Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It really IS the journey, not the destination

Since I have been traveling so much I have not had a chance to write my blog so I recorded this on my way back home for a day before I need to take again.

Jim Pedro, Sr. is always saying it's not the destination, it's the journey. I always thought that is what losers said to make themselves feel better. Now, I have realized that he is right and I am wrong, but don't tell him that I said that. He thinks he's right all the time already and I don't want to encourage him.

If you are on an iPad or iPhone and Flash does not work, try this link. Wait a few seconds for it to start. If neither starts, I guess you just have a tough life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is talented?

Oddly, an article on arstechnica got me wondering about judo and other martial arts/ sports.

There is a tendency by some people to run down sports as trivial. When I first won the junior nationals, I was 16 years old and I was very excited. I started judo at 12 and it was my first time at the juniors. My family is very focused on academics and was unimpressed. One person went so far as to say,

"Yes, I guess it's nice to be number one, but really, isn't that like being the best person in the country at biting bricks in half with your teeth? I mean, who cares? What difference does it make?"

There is this assumption among some people that real work, real talent involves making money or publishing scientific articles. Is that true, though? Did Bernie Madoff, who swindled hundreds of millions of dollars from people, did he have talent? Maybe. Was it a more worthwhile talent than being able to throw someone or teach a kid how to do an arm bar? I'd say he did more harm than good while at worst your average judo/ jiu-jitsu/ grappling instructor probably does a little good, helping people be a little healthier and more disciplined.

The article that got me thinking about all of this was about a Japanese anesthesiologist who was caught having simply made up the data in 172 papers published in scientific journals. If you can have made up your data 172 times before anyone notices and, according to the journals, it had no impact because no one paid attention to those articles anyway - how much talent do you really have?

When I review grants, I often see it stated that Dr. Seemingly Important has published over 200 articles in scientific journals. The articles all have titles like, "The understanding of the concept of two plus two by Cameroon toddlers".

Is the ability to write articles like that and get them accepted into the Cross-cultural Journal of Studies of Preschool Mathematics a more important talent than being able to pin someone so they can't get up? If so, why?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Practicing what I preach on transition

I am always saying that people don't teach transition from standing to mat work, they don't drill it and that is a great drawback in most judo, grappling and mixed martial arts programs.

Just to show that I do practice what I preach, I took some pictures of drills with  the littlest, cutest judo players I was working with at practice on Sunday and you can see this is how a person does a shoulder throw.

First, you get a grip on your opponent's right arm,  with your left hand about at the elbow and your right arm around her right arm. Both of your feet should be in front of or between your opponent's feet.

Next, you bend your knees, turn and throw the opponent.

Then, after you throw, you follow through straight into a pin.

If you teach people to follow up into a pin right from day one, they will learn to do it automatically.

I have been arguing this for years and have heard a lot of excuses why instructors don't teach transition, including,

  • It's too difficult for beginners to learn a throw and pin all in the same day
  • It's dangerous to throw and pin before they know how to fall
  • People, especially beginners, don't like to take hard falls like they would if they were thrown and then their opponent went into a pin. Better to just start on the mat.

I think looking at this girls provides a good argument against all of those objections. Yes, it isn't a perfect throw and pin, but no one does anything perfect when they are a little kid, especially not on their first day. It is a perfectly respectable effort for a kid. Neither of them look like they are getting injured and they certainly don't look miserable. 

Not wanting to take hard falls is a reasonable objection, which is why we use crash pads.

Not only do I teach people transition from a throw to a pin on their first day, I also teach a follow up into an arm bar or two if they are adults. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stick a fork in me. I'm done

Table of contents

Preface: The goal is to win
Chapter 1 Seven “secrets” to better groundwork: the basic reasons why most people don’t win
Chapter 2 Matwork connections:  a dozen quick ways to a submission
Chapter 3 Two matwork techniques everyone should know
Chapter 4 Matwork series: leaving your opponent nowhere to go
Chapter 5 Matwork counters
Chapter 6 Basic matwork drill training
Chapter 7 Situation drills
Chapter 8 Winning on the ground
Coda: The lion, the anaconda and reaction drills

The Book --

also known as

Winning on the Ground


AnnMaria Rousey De Mars


Jim Pedro, Sr.

is now officially done with the final draft and in the hands of our editor at Black Belt Magazine.

Oh, and Dr. Rhadi Ferguson --

I win!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Help 'em up - How I learned judo from a 13-year-old

and why Dr. Rhadi Ferguson may beat me yet

So, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and I are both putting the finishing  touches on our books. I challenged him to a race on twitter, and both of us being the competitive type are doing our best to win. Even though I started out 175 pages ahead of him, he may beat me yet, as the second-to-last chapter is the one that Jim and I have the most disagreements on.

