Monday, April 28, 2014

Be honest about your life

Know thyself is pretty old advice, but it's still good.

Judo isn't the most important thing in my life, not by a long shot.

There was a point when that was not true, when the first thing I thought of when my eyes opened in the  morning was winning.

Life changed. I had children, employees, a business. I still like judo. I teach once a week and show up for the occasional weekend practice, clinic or tournament. I wrote a book, Winning on the Ground, with Jim Pedro, Sr., which I like to think is pretty good, and I enjoyed writing it.

However, I have other priorities now. I run a company that makes computer games to teach math. Every day, I am responding to schools that are using our games, designing new games, working on bugs (we like to call them undocumented features) and talking to people who are interested in becoming employees or investors - CEO stuff.

I have a husband, four daughters and two granddaughters, and they all think I should spend some time with them occasionally, you know, family stuff.

I'm honest about it. I don't go around telling people I want to be the Olympic coach - because I don't. Far from being offended if someone wanted to recruit some of my students from Gompers Judo to their club - especially those who are going into high school this fall - I would be thrilled. They would really benefit by practicing more than once a week.

I don't see the same level of honesty in many athletes. All my life I have heard people say they wanted to be good at one sport or another, that it was the most important thing in their lives.

And yet, when I watch what they do, they aren't training every day. They have a million excuses, but the one that really makes me want to smack them in the back of the head is this:

That practice just isn't good enough for me. I'm a serious competitor. Those people are just recreational.

So, what then?

Well, often it is their excuse to sit on the couch and complain about how they are being deprived of the opportunity for an athletic career.

Talent, winning - it's not something your parents buy for you with expensive private lessons, training camps and moving across the country to be on the "best" team.  Yes, maybe you will need that - later.

For now, what you need is to get off your ass and go outside and run, go to the gym and lift, go train with those people you think aren't as good as you. If you are so great, fight them left-handed, only work on your defense on the mat, letting them pin you. There is a lot you can do.

You know what you should NOT be doing? Sitting on that couch talking about how you could really be good if someone else paid for those opportunities for you and arranged everything perfectly so you had the best possible training, coaching and conditioning.

You know how you get the best of all of that? You show that you EARNED IT by the work ethic you demonstrated.

Otherwise, you're just another person sitting on the couch talking about how good you could have been.

And if it's NOT that important to you any more, because you are focusing on school, starting a business, raising a family or whatever, that is perfectly okay. Just be honest about it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

RIP Richard Muller

It's popular to say that martial arts build character. I don't know if that is true. I know plenty of people who are good at judo or jiu jitsu who are jerks.

Then there are the people like Rich Muller ...

I was sad to hear he died this week. Rich was a fixture in the judo community for years and I must admit I have no idea if he was actually any good at doing judo or not. I never saw him on the mat engaged in the physical activity of throwing, pinning, choking or arm barring anyone.

I did see him referee plenty of times and he was an honest, competent referee. He never refereed at the Olympic level, and he once told me that was not his goal because other things, like his family, seemed a much more worthy outlet for his time and money.

What Rich was best at was being a good man. He definitely could have had a higher judo rank or higher level of certification as a referee if he was willing to cut ethical corners - join whichever organization was offering to promote him that day, overlook it when a referee was accused of molesting underage athletes.

Judo is full of people who act tough but won't really stand up for anything. They watch officials, coaches or athletes get away with breaking the rules, mistreating people and every kind of unethical behavior and do nothing.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "I'm going to kick ass" and then when faced with the person responsible, muttered, "I need the funding to compete international. They could keep me off the Panamerican team." or some other Mickey Mouse garbage, I'd be hiring 10 more people to work here at 7 Generation Games with my pile of money.

Rich was the opposite of that.

If I only had two words to describe him it would be "quiet integrity".

I knew him for decades and I never knew him to cheat at anything - on his wife, in a match, on anything. He and I sometimes disagreed on elections, on policy, but I knew they were always honest disagreements, not because someone had paid him off or made him a deal.

At the same time, he had a strength and resolution I don't see in many "tough guy" martial artists. Many years ago, California Judo, Inc. was having a meeting and one of the members of the referee commission was trying to get away with something  - there have been so many dishonest dealings in judo over the years, I don't remember the details of all of them any more.

Rich decided to go on vacation in southern California and walked into the meeting. Rich had been counsel for the U.S. Judo Federation for many years and was well respected as an attorney. All of a sudden, the people who were going to vote on motions that were blatant violations of the organization by-laws changed their minds.

Furious, the referee chair cornered Rich afterward and told him that he was never going to move up in the ranks as a referee, that his promotions would be blocked and so on.

Rich merely smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said,

"Oh, well."

and we went out to have a lovely lunch.

He will be sorely missed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Free Rice Prizes Update

There was a contest to raise money for the World Food Programme before Ronda's last fight, just like every time.

Ronda said that she thought the people who donated over 1,000,000 grains of rice should get something special. So… some of them requested an autographed poster and they received it.

In the past, sometimes people received prizes that their reaction was like when your grandmother gave you pajamas as a present when you were a little kid. That is, they were polite but there was the sense that it wasn't what they hoped for.

This is where we dropped the ball …. others didn't request anything in particular and I went off to Sioux City, Iowa, then to Grand Forks, Fort Totten, Belcourt and back to Fort Totten in North Dakota. Ronda left the country on vacation and Marina had a fight and ….

I said to Marisol,

"What did we send the rest of those free rice winners?"

and she said,

"You guys never gave me anything."

and I did a lot of creative swearing.  So …. we have things for you that will have to get mailed after I get back (I am leaving AGAIN in the morning for San Francisco for a few days for work).

If you were one of the free rice people who did not get a prize, I will be putting things up on this page and holler when you see something you want. Here are the first two and Ronda will be bringing more stuff by when I get home. … This is a size small Strikeforce World Champion shirt.  Yes, she will sign it, if you'd like.

This next shirt was a mock-up of an idea my friend, Al Bane, had but it never got made because, among other things, the company did not have the right to use the UFC belt, logo etc and I suggested the UFC wouldn't appreciate that. You can't actually wear this because I think it was painted - it was just made for a meeting to show the idea. There isn't another one. Yes, she will sign it, if you'd like.

(UPDATE --- SHIRT ABOVE IS NOW TAKEN - claimed by free rice donor Ego Amigo)

This is like those game shows where you can pick what is behind door number 2 or wait and see if what comes up next will be better.

If you were one of the people who donated over 1,000,000 and did not get a prize (including Laura!), let me know if you would like one of those two things.

Or you can wait and see what she brings over in the next week or so. I have no idea, so your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Raising Ronda Rousey

I don't usually have time to listen to interviews Ronda does, but the past two weeks, I have been in North Dakota with a lot of time spent in hotel rooms, and I was amused to hear Ronda's side of her childhood on The Fighter and the Kid podcast.

It was a little bit like those stories my mom used to tell me about how she had to walk 10 miles to school barefoot in the snow and it was uphill both ways.

First off, the water thing, I am actually NOT one of those people who believe that not drinking water during practice makes you tough. On the contrary, where some judo coaches refuse to let kids go off the mat to get a drink, when it is hotter or they are working hard and sweating a lot, we take water breaks every 30 minutes. Otherwise, we take a few minutes for a water break every 45 minutes or so.

However, it is true that I take a dim view of those people who run off the mat every five minutes for a water break or to go to the bathroom. I totally don't get how you can have a class of 35 kids and 20 of them have to use the bathroom in a 90 minute class.  You know how often I can go 90 minutes without peeing - every fucking day.  You're not fooling anyone when I turn around when it's time to do matches and every other match you're off the mat because you were getting a drink or in the bathroom.

Let's face facts - there are three reasons those kids are always running off the mat. Either they are lazy, they're bored or they're scared. They are out of shape and want to rest, they really don't want to be at judo anyway, they're parents made them be there, and there is one or more kids they don't want to get matched up against.

Here is my view on it - if you don't want to be here, stay home. If you are out of shape, stay on the mat and work out and you'll get in better shape and if you keep at it long enough, you will eventually beat that other kid.

Those stories about me arm barring her in the living room ