Monday, June 25, 2012

Competitiveness on a high note

I uploaded this picture just because it was so funny. This is a picture of Crystal demonstrating an escape from a pin.

As you may have noticed, this is NOT, in fact, a picture of Crystal having escaped. In fact, the very perceptive reader (and even the reader who is dumber than a box of hair) will have noticed that she is on her back with Ronda trying an arm bar.

This is not how this move is supposed to end.

We were at the Black Belt Magazine studios taking photos to illustrate the techniques in the book Jim Pedro, Sr. and I are writing.  Crystal did the escape but because Ronda cannot stand to lose at ANYTHING - EVER , she immediately followed up, jumped on her and went for the arm bar. 

When I saw this going through the pictures for the final draft, I thought of reacting in my usual calm, motherly, reasonable manner by yelling at her

"Ronda! What the hell were you doing? You're supposed to be letting her escape."

I saved my breath, though, in part because I am out of the country so it would cost me a dollar a minute to yell at her over the phone. Mostly, though, because having been through this before, I know the response I will get, a very defensive pouting, 

"What? I let her escape from the first one. What more do you want?"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why Arm Bars are Hard to Avoid: A Graphic

First of all, let me just say that Ronda does not have "just one trick". If her arm bar does not work she is going to do the kamehaha.

However, it is not as easy to avoid an arm bar as some people think. Let's just take an example using actual math and combinations and permutations, with the three different shapes being three different techniques and the yellow circle at the end being an arm bar.

Let's say you only know three moves to set up an arm bar, throwing your opponent to her back and then doing an arm bar (path 1), being on top of your opponent (mount or as we judo people call it tate shiho) to an arm bar and being on your back, throwing your leg over to an arm bar. Nine different paths are shown above, but there are actually more.

There are six permutations of any three techniques. You can do number 1 first, then 2 and 3. Or you can do 1, then 3, then 2. So, you could throw your opponent, then do the mount, then roll over to the bottom and arm bar. You could go to the bottom position first, fail at that, stand up, throw them and go into the mount then arm bar etc.  Work it out, or just go to wikipedia. There are six different permutations.

HOWEVER, you don't have to always do all three together. You could go throw and just jump into the arm bar. So, doing each one individually gives you three more options. Or you could do combinations of any two, but that got messy to draw. That is why I said there were more than nine possibilities - because there are. (Didn't think you'd start delving into set theory on a judo blog, now, did you?)

There are two points here. First, in our soon-to-be-published book, Jim and I are showing the same thing several different times, but each time is a little different. That is one of our major points, that your mat work should be connected, and if it is, you can vary those paths so that no matter which way your opponent turns it all ends up with you winning, because as you notice up there, every path has the same outcome for your opponent.

I wonder if I could slip this graphic by him into the book. Every time I write something like this he says,
"I cannot believe a woman of your age is that immature."

Except he says it with a Boston accent which makes it even funnier.

I swear I am getting that anaconda and lion story in there somewhere. I think I'll just do it last minute before I email it to the publisher, and act innocent after the fact.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Free Rice: Round Two

Here are the patches I am sending to you if you are one of the people in this screen shot below

I am blaming @pegson on twitter for this - and Ronda.

Both of them separately brought up the idea that they thought people would be turned off by going to the free rice site and seeing someone already had 1,000,000 grains of rice. I suggested I could write a program to subtract the starting point from what people had and post that daily but Ronda argued - and for once, I had to agree with her - that people would rather see it on the site, and right then.

She also said that she had some really, really cool prizes for this time and she wanted to try to make it easy for people to see where they stood. And she ended with the irrefutable logic, "It's my group!"

So, if you are one of the people listed above, email me or DM me or post a comment or something so I can get in touch with you. You can email me at .

If you want your patch autographed, let me know, but that means you will not get it for a few weeks because Ronda is in Stockton training for her next fight and won't be back for a couple of weeks. 

The upside is that we usually say that you can't win twice but since we are starting over, I guess you can.

Tomorrow, I am going back to posting about arm bars. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Freerice Competition Starting - Now!