Jim is a brilliant coach, no question about it. As I write this, he is working with the Olympic team and they are lucky to have him. He is too much of a gentleman to tell me flat out he thinks I am crazy, but he often says,

"Well, that could happen, but it's very unlikely."

Actually, he is both right and wrong, on two points. The first is that while some of the situations and techniques that I show are unlikely for people competing at the Olympic level, they are very likely for less experienced players. For the athletes he is working with right now, Jim is absolutely correct.

However, the great majority of the people who read our book are going to be young players, parents or coaches of young players, and adults who have been doing judo, grappling or mixed martial arts only a few years, at most. Many of them will compete against people who make "beginner mistakes" because they are relative beginners.

The second point is even very, very good people make mistakes. I've done it and I don't want to call anyone out by name but I just want to say that I have seen even people who are amazing competitors hesitate at the wrong instant and get nailed with something really basic. In fact, Jim and I were sitting side by side at the Olympics when the Cuban player went in for a plain old basic tai o toshi (body drop) throw, scored and went into the Olympic finals. Yes, they make each one of them very, very seldom but there are a lot of possible mistakes. So, if you practice 20 different situation drills for situations that only come up 1% of the time then 20% of the time, or something like one match out of five, you will nail  your opponent. What about the other four times out of five? Well, that's all of the other chapters in the book! Also, part of your job as a competitor is trying to "encourage" your opponent to make those mistakes, so they are going to happen more than 20% of the time. For an example of how to do that, you should buy our book and look at the help 'em up drill number two.

(If you are a statistician you realize that 20 events with a 1% probability happen less than 20% of the time unless they are all mutually exclusive probabilities. This is not my statistics blog. Just hush.)

Here is how the help 'em up drill came about --

Years ago, I was at a tournament in Barstow, California, watching the 13-14 year old division, because Ronda was in it. She was only twelve-year-old green belt but I had put her into a couple of divisions to get more matches. A young blue belt girl from the Barstow Judo Club was competing. In her first match, her opponent was on one knee, the girl came in and threw for an ippon and won the match. Ronda was her second match and it was almost a repeat of the first one. Ronda was on one knee, coming up and the other girl came in, threw her and got her in a pin. It was only a waza ari (half a point), and Ronda got out of the pin, mad enough to spit nails, turned the other girl over and won. On the way home, we had a conversation that went something like this. (It was over 13 years ago so this may not be a word-for-word accurate memory.)

"What do you think about that girl that threw you?"

 "Mom, she wasn't that good, she just got lucky." 

"Pumpkin, I watched her match before you and I thought she was lucky. Then I watched her do it to you and you almost never get thrown. Then I watched her do it to the two people after you. No one gets that God damned lucky. We're going to go home and practice that. I'm calling it the Help 'em up drill."

A year later, in the finals of the junior nationals, she threw her big rival with that exact move we'd seen in Barstow. Now, you might say, so what, some purple belt 13-year-old kid beat some other purple belt  14-year-old kid. Who really cares? The answer is, that kid cares. It was not the Olympics. It was just the biggest thing she had won up to that time, it was the first time she had beaten that girl by a full point and it was a huge deal to her. So, maybe these drills won't help you win the Olympics, although, as Jim says, it is possible but very unlikely. The possibility is far greater they will help you win the Tulsa Grappling Tournament, Freestyle Judo Championships or your third amateur mixed martial arts match. You know what? I'm totally okay with that.

Here, for your edification and illumination is a part of one of the four help 'em up drills

You have attacked your partner and knocked her to one knee.

As your opponent starts to come up off of knee, you step your right foot back and go into a sweeping hip throw (harai goshi). 

Ronda doesn't have perfect technique in the attack above but, as her opponent is in a very bad position, it really doesn't matter so much.

Winning on the Ground, seriously now

Ronda and I discussing the new book that is going to be done this week (hurray), by Jim Pedro, Sr. and me. One of our points is that we think many authors underestimate martial artists, both in judo and mixed martial arts.

We didn't get into this on the video because we were interrupted by a  film crew from Showtime knocking on the door, but I wonder if part of the reason that so many books seem to underestimate the intelligence of the martial arts market is that they are often written by some ghost writer and not by the person whose name is on the cover.

I know this for a fact because there are some people who have books out that I've never seen write anything longer than a text message.

Somebody asked me how much of our book Jim and I actually wrote. The answer is - every damn word of it.

.... oh, and I have no idea why Ronda put on those silly glasses for this video. Perhaps it is because we were having a book discussion and she wanted to look particularly academic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Me and Ronda do a Book Promotion Video: Blooper Reel

Ronda was out of town training in Stockton. Then I was out of town traveling across eastern Canada. Then Ronda was out of town at the UFC Summit. So, this is the first time was saw each other in a month was today.

The day had started out on a very business-like tone with a conference call with our corporate animation/ graphic design consultants, Justin Flores and Danny Ochoa.

We decided to continue on this professional note and do a promotional video for the book, Winning on the Ground, that Jim Pedro, Sr. and I have been working on for now what seems like most of our lives. Some how, the video devolved into a sort of blooper reel discussion of naked arm bars.

It's Always Your Turn to Attack

I thought I blogged about this before but if I did it was so long ago I could not find it. I'm past 150 pages of the book that I have proofed and passed on to Jim. Four things struck me as I thought about what I had reviewed so far and the chapters still to come.

The first one was that Jim and I teach attacking from the bottom far more than most people. The last post I wrote had Hana Carmichael attacking from the bottom. The section of the book I was just finishing has Ronda attacking from the bottom.

The second thing, related to this, is that we teach attacking from many more positions than most people do. Almost every judo player and jiu jitsu player I have watched has one or two strongly favored positions. For BJJ people one of those always seems to be "the guard", it's an almost religious attachment. Judo players favor attacking with the opponent on all fours, as Ronda is above. Except, in the example above and the last blog post, the bottom person was attack.

The third thing that struck me is how offensive a style I have - and I mean in the constantly attacking sense, not the constantly pissing people off sense - although both might be accurate representations. When I teach escapes they end up with attacking. I really teaching how to escape and then attack. Other people, when doing an escape, seem to be thinking about getting away. I know personally I am always thinking about getting revenge.

The fourth, and final, related point that struck me is one of what Ronda refers to as my "momisms". That is, something I say ALL the time,

It's always your turn to attack.
Whether you are on the bottom, were just knocked down for  a score, pinned or caught in an arm bar, it's ALWAYS your turn to attack.

I see people doing matwork and they think because they are on all fours in the turtle position they can't do anything but defend.

That's just plain silly.

 There were five kids in my family, and when I was growing up, we always had to take turns. My mom said that was only fair. One of the great advantages of judo was that I never had to take turns with anyone else again. It's always my turn to attack, no matter what. Why on earth would I give that turn up just because I happen to be in a pin at the moment?

I remember at a Nanka practice once when Ronda did one of the escapes we show in the book. Her partner was flabbergasted. That really is the best word. He stuttered,

But, wait, what? How did that happen? I was pinning you and now you're pinning me!

He just didn't realize that it was still her turn to attack.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Like this, not like that: Wake gatame arm bar

Looking at pictures for a draft of the book - obviously not everything will make it in the book. I saw this photo and it just made me cringe. I think this was an out-take

for two reasons. First, because just looking at that right arm straight like that makes me think of dislocated elbows, even if just by accident. If the player on the bottom hits Hana's right elbow with her knee trying to move out of the position, that elbow is going to go.

I also thought it was a mistake because shortly after it in the photos Riley sent me was this:
In the second photo, you can see that her right arm is bent and she is leaning her weight on her elbow. 
I *think* though I am not sure, because this is a part Jim wrote and I haven't talked to him about it yet, that putting your weight on your arm at all is something you do in the drill to prevent your opponent from being face-planted into the mat as you do a wake gatame. 

In competition, though, I would think you would not put your arm there to slow yourself down and it would be, 

"Face, say hello to mat."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Confusing the Relatives

This is the third time I have been in Nova Scotia in the past 38 years. About 38 years ago, I was here just after having placed in my first national tournament. Within the next couple of years I won several national tournaments. About 27 years ago, I was visiting after just having won several international tournaments, including a couple that were televised which included particularly, shall we say, emphatic, arm bars.

I was showing my aunts, who are in their late seventies and early eighties, these patches, and the one says to the other,

"That must be AnnMaria doing the arm bar, right?"

and the other says,

"Yes, I'm sure it is, because the one who grabs the arm usually wins. I'm sure that's right."

"Well, why do they show her with blonde hair?"

"I have no idea. Did she used to have blonde hair?"

"I don't think so. Let's ask her mother. Say --- did AnnMaria ever have blonde hair? No, I didn't think so. AnnMaria -- you need to tell whoever designed this patch for you that they got your hair color wrong. That's a pretty obvious thing. What a silly mistake."

"Um, that's not me. That's my daughter, Ronda."

"Why, so it is! It even says that on the patch. Why on earth would they make a patch of your DAUGHTER doing an arm bar instead of you? That's a really silly mistake. I hope you fired whoever designed these. Did you fire him?"

"Um, no, not exactly, you see -- "

"Well! There's no excuse for such incompetence! I think immediately when you get back to the states you should fire him! Don't you think so?"

At this, she turns to my other aunt for confirmation, who nods emphatically in agreement. I ask politely,

"Do you get a channel called Showtime, by any chance?"

Both aunts shake their heads in unison,

"No, why do you ask? Do you want to watch something on TV?"