Saturday, September 29, 2012

A successful judo day at Gompers Middle School

Today was a great day. We had an hour and a half of practice that went very well. We started out with a run around the mat for a few minutes, running backwards, forwards and sideways while throwing the medicine ball to random students. If the ball touches the mat, everyone does sit ups and push-ups. For the first time ever, no one dropped it, not even once.

Then we did circuits. We did jumping jacks instead of jump rope and we did just two and a half minutes, a one minute rest and then two more minutes. It was a start and everyone did almost all of it, which was good.

They all really worked hard today from the very beginning, from everyone jumping in and putting the mats down right away, through the warm-ups.

I started off showing them o soto makikomi, from their knees, into a kesa gatame. (For you non-judo readers, that means they grabbed the opponent by the neck and elbow, turned, and threw him/her on the back into a pin.)

They were all really attentive, and tried seriously to learn the techniques. There, looking on, is Mr. Jose Gonzales, the teacher who has sponsored this program and come to the class every Friday after school for FOUR YEARS with no extra pay.

After trying the throw on their knees, they went to standing. You can see how well it went in this video. The reason I am yelling, "Wait! Wait!" is that we only have one crash pad and I was afraid the two students on the other end were going to crash into Mr. Jimmy Sanchez, our other Gompers school staff volunteer, and the young lady  throwing him.

I am happy to report no such collision occurred.

As I said, it was a successful day. The students had an hour and a half of good, well-supervised exercise, with three teachers (me, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Sanchez), all of us very well-qualified, if I do say so myself, which I do - for fourteen kids. So less than a five-to-one ratio, with an organized schedule. 

Afterwards, the after-school program (Woodcraft Rangers) provided snacks for the students. So, they got  milk, juice, raisins, cheese, nuts and some cookies thrown in for good measure. 

I was very satisfied. I don't think the most privileged kids in Malibu had a better after-school experience today than these students.  I am especially proud of that because it isn't as if we had the best facilities. The school district has been cutting everything they can to spare cutting teachers - which is right, you need teachers more than anybody. 

Of course, when I got there, some of the tiles from the ceiling had fallen down and there was no janitor to clean up, nor a broom. So I found a poster and using it, scraped all of the debris I could out of the way into a corner while the students put down the mats.

Despite that, with borrowed mats, donated gis, donated food and volunteer time, we had a GREAT class. 

Oh, and if you want to trash-talk the Los Angeles public schools, you better not do it around me. These teachers do amazing work with almost no money for resources, supplies, school repairs or anything else.

 Yes, I don't do a lot. I only teach one afternoon a week because it is all I can spare. If we all did that, though, just think how much of a difference it would make. 

If you're really concerned about the state of public education, do something.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Are judo players really that wimpy?

The answer to that question, in my opinion, is "No", but the rules sure make it seem that way.

I am off now to teach judo to sixth, seventh and eighth-graders. For many, this will be their second judo class. For others, they may have had a whole 20-30 classes. Not even credible yellow belt level, most of them.

Today, I'm teaching defending from the bottom, including a cross choke and an arm bar.

In judo, no one is allowed to do arm bars until brown belt, in some tournaments not until black belt. They aren't allowed to do arm bars until they are 17, in the U.S.

They aren't allowed to choke until 13.

Supposedly, the reason is that the US is such a litigious society (that means we like to sue people). For some reason, jiu jitsu, grappling and mixed martial arts in the same society manage to allow arm bars and chokes and no one gets sued, terribly injured or dies. This is the same society where kids play football for hours in hundred degree heat and occasionally one of them DOES die.

I have even taught as a guest instructor at clubs where they were perturbed that I taught their novice ADULTS to choke.

I just don't understand it. I really don't.

Why are judo players supposedly so much more delicate than people in other jiu jitsu, grappling and MMA?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Raising Successful Children: Part 2

In my last post, I started to give some of my ideas on what it takes to raise successful children. It takes some luck. I also think it takes the willingness to be the bad guy sometimes.

Okay, I admit it, I was watching Hoarders, and the mother said,

"I just want to be the mother my child wants."
The psychologist replied,

"Sometimes it's important not to be the mother your child wants. You have to be the mother your child needs."
And, to take my favorite advice, not from a psychologist, but from Winston Churchill,
"Never, never, never give up."
One of the comments on the last post was that perhaps I should use a different word for "successful" because that might be taken to mean being perceived well by other people. It's like the difference between character and reputation. As John Wooden said,

"Character is what you really are. Reputation is what other people think you are."

Since I'm on the quote train, I'll go one more and mention Emmy Werner. She did a famous series of studies on children who came from extremely disadvantaged environment and nonetheless did well. She had to define what she meant by succeeded and she defined it as,

"Children who lived well, learned well and loved well."
That is, they stayed out of jail, stayed out of rehab, weren't homeless, on welfare living in the projects. They didn't fail any grades in school, were not in special education, were not behind in grade level and finished high school or some college (before anyone points out Ronda didn't graduate high school - she DID get a GED and go to college for a while and did fine in her classes). They had good relationships with their family and friends.

 Basically, these are criteria that pretty much everyone can agree are good things. So, that is what I mean by successful and I think it is what most people want for their children.

Another piece of advice (and I will say this probably in multiple ways in the next few posts)

Put your children first

People say they do, but they don't. I don't give a damn what the neighbors think of me, people at judo tournaments or at my church. I care about what is best for my children. When Ronda was young, there were times when I would take her away from the rest of the class and work with her on something because I thought whatever was being taught was not what she needed to be learning right then. I was very, very fortunate that I was at Venice Dojo at the time, and I had told Trace Nishiyama (the head instructor) when we joined that I wanted to do this and he was okay with it. Some other people were not and complained that Ronda got more attention (yes, she did because it was my attention and she was my kid). I have liked many children that I have taught very much. Gary Butts' kids are awesome - smart, funny, athletic. Lanny Clark's kids are awesome. There are many kids I can name.

I have had people say to me,

"I don't treat my children special. I treat every child the same."

I don't. I treat my kids like I love them more than yours. Because I do.

I could give a thousand different examples. We don't live in the biggest house or drive sports cars but all of our children went to private schools. We had a nanny who was wonderful. When our children went to college or trained around the world, we sacrificed to pay for it. When Maria got accepted at NYU, Dennis and I both took on more work to cover the cost. When Jenn got accepted at USC, we just adjusted our budget and schedules so she could move home, make it to classes and her student teaching.

My point is not that you should do exactly what I did but that you should do what you believe is best for your children, even if it is a sacrifice for you emotionally, socially or financially. Be honest about it.

I have seen parents force their kids to stay on a soccer team, at a judo club or apologize to a teacher not because it was best for their child, but because the parent did not want to face the other parents or coach and tell them their child was quitting the team. I know parents who insist their children study 25 hours a week from third grade through high school to get into an Ivy League school. Who are they really doing that for? To impress the other parents? Is it really for your kid? Really?

For the first time in 30 years, I have no children living at home and I have a clean house. I never stayed home and cleaned up. I took my kids to practice, hounded them to do their homework and ran a business to pay for what I felt they needed.  I had a job that took me out of town much of the time, I didn't have dinner on the table every night and my house looked like the before picture in a Clorox commercial. I know people who thought I was not a very good mom.

Those people can bite me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raising Successful Children: Part1

Last week, I met with a very nice writer from Sports Illustrated, who said to me,
"You must be really proud of Ronda."

To which I answered, like I always do,
"I am very proud of all four of my daughters. Maria is a successful journalist, graduated from NYU, has two beautiful children and teaches at Tufts University, Jenn teaches at an inner city school, has a masters from USC,  Ronda has been to two Olympics, won a bunch of awards in judo and is now Strikeforce world champion in mixed martial arts, and Julia earned a scholarship to a top college preparatory school."

The reporter said,
"That cannot come out of nowhere. How did you do it? What did you do to raise such accomplished daughters?"

I have a stack of letters and emails in my in-box, all asking pretty much the same thing, waiting for me to come up with a good answer.

Here is my first crack at it --

How good of a parent you are and how successful your children are all depends on the timing. Sometime between the years 15- 20, if you had asked each of my daughters about me they would have told you I was out to run their lives, I did not care about them and I was a mean old woman. If you asked the same daughters the same question ten years later, you would get a very different answer. I quote my friend, Lanny Clark a lot. He said,
"Life goes to the slowest winner."
In other words, it doesn't matter who is number one in high school chemistry or won the junior nationals at age eight. It matters who won the Nobel prize or the Super Bowl. Here is my first piece of advice on parenting, sometimes you have to be the bad parent to be the good parent.

I've been the mean parent who told my children they were wrong when everyone else was telling them they should be able to do whatever they want to do,

"Who is your mom to tell you that you can't jet-ski naked? She's just trying to run your life."

I have been the evil person who when one of my daughters said (more than one of them on more than one occasion)

"How can you say what you just said, it made me feel really bad!"


"Good! After what you did, you SHOULD feel bad. Sometimes low self-esteem reflects an honest appraisal. You are NOT okay the way you are and you need to CHANGE."

Don't sound like a very good mom, now, do I?

Never give up on your kids.

A lot of parents say, "Oh, no, of course not" - but they don't really mean it.

 Just because you dropped out of high school does not mean that you can't be graduating from a top graduate school when you are 23. Wait- what? I don't mean that you have to do everything for your children. Quite the contrary. One of the hardest things is to stand by and let them take their lumps - you decided not to go to college, or that you want to take "a year off from everything". Okay, now you're broke. Sucks, doesn't it?

But ... you have to be available to provide support again when your child is ready to stop doing whatever stupid-ass thing she was doing (and no, I am not calling out any of my daughters but just let me say, they all have given my grey hairs. This is why I have to pay the salon to dye my hair).

Even after your child did NOT win the state championships, and, in fact, dropped out of the sport altogether, failed a course and did NOT get into an Ivy League school, you still have to be there and try to get him or her back on track. I have heard parents say,

"I gave my child a chance. Now it is time for me to enjoy life, travel, spend money on myself."

The time for that is after your child is out supporting himself or herself and has a good start in life. I know people who when their child turns 18 kick them out the door and say, "I'm done" or the first time their child screws up wash their hands and say,  "I'm done"

It's  a LOT of work, money and sacrifice to raise children and sometimes it seems as if some people are just waiting for an excuse to be done. Manny Gamburyan said something very wise on twitter the other day. He was talking about training but it could apply to parenting just as well. He said,

"I don't quit when I'm tired. I quit when I'm done."

To be continued ....

A tale of two shirts and four daughters

First of all, thank you to the nice people from Fight Chix for the new shirts. You see, what happened was this ... they kindly sent a shirt to Ronda that she liked, and wore, that said on it,

Sexy as Fuck

Being appreciative, she took a picture of herself in it which somehow got on Facebook (who knew that random pictures of you could ever get on Facebook? Didn't see that coming).

Well, then one of the four times since the invention of Facebook my 79-year-old mother logs on and calls me up saying,

"Tell Ronda her grandmother does not approve of that shirt, especially not with her younger sister. That is a bad example."

This caused the oldest sister, Maria, to laugh until soda came out her nose, (photo sadly not available),

"What, your mom thinks Julia has never been exposed to the word 'fuck' before? Has your mother actually ever met you?"

Ronda's other, ever-helpful, older sister, the perfect Jennifer, suggested from her lofty 13 months older age, that we could fix the picture. She said,

"Hey, just photo shop over it a new saying. How about, 'Yay, Jesus!'  Grandma likes Jesus."

I suspect her of being a smart-ass about this, but she managed to say it with a suspiciously innocent face. So, here we go.

Out of the goodness of their hearts, the nice Fight Chix people sent three new shirts, for me, Ronda and Julia. I'm pretty certain that this one will be Grandma-approved.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Checking off the bucket list

This is a random post that was sparked by a conversation my husband and I were having earlier. My older brother told me anyone who runs out of things on their bucket list doesn't have a long enough list. I don't have a list at all. So, I looked at 1,000 things to do before you die and started checking off which ones, of the ones I would like to have done, I had already finished. There were some that did not interest me at all, like learn fly-fishing. Here is what I got before I got bored, in random order

  1. Go camping
  2. Visit a Renaissance fair
  3. Run a 5K
  4. Run a 10K
  5. Complete a walk against cancer
  6. Learn to ride a bike
  7. Learn to rollerblade
  8. Go canoeing
  9. Go kayaking
  10. Go tubing
  11. Learn to play racquetball
  12. Play soccer
  13. Learn how to ice skate
  14. Learn how to swim
  15. Swim in the ocean
  16. Swim in a race
  17. Learn judo
  18. Become a black belt
  19. Learn wrestling
  20. Learn Spanish
  21. Study in a foreign country
  22. Go to a jazz club in New Orleans
  23. Go snorkeling
  24. Jump from a cliff into deep water
  25. Break a Guinness world record
  26. Sleep in anovernight train
  27. Swim with dolphins
  28. Visit the San Diego Zoo
  29. Ride a camel
  30. Ride an elephant
  31. Adopt a pet from an animal shelter
  32. See a koala bear
  33. See whales in the ocean
  34. See the sun rise over the Grand Canyon
  35. See the northern lights
  36. Visit Yosemite National Park
  37. Go the Everglades
  38. Hike in a rain forest
  39. See Death Valley
  40. See the Parthenon
  41. See Big Ben in London
  42. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
  43. See the Cologne Cathedral
  44. Visit the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York
  45. Go to the Smithsonian Museums in D.C
  46. Go the National Gallery of Art in DC
  47. Visit the Field Museum in Chicago
  48. Go to the Getty Museum
  49. Live in a foreign country for six months
  50. Ride a boat in Hong Kong harbor
  51. Go to the Bahamas
  52. Attend a Japanese tea ceremony in Tokyo
  53. Climb up the statue of liberty
  54. See the Mona Lisa
  55. Visit the Hershey Factory in Pennsylvania
  56. Ride a steamboat down the Mississippi
.... then I got bored. My two conclusions are that a) most people's bucket lists seem to consist of staring at a lot of stuff - yeah, the Mona Lisa is cool and so is Notre Dame cathedral and 900 other things I could list, but still, it seems there should be more to life than looking at stuff - even if it is really beautiful amazing stuff 

and b) a lot of stuff on people's bucket lists are not that hard. I learned to swim and ice skate before kindergarten. 

I was also intrigued by what some people have on their lists. "Before I die, I want to collect Pez dispensers."


 I've done a lot of stuff and don't really feel like I have that much unfinished business. 

I'm not sure what is on my bucket list. It is definitely not "Become an early riser" or "Take make-up lessons with a make-up specialist."

Do YOU have a bucket list? Do you think that it's important to have one? If you do have one, what is on it?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Visiting Ogden Judo School

On Sunday, September 23, all of the West Coast Judo Training Center people -- well, a bunch of them anyway, will be down at Ogden Judo School - NOTE!! The new address is

17034 Bellflower Blvd, Bellflower California
If you go to their club website it still has the old address up, which is very confusing since they are on the same street in the same town, just about a half-mile away from the old school.
Practice is from 2-6 pm.
All of you who are always asking when I will be teaching - the answer is this Sunday. I expect I will get there a little late but I will be there. 
John Ogden, the founder of Ogden Judo School, was a great guy. The school was in Long Beach before I was born, was still there when I was competing and was STILL there when Ronda was competing in judo. A few years ago, about the time Sensei Ogden passed away, the building was torn down. The school was in a small place for a while and is now having a grand opening in their new location.
Arm bars will be in the house

Friday, September 21, 2012

Conditioning for New Students: Advice from Jim Pedro, Sr.

It's a new school year at Gompers Middle School and that means many new students as the eighth-graders from last year go on to bigger and better things. Also, the teacher, Mr. Jose Gonzales, who sponsors the program at the school insists that students meet certain standards of grades and behavior at school overall to be allowed to come to judo and not everyone makes the cut. So....
Now we have a lot of new students who definitely do NOT have a gym membership, who only have judo once a week, because that is all the time the teachers from the school and I can donate.

(That is Mr. Jim Sanchez, above, another Gompers Middle School staff member who donates time to assist in the class.)

Picking up a new sport, with only one practice opportunity a week and not a lot of facilities around for conditioning is a real challenge. So, I called Jim Pedro, Sr. up and, as usual, he had a lot of really helpful advice. I thought I would post it here to help me remember and for anyone else, too.

(That's Jim)


Jump ropes are cheap. Go buy the plastic kind that is weighted. The weight makes it easier for the kids who are not used to jumping rope to get the rope up and over so they won't be as easily frustrated.

  • 30 seconds jump rope
  • 10 push ups
  • 10 sit ups

Then start again with the jump rope. Do it for 30 minutes to build up both strength and endurance.

Have them start out with a small number, say 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 30 seconds of jump roping. Add one or five each week. You can also add another exercise every week or so. After they have been doing this for a week, you can have them do is reverse tricep exercises. Add exercises so they gradually are doing a longer work out, working more muscle groups, and it keeps it from getting boring.

One more inexpensive piece of equipment is a chin-up bar. You can buy one for under $15. That's another exercise they can do at home, or you could install one in the gym.

I thought all of those were great ideas. The only problem was, after I got to thinking about it  - I didn't have time to ask because I had to run to pick up Julia from school - I wasn't sure what reverse tricep exercise he meant. I looked it up on line and found that my confusion was not an isolated instance. There were several sites where people debated whether diamond push ups, dips, or some other exercise was a reverse tricep exercise. It was at least half a dozen different exercise that various people identified by the same name.

So, I got this idea --- I am going to go up to Hayastan this week and get Manny Gamburyan (who already said he'd do it) and anyone else who is willing, to demonstrate some different exercises that do not require special equipment. That way, each week when I give the students an added exercise, I can give them a sheet showing some UFC fighter doing it.

Why not a judo player? Well, first of all, Manny, Roman and the other guys up at Hayastan are mostly judo players, too, but the honest reason is that the kids see MMA on TV and they know who these fighters are where they have never heard of anyone in judo. So, I am hoping it will be a motivating factor to get the workout sheets from guys they see on TV. I'm also planning on picking up 15 notebooks at the 99 cent store and telling all the kids to have their workouts recorded every day and have a parent initial that they did it.

I don't think I will really start with as many as Jim said. I'm going to tell them to do half of this -15 seconds jumping, 5 of each exercise, and do it for 10 minutes. We'll try to get up to 15 minutes by Thanksgiving and 30 by Christmas.

Question for anyone who knows - I'll try calling Jim and asking him, tomorrow, but I know it is really late there now. When I looked up on-line to buy a bunch of jump ropes they all said they were 16 feet. That seems awfully long. Some of the kids are tall, but some are shorter than me, as you can see in the picture above. Do you tall people use 16-foot ropes?  I'm thinking maybe you could take out segments and shorten these? Or no?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who said "Don't make us fry your ancestors?"

Hello, blog readers -

I'm becoming very disillusioned with Google products. First Google notebook which I really liked made an exit stage left. Now Google apps for teams is gone and iGoogle is on the chopping block, too. Sigh. Turns out it is hard to make money giving stuff away for free. So, I am sure you'll understand I am now going to be charging you each a quarter to read this blog (that's a joke. Chill).

Anyway ... I'm cleaning up my THREE gmail / google apps/ google apps for teams accounts I now have and I came across this quote in a file.

"Luke from the first star wars -   it's not like I like the Empire, I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it ... It isn't until his aunt and uncle are fried to their skeletons he actually did anything

Become a Jedi: Don't make us fry your ancestors"

Yes, I did try Google. I don't know where this came from but it is cool and I'd like to find out. Ring a bell with anyone?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Judo Players to Dominate Mixed Martial Arts?

So, Ronda is wiping up the female divisions, Hector Lombard is doing well in the UFC and Fedor was pretty damn impressive as well.

So, does this mean judo players are going to be tearing up the mixed martial arts world soon?

I don't fucking think so.

And here is why ....

As I looked through our proofs for Winning on the Ground, something I knew all along was strongly reinforced.

Ronda owes me big time.

No, not just for not setting her on fire and throwing her into Santa Monica Bay on a number of occasions when she SO deserved it (though, that, too). No, it is because some forms of judo are FAR more conducive to transferring to mixed martial arts than others and by an amazing fortunate coincidence, the judo that I did and that I taught Ronda fits into that category. 

It is no coincidence that Fedor was not only a fourth-degree black belt in judo and a champion in sambo AND successful in mixed martial arts.

Guess who else won international medals in judo and was the national sambo champion? Okay, well, I am sure you won't guess, so I will tell you - it was me. I don't know diddly squat about sambo. I did the same judo I always did, the same judo in the book and the same judo I taught Ronda and it worked.


In a nutshell, there are two types of judo. Years ago (DECADES ago), when I was at the Panamerican Games, the folks from the TV station asked Coach Willy Cahill who to film. He said,

"If you want judo that looks like a ballet, film Robin Chapman (Chow). If you want judo that looks like a barroom brawl, watch AnnMaria."

There is judo that relies a lot on gripping, on using the gi for tie-ups and that does NOT transfer terribly well to mixed martial arts.

[It should be noted that Ronda did not agree 100% with me on this because she pointed out today that she felt the PRINCIPLES of grip-fighting transferred and that is why she is so effective in a clinch. She did agree, however, that the specifics don't transfer so well and many of the matwork techniques using the gi don't transfer at all.]

So, here are five reasons why most judo players will not be successful at mixed martial arts.

  1. They just aren't in that good physical condition. That's a fact. Shut up. I've seen athletes in wrestling, track, soccer and, yes, even swimming, and they train more than most judo players in the U.S. My lovely little Julia at age 13 played for the Santa Monica Saints Extra team (that's like the city All-Stars) and they practiced five days a week, two hours a day non-stop, and often played an additional two or three hours each day on the weekends in tournaments. That is more than many judo players in this country. Shut up. I watch you train and fight. You do not.
  2. They count too much on the referee to save them. Judo has stupid rules. If you touch the opponent's leg (in most circumstances) you can automatically lose. If you hold more than a few seconds on one side, you get a penalty. On the other hand, you can lay on your stomach and stall and it is nothing. In mixed martial arts, the opponent gets to punch you if you do this.
  3. Many judo techniques on the mat rely on using the judo gi to tie up the opponent, which will not work in mixed martial arts, although it is very effective for judo and if you compete in judo, I highly recommend that, if it is working for you, you keep that up. 
  4. Effective grip-fighting, tying up the opponent so he or she cannot attack, is a good strategy for winning in judo. It is not AS effective for mixed martial arts. (Although Ronda argues that, with the right attitude and strategy, it CAN transfer.)
  5. Many techniques like tai otoshi rely on using the gi and are far more difficult to do without one.
Look at an example of judo that DOES work in mixed martial arts. This is one of the out -takes we did not use in our book, but I do like it. Notice something about this series of pictures ?

Nowhere in here does she grab the gi. Even though they are both wearing judo gis, this technique is an example of one that translates perfectly to mixed martial arts.

Visualize them not wearing judo gis (not to that extent, you creepy pervert). You can see that the exact same technique would work.

Even if you are in amazing physical condition, judo techniques that rely on gripping the gi, tying up with the gi, hell, HAVING a gi, are just not going to be as effective as those that do not.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gene Lebell gets creative

Earlier in the week, Gene and I were discussing him writing an endorsement for the book coming out soon by my and Jim Pedro - Winning on the Ground. Gene suggested

Buy this book or I'll choke you out and then burn your house down.
- "Judo" Gene Lebell

I opened my mail this morning to find this. Apparently, Gene got creative and decided to make up a flyer to put up around the dojos to encourage people to buy our book.
Gotta run. Enjoy today's warm fuzzy blog post because I expect tomorrow's will piss off most of the people in judo.