, "That's going to be a normal distribution", or in the first 30 seconds of a match can say, "She is going to lose if she doesn't switch grips."
3. Doesn't work.
4. Objects to raising the children Catholic.
5. Younger than me.

Okay, I'll give you the obvious ones as extras- he can't be abusive - by that I mean physically abusive or verbally abusive. Calls you names, deliberately insults you. I don't mean he forgot to bring you flowers on your one-month anniversary. And seriously - a one-month anniversary? What is WRONG with you people? He also can't be insane - thinking the guinea pigs are plotting against him. He has to be legal age, can't show up at your first date drunk and have good hygiene - I mean bathe and wear clean clothes, not require a specific cologne. My point is, that is all you get. Who the hell brought you up to think the world has to deliver a person designed to your expectations?

You know what kind of women men like? It's not all that crap about the right beauty products to buy - Men like women who like them.

Get over yourself.

Now, it has been said, with some justification, that I have a pretty high opinion of myself. I do. Yet, I am continually surprised when single women make comments about my husband like,

"He hates to exercise? There's no way I could settle for that. Look at you, you're in such good shape..."

Here is the answer to all of those questions and why you are still single. My husband is a really brilliant man, a good father to the children, the calmest person you'd ever meet (which comes in handy being married to me). He likes math, programming, computers, museums, good restaurants and the occasional happy hour. Me, too. He wants to live in southern California. In 17 years, I've never heard him tell a lie.

It never occurred to me that because I liked sports he must also, or that he had to be certain height or within a two-year age range.

Here is where my statistician background comes in. If you are 40 years old and haven't found any man who suits you, I suspect you have 50 different qualities you think a man should have - height, weight, age, income, location, job, personality, etc. etc. etc. and if he doesn't meet every one of those 50 check-off lists, then you cross him off. Of course, the odds of him meeting with your approval are
1 in 1,125,899,906,842,624    (or 1 in 2 to the 50th power).

This is why you are single.

I, on the other hand, look at it as a maximum likelihood function. If he is good on more of those 50 traits than bad, and maybe REALLY good on some of them, like being the smartest person I ever met, then he reaches the cut off score for husband material.

Want to have a good relationship? Quit focusing on what is wrong with him and how he doesn't measure up to what you have to have.  Look at what is good about him. If you like him, odds are, he'll like you. If not, there are 3 billion more men on this planet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

There's more to an arm bar than an arm bar

Photo courtesy of Hans Gutknecht

Every time I read someone on an internet forum call Ronda a "one trick pony", I silently say a prayer of thanks that you can't catch stupidity through the internet.

Jim and I just finished writing an article on an arm bar as counter and combination. Here are three points we made.

First is that you should always practice both sides, so we showed the same move from two different angles and done on both the right side and the left.

The second is that an arm bar is not just an offensive move but a move in defense as well. The arm bar Ronda is doing here is in the MIDDLE of the sequence. It is a counter to a move Manny attempted.

The third is that an arm bar isn't necessarily the end. It can also be part of a combination. The photo below is a pin that is done after your partner escapes the arm bar by doing a forward roll.

There is another pin after this, too.

The point we make in the article is that an arm bar is not an isolated move. If you really are an expert, you can do it from both sides, multiple positions and multiple points in a sequence, at the beginning, at the end or, as shown here, in the middle. It is not just a finishing move. That is particularly so in judo where you can win by a pin just as easily as an arm bar. In fact, more easily. (Remind me to explain that some time.)

Jim says this same move works in wrestling as well, that even though arm bars are not legal you are allowed to put pressure on the arm and when the person rolls over you can pin him and win the match. I don't know as much about wrestling as he does but he sounded very believable when he said it, so I am going  to believe it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why You Are Not Winning: What I Learned from a Nobel Prize Winner

There is only one winner in a tournament. There is only one number one person in a division, so the odds are great that it is not you. The reason you don't win is that you don't train hard enough and when you and your mama are telling you that you do, you're both lying.

Do I believe that the race always goes to the swift or the battle to the strong? Not always, but that is sure as hell the way to place your bets.

Here's another way - on the person who trains the hardest, who is very, very, very often the one who ends up strongest and swiftest.

I was visiting a club once after a major tournament and the instructor was telling the players how proud he was of them, that they had done so well and they trained harder than any other club in the country. That was a lie on two fronts. First, as I heard another visitor mutter under her breath,

"They couldn't have done all that damn good. None of them won."

Second, if they really trained harder than every other club in the country, then WHY did none of them win? What were those other players doing that they weren't? Did they just all have naturally gifted athletes walk into their clubs?

Let me tell you a few things the winners do that you don't.

1. They train every fucking day. They don't take off because it's Tuesday, they have a cold, their hand hurts, they have a test tomorrow, it's their grandmother's birthday. They might take off Christmas, the day after a major tournament. They might even take off one day a week, if they worked out at least twice a day the other six days. They train twelve times a week and you don't.

2. When they are at practice for an hour and a half, they fight for an hour. You don't. You tell me you train really, really hard. Yet, you show up to practice late, spend 20 minutes getting dressed and taped, talk to your friends, your coach, the parents of other players. You spend another 20 minutes doing warm-up exercises. You go a few rounds "really hard", and that's it.

3.  You don't even know what really hard is. There are a million people who can suck it up for a round or two at practice. Fighting round after round against people who can give you a really hard match is a start. Fighting round after round with people who can kick your ass is way better.

If you find yourself the toughest person in the room, then you need to find a different room.


Let me give you an example that I see all of the time - someone comes into a club late and spends fifteen minutes warming up then grabs a player who is smaller, younger or old and out of shape. They throw that player around or maul them on the mat. They do that a couple of rounds. Then, they go with someone about their size who is in good condition who has already done several rounds of hard randori, having actually gotten to practice on time. They fight this person like it is a tournament except for any rules that might be inconvenient, being as defensive as possible to keep from getting thrown or pinned, ignoring it if they are about to go off the mat, if there is a rule against holding on one side the entire match. If you have ever once said,

"Well, I beat Person X at randori."

Then YOU are an idiot (or, hopefully, a recovering idiot).

You can't beat people in practice any more than you can get an A in field trip. You have missed the point.

Where did the Nobel Prize come in? In an article on advice to young scientists, James Watson said,

"Never be the smartest person in the room."

His point was that if you aren't the smartest person there, then you can learn a lot from the other people.
When Ronda was 13 and 14 years old, we used to go down and visit my friend, Dr. Jake Flores, quite often. His son, Justin, was probably 18 years old, three-time state wrestling champion, national judo champion and about 25 pounds heavier than Ronda. He was definitely the toughest person in the room. One day he said to me, mostly joking,

"AnnMaria, what is wrong with your daughter? Everywhere I go, half the guys in the room don't want to train with me, and here she is every round in my face, asking me if I want to go again, I can't get her off of me. She's like a little tick."

Could she beat him? Hell, no! She was a skinny kid, barely a teenager. He threw her, pinned her, choked her and arm barred her at will. She wasn't much of a match for him at all - then.

Never be the toughest person in the room.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Falling Really Isn't That Important to Me

First of all, in response to some of the comments in the blog I wrote recently on What Do You Teach First, I never said that I DON'T teach falling.  In fact, I said that I spend 10 or 15 minutes on it the first day of class and 5 minutes or so every class after that. So, I do teach how to fall and reinforce that teaching almost every practice. For someone to be a good judo player, he or she cannot be afraid of falling and everyone is going to get thrown at some point, probably at several points in every practice.

What I DON'T agree with is the old-fashioned way of spending two or three weeks or more just having people learn falling. I have heard various justifications for this,

"We want to make sure the students were serious about learning before we waste any time teaching them."

"If you don't know how to fall, you can get seriously injured, so we don't start the students on throws until we are satisfied with falling."

"Falling is the most important part of judo and the most difficult to teach."

I think all of those are wrong. Students shouldn't have to PROVE to you their worthiness to learn judo, or anything. If a person comes to me and wants to learn statistics or judo or any other class I had agreed to teach I think it is being an arrogant jerk to first make them go through some ritual to prove they are worth my time.

The second justification is true in some cases. If you don't use a crash pad and students are going to be thrown hard from a standing position in free practice, then yes, you probably have to teach them to fall well first. Personally, I have them do throws from their knees when they are doing matwork in the first practice. I also have them do throws on the crash pad.

So, although we do throws the first day, we don't have anyone getting thrown hard on the mat for a few weeks, just like my friends who teach falling for weeks. The difference is that my students get to do some throws the first day.

At Gompers Middle School, I pretty much start each year with a fresh class of beginners. At other programs where I have taught, if I have more advanced students, I would let them new students work out with them and have the advanced player just defend. Either way, a new student gets to throw and pin someone on day one, that's why they are there.

The whole most important, most difficult to teach part I don't really get. Sylver and Chad both made a great point in the comments on the last post, though, that LOTS of people never get in a fight where they need to throw or arm bar someone but everyone falls down. I've fallen down ice-skating, biking (when some idiot ran across the bike path), roller-blading and who knows when else. So, they do have a point. If you define important as "likely to use outside of judo", then okay.

The most difficult to teach? I still don't get that part.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mean Mother Matwork Advice to Marina (You know we love you)

I watched Marina Shafir's second MMA fight on youtube and posted a comment on it. It was a nice arm bar at the end but the fight should have ended in the first minute.

Marina was on top and her opponent had Marina's leg hooked between her own. There are two different arm bars I can think of from there right off the top of my head. These aren't those demonstration type arm bars either, you know the ones that some idiot does in a demonstration that you could only get if the person was half your size or had the IQ of a slow-developing giraffe. Nope, these are actual arm bars I have done to resisting opponents many times.

Why am I such a mean person? Why can't I just say that it was a good fight, she won in the first round and I am happy for her?

Because there are only two times you can learn. You can learn when you win and you can learn when you lose. If you learn when you win, you'll lose a lot less often.

I can't stand those people who counter any suggestion with,

"I must be doing something right. I won."

You know what the definition of "perfect" is? It's NOT, "doing something right", it's "doing nothing wrong".

Winning means that you did one fewer things wrong, or one more thing right than the other person. That's good. Now, if you can learn at the same time one or two things you did wrong and correct them, you'll not only have won, but you'll have improved. At the same time, you want to focus on what you did right, too, and practice it so that you can repeat that.

Watching this match, I immediately see a couple of things Marina did wrong. Since not only is she Ronda's friend but I also genuinely like her a lot, I'm certainly not going to point them out here, but I definitely will mention them the next time I see her.

In case you are wondering, my niece Samantha got a 3.0 her first semester in college. Both Dennis and I told her that was good but she is smart and we knew she could do better. Turns out that was the best GPA Sam had gotten in years. Frustrated she demanded,

"Isn't anything good enough for you people? Is there ever a point when you WON'T expect someone to do better?"

From the living room, Ronda called out,

"Hey, I know the answer to that question. No."

P.S. Samantha made the Dean's List many times after that semester so I just wanted to end this post by pointing out that I was right.

Monday, November 19, 2012

No Hesitation Drills

In thinking about what the players at the West Coast Judo Training Center needed to work on this weekend, it occurred to me that they had the same need I see everywhere, all the way up through the international level.

That is, players need to overcome their hesitation. They wait for the perfect opportunity to attack and miss all of the "okay" or "possibly okay" opportunities that face them every few seconds.

When Ronda started judo, I told her that if you did not attack every three seconds, you got a penalty. She want along thinking that her first three years of competition until Tawny Uemura (I'm STILL pissed at you for this, Tawny) told her that it wasn't true.

Of course, by then, the pattern had been laid down and she continues to attack pretty relentlessly to this day.

Yesterday, we did several drills with the purpose of reducing hesitation. In one, players randori and if they don't attack every three seconds, they get whacked with a belt. As you can see, you need a few assistants to make this happen. As you can also see, the players are attacking with much greater frequency than in the usual randori session.

Attacks on the mat count, too. So do non-attacks. Lay and pray, get whacked with a belt.

This is one of several drills we did to reduce hesitation.

On the way back, I was thinking about how I would really like a book on drills. I called Jimmy and said,

"Hey, now that we're done this one, what do you say we write another book?"

and he said,


But I told him that I really would like to have a book on drills, and I had a lot of matwork drills that did not get in this book and I was sure he had a lot of drills, too. At which point, he said, he would think about it after this one came out which either means he might do it or that he just wanted to get back to watching the Patriots.

As to why this book is taking so long to be published, I have no idea except that it is apparently always this way with books. Supposedly it is because the publishers have to do all kinds of marketing for months to convince people to buy it, so lots of three-martini lunches with buyers from Barnes & Noble have to happen first. Seems sketchy to me, but that's what the New York Times Sunday Book Review says.

A few months from now, when I meet some of the deadlines for my day job, I think I may start on a second book. By the time I get around to it, hopefully our first book will be out and I will be able to talk Jim into doing half of it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Yes, the camp is really free and it is fun. You should go. I think this will be the first time in years that no one from my family has attended. Two days of training for free and they even have a few scholarships available for hotels for players from California.

What's the catch? No catch, they really are that nice. I'm going to be visiting family over the holidays or I would be there myself.

California Judo Inc. 
 Southern California Judo Development 


San Shi Judo Club 

 Annual Year End Training Camp 
 Focus on Judo Games and Drills

 San Shi Judo Club,
150 Cedar Rd. 
Vista, CA 92083 

Bill Caldwell
(858) 675 8274

 Link to the pdf file for more information can be found here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Video Resources for Judo from Steve Scott

There are a lot of mediocre videos on youtube and everywhere else. A few better than mediocre ones I would recommend are by Steve Scott and his crew at Welcome Mat Judo Club.

This one, for example,

shows combination from a pin (kesa gatame) to a triangle choke (san kaku jime).

I will tell you the the background noise of people playing basketball in the same gym is pretty darn annoying but this is made up for by the facts that

  1. It is one of the few judo videos that uses the phrase "equilateral triangle",
  2. It includes a gratuitous arm bar.

I recommend going to watch this video and just stay on the channel. It will play numerous videos on matwork one after the other. If you like judo, grappling, mixed martial arts or matwork  in any form, you'll thank me for referring you here.

You're welcome.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Martial arts as a networking tool

I hate networking, mixers, pitching to investors,  If it was up to me, I would sit in my office, just me and my computer, cranking out code and reports and having my checks direct deposited.  It's not that I hate people. I probably have more really good friends than I deserve. It's just that given a choice between reading a really good article on regression analysis diagnostics and hearing someone talk about the best places to go on a ski vacation, I would pick the former.

That's a problem because, as Lee Iacocca said,
"Not being a people person is the kiss of death in this organization because all we've got working at Chrysler are people."

You NEED people to run a successful business - people as employees, people as customers, people as mentors.

Enter judo. From a business perspective, probably the best mentor I have ever had is Bruce Toups, who was the Director of Development for US Judo back in the 1980s. Bruce and his wife, who was an extremely successful judo player, have also been very successful in commercial real estate development and have given me (and my daughter) great advice on everything from appropriate valuation for investors to being a woman in a predominantly male field.

When I have needed a graphic designer, both for small jobs a client needed done with a quick turn around and for major parts of a game we are developing, I have hired Justin Flores, a world team competitor and also the son of a very good friend of mine I met in judo.

Speaking of Dr. Jacob Flores, we have worked together on a number of professional projects, where he has been our medical consultant.

I used to buy life insurance from Shag Okada from Orange County Kodokan, and when he passed away, Eric Sanchez, a judo player who used to train with my daughter often, had just started selling insurance and got me a great deal. He also provided a referral for the company that does the worker's compensation insurance for my company.

I received a contract for several thousand dollars from an organization looking for a statistical consultant. A parent of a young judo student of mine worked for them and recommended me.

The book, Winning on the Ground,  that is being publishing by Black Belt (actually AIM Media of which they are a subsidiary),  I met the editor through Hayward Nishioka, who I also knew from judo. Of course, I met the book co-author, Jim Pedro, Sr. , through judo.

Just thought I'd throw this out there, because we often think of judo as having physical benefits or character development and not as a good career move. In fact, being a statistician, I tend to think of things in terms of probability. The more people you meet, the more likely that one of them will be just that missing piece in the puzzle to help you professionally.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What I DON'T teach first (and why)

Despite the fact that I learned o goshi (major hip throw) as the first throw when I learned judo AND that many people still teach that as the first throw, I do not. The previous statement is a lie. And it isn't.

Let me explain. First of all, as JudoWill pointed out yesterday, o goshi, where you grab your opponent's right elbow with your left hand, put your right arm around your opponent's waist, lift him/her up on your hips, turn and throw is a powerful throw and easy to do. Thus, it is very reinforcing for beginning judo players.

It also addresses those points I brought up yesterday, getting a grip, pulling, turning your back to your opponent, having BOTH of your feet now facing in the opposite direction. Those two Japanese words that are the first two parts of a throw - kuzushi: off-balancing and tsukuri: fitting in.

So, what is my big gripe against o goshi? Simply, this, the right arm around the waist part. You almost never get that grip when standing. The exception is if you are fighting an opposite side player who takes a high grip, for example, a right-handed player fighting a left-handed player.

I'm not against the throw at all, mind you, just not having it be your first throw, because then, until you learn a second throw, it is your ONLY throw. In most cases in randori then,  you have two right-handed kids both trying to get their arm around the other kid's waist - which is pretty easy to prevent-  and nothing really happening.

That's why I don't usually teach them ogoshi until I have taught a couple of other throws.

On the other hand, I DO usually teach it the first or second day, just from the knees as a transition into matwork. When kids are new at judo, often they will be in matwork like the situation above, they both get up and try to get a headlock on the other kid and throw them to the mat.

In this situation, I have them do exactly o goshi but from their knees, as you can see the player in the picture above on the right about to do.

One reason I do this is, like Al also said in the comments yesterday, people come in different sizes. The shoulder throw they are doing might not fit so well for the 200 pound player. So, we can do this "hip toss" throw from the knees that is a really good move for a heavier player. Also, it is not a hard fall from your knees, so they get used to grabbing and throwing someone and being thrown AND they learn to go right into the pin .... but that drill is for another day. Or, you can read our book. I actually described it in detail.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What do you teach first?

After forty years of teaching judo, I've come to have a general order to teaching. Although it's not always the exact same order every time, there are a few things I try to do the first few months of every new class of beginning judo students.

Within the first few days, I always try to teach:
  • a forward throw
  • a backward throw
  • a pin 
  • a turnover into a pin
I try never to get past the second class of a student's judo career without introducing him or her to the concept of transition, which means, of course, that by the second class, at the latest, they have all learned both a throw and a pin.

Back in the old days (even older than me), many people spent the first few weeks teaching falling. Personally, I think that is one of the dumbest ideas ever. In my classes, we spend 10 or 15 minutes learning to fall the first day, and 5 minutes or so in most classes after that. I hear instructors say that falling is the most important part of judo. I think that's like saying getting pinned is the most important part of wrestling.

Usually the very first throw I teach is either o soto gari (an outside leg sweep) or ippon seoi nage (one armed shoulder throw).  Teaching both a backward throw and a forward throw is pretty obvious. You want to be able to throw your opponent regardless of the direction he or she is moving.

Why those particular throws? It seems to me that ippon seoi nage is a good choice because the student has to get the habit of pulling the opponent off balance, turning and putting both feet facing in the opposite direction in front of the opponent and lowering the center of gravity.

Other throws could probably do just as well to teach those same points.

What about you? What do you teach first?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Great Idea for Teaching Judo (or any sport)

I've been teaching judo for 40 years - ever since I had my YMCA membership waived as a teenager for being an assistant instructor. One thing I have learned is that all classes are different. So, although I have certain standard things I try to do with every new group - teach a forward throw, a backward throw, a pin, an arm bar, a choke, an escape - there is also variation.

My usual novice class goes like this:

  • warm-up and conditioning for 10 minutes
  • MATWORK: practice a technique we already know for 10 minutes
  • MATWORK: teach a new technique and practice it for 15 minutes
  • STANDING: practice a technique we already know for 10 minutes
  • STANDING: teach a new technique and practice it for 15 minutes
  • matwork randori for 5-10 minutes
  • matches for 10 - 15 minutes, including both standing and mat work

I might rotate the matwork and standing practice and instruction, but this is pretty much my regular routine. When I teach a beginning kids class I don't see a point in more than 20 minutes of free practice because they really don't know much to practice yet.

Occasionally, though, I rotate the order of the practice and I recommend you do, too. Here's why. In education, most people accept that regular assessment is a good idea. You don't go on to teaching division of two-digit numbers with remainders until you're pretty sure that your class understands division of numbers without remainders.

The same applies to judo. Just because you have taught something does not mean that your students have learned it. So .... every few weeks, I will have the free practice at the BEGINNING of class, right after the warm-up. I watch the students to see what I think are their weak points as a class. Does no one attempt a choke? Does anyone escape from a pin?

Then, I call them all together and explain that this is what I saw when I was watching them, and that is what we work on that day.

By  the way, this is also a good plan for when you are asked to teach a clinic. People generally pay more attention if they know you at least have SOME idea about the judo they do rather than giving your standard dog and pony show you've given 450 times before.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's with the whole giving back to judo thing?

Today I did not go to judo and I felt guilty about it. This is despite the fact that judo went along fine without me. There was a judo tournament in San Diego today that many of the players from the West Coast Judo Training Center attended, so there were not many people at practice. Crystal Butts offered to run practice so that I could stay here and work on the update for the computer game my company just released. (Thanks, Crystal, for being awesome!)

Even though I was kindly invited to the tournament, since I won the world championships on this exact day 28 years ago, when I was living in San Diego, and the folks there unbelievably remembered that and invited me down, I did not make the three-hour round trip to drive there and instead stayed in and worked.


There is no denying that I benefited greatly from my involvement in judo as a child and young adult. It got me off the streets, kept me from getting into drugs, kept me in good health and introduced me to some very positive adult role models.

The University of California, Riverside, where I earned my Ph.D. also was of great benefit to me. I learned skills and knowledge that have enabled me to write said computer game, found or co-found three companies. So were the University of Minnesota, where I received my MBA,  Washington University in St. Louis, where I received my BSBA. No one tells me I am obligated to "give back" to those schools, although they certainly do all ask me for money on a regular basis.

My daughters have been involved in track, swimming and soccer for several years each and no one ever told me that they owed it to the sport of soccer to come and coach for free for the rest of their lives.

So ... our book is coming out soon - I don't know exactly, but our nice editor at Black Belt told me that as soon as the copy editor and art department finishes waving their magic wands over it, it can go to press.  I expect we'll sell a few copies. Jim said he's going to use his half of the royalties to pay for expenses for their judo program, especially since he had the players from his club demonstrate half the techniques. Personally, it's his money and if he spends it on expensive cigars, hot women and cheap whisky - or vice versa, it's all the same to me.

I let my daughter, Julia pick a charity for my share, since I think our family has enough and I thought it would be good for Julia, who has never needed anything, to do a little research on programs for needy people. Ronda, who demonstrated the other half the techniques, agreed with me. Julia did not pick anything related to judo but rather, a program that rescues children from prostitution and pays for their housing and education. It was completely her choice, but when she chose to have the money go to rescuing children her age from the sex trade rather than funding someone's trip to a judo tournament in Texas, I was fine with it.

As a wise woman (not me!) once said, when someone was haranguing a friend of hers relentlessly about how he was a bad person if he did not come and do a clinic for free to raise money for some judo activity, because he "owed it to the sport".

"Did it ever occur to you that people might want to contribute to some other cause with their time and energy? Maybe they want to save the whales!"

Which made me wonder, what is it with judo?  Why are we supposed to give back to it and does that have the opposite effect of driving people away? Because if someone gives to you and then acts like you owe them something back, it's not really giving is it? That's more like a loan.

Is it like that everywhere or just in the U.S.? Maybe that attitude isn't even everywhere in the U.S. Do people in jiujitsu have that same attitude? Where does this attitude come from?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Chokey- Chokey

I thought I had invented a really cool choke when I was about 14 years old. I showed it to my coach, very proud and he said,

"Oh, sure. The Klaus Glahn - that's the one Olympic silver medalist Klaus Glahn does."

Needless to say, I was very disappointed that I was not the first person to think of it.

Remembering my lesson on opposite side mat work from the previous week, I taught this on the left side at Gompers on Friday.

When Ronda was 11 or 12 years old, I taught her this same choke, and, just like the kids at Gompers, she had trouble remembering all of the steps. So, she made up a song for it. I used to make her sing it at clinics. Now that she is too mature for that, I sang it for the students yesterday.

Although everyone always laughs about this, you'd be amazed at the number of times I have heard even black belts I've taught murmuring under their breath ...

"You put your right hand in ...."

Here is a video. Enjoy.

The words, in case you cannot tell

You put your right hand in
You put your left hand up
You put your right leg up and
You roll them all about
You do the chokey-chokey and you choke 'em right out!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What it Means that Ronda Rousey is on BlogHer

There has been some talk about Ronda being an MMA star going mainstream, after the ESPN body issue and the Conan O'Brien show.

Let me add another data point - BlogHer featured Ronda Rousey on the front of their sports page today.

For those of you who just said, "Huh?" that is my point.

According to CrunchBase, BlogHer has a readership of 40 million WOMEN each month.

Site analytics rates them as number one in their category, women's social media.

You've probably noticed that mixed martial arts draws primarily a male audience.  I can guarantee you MMA flies under the radar both for women and for much of the general public of both genders. My last post featured on BlogHer was about why Nate Silver, the guy who predicted the last two elections so well, is a hero to statisticians.

Photo courtesy of Hans Gutknecht

I received a nice invitation from them to write a post for the front page of their sports section, that said, Hey, we realize you usually write about start-ups, small business and statistics but since you are Ronda's mom maybe you could write about how likely it is that you think she will be signed by the UFC.  

 Judo and other martial arts are so low in the priority that they didn't even realize I wrote this blog - and it is one of the 3,000 blogs in their network! Far fewer people read my posts about how to do an armbar than the ones on how to interpret a regression analysis.

BlogHer held this post to go up after the election coverage, but I wrote it a week ago which just goes to show that Nate Silver isn't the only statistician who can get his predictions right! (They had to edit it from future tense before it was published!)

BlogHer features stories they think are of interest to their audience - politics, parenting, soccer moms, relationships, romance novels, recipes - and now Ronda.  The last post featured on their sports front page was about a nine-year-old girl who is a good quarterback.

What this implies is that in their view, the story about Ronda in the UFC was a story of interest to WOMEN, primarily women over 25 (their readers).  Not surprisingly, sports marketing research finds the average MMA viewer to be young and male. If the UFC could attract women aged 25-44 to watch in anywhere near the proportion they get men 18-24 viewers - well, that is yet one more reason having Ronda Rousey in the UFC is good business.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bad judo habits in old age

As experienced (ahem, old) judo players, you would think that the senseis would be good role models. A lot of the time that is true. However, if you don't occasionally observe yourself, as well as your students, you can easily fall into bad habits.

Yesterday, I mentioned one that I had found myself doing without realizing it, that is, always practicing matwork techniques to the same side. I swear I did not do that when I was competing and not for years afterward, either. Once I didn't train every single day and was not always focused on getting better and better to win that next match - I got a little lazy, mentally as well as physically.

A second bad habit I caught myself doing several years ago was switching grips. I KNOW that it is a really bad idea, when you can't get your right-handed grip, to switch to a left-handed grip.  If your opponent is trying to prevent you from getting a right grip, it's probably not because today was declared, "Let's fight left-handed day" and you didn't get the memo. Almost certainly, it's because the opponent expects an advantage from forcing you to fight left-handed. It's called grip-FIGHTING for a reason.

When students ask me what is the best grip, I tell them,

"The best grip is whichever one your opponent doesn't want you to have."

Well, I got out of that bad habit, and now that I'm aware of it, I'm working on practicing matwork to both sides again.

Yesterday, I said for readers to post comments on THEIR bad habits they caught themselves falling into (and Google tracks web views so I KNOW a bunch of you read this blog) but apparently none of you have ever caught yourselves going backward but me.

a) I am the only one who forgets judo they used to know,
b) You all are a bunch of liars.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How you,too, can be awesome at matwork

The lesson for today is that Ronda is awesome at matwork and I am awesome at teaching it and how you can be awesome, too.

While we were walking down to vote this morning, we were discussing my recent blog on doing matwork to the opposite side. Ronda objected,

"What do you mean opposite side? There are no sides in matwork! You taught me that ever since I was a kid."

I agreed with her noting that she had armbarred Miesha Tate's left arm.

But that she had armbarred Sara Kaufman's right arm

Ronda laughed and said,

"That's because I'm so awesome and you must be an awesome teacher because you taught me to always, always practice both right and left. You had me do everything to both sides and so now I'm always ready to catch whatever is there, which is why sometimes I get their right arm and sometimes the left."

All you people who call her a one-trick pony, hey, there are at least two tricks right there!

As I mentioned, when I was doing the opposite side day, I found it was NOT equal for me, I had to think a half-second longer on the left side. It occurred to me that since I have not been competing for a long time, or even doing that much other than teaching, I have gotten into the habit of always demonstrating on the right side. If I am demonstrating a drill and show doing ten of a technique in a minute, I do all ten on the right side.

My point, which you by now have despaired of me actually having, is that no matter how old and experienced you get, you need to constantly evaluate yourself. Even if you have good habits from the start, it is easy to get lazy or forgetful and fall into an easy rut if you are not evaluating yourself.

Why bother? It's not like I'm going to be competing again in this lifetime. One reason is because as an instructor you are a role model. If you only practice one-sided, only demonstrate one-sided, that's what your students will do. A second reason is that you don't want to get in so much of a rut that you forget.

Those people who say,
"I've forgotten more judo than you'll ever know!"

Well, that's bad that they've forgotten it. Don't be them. Be awesome.
From now on, I'm going to make a conscious effort every practice to demonstrate and drill techniques to both sides.

So .... what have you forgotten that you used to know? I'm working on a list to post tomorrow. Ideas welcome.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Maybe Sports Ruin Character

In touting the benefits of martial arts - or sports in general - we often use the phrase, "It builds character. It will teach your child discipline."

Does it? I can certainly think of some dishonest, lazy, jerks I know in every martial art and sport I've ever experienced. Of course, I can think of some really good people in all of those, too.

A person less impervious to haters than me might just mouth some platitude like,

"Sports, like adversity, don't build character, they reveal it."

And leave it at that.

Personally, I think minor sports - like U.S. judo, all high school teams - can actually produce human beings with worse character.

Here is why - you have someone who, in the grand scheme of things, is not doing all that much. They are better at judo than the other 20 or 30  junior players in the country at their weight who care enough to bother training seriously. They are a better football player than the other 30 kids in their school they beat out for that position. You get the idea. They are certainly something, but they are not brilliant or talented beyond all others.

Let's take judo as an example, not that it is special in this regard but it is something I have a lot of experience with. You have a kid who is ten years old, matures a little early for his age, has parents who take him to extra practices in addition to his own club. With a combination of a little extra training and a little extra physical development, he beats the three other kids in his division at a local tournament. The next month, he beats the same three kids, plus a new white belt kid that joined.

His parents take him to all of the tournaments - all nine a year in the area - and then to the national championships, where he gets a bye the first round, wins three matches and is the national champion.

This can go on for a few years and our little guy is now the three-time national champion. What has he done, really? He's worked out maybe three times a week, probably not that hard (come on, he's ten) and beaten a total of perhaps two dozen kids, several of whom have been in judo for six months or less at the time he fought them. However, everyone is super-excited to have a three-time national champion at their club.

All of this is good, working out three times a week, winning versus losing, all good. The problem is that Junior now goes around with the attitude that he is a THREE-TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION. He tells you that. His coach tells you that. His parents tell you that.

If he doesn't want to learn a new technique, he doesn't have to because, as his coach explains,
"He's three-time national champion, he must be doing something right."

His parents send him to international tournaments in South America, where he places third in a division of seven. Two of the kids in his division are green belts and had to borrow gis to compete, but no matter, he is now an INTERNATIONAL MEDALIST. He certainly doesn't feel the need to listen to any old coaches or instructors. After all, even if they were international medalists, it was long ago.

Kids who start at 13 or 14 and maybe even train seriously still lose to Junior because by now he has a four-year head start on them.

Eventually, though, it falls apart. Those kids who started younger and trained seriously catch up. Those kids who matured late and who were weaker and smaller than him are now grown and can put up a fight. Junior is getting bored. He hasn't learned that much in the last couple of years, just doing his favorite technique. He places second, and then third in some of the tournaments. Sometimes he doesn't place at all. Eventually he loses interest in competing. Maybe he goes back to his old club as an instructor, where he tells every new student that he was a THREE-TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION and INTERNATIONAL MEDALIST. Now he is in a position of authority because he is a BLACK BELT which he received because of his tournament record.

What has Junior learned, really? That you can get an impressive title without doing all that terribly much work. That you can get away with being dismissive to your elders if you have mediocre accomplishments? That if you get a head start in life, you can coast for a long time? That you can get a permanent symbol of authority even with only minor knowledge?

It's like the guy who played football in high school and is still telling everyone in the same hometown bar about the time he scored the winning touchdown that brought their school the Class B state championships - and he's 40 years old.

I just can't help but feel if he'd built up all that much character he would have come up with something more worth talking about in the last 22 years.

I'm NOT saying that sports don't often build strong bodies and good people. Obviously, I believe that or I would not still be coaching.

What I am saying is that it doesn't always turn out that way. Sometimes sports can make your kid into a worse person than he would have been otherwise.

Now, isn't that a cheery  thought?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Opposite side matwork

Well, wasn't today an interesting day ....

If you asked anyone at the West Coast Judo Training Center, they would swear to you that we practice matwork on both sides and that we teach it on both sides. Today, we tested that theory.

Some of the kids were really kind of funny to watch.

As it turns out, everyone felt a little uncomfortable doing matwork to the left side, even the left-handed players.

First, we did matwork uchikomi - matwork drills - with whatever their favorite technique was but from the left side. Even though I repeatedly said it was to the left side it, I think every single person except for me did at least one move out of ten on the right side  and would need to be reminded by me or their partner,

"Hello, that's the RIGHT side. You're supposed to be doing it on the left!"

After that we did newaza randori (free practice on the ground, for you non-judo types and rolling around for you BJJ types!) but they were only allowed to apply techniques to the opponent's left side. While I did not find it too hard, personally, because I've probably practiced every mat move I do 10,000 times in my life, I still had to think for a fraction of a second longer when doing the left side. Some players found it really hard and would only get into a left-sided move by starting on the right and then jumping over the body.

It was a good drill in a couple of ways. First, variety is always good. Mostly, though, I think it made people realize much more than any talk I could have given them how much they really are, literally, one-sided players.

It was a good idea for practice today, if I do say so myself. I recommend it.