In very brief - is a website where you can answer questions on topics like math, Spanish and English vocabulary and for every correct answer the companies that sponsor the ads on the site donate money to the United Nations World Food Programme. Anyone can play.

When Ronda Rousey (also known as my darling daughter number three) had her world title fight with Miesha Tate she started a group that has resulted in over 20,00,000 grains of rice donated to date. The group is called rondamma and you can click on this link to join.

If you would like a chance to win free stuff, join the group and play. Every week, we will select people at random from the list and send them free stuff. Every grain of rice you have donated SINCE TODAY gives you another chance. So if you donated 50,000 grains of rice this week, you'll have 50,000 chances. Also, the top person each week gets a prize and the top five people on August 17th when Ronda weighs in for her fight against Sara Kaufmann.

TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO READ THE FREE RICE SITE. To have your play count for the group, you need to register, and when you play you need to select rondamma as the group to play for. Your screen should look like the one at bottom.

with RondaMMA showing at the top as the group you are playing for.

Of course, you don't have to play for Ronda's group and you can still donate rice. You can start your own group, Canadians4Kauffman if you want. It's a free country. 

I'll post pictures of this week's prizes later. So far, I have a copy of the Juji Gatame Encyclopedia (cross-body arm lock for you non-judo types) donated by Steve Scott that Ronda will sign and send the number one person. The random winners this week will get patches that say Rowdy Ronda Rousey on them - well, as I said, I'll post pictures later. I just got home from Missouri and have to get some work done tonight.

I downloaded the file of the amount of rice that people had donated as of 5:45 Pacific Standard Time so the contest begins - now!

It is a new weigh-in so everyone starts at zero.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Advice from Steve

My friend, Steve Scott, founder of Welcome Mat Judo, author of many books on judo, grappling and combat sports in general, and, as he is known by those closest to him, "Becky's husband" has given me some pieces of advice on writing.  One is:
"When in doubt, put more in."

So, I did. There were two different ways of doing the arm bar defense pin to arm bar combination. Ronda does it one way and I do it a second way. Ronda does it her way because she wants to pin the other person, which seems a very reasonable desire when you are doing a pin.

A second piece of advice from Steve was,

"Don't assume everyone knows what you know."

The way I do the arm bar defense to pin to arm bar combination is that I do a pin that is not very effective at all. Almost everyone gets out of it.

This is the stuff in the book that drives my co-author, Jim Pedro, Sr. , absolutely crazy. He's a bit of perfectionist, and he really hates having anything in the book that is not "right", like a pin that almost everyone would get out of. He and Steve are in agreement on one point. Jim says I can't put anything in the book like that without explaining why it is not "right".

I said I thought it was obvious, but Jim said, "No." Actually, since he is from Boston, it sounded more like ,

"No -o."

Okay, so here is my explanation, I do it the second way because I really don't care if I get the pin or not. In fact, I am hoping they get out of the pin because the way I do it the pin escape sets the opponent up perfectly for an arm bar.

I put both ways in the book, because I am following Steve's first piece of advice. I still like my way better. However, here is some advice on coaching, not from Steve or Jim, but from me. When you go from being an athlete to being a teacher or a coach, remember this.

"Everybody is not you."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

270 degrees and an arm bar: I am right. So there!

I have never been accused of being overly mature and today's post further reinforces any aspersions cast by my enemies on my maturity or lack thereof. I was working on our book tonight, Winning on the Ground, by me and Jim Pedro, Sr.

and I just happened to come across this photo to which I added a 270 degree angle. So, for those of you who questioned my math skills when I said that you should be at a 270 degree angle to the opponent's body, here you go, photographic evidence. And yes, it's not EXACTLY 270 degrees but you have to admit that it is pretty damn close.

I like this now that I look at it. I may just add it to the book if Jim doesn't hate it too much.

oh, and by the way, my Ph.D. is in Educational Psychology but my specializations were Applied Statistics and Tests and Measurement, which means I had way more courses like Multivariate Statistics, Log-linear models and Structural Equation Modeling than on things like Curriculum Theory. (I had one course on that - not my cup of tea.) In my "day job" I'm president of a company  that does statistical analysis, computer programming for contracted research and evaluation research.

Training versus Children

Just came back from watching The Avengers. Recommend it. In one scene, Captain America asks,
"Without that suit, what are you?"
and Ironman responds,
"Billionaire, philanthropist, playboy, inventor."

Not a bad answer. I thought how cool that was, and then it occurred to me that I have a Ph.D., co-founded a company that went from zero to a million dollars in less than two years, sold my share, founded another company and won a world judo championships. And I had four kids.

Oh, to the guy who wrote me a few months ago about my blog and told me what a horrible person I was to put that on my blog and that a truly educated person and real martial artist does not brag ...

Well, guess what? All of it is true. It's like I told you that I live in Santa Monica. If you live in a hut in Elbonia, that's not my fault. This blog isn't a homework assignment. If you don't like it, don't read it. Oh, speaking of homework, I did some on YOU and found out that you never graduated from high school and that although you did judo for years, you never even won the national championships.

So, go fuck yourself.

But, I digress.

I was going to talk about children. Recently, four males who very decidedly should NOT go fuck themselves, made comments that made me think about training versus children and just how children have an impact on your life in general.

One was Leo Frincu, who posted on his blog about committed relationships. His point was that if you were really committed you would do the same things as when you were single. You'd take care of yourself. You'd go to the gym. You'd shop at Abercrombie and Fitch instead of Old Navy, put on some expensive perfume - and not go schlepping about in sweat pants.

I tweeted back that is really easy to say if you have no children. My husband has put on probably 100 pounds in the 16 years we have been together. He hasn't spent a lot of time at the gym. However, when Ronda was 15-16 years old,  needed money to compete and train around the world and we were not comfortable with the mandatory program USA Judo said she would need to comply with to get funding from them, he said,
"That's okay. I'll write some more shareware, work overtime, you can take on some more business and we can get the money to pay for it."

When Maria was accepted at New York University and we needed to come up with $40,000 a year he said,

"Don't worry about it. We'll just work more and make the money to pay for it."

When Jennifer was accepted in the masters program at USC and even though the tuition was free because I worked there, the taxes sucked up a couple months of my salary, he said,
"That's okay. I'll write some more shareware, work overtime, you can take on some more business and we can get the money to pay for it."

Are we seeing a pattern here? Perhaps I should mention that he is not their father. The girls were aged 10, 11 and 14 when we got married. Of course, he never saw it that way. One day, when Julia was little, she asked,
"So, Maria is my half-sister and Jennifer's and Ronda's half-sister, and they are all my half-sisters, but Jennifer and Ronda are full sisters- "

Dennis stopped her and said,
"No. There are only sisters in this house. No halves. They are all your sisters and you are theirs."
That sounds pretty committed to me. The point is, though, that all of those hours of work have to come from somewhere. Something has to give.

Time is not infinite.

The second person who made me think about this topic was my co-author, Jim Pedro, Sr. who, wonderful guy though he is, disapproves of me in myriad ways. One is that he believes in keeping a clean house. While my house is pretty clean now, it was a disaster for all of the years my children were growing up. Jim said,
"It's just a matter of discipline."

I asked him how many years his children were living just with him. He said, "None." (It wasn't a rhetorical question. I actually didn't know that.) Okay, if you have a wife who stays home and cleans , with no other job, you can have three or four kids, a job, go to the gym, and have a clean house. Same thing if your kids don't live with you.

However, for five of the years when I had three small children, their father was in and out of hospitals while I worked, took them to school/ preschool, tried to teach them to read and check their homework. I got them to swim practice, track practice and soccer practice, paid for private schools. I was working as a professor and running a consulting company, writing scientific articles and grants and teaching judo.  In fact, the reason I taught a judo class once or twice a week is that I would have to show up and work out.  I changed bandages on my husband when he came back from surgery and never for one second had a thought of leaving him, no matter what.

I think that is pretty committed, even if my house looked like a Hoarder's episode some days.

When their father passed away, I was doing all of that plus taking care of the children the best I could by myself. When Dennis and I got married and had another baby, I had help, but I also had a new baby, a growing business, three kids in school and one of them on the way to the Olympics. I took Ronda to practice seven times a week, spending 14 hours or so just driving in LA traffic to get her there, not to mention waiting around at practice. For 16 years, I was on one judo committee or another trying to raise funding, improve coaching, because I saw the negative impact the situation had on my child and I wanted to make it better for her, and for all of the other kids.

At the same time, I was trying to get Julia to read more, trying to get my niece, Samantha, who lived with us, to study more, reading Maria's college applications, driving Jenn to San Francisco to start her junior year of college - and a million other things that take time and money.

So, no, I did not have the cleanest house or the newest car or even put on make-up.

Jim said,
"You could have cleaned your house if you went for fewer bike rides on the beach."

I told him that yes, he was right, but going biking and then having breakfast on the beach with Julia, or flying to Boston and having brunch with Maria and my two granddaughters and a whole lot of other things are  a bigger priority to me than having a clean house. So was taking Ronda to practice, paying for Maria's college tuition and getting Jenn to her student teaching assignment so she could get her credential. For years, my house smelled like cat piss because when Jenn was four years old her father got her a kitten for her birthday. The cat lived to be 19 and by the end it could not climb the stairs so we had to have the cat litter downstairs and sometimes it still missed and peed in the hallway. But Jenn loved that cat.

When you have children, you have other priorities.

The third man who said something was Fernando from Florida who tweeted,

"I can't imagine Ironman saving the world if he had four l'il iron men running around."

and the fourth was Travis Stevens, now on his way to the London Olympics who tweeted,

"Being dead doesn't scare me. Not being able to compete scares me."

It's true that once you have children, there are things you cannot do, but you make choices. We decided to spend less time cleaning our house, less time at the gym, less money on nice clothes, cars and Botox for ourselves. Instead, we spent it on private schools, college educations, training camps in Europe, summer science camp, driving to track meets, judo practice and trips to Universal Studios and Disneyland. We also spent a lot of time on programming and statistics because it paid our bills and we truly love our jobs.

I am not complaining. Every one of my children was wanted. I actually wanted to have six or eight children but it just did not work out that way.

Okay, so I didn't save the world. Neither did Iron Man. He's not real.

My house is pretty clean now, with just one child at home, but so what if it wasn't when there were three or four kids living here. I tried my best to raise well-educated, healthy, good people. As my oldest daughter, Maria, once said,
"My mom isn't Martha Stewart, but she could totally kick Martha Stewart's ass!"

Once I had my first child, my competition days were numbered. I almost quit competing after Maria was born, and it was my older brother,  a father of two daughters himself by then, who encouraged me to keep competing. He said if I quit then, it would not be humanly possible to keep from holding it against her later on. So, two years later, I won the world championships and promptly retired.

Do I regret it? Not for one second. I remember thinking exactly like Travis when I was a competitor, feeling sorry for people like Dr. James Wooley (competitor in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics) and not believing him when he told me he didn't miss it one bit.

Now I smile when I remember that. I won the world championships and retired from competition when I was 26 years old. What a sad pathetic life if that was the peak of what I had ever accomplished.

Remember that scene in Field of Dreams when the farmer says,
"What a tragedy that you were only a baseball player for only one day"
and Shoeless Joe Jackson replies,
"No, son. If I was only a doctor for one day, that would be a tragedy."

So, I have been a mother for almost 30 years. It has meant less time at the gym. But I am definitely committed. And it is no tragedy (whether I cleaned my house or saved the world or not).

My point is that we all make choices. When you are competing, and maybe even afterward, it may be important to make the choice to train every day. Somehow, though, once you have children, different things seem important.

When I'm not ranting on the Internet, I am making games that teach mathematics and social studies. Learn how to compute a perimeter, navigate down the rapids, shoot deer, reduce fractions to lowest terms. Have fun and be smarter. Games for Mac, Windows, Chromebook, iPad and Android. We've got you covered! From free (!) to $9.99

Friday, June 8, 2012

Random Arm Bar Posts: II. Arm bar escapes

In the last nine years of my competitive career, I wasn't arm barred even once.

One reason for my lack of being the arm-bar-ee is that I was so often the arm-bar-er . When you have been setting people up for an arm bar a thousand times, you recognize when you are falling into that soon-to-be victim trap yourself in time to get the hell out of it.

Another possible reason for my lack of being on the receiving end of arm bars is that there are three different arm bar escape drills that I used to do pretty religiously. I think there is a relationship here.

I don't know why almost no one practices arm bar escapes, but, given that fact, it doesn't surprise me that not too many people escape from arm bars. 

As I have been known (about a thousand times) to yell at people

"In the middle of the match is one hell of a time to try to be thinking of a plan."

Here are a few ideas on arm bar escapes.

First of all, I can think of six different ways to escape an arm bar and this is just off the top of my head sitting here drinking cognac at 1:30 in the morning.

1. Stack them
2. Forward roll
3. Twist out
4. Drive your elbow to the mat
5. Stand and lift (last resort and the worst of the bunch)
6. Curl them (only works if you're really strong but I have both done it and had it done to me)

You young, non-cognac-drinking people at practice at 7 pm ought to be able to think of more than that. Let's hear them!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Random arm bar notes: I. How to do a perfect arm bar

Let's suppose you are in a tournament, or even practice, and you have the great good fortune to have an opponent beneath you and you get hold of your opponent's arm. I am going to assume that your opponent is not an idiot and having grasped the severity of the situation will grab on to his own arm for dear life.

How to do a perfect arm bar, according to me.

  1. Have both hands at your opponent’s wrist, locking the forearm against your body, 
  2. Have both of your legs across the opponent's body, one on either side of said arm (I learned to refer to things as "said" from reading too many contracts)
  3. Rotate toward the opponent's head to break the arm free
  4. Rotate back toward the opponent's hips so you are now at a perfect 270 degree angle from the opponent's body (for non-math majors, a 270 degree angle is shown below. This is nothing if not a full-service blog)
  5. Legs are squeezed together holding the opponent tight at the shoulder, with your thighs
  6. Pinch knees tight together, touching, allowing no space for the opponent to pull his arm through if he did by some miracle manage to pull his wrist free, 
  7. Legs are bent, curling his body back toward you with your feet. (If you’ve ever done the leg curl at the gym, it’s that motion. If you’ve never done a leg curl, what the heck is wrong with you?)
  8. Arch your hips to apply the arm bar. If you have ever had a boyfriend, yeah, it's that motion. (Unless you're a gay male in which case I am not sure.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pins, men, coaching and The Book

I'm working on The Book every night now until I get it done. My schedule is like this:

  1. Exercise
  2. Work on software projects until 10 pm
  3. Finish 5- 10 pages of The Book
  4. Relax
This means my usual day is from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., but that's okay. I love my life. I'm working on all kinds of fascinating fun stuff. My current software projects are all interesting and profitable, the best of all possible combinations. The photos the staff at Black Belt sent me were wonderfully well done.

So ... what can I tell you without putting up pages of the book, which both Jim and the publisher are saying I probably shouldn't. I think they exaggerate the extent to which that would have a negative impact on sales, but whatever.

Well, one thing I have noticed that both Jim and I do is emphasize continually improving your position. For example, once you get a pin, switching positions to get a BETTER pin. 

As Jim says, 
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Or, as I say, 
“You know what happens when you practice half-@##, Ronda? You ###ing lose!” 
That is always the point where Jim says, 
"I cannot believe you talk like that. You're supposed to be an educated woman."
(Yes, it is amazing I have a Ph.D., isn’t it?)

However you say it, the point is that you want to practice every drill, every repetition, doing it as close to perfect as you possibly can. The difference between being number 1 in the world and number 100 isn’t so much the hours on the mat. It’s what you are doing in those hours.

A second point we agreed on was adding boxes with Coach's Tip, to explain why we were teaching certain techniques in a certain order or certain way. Although we assume most people who buy our book will be students or competitors in judo, grappling and mixed martial arts, we also realize that some of them will be coaches, either now or in the future, and we wanted to add a few bits just for them.

It's good we agree on this because there are some other parts of The Book that we disagree on that we're going to need to hash out. Principally, Jim wants to do everything perfect from the beginning and I disagree. He thinks you should do perfect judo and not teach bad habits.

I, on the other hand, think it is fine when people are beginning, to do techniques that are more reliant on strength, and to refine their techniques later. In fact, I actually, to a much greater extent, think it is fine to do techniques that are more reliant on strength forever.

This has caused Jimmy Pedro, Jr. (and long before him, Willy Cahill), to characterize me as "a brawler".  Coach Cahill even saw me compete, and coached me on international teams. I am not the least bit offended. They are both right.

 My point is that someone like me, who was stronger than > 90% of the opponents she ever fought, was perfectly reasonable in relying on strength. I was just naturally strong and trained my ass off to be stronger yet.  I went into this argument before, so I won't repeat it.

One thing I find amusing about all of this is when Jim and I are discussing it (he would say arguing), he says, 
"You always think what you think is right."

My late husband, Ron, used to say that, too. This has led me to the conclusion that it is just a man-thing. As I used to tell Ron,
"OF COURSE I think the way I think of it is right. That is kind of the DEFINITION of 'what I think', no? If I didn't think I was right, I would be thinking something else."

I will never understand men. 

Matwork, now, that is much simpler.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stealth Mode on Matwork

Hurray! (Sssh!) We are in stealth mode on the book. You know how tech start-ups are all excited about what they're doing and everyone tells all their friends,

"Hey, yeah, we've got this new company and it's going to be a search engine like Netscape, but we've got this search algorithm ..."

And then, all of a sudden those guys disappear off the face of the earth, because they're locked in an office somewhere cranking out iterations of that algorithm ... okay... maybe you don't know people like that .... anyway, my point is, I was talking about this book a lot and now I have kind of fallen off the face of the blogosphere.

The reason is that we actually got the photos taken, a complete draft from beginning to end, and now we are finishing up the writing. We also have signed a contract with Black Belt saying that we won't publish sections of the book elsewhere, which makes sense. They took some incredibly great photos - over 1,000 I'm sure - with Ronda, with Kayla Harrison, Crystal Butts and Aaron Kunihiro. Also, with Travis who came down from (I think) Fresno to train in mixed martial arts with Ronda and Manny and ended up roped into being a throwing dummy for a day.

I guess you'll just have to buy the book to see them.

One thing that I can tell you is that Jim and I are definitely going to have another debate when he gets back from Brazil. I know that he hates some of the techniques I put into the book. He would say he doesn't "hate" them, that they're just wrong and that's a fact. Trust me, he hates them.

In the first chapter, I have some very, very basic techniques, like this one, for example:

He says that it is a mistake to grab your opponent around the neck and he makes the kids do bunny hops if they do it. Instead, Jim argues, you should get behind your opponent. He also says that you almost never see anyone do that except for beginners. Maybe Jim is right - well, not about the bunny hops. Bunny hops suck.

My point, though, is that beginners DO do this move and they do it incorrectly, so that allows the opportunity to teach mat work counters. Also, everyone starts out as beginners and almost everyone teaches beginners. So, even though there are a lot of more advanced mat work techniques in our book, I think there should be some basic stuff. My final reason for including these wrong - or, at least, very basic techniques - is that I think winning mat work comes from good habits and from learning to THINK in a certain way, to always be looking one step ahead. That is one point on which Jim and I are in 100% agreement. I think some of these basic moves get people started, easily, doing mat work combinations and counters from the beginning.

To me, it is like the "Hello, World" program that just about every programming language tutorial and textbook uses as a beginning example. No, no one really needs a program that prints, "Hello, World" but pretty much everybody needs to learn how to produce some kind of output readable by a human.

The other reason that I have been incognito is that I was trying to finish off all of the other grants and contracts I was working on so I could spend the next few months focusing on this book and another project. I'd tell you about that one, but it's in stealth mode.