Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts on Ronda at UFC 168

You may have heard there was a UFC fight this weekend. My husband asked me what I thought about Ronda's fight and I'll tell you the same thing that I told him.

It was clear to me that she took 0 chances in the fight. In her earlier fights, she had taken more risks and even though that resulted in her winning her fights very quickly, it also meant that a couple of times she got in positions that were a disadvantage and that she had to fight out her way out of.

In this fight, she only went for the arm bar when she could could do it without taking any chances of giving her opponent an advantage. It's not the way I would have done it, which is interesting because when we did judo, if you compared Ronda's matches to mine, she was generally more of a risk taker.

Be that as it may, I am very hesitant to criticize the decisions elite athletes make in a match, especially when they win. You can make suggestions as a coach, but the fact is, it's not you out there fighting and the person who is fighting has to make snap decisions based on numerous variables - the way they feel balanced, the other person's balance, direction of movement, etc.

I told Ronda what I have told her a hundred times,

"If the referee's hand goes to the side you are on (i.e., you won), then you did it right."

For all of the people talking about Ronda's manners, behavior, etc. etc. I will tell you two things:

As I told the nice man from ESPN. Ronda is 26 years old and in a very public arena. If you think of all of the things you see from entertainers and professional athletes - DUI, steroid use, wild parties, drug rehab, multiple extramarital affairs and on and on. Or just think of the average 26-year-old. If you're a parent and the WORST thing anyone can say about your 26-year-old child is that he or she says "Fuck" and didn't shake someone's hand, you ought to go to mass, light candles, get down on your knees and say a prayer of thanks.

Recently someone who had lied to me and about me came up to me at an event and tried to shake my hand. I told him, "You've got to be kidding me!' If you lie about someone behind their back, disrespect them and their friends, I completely understand if that person doesn't want to shake hands with you. Pretending that "It's all good now" might make the liar feel better but I don't see why you should do it. If that's what you think you should do, then I won't tell you how to run your life, but I personally have seen a lot of organizations that are completely ineffective because everyone tries to get along, and people who are dishonest or incompetent stick around because no one wants to get in their face and tell them to get the hell out.

Adventure games to teach mathematics. Check it out for yourself, for your school.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Random Ronda (and other) Facts

A totally random blog as a I pack up to leave in the morning

The first time Ronda competed in the senior national championships, she was 17 years old and already ranked number one in the U.S. after having already been in the finals of two international tournaments (the U.S. Open and the Rendezvous in Canada, where she placed second and first respectively). She'd also won the Ontario (Canada) Open.

As a junior, Ronda won most of her matches by one of two throws (uchi mata and o soto gari). Grace Jividen, who had been number one until Ronda beat her at the U.S. Open, came out prepared and took a posture that made it really difficult to get in either of those. Ronda threw her with drop seoi nage to win her first senior nationals. Walking off the mat, Grace shook her head and remarked that she had never seen Ronda do a seoi nage.

Trace Nishiyama, one of the coaches from Venice Dojo, answered,

"That didn't mean she didn't have one."

Actually, that was the second national championships Ronda won with that throw. She also won the junior nationals when she was 12 years old throwing everyone with the same throw.

Ronda won every senior nationals in which she competed.

For all of those who call Ronda a one-trick pony and say they have prepared to defend against her arm bar - I just realized today that two of the three arm bar entries we drilled most when she was a kid I have yet to see her do in a fight. The third one was the arm bar she did on Sarah Kaufman.

Proof we live in LA

We have had the same dentist for 16 years and his son was also on some reality show, called "The Hills" , which I find strange because I'm sure the Pratts live in Malibu. When they were watching one of her fights, Spencer was surprised to find his father knew Ronda. Dr. Pratt said that smile was some of his best work. (Great dentist, highly recommend him.)

Reality shows don't seem to be that tough to get on since Ronda and her friends were just on one, both of the Pratt kids were, and four other people I know from the same club! (Hayastan) have been on The Ultimate Fighter before.

Julia has had the same best friend, Kiah, since she could crawl. I have lots of pictures of the two of them with Ronda in the middle, and lots of pictures of the two of them with Lenny Kravitz in the middle (he's a friend of Kiah's parents). As far as I know, Ronda and Lenny have never met.

 (I don't watch TV. I didn't know anything about the show the Pratts were on, or that Kiah's Uncle Lenny was a musician until my oldest daughter told me, accompanied by much sighing and eye-rolling at my lack of coolness.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's the Giving Season

When we received a contract from Black Belt magazine to publish Winning on the Ground, I told my youngest daughter, then in the eighth grade, that we really did not need anything more in a material way and that as part of the Christian service hours that she was required to do as a student at St. Anne's School, she should do some research and select a charity to give my share of the royalties.

Seriously, it's not a ton of money. Anyone who writes a book on matwork thinking it will make them millions is pretty silly. Jim and I wrote it because we hadn't had the opportunity to learn from any very experienced coaches until we had been in judo for years. He started training in Boston and I started in a small town in southern Illinois. So, we wrote a book that we thought might help other players and coaches who sincerely wanted to get better. And, to be honest, we had no idea how much work it would take until we had already signed the contract.

I received the first royalty check (they send them twice a year),  a couple of months ago and kept meaning to make a donation to the charity Julia had picked, but I've been really busy. Since Christmas serves to emphasize how fortunate we are to have both family who love us and an abundance of material possessions, I decided not to let the day pass without finally making that donation.

Two points here:
  • Many of us have way more than we really need.
  • Most people are probably just like me, putting off some good they could do that would take us five minutes. So, do it. Give $50 to the food bank, drop off a bag of groceries, buy a sandwich at subway and hand it to the homeless guy on the corner, call your elderly aunt that's home alone for the holiday. 

If you're interested, Julia picked two charities, and this was the first one, Children of the Night , which according to their website

The Children of the Night home is open to child prostitutes throughout the United States, and the Children of the Night hotline is ready and able to rescue these children 24 hours a day. We provide free taxi/airline transportation nationwide for America's child prostitutes who wish to escape prostitution and live in our home.
Basically, they exist to get children out of the sex trade and into college, homes and careers as well-functioning adults. I'm not quite sure why Julia picked the two charities that she did. Both serve kids about her age in dire circumstances. I think it was the stark contrast between their situations and hers that made her choose these two. 

The second charity was Invisible Children, in case you are wondering. Since the second royalty check should be more, covering six months instead of just three, I think I will split it between the two of them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week 3 Free Rice Winners. P.S. People are Awesome

Below are the winners from week 3 in the Ronda Rousey

Ranking    User Name    Grains in Group
1    louchristopher    462,190
2    yingherng    386,900
3    Hugo Lemos    272,670
4    dangerousH2Os    239,900
5    21_Skins4Life    115,030

Because you can only win one weekly prize, these are the leaders who have not won a prize yet. The overall leadership is a back and forth battle between Alan and Laurie, both of whom have donated over 800,000 grains of rice in this contest!

If you are one of the top five names listed above, please email me at or DM me if I follow you on twitter so you can get a signed poster.

If you have a preference of a Xyience poster or the Insureon one, let me know.

There will be an additional prize to:
  • The overall top 10 as of weigh-ins on Friday
  • Anyone who donates over 1,000,000 grains of rice.

If you are just tuning in, you can learn about the free rice site and what the competition is about here. In short, every time you get a correct answer, the World Food Programme gets 10 grains of rice donated by the advertiser. If you play as part of a group with Ronda, you can win prizes donated by her.

Prior to this fight, her groups had raised enough for over 25,800 meals. The current group to date has donated enough rice for 1,852 more.

People are awesome.

P.S. How the number was calculated can be found here, for you mathematical types.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Christmas Letter: It's Been a Wild F**ing Year

My older brother always writes a really funny Christmas letter detailing his yearly events, such as a visit to the World's Largest Ball of Twine (which he actually honestly did and it turns out that this is, in fact, a disputed title).

I, alas, had no such twine-related visits this year to relate. However, it really was a pretty crazy amazing year, so here is what happened:

When Jenn quit going to mass a few years ago, I brought a pin back from a meeting in San Francisco for her to wear on Sundays. It said,

"I'm sorry I missed church. I was busy practicing Wiccan and becoming a lesbian."

She was highly offended. This year, she got engaged to a man named Chris. One of the things they appear to have in common is that neither of them is a lesbian. They plan to get married at an undisclosed location. Jenn and Chris traveled to Graceland this summer (on a train) to see if Elvis was available to perform the ceremony but it appears that Elvis had left the building. This is her fourth year teaching middle school - can you believe that baby face finished graduate school four years ago, after having worked after her B.A. for two years (in San Francisco - hmmm).

Maria and Eric had baby number two last year, then flew to Europe this year leaving both children in their care of their maternal grandparents. They ate broccoli and studied physics for the entire time their parents were gone. That's my story and I'm sticking to it and any evidence of empty popsicle boxes in the trash and My Little Ponies DVDs is purely circumstantial. Since Maria had taken her turn at exponentially increasing the chaos in their lives by giving birth twice in four years, it was now Eric's turn. He stepped up to the challenge by getting a fellowship at Stanford which required them to sell their house and move across the country for a year. Not to be outdone in the complete life pivot, Maria came to work at 7 Generation Games as our Chief Marketing Officer.

Ah, 7 Generation Games, our new start-up making adventure games to teach kids math. This year, we had a successful Kickstarter campaign, received a $450,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant for development, presented our results of our pilot study at four conferences, started commercial sales of our first game, expanded to schools in two more states and are almost finished with our second game.

Jim Pedro, Sr. & I finally finished our book, Winning on the Ground, and it has pretty consistently been in the top 20 best-sellers on Amazon in the mixed martial arts category.

I wrote a chapter in another book, Real Talk, Real Women, which is also selling well.

And I made the list of 40 Women to Watch Over 40.

Then there was Ronda. Not to be out-done, darling daughter number 3 made Time's list of 30 People Under 30 changing the world. She started the year by winning the first ever women's UFC match and retaining her world title belt. After a reality show called The Ultimate Fighter, she hopped a plane to Bulgaria for two months to film Expendables 3, was home for four days, got on another plane to Atlanta for Fast and Furious 7. She also was in commercials for Insureon and is on the Xyience cans for the sports drink, Xenergy.  And she defends her world title next week.

Dennis did not make the 50 over 50 or any other list, but he cheerfully (okay, well with less complaining than expected) gave up a lot of his retirement time to code the 3-D part of our new game, Fish Lake. He could not turn down my offer of matching his previous hourly salary, the opportunity to work at home in his underwear and not getting up until 1 pm. Also sex. The game is awesome.

Julia made the list of the 16 people under 16 most likely to take pictures of themselves on other people's iPhones. She spends the weekdays at a college prep boarding school to avoid the thought that her parents have sex. Her AYSO soccer team made the play-offs, she is on the high school varsity team for her second year, as a sophomore. She made straight A's at the end of last year. When a few of those grades dropped to B's at midterms this fall, I threatened to ground her until she was 40 and Ronda dropped off her Honda she bought with the money from the Olympic bronze medal and said it was Julia's if she brought her grades up. Her grades are back to A's and she is spending her Christmas vacation studying for her permit test while Dennis and I are spending it working overtime so we can afford our car insurance rates going up to something expressed in scientific notation.

So, that was our year. Wild, yes?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and if you see a 2005 gold Honda coming up behind you , get the hell out of the way!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ghost of Opportunities Past

I really doubt many teenagers read my blog, so if you are a parent of one who could benefit from the following, I recommend you print it out and place it somewhere they might read it, say, on top of the remote control or in their iPhone case. Keep reading, though, because the last paragraph is for you.

If I could go back in time to give my teenage self advice, it would be this ....

Talk to your friends. Now! Because when you are old, you will live in a nice place by the beach and every day thank God you are so lucky to have such a great life. (I know it's hard to believe now, but that's the way it turns out.)

Some of your cool friends, on the other hand, that's another story. They'll end up at 55 or 60 years old sleeping on someone's couch because they can't afford rent. And it's not like they had a great time for 30 or 40 years before that, either.

You see, here's what happened ... remember how you were the one that was always studying between judo matches, sitting up in the stands reading your textbooks? Remember your friends who were a lot more fun, who were sitting in the back of Algebra class and English telling jokes and talking about their dates the night before?

Well, it turns out that Algebra and being able to write an essay were really important for getting into college and college was really important for getting a good job.

The cool girl who sat behind you - yeah, she had four kids, was on welfare for years and now lives with her oldest daughter and her husband.

Those guys in the back of the class who never turned anything in - one was in prison for armed robbery last I heard, another drove a truck for years until he had back problems, now he's living on disability payments that barely cover the rent in his one-bedroom apartment and his pain medication. Another one has been an alcoholic for years. He lives in a hotel room downtown. The fourth one, that all the girls thought was so hot - yeah, he had several kids but never managed to make enough money to pay child support and none of them talk to him. He lives alone.

Are you getting the picture here? The guys (and girls) who were too cool for school had a lot of dates while they were in high school - but after a while, they got left behind. No one wants to date the toothless clerk at the convenience store. (Dental care is expensive.)

You went off to college, then graduate school. You've been to visit four continents while they've never been anywhere but that one road trip they took thirty years ago.

What I'm saying is, think of me like the Ghost of Christmas Past, but for school. Try to help them out before it's too late.

Okay, now a word to you parents --- 

If your child is making a D or an F in anything and has an iPhone to put a case on - what the hell is wrong with you? I don't know your child, but unless he or she has a disability, I'd say anything below a B is unacceptable.

 I have taken away credit cards, phones, DVD players and even had the cable disconnected for the whole house when one of my children received a grade below a B.

I have threatened to take away car keys but that child's grades coincidentally came up very rapidly.

I have grounded children from going to dances, a tournament that was points toward the Olympics and the mall (for Julia, that is like solitary confinement).

The people who can't get jobs now? Not all, but a disproportionate number of them are people who didn't study back then.

Listen to the Ghost of Career Opportunities Past.

It's not too late, you can still play Spirit Lake: The Game, have fun and learn math while you are at it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My next book ...

My next book will be a while since I am pretty caught up in writing my next computer game, teaching a class on biostatistics, teaching judo and occasionally having time with my lovely family.

However, I get asked questions from time to time that illustrate just how much we left out of the book - it's only a couple of hundred pages and so we had to pick and choose what to include. Our first decision was to focus on matwork but even that left out a lot.

A week ago, a young man asked me if it is possible to arm bar both of someone's arms at the same time. I told him that it sort of is possible. It's not exactly simultaneous but the best way to do it is catch one arm with your legs and have that in an arm bar position and then reach across and do a bent arm bar on the other arm with both of your arms. So, you have one of their arms caught with your leg and the other arm in a two-on-one situation. Then you can arm bar both at once. I showed him and he thought it was really cool. He asked if I thought there was any possibility Ronda would do that to Miesha. I told him probably not because it is more of a showing off move and she will probably just take the first opportunity to end the fight and then go out for chicken wings.

I was demonstrating on another young man how to do a sliding lapel choke and how that combined with an arm bar for a technique we used to call the "hell strangle" when I was a kid.

I think I'm going to start writing it down every time I teach something we did not include, I can start with that as an outline for my next book. As I said, I don't know how long it will be before the next book since I'm swamped at the moment and Jimmy told me after we finished Winning on the Ground that he wasn't going to do another one. It was a lot of help doing a book with a co-author. I'm certain I never would have finished it without him.

One of the things I did learn from the last book though, is that the way to write a book is, as it says in Alice in Wonderland,
"Begin at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop."
You can buy Winning on the Ground while you wait for me to write the next one. Give it to your friends for Christmas. You have friends, right? 

I just got home from my niece's graduation in Missouri and it is two hours later there, so I guess I will go have a glass of wine with my husband and turn in. If you remind me, I will tell you why I wrote this book and where the royalties go. (Hint: It is not the AnnMaria's Chardonnay fund.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Demo of Spirit Lake: The Game

This is my day job. For those of you who thought I just spent my time teaching judo, encouraging people to play free rice and making smart ass comments, no.

If you like the game, it is on sale now for a measly $9.99 It's fun to play and it teaches math.

Yes, I really designed and made this, along with Justin Flores (artwork), Danny Ochoa (animation), Maria Burns Ortiz (video dialogue and editing) and Dennis and I did all the programming. Smarter than I look.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Practicing Fighting Your Way Out

Ronda steals a lot of things from me - ideas, quotes, my sweaters - so I think it is only fair that now and then I swipe something from her. In this case, it is a drill she does at practices sometimes.

Here it is --- let your partner get you in a very bad position. You can see in the different groups above, two are pinned, one is in a choke, one just escaped from an arm bar before I took the picture.

You get into a position where you are at a grave disadvantage and you start matwork from there. This is good for three reasons.

  1. If you have a group of students mixed in ability, it makes the stronger or more experienced students have to work to escape, rather than winning every exchange. In other words, it pushes them harder, and that is what you want to do.
  2. For the smaller or less experienced students, it gives them a chance to feel successful. If nothing else, they are starting out on top. Having some success during the class keeps them from getting discouraged.
  3. It mixed up practice, keeps it from being one of those dreadful clubs where you do the same thing, every day,  to the point of monotony.
Some people think monotony is okay, that it pays off in the end. To each his own (or her own). For me, I don't want my life to suck lots of days so I can have a few when I feel great because I won. I want to feel great every day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Free Rice Winners for Week Two

Below are the top ten people in the free rice group

1. laurajw1988  395,000
2. Alan260        351,250
3. Kaitlin25 ***** 219,610
4. Megneck 198,440
5. MrNuff   192, 330 
6. jamesj8354 190,410 
7. Norad2 **** 165,290
8. Sdidntknow  *** 154,420
9. avia.camila07 ***114,010
10. zarabarry  108,780

Because you can only win a weekly prize once, the winners for this week have *** next to their name. Please email me or DM me on twitter your address.

and we will send you a nice signed poster from Insureon or Xyience. Two companies who kindly sent posters to give away.

There was also one person who donated $500 and said he did not want a prize mailed to him, he just wanted to know if Ronda would match his gift. Yes. She did. (Well, actually she gave me her credit card to do it because she was headed out to train somewhere and I was headed out to teach judo so I will do it this weekend.) I'll get his address and we'll send him a prize, too.

So far, the group has donated 3,400,000 grains of rice which is enough for 1,000 meals. The contest goes until Ronda weighs in on December 27.

You can go here to play, and you can learn more about the contest and Ronda's weight-cutting and free rice connection here.