Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Throwing tip: Outside Leg Sweep

If you have a hard time doing an outside leg sweep - known to us judo types as o soto gari, here are two quick tips.

1. Your right arm (assuming you are doing it right-handed) should be as if you are going to sock your opponent in the jaw. Your elbow should be bent and you should be lifting your opponent with that right hand and pushing toward the corner, putting all of his weight on his right leg. One of the most common mistakes you see with this technique is when the attacker "leaves the arm behind". Notice how my right shoulder is just about to smack into my opponent's right shoulder.

2. STEP IN with your left leg. A second really common mistake is to "reach" with that right leg. That's a bad idea. You are going to be off-balance and likely to be countered. Notice how my left foot above is almost even with my opponent's feet.

In over four years, I think this is the first post I wrote just about throwing.  While my focus has always been on matwork, I have occasionally thrown people. Just so you know.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Drilling Armbars: Right vs Left

Since I am busy working on the new computer game my company just released for beta testing last week, and checking over 1,000 emails (yes, literally) that came in during the week I was gone, I called Jim Pedro, Sr. and asked if he had any suggestions for a couple of blog posts. Well, actually, I just asked him for a couple of blog posts and wrote down what he said.

"Once a month or so, Jimmy (1999 World Judo Champion, Jimmy Pedro, Jr.) gives a clinic for an hour at the club. Usually I'm not on the mat, but this time I walked out there for some reason and a little girl pipes up and asks me to help her. I think it was sankaku (a triangle choke) they were learning. Anyway, my first reaction was to think she was doing it wrong because it looked different from all of the other kids but then I caught myself and realized, wait a minute, she was just doing it to the opposite side. That's when I got to thinking about the fact that we almost always do matwork on the opponent's strong side. 

Look out on the mat and you'll see that 90% of the time, the person is arm barring their opponent's right arm. That doesn't really make sense does it? From now on, what I'm going to start having people do is to go for the weaker arm. 

I kind of sort of agree with Jim. If you are going to only train one side, it probably makes more sense to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing because your opponent won't expect it. It also makes more sense to attack the weaker arm. It is also true, as I looked through just random pictures I had of me doing juji gatame that it was always the person's right arm.

Okay, I admit, these were just the first two pictures I pulled up, but they ARE both being armbarred on the right arm.

So, Jim is right but there are two reasons I don't COMPLETELY agree. The first is that I usually end up in whatever position I'm in as a transition or combination from something else my opponent did or I did. Since I am right-handed and I mostly  throw right-handed, when you hit the mat, odds are, I have hold of your right arm. 

Jim is also partly correct, though. In the first photo above, I had Crystal in tate shiho gatame (a mount) and she tried to push me away with her right arm, which I had shoved across her face. That naturally led to me arm barring her right arm. In the second photo, I was doing the collect the arm move, then rolled on top into the mount again and then moved into the arm bar. In this case, though, since Ronda is left-handed, I was actually arm barring her weaker arm. Jim would argue, though, that I could just as easily have set her up in this case to arm bar her other arm, and he is correct, because when you are collecting the arm, you could do it to either side.

The one place I would disagree is that I think you should always practice BOTH sides. Ronda competed in swimming from age six until ten, then she started judo.  From the time Ronda was little, I told her,
 "There are no sides in matwork. You're not standing up. It's like in swimming, no one does a left-sided backstroke. "

That probably doesn't make sense but my point was to convince her that she should be able to do matwork equally well to both sides and to practice it equally often on both sides. It's funny because I agree with Jim when he says you should pick a side and stick with it, when it comes to standing techniques. Not that you shouldn't have one or two techniques to the opposite side, but that you should have one that is predominant. For matwork, though, it just seems different, somehow.

I have to say, when I was young and could actually do all this stuff really well, when I was on the mat and everything was going right, it almost seemed like swimming in air. Let me know if that makes sense to you because it makes lots of sense to me in my brain!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What I learned about business from martial arts, part 432

It's 3 am in North Dakota. The low for the day we leave here is 19 degrees. What the hell am I doing here?

We wrote a computer game to teach math, the Rocket Scientist and I, with some help from my friends, and now we are testing it on the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation.

Yes, this picture was taken through the window. It's cold outside. What, do you think I'm stupid?

As for what I am doing here, in very brief, in this country how well you do in math is determined by how much money your parents make. Children who attend schools in communities with wealthy families do vastly better than kids in schools in low income communities. If you don't do well in math, you aren't going to get very far in your education, so poor kids grow up to be poor adults.

We are going to change that.

Of course, people have been trying and failing for years. Who do we think we are?

It reminds me of when I was on the world team in 1984. We were all going around saying our goals in some team building exercise and I said,

"I am going to be best on the planet on November 11th."

One of my teammates called me conceited, hissing, "Who does she think she is?" and another asked politely why I thought I could be the first American to ever win a gold medal. I told her,

"Somebody's got to win. Why not me?"

Thinking one small company can change the opportunities disadvantaged children have to succeed is unrealistic.

Fortunately, I've had practice achieving completely unrealistic goals.

If you are interested in start-up lessons for martial arts you might like this post, too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Armbar counter

Even the out-takes from the book came out well! Last week at Gene Lebell's surprise 80th birthday party we had the luck of having award-winning photographer Hans Gutknecht on the premises.

We were re-taking shots for a couple of techniques in our book, Winning on the Ground, and Hans very kindly offered to take them for us. He was extremely polite not to add,

"Because it's obvious YOU people aren't professionals!"

He got some amazing photos including some we ended up not using for the book.  What happened was Ronda and Manny started out doing the techniques we needed and then one of them would say,

"How about this one? This is a good move."

When I went through everything when Hans sent me the photos, I saw that Jim already had included some of the techniques in the pictures. We're thinking of writing this up as an article though, because it came out so well.

Here is the beginning - your opponent reaches over you and grabs your lapels. There are a number of judo moves the person on top can do from here.

Assuming he is smart, like Manny, his weight is distributed more on the side of your body that is closest to him, making it difficult for you to lock above his elbow and do a wrestler's roll.

You might even want to fake as if you were going to roll him to fool him into thinking you are going to go in one direction - and then, instead ...

 You sit out towards his hips, putting all of your body weight on his elbow. In judo, this technique is called waki gatame . I think I spelled that right. I'm sure someone will tell me if I did not.

Ronda likes to grab her own gi, to keep the person's arm held tight to her. Also, it leaves her other arm free, making it easier to turn into a pin if he manages to do a forward roll to escape from the arm bar. Personally, I like to grab my opponent's wrist with that hand. One way gives you a tighter arm bar but the other makes it easier to switch into a combination. Suit yourself.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Please Pass the Yes-Butter

Curiously, my last post on my statistics blog was six lessons I had learned about business from martial arts. Today's is what I learned about martial arts from business.

Photo courtesy of Hans Gutknecht

I was talking about someone I worked with and my niece, Samantha, exclaimed,

"Yes, butter!"

I thought perhaps this was a new kind of spread, like apple butter. I like apple butter just as well as the next person, probably more.

Samantha explained,

"No, that person is a 'yes-butter'. You know, the kind of person who when you give them an answer to a problem, they immediately come back with, 'Yes, but'".

The examples we were talking about came from work. One person could not find a reference source for a grant we were supposed to be doing. It was not in the university library and could not be received from inter-library loan before the deadline. Helpful person that I am, I sent a link to a source where it could be read on-line. The person emailed me back,

"Yes, but that won't work for me because I need to be able to high-light what I read."

Now, if you are reading this don't even start with explaining that you can print it off and then high-light it or that you could copy and paste it into Word and high-light it on line. No, because these people always come back with,

"Yes, but I don't have a printer"

Or some other excuse. The appropriate answer is,

"Are you fucking kidding me? I told you how to get it immediately and for free and you still have a problem?"

The same is true of judo and other martial arts. Often people will ask me how they can get better and my answer is,
"Practice more often. Practice harder and with better people."

They will respond,
"Yes, but my club only works out two days a week and I am the baddest, toughest, mojo-est person there."

My answer is,
"Then practice at other other clubs." 

To which they respond,
"Yes, but I don't know which clubs would be best."

My answer is to give them the names and addresses of some clubs I could highly recommend. To which  they respond,

"Yes, but my only free time between work, my current club, my toenail polishing lessons and Vampire Diaries is on Tuesdays from 2 to 3 a.m."

Samantha (wise beyond her years), commented,
"It's like a saying I heard. If you want it bad enough you'll find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse."

What many people want is not an answer. They want magic. They want to know how they can get better results without doing anything differently. From now on, when someone asks me how they can get better at martial arts I'm going to say,

"Just buy our book, Winning on the Ground and read it. You don't even need to read it. Just buy it and you'll be better. It's magic."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nice guys should NOT finish last: Please send an email

Here is the story behind this...

Four years ago, when the program at Gompers Middle School started,  Ronda had just come back from the Olympics and agreed to teach there for free. Just one problem - their mats were old, came apart and were generally not safe to work out on. This presented a dilemma - who did I know who would lend me mats for free for an indefinite period of time?

I remembered Ronda's confirmation class teacher, the youth minister at our church, who was also a karate instructor. Sure enough, I called him up and he lent us enough mats for 16 kids to practice safely - and let us keep them FOR TWO YEARS.

In short, this is the kind of person who is just a good guy who goes out of his way to help others.

You know how sometimes you hear stories and you don't know who to believe? This isn't one of those times. Please, after you read this story, take a few minutes out of your day and send an email.

Thank you.

The story in Sean's own words ...


On May 24th, 2012; two orphans were sold to the highest bidder. We were in middle of adopting two precious little angels whom we loved very very much, and they loved us even more in return. Then someone else decided they wanted them. Even in the world of foster care and adoptions there is a 1%,. it is not money, but "Who you know." We are part of the 99%, so we lost out. We were called on the phone and told that we can never see or talk to the girls again. There was no formal good bye, there was no nothing. They were snatched from us just like that.

The next day, the 1%-er who took them from us, filed a petition with the court for adoption. The girls were even led to believe by adults around them, that our adoption was canceled because we did not want them, that the one with special needs was too much of a handful. So the girls blame it on themselves, and the 1%-er swoops in to save them. Yeah....  The really sad part is that they used to always tell us how much they disliked that home, and could not wait to move in with us.


Send a mail to our server - that will be distributed to the Head of DCFS, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (His bosses), and State Senator Curren Price (Their boss). Justice@27Wishes.com . You can also get all the individual e-mail addresses at our main site listed below.

It is SO EASY – just write to them about case number CK44848 – and ask them “Please investigate this case. Seems injustice has been done to those girls!" If you are so moved to write more, then go to our site, where several people have posted letters, and you can read the entire story, you can even borrow from their letters!

You can also “Like” our site – www.Facebook.com/Justice4Kids - there is power in numbers!

On Friday 10/12, the court formally starts the adoption proceedings! There is not a lot of time to make a difference!

Monday, October 8, 2012

MMA Clothes for the Homeless : People are Funny

Wednesday, we packed up a bunch of clothes for the charity Jennifer Swift started, MMA Clothes for the Homeless. Ronda tweeted out a picture (that was better than mine above) about going through our closets for clothes to donate and the responses she got back were pretty funny.

  • "You're donating a WOMAN to the homeless?"
  • "That's her mom."
  • Why is she donating her mom to the homeless? Do they need arm bar lessons?
  • Are those bags full of arms?
  • Is this charity to give clothes to homeless MMA fighters?

No, it is a charity that collects donations of clothes FROM people in the MMA community and donates them to homeless shelters. You can't really see it in this picture, but the back of my van is FULL. However, I have space still in the two rows of passenger seats to fill up. So .... if you are going to be at the work out at Ogden Judo on Saturday, October 13 the West Coast Judo Training Center is having a joint practice there. That means a practice hosted jointly. No actual joints are involved. I need to point that out because some of you (you know who you are) may get the wrong idea, show up and be disappointed.

Anyway ... if you come to the practice and drop your clothes off before 4 pm when I head out to Huntington Beach to drop them off, you can help fill up my van.

Also, I am doing a clinic at Venice Judo Club on October 12. I'm not giving the address because it is invitation only. I did not send out the invitations, I'm just teaching. Anyway, you can drop off clothes there also. If you did not get an invitation, don't pout. Just show up at Ogden's.

Oh, yes, Ronda also donated a signed pair of boxing gloves to auction off to raise a little cash, too. If you are interested, contact Jennifer Swift , MMA Clothes for the Homeless

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why I have matburn behind my ears

Yes, I do literally have matburn behind my ears.

These kids are the reason why.

Years ago, when I was at Venice Dojo and much younger and in better shape, I noticed that a lot of the kids were nervous doing matwork with me. To make it more even, I decided that anyone who was smaller, when I did matwork with them, I would literally do it "no hands". This meant that I ended up locking a kid's arm under mine when he or she reached over, and rolling, or using my body weight to pin someone, without a grip, or getting in the position where I could put my head on someone's chest and use my head to hold my partner down.

An innovative meaning of the statement, "Use your head when doing matwork".

Using my head, instead of my hands, I ended up pinning several people today, and also, I noted from how much it was stinging when I took a shower when I got home, I ended up with matburn behind both of my ears.

As you can see in the photo at the top, these are some really good kids. As soon as the doors are open, everyone pitches in to help put down the mats. A couple of our mats disappeared over the summer. You might think that would be the last we would see of them.  As the teacher explained to the kids,
"These mats are very important to us."

Somehow, the mats re-appeared. We continue to get a lot of support from the school, with snacks after practice and opening the gym to accommodate us. The pile of trash in the corner is getting larger, though, because the school only has two janitors and cleaning up areas the kids are in during school time (as opposed to an after-school program), is reasonably their bigger priority. One of the janitors volunteered to work on getting us a broom, garbage can and mop to leave in the closet with the mats so the kids could clean up the gym themselves before and after.

Today was a minimum day for the school. I questioned whether any kids would want to stay when school got out early. Mr. Gonzales assured me that they would, and, in fact, he was correct. Every student was there today, as well as a few spectators.

We are doing the circuits at each practice. Today was the second time, and we do it a minute longer each time. I also assigned circuits to the students as homework. It is evident they are doing them, because they are noticeably in better condition than the beginning of the school year.

If you are too lazy to click on the link, I will tell you that our circuits are 30 jumping jacks, 5 sit-ups and 5 push-ups, repeated for 3 minutes, then a one minute rest, then we do it again. Next week, it will be 4 minutes.

If you'd like to support the Gompers program, we can always use judo gis, especially the larger sizes.

If you live in California, you can also vote for Proposition 30. And yes, Prop 30 will cost me money and I already pay a pile of taxes AND I own a small business. The public schools desperately need the money, plain and simple. I can tell you that there is NOT a lot of waste there. Did you just not read that there are only two janitors for thousands of kids? Hell, I can't clean up after four!

So, I will vote for it and next year I will pay even more taxes and probably have matburn behind my ears again. I'm okay with that.

Friday, October 5, 2012

When is "coaching" just ego?

So, the nice people from NBC are doing some show on Ronda and they wanted to watch me coach her at practice. I explained to them that I very seldom coach her at practice and it would be really boring.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that this is what me watching Ronda at practice looks like.

I sit there and I read a book on statistics or programming, and occasionally glance up to see what she is doing.

Ronda is an adult. More than that, she is an adult who has won medals in the world championships, Olympics, Panamerican Games and now the Strikeforce world title. She doesn't need to be told all that much.

It was a very different situation ten or fifteen years ago. Of course, back then, no one had much interest in how I was coaching her or what I had to say.

Most of the time, I don't even go watch her practice any more. Once in a while I will drop by Hayastan when she is there, and say hello to Gene and Gokor.

Even less often, I might go up to see her at Results Fitness, where she is training with Leo, or at some place she is visiting.

I'm most likely to do that if I think she is on the wrong track and I want to see how she is doing. Mostly these days I think she is doing things right so I don't go at all. I'm teaching at Gompers Middle School on Fridays and at the West Coast Judo Training Center most Sundays, so, I'm busy.

Funny thing I have noticed, though. The more successful Ronda has become, the more people are eager to be seen coaching her. Even people who have never won anything or coached anyone particularly successful will try to pull her aside at practices, at tournaments and say,

"Let me teach you ...."

It's my opinion that the most verbose coaches are those who are trying to stroke their own egos, PARTICULARLY those who insist on "coaching" very successful athletes in a very public way, and going into great detail on "turn your finger this way, stand with your foot like that", etc. etc.

Leo, Ronda and I were discussing this at the gym the other day and we all agreed that when we had hit the international level of competition, ESPECIALLY right before a major competition, what we needed was not teaching so much as suggestions or reminders - "When she comes in like this, be ready with the hip throw"

Even when I do have something to say to Ronda, I'll usually do it privately, after practice or on the way home. Being Ronda, she will almost always argue with me about it. I will say what I have to say and then I'm done. "You should practice more on transition."  or whatever.

She's an intelligent, experienced young woman and she can consider whether she agrees with what I say and do it, or not.

Occasionally, I'll see her getting technically sloppy and say something like, "You should have that arm locked against your chest."

My point is, there isn't much to say, and I think I know a fair amount about judo and training. You know who there IS a whole lot to say to? The kids at Gompers who are just starting judo and the 12- and 13-year-old kids at the West Coast Training Center who need to drill matwork combinations. You don't see hordes of people coming to give them detailed free advice, though, because there are no cameras around filming it, no crowds watching.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that when I see a coach going on and on and on coaching an elite athlete it is not because the athlete needs it. It is because the coach's ego needs it, to be seen as important because "I coached Ronda."

Good for you. I read a chapter on odds-ratios, relative risk and other measures of association of categorical variables. 

Guess which one of us was more productive?