Sunday, January 29, 2012

I didn't want to go to judo class today ...

On Friday, I was thinking,
"I really wish I didn't have to go to judo class today."

Of course, when you're the teacher, you can't skip class, so I had to show up. As I was driving in rush hour traffic to get to the middle school where I teach judo once a week, I was thinking about all of the work I had to get done. I was hoping the sponsoring teacher would call me at the last minute, as had happened several times before, and cancel class.

It was over 80 degrees, and paradoxically, I thought it would be a good day for an extra hard work out. Those are the kind of things you remember and talk to your friends about later,

"Remember that time when it was so hot outside and she had us run sprints in the gym and then we did all those leg lifts and exercises? I thought I was going to die of heat stroke during practice! My stomach hurt for three days afterward!"

Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows we measure distance not in miles but in minutes. It takes me about an hour to get to the middle school from my house, which is plenty of time, after over 30 years of coaching, for me to have a good lesson planned out for an hour and a half.

When I got there, the sponsoring teacher was late meeting me at the gym (you can't have a class on a public school campus without a teacher supervising it).  While we were waiting for him, several of the kids who had come for the class had left. We had to track down someone with a key.  Someone kindly drove over to the gym and opened the doors. The teacher, I and the one student who had waited around went up to start putting down the mats. While we were doing it, the kids who had left came back and helped set up.

We did sit-ups throwing medicine balls back and forth. Then we laid on our backs and did straight leg raises and spelled out the alphabet with our toes. (MUCH harder than it sounds - try it!) We did more leg raises. Then, an uchikomi drill where you have two people, one at each end of the mat, and the person in the middle sprints back and forth and does as many uchikomis as they can in a minute. We did this for forward throws and backward throws.

We took a water break but the bathrooms were locked and there was no working water fountain anywhere close. Fortunately, the teacher had two bottles of water. We just passed them around with everyone holding it over their head and pouring it in their mouths like catching raindrops.

We took a mental break and did a game that I learned from Maurice Allen, where the students run around the mat and the instructors throw a giant rubber ball at them. Like dodge ball while running if the ball was almost as big as you.

Then we did matwork uchikomi as many as we could in a minute, reviewing a rolling choke that I had taught last week. Next, we did a wrestler's roll turnover drill, again, as many as possible in a minute.

We finished off with everyone doing a couple of rounds of randori.

At the end of ninety minutes, , the students put the mats away, finished off the last few drops of water and sat around in exhaustion, but it was a good kind of exhaustion.

"Today was a good day,"
One of the students commented. The others all smiled and nodded, agreeing it was, indeed, a good day.

After the students had all left, the teacher apologized for the delay getting started, but said it had been a bad week. The day before, one student had pulled out a knife in response to bullying, and another student had pulled out a gun. Yes, one of the middle school students had a semi-automatic weapon in his backpack, with an extra clip. The school had been locked down, all of the students kept in the classrooms until the police had come and taken the two students involved away.

This isn't the first time incidents have happened on campus - which is why several times in the past class has been canceled. Of course, there are other reasons. There is a real shortage of teachers willing to stay after school - at no extra pay - so if the supervising teacher is sick, on jury duty or not there for another reason, we have to cancel class. There was another teacher but he left, frustrated with all the budget cuts that he could never get a permanent position at the school.

This program is the longest running extracurricular program at the school and we are only on our third year.

The gym is filthy. Janitorial staff is another thing that was cut in the latest round of budget cuts. The mats are borrowed. The judo gis are donated. I teach for free and the sponsoring teacher volunteers his time after school. People just get discouraged by the lack of support, lack of resources, and they don't feel secure on a campus where a student brings an automatic weapon to school.

But ... for those kids in my class, today was a good day.

I'm really glad I went to judo class today.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Look what I found

Dennis made this for me when Ronda was 13 and he was playing around with some new photo editing software.

I liked it so much, I printed it out and had it in a frame on my desk for years. Don't know what ever happened to the original.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Free rice! Ronda's weight cut and world hunger

Perhaps you heard about Ronda's free rice group. If not, here's the description:

Because it sucks to be hungry! I'm Ronda Rousey, I'm cutting weight for the fight for the 135 lb world title and I'm hungry. How much more would it suck to be hungry every day? So I'm asking all of my friends and fans to be part of my group to donate to the World Food Programme. When we hit 1,000,000 I'll send a t-shirt to the 3 highest donors. I have special prizes for the 3 highest donors as of when I weigh in on March 2nd. With 20,000 twitter followers plus my friends in judo and MMA, I'll bet we could donate 1,000,000 grains a day. That's enough to feed almost 300 people every day. Come on, play free rice, do good, get smarter and I'll send you swag.
Here is the link to join the group and play. It's free! Money is donated by sponsors.

I was really surprised when I saw that no other person in judo, mixed martial arts or other weight-cutting sport had thought of this. Maybe it's just because Ronda is always playing computer games when she's not working out it just seemed a natural for her.

Anyway .... we were talking about this and thinking that it would be possible to donate up to a million grains of rice a day. Someone said, well that's only enough to feed less than 300 people a day, that won't matter. Ronda's answer was that if you were one of those 300 people and you were starving it would matter to you. Apparently a lot of people agreed because in less than 3 days her group had donated over 2,000,000 grains of rice and was #92 in the world - up from 164 for the day before and non-existent the day before that.

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

She has free swag to give out. T-shirts for the top 3 the first day, at 1,000,000 and something special (I don't know what) for three highest by her weigh-in date. 

Here were the three highest the first day

Ryan Ghidina

Here were the three highest at 1M
Ryan Ghidina

There were four because I didn't catch it right at one million and I don't know who was highest.
If your name is listed and I haven't heard from you, please tweet me or Ronda on twitter so we can follow you, DM you and get your address.

I was actually at an American Statistical Association chapter meeting  this evening and then had to write a program when I get home so I haven't seen the t-shirts and I don't even know who donated them or if there will be more swag to give away before the weigh-ins on March 2nd. I'll let you know what I find out.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Juji Gatame Encyclopedia

This is the foreword, I wrote for Steve Scott's upcoming book, The Juji Gatame Encyclopedia

When I was young, two-time Olympian Pat Burris gave me this advice,

“Always go for the arm bar, because even if the referee doesn’t give you the win and makes you stand up again, for the rest of the match, you’re fighting an opponent with one working arm. And, Annie, if you can’t beat a one-armed opponent, you really suck.”

(Just so you know, you have to be in two Olympics and older than me to call me “Annie”. Don’t even think about it.)

I took Pat’s advice to heart, as anyone knows who saw me on TV winning the Panamerican Games. The referees did not stop the match and made us get back to standing. Just as Pat predicted, my opponent was hampered by an injured arm and I won the match.

Enough about me (and Pat), what about Steve’s book? It is pure and simple everything you need to know about  arm bars. The section on exercises specifically designed to build muscles used in arm locks is just brilliant. Not only is it a good, safe way to teach beginners some skills, it’s also good for any athlete who was ever injured - and all top athletes are injured at some point - to have something they can do to build strength when they are not cleared for grappling.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the drills. To get good at arm locks you need to do tens of thousands of repetitions. Think about it for a moment, when you are trying a move that has the potential to dislocate an opponent’s arm, you are fighting a motivated individual. Often, there is just one second to catch that arm and to be able to capitalize on that one second you need to have drilled and drilled so it is almost an instinctive reflex. Let’s be honest, though, repetitions can get boring and no amount of a coach yelling, “No pain, no gain” at you can change that fact. Having a huge variety of drills and exercises allows athletes to train from different angles, at different speeds and for different situations.

Anyone reading this book will benefit from the photos showing the techniques from every angle. If you don’t learn how to do a better arm bar from this, you’re beyond hope.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A mat work counter: How NOT to lose by a triangle choke (sankaku)

Getting pinned or choked with a triangle (sankaku time) has got to be one of the stupidest things that happens to people in judo. You hide like a turtle in a shell and let someone sit on your head. In what alternate reality is this a good strategy in a fight? Yet, people do it all the time and lose this way all the time.

Many matches are won by a technique called a sankaku jime in judo and reverse triangle in mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu. The top player uses a figure four to trap one arm and choke the opponent with his or her legs, leaving both hands free to either hold the  trap the opposite arm for a better pin or attempt an arm lock. It is a bad position for the player on the bottom.  However ... if you are ready when the technique begins, you can launch a surprise attack counter, as shown ....

You don't want THIS, do you?  

Step 1: The opponent puts a knee into your shoulder and hooks your arm with the other leg.

Really, really important for this technique to work  --- as your opponent steps in, you are going to put the back of your hand against the knee. Your other hand is cupping the heel. You are not grabbing either leg. You want your opponent to be lulled into a sense of security. Your opponent almost has the figure four sunk in. “Almost” is a really, really important word in that sentence. With the figure four almost sunk in and you not having a grip anywhere, the opponent feels confident, she rolls to her side expecting to lock in the pin and choke as she rolls over.

Step 2: Put one hand against the opponent’s knee and the other cupping the heel.

Step 3: As your opponent rolls, spread your hands apart as far as they can go. This ends up with your opponent lying on his or her back with legs spread wide apart. Not a very defensible position. (Note: When you are resisting, the person who is applying sankaku is going to pull harder to roll you. The harder they pull, the easier it is going to be for you to roll fast right up into the opponent.) 

Step 4:  Continue the direction of the roll so that you are laying on your stomach, with one hand under your opponent’s neck grabbing the collar and the one that was on the knee slide underneath grabbing the leg.

There! Now that’s a much nicer position for you, isn’t it?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Everybody has their own dream: The Sequel

"I have it all - great career, nice wife, huge house, lots of money. It's like I'm living the American dream - but it's somebody else's dream."

One of Ronda's teammates on the 2004 Olympic judo team, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson made the point that no one who has earned a spot on the Olympic team decides not to go, what people do is decide not to train for the Olympics. Karo Parisyan qualified for the 2004 Olympic Trials at 81 kg but went into the UFC instead. He said he never regretted it. Rick Hawn, who won the 2004 Olympic Trials at 81 kg, placed ninth in Athens and is now a fighter for Bellator. He also says he never regretted his decision.

Here is the continuation of the discussion Ronda and I had (with guest commentary from Henry Akins of Dynamix MMA) about whether people really choose the UFC (or anything) over the Olympics - and what do you do after the Olympics is over.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Everybody has their own dream

Since I am really busy with work and behind on The Book  (which now has a new title our editor at Black Belt liked --- Winning on the Ground )   I decided to rope Ronda and Henry into doing a video blog with me. (Thanks, guys!)

The topic was whether we agreed with Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, who believes that anyone who had an opportunity to go to the Olympics would take it or whether we believed Karo Parisyan who said he had never regretted not going to the Olympics.

 (Disclaimer: We've known both Rhadi and Karo for years so nothing here should be taken as unbiased - but, of course, if you've ever read or listened to anything on my blog, you know that nothing here is ever unbiased!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Anyone Who Thinks Ronda Doesn't Deserve a Title Fight is a Complete Moron

This might just fall under the heading of  'my mom thinks I'm cool' but in this case, mom is a world champion and not amused.

I've read a few of these blogs and comments written by people who have never met Ronda, never done judo at an international level and never seen Ronda train. It's too bad that they don't have a Stupid Olympics or a Whiny White Girl Olympics because I think we could have some real contenders.

In the points below, I am just going to use Whiny Girl because it is shorter than Whiny Girl 3, Whiny Girl 2, Random Guy Using the Internet from His Mother's Basement and Ex-Boyfriend Ronda Dumped. Don't feel left out. It's like when we use 'mankind' to mean humanity. You are all included.

Here are my opinions on YOUR opinions on Ronda's world title fight coming up.

Stupid idea #1: Ronda has only had four fights and Whiny Girl has had 9 or 12 or 17 and trained for four years. Guess what? Ronda has had hundreds of fights. She's had fights where people tried to throw her to the ground, choke her unconscious and break her arm. These were with women who had a decade or more of experience at trying to throw people down, choke them and break their arms.

Stupid idea #2: Whiny Girl says Ronda shouldn't fight because, "We don't know how good she is. She has won her fights so fast." That's so stupid it's really hard for me to respond other than wondering if you even listen to the words that come out of your mouth. Are you saying that you don't know how good she is because she has been so much better than the people she fought? I will tell you then. Very fucking good. There, now you know.

Stupid idea #3: Whiny Girl says we don't know if Ronda can do anything but an arm bar because she has won every match with an arm bar. I'll tell you how to find out - stop her from arm barring you and see what happens. If you can't stop her, I guess you'll never know.

Stupid idea # 4: Everyone has a game plan until they get hit in the face. This is actually very true and accurate. The stupid part is the presumption that Ronda has never been hit in the face. In fact, Ronda has been hit a time or two in her other MMA fights. She's been hit hard in a few other situations (not by me, I don't believe in parents hitting their children).

Stupid idea #5: We don't know how tough she is. I will tell you then. Ronda has fought (and won) matches in a major international tournament with her elbow dislocated. She popped it back in and kept fighting. When she was in high school, she broke a few bones in her foot, taped it up, entered a competition anyway and won six out of seven matches and the tournament.

One thing people who promulgate these stupid ideas fail to realize is that there is a world of difference between the level of the average judo player and someone who is winning medals in world competition, not just once on a fluke but over and over. Ronda won a bronze medal in the Olympics, four gold medals in world cups, a silver medal in the world championships and gold at the Panamerican Games. To have someone who has fought a dozen or two dozen matches, all within a cross-country flight from home question whether Ronda "deserves" to fight them - well, as I said, it's too bad they don't have a Whiny White Girl Olympics.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Me & Jim Discuss Variations of The British Strangle

"I looked at that choking technique you showed on your blog and I think you're doing it wrong."
"What the hell do you mean I'm doing it wrong? I made that technique up. How can I be doing a technique wrong that I made up? That doesn't even make sense. That is like me saying that my favorite color is red and you saying no, it isn't."
"You didn't make that technique up. It's been around since the 1980s, maybe before."
"Oh, yeah, well I've been around since before the 1980s. Besides, if it's not the same technique, maybe I did make it up. Maybe whoever did it copied it from me."
"Well, I'm telling you that I looked at your blog on my iPad and I think what you are doing is a variation of the British strangle. Look it up British strangle on youtube and you will see what I mean."

First of all Jim Pedro, Sr. used to be the least technologically involved person I know, so when he said that last statement I almost asked him, who are you and what are you doing in Jim's body.  It seems there are advantages and disadvantages to having my co-author become a lot more Internet savvy. The chief advantage is that we can get work done a lot more easily. This is a huge advantage because we signed a contract with Black Belt and our book is expected to be in their fall catalog.

The disadvantage is that now he is aware of it when I talk smack about him on my blog (not that it will stop me).

So, I did look up the British strangle and found a bunch of videos on youtube including this one with Nicholas Gill.

Jim says we need to call the section in the book where I discuss the two chokes in the last couple of blogs "variations on the British strangle".  Fine!

Actually, although I give Jim a hard time for a hobby, I have no problem believing that someone came up with that choke before me. It wouldn't be the first time. When I was a teenager, I was very, very excited about this choke that I had made up. I showed it to my coach and he said,

"Yeah, that's the one Klaus Glahn, the 1972 Olympic silver medalist beats everyone with."

In fact, you can find the choke in the Tap Out Textbook under Glahn's name.

As far as the British strangle, yes, I had seen it before. No, that is not what I was trying to do and doing it wrong. I actually prefer my way of doing it. I'm not saying that Nicholas Gill and Jimmy Pedro, Jr. and anyone else who does it that way is doing it wrong either. It's just a different technique, like seoi toshi isn't a wrong way of doing tai otoshi.

Jim would argue that no, it's a variation and that makes him right.

Hmph.  Whose ideas was it to buy him an iPad for Christmas?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Choking Plan B

Remember our transition drill from standing to matwork that I rambled on about in the last two posts? Here is Plan B.

The purpose of a situation drill is to have a FEW techniques that you have practiced so often from a given situation that when it happens in competition you react automatically. In this drill, the situation is a fairly common transition from standing to matwork. The blue player attacked and missed a throw.
Step 1: The very first thing you do is make it very clear to the referee that you stopped the throw. I have seen many times in tournaments where the white player in the photo above (not me!) would go around behind the blue player to apply the choke. Blue continues the throw, the white player gets thrown and has only himself/ herself to blame. In the picture below, the standing player jerks the opponent down and the blue player puts her hand out to stop herself from going face first into the mat. Notice that, just as in the previous technique, the standing player has her right hand on the opponent's lapel. THIS HAND DOES NOT MOVE.

These next few steps should happen in one or two seconds, but we have slowed them down here to show you.

Step 2:  Move to the side of the player on the ground.
Step 3: Pull up with your right hand, to make it difficult for the player to flatten out, and slide your left hand under the opponent's left arm. At the same time, throw your left leg across the opponent's stomach.

Step 4: Roll hard to your left  side. As mentioned in the previous technique, this is a move where your momentum carries you through the roll and your opponent with you. 

As you roll, you drive your leg across the opponent's stomach and your arm up behind the head. You do NOT wait until you have rolled over and then try to slide your arm behind the opponent's head. 

Below is the end of the roll. If the opponent turns in, she is going to allow me to slide my left arm further behind her head and choke her even better. If she turns out, that is going to pull the lapel in my right hand tighter and choke her even better.

Personally, this choke is not my preferred style because, unlike the previous choke, there is no natural transition from here into another technique.

When Ronda was little I tried to teach her the diving roll over choke I did and no matter how many times I tried to teach her, she just couldn't get it right. So, I came up with this move, Plan B. This illustrates an important lesson, by the way. The point of judo isn't to slavishly imitate your instructor or your favorite world champion. The point is to win. If in doing a drill like this standing transition drill you find there are certain techniques that don't work for you, discard those and try something that feels more natural. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Don't try this at home

Thank you to Al B Here for his comment on my blog, asking about yesterday's post.

He wanted to know why I roll over the opponent when she is in this position.
I think I did not make it clear enough. What I am doing is DIVING over the opponent.

There was a game we used to do when I was a child which illustrated this perfectly. It is also strongly discouraged by all of the judo organizations for the very logical reason that it is dangerous. It looks dangerous, although I have never known anyone to get injured doing it. The same can be said of climbing trees, diving off a pier, swimming at Johnson's Shut-Ins, and swinging on a rope swing and letting go to land in the middle of a river with a strong current, barely making it back to shore and starting all over again. All of these are things I had fun doing as a child but other people died doing them.

Here is a video from Fox Valley Judo showing adults diving over a crash pad. This is kind of  the motion you are going for. It's somewhat safer than the drill we used to do because the person is landing on a crash pad. Here is another video that has players diving over a standing person and then over some mats. In this one, too, they land on the crash pad.  Both of these have the player diving up more than over.

The drill we used to do is not shown anywhere that I can find because it is stupid and dangerous, no doubt. What we did was have a person bent down like Ana is in the picture above, and then we would do a forward roll over them.  After the whole line of kids did that, we'd have a second person kneel next to them and do a rolling fall over both people. If you chickened out, or if you missed and ended up falling on the second person, you were out. We kept adding people until only one person was left.

I still did this drill with my own children. They can't sue me because if the do, I'll put arsenic in their toast and that will be the end of that.

ANYWAY .... the point is that you do a DIVING break fall , stretching your body out and then rolling back like a regular fall. Your MOMENTUM carries you over

and brings your opponent with you as you can see here.

A second important point is that even with the momentum, if your opponent is MUCH heavier, this will not work. Say I am 123 pounds (56kg) and my opponent is 220 pounds (100kg). I'll probably get him somewhat off balance but I doubt I will pull him all the way over. 

This technique works fine for competition because it is by weight division, and against a person of equal weight, with the momentum added by the diving motion, I can always pull them over and up.

As you can see from this helpful wikipedia entry (give them money, I did), 

Kinetic energy = 1/2 mass times velocity squared 

This is why the diving part is so important. The more I can increase my velocity by diving out, since this value is SQUARED, the greater impact on total force applied to pull my opponent over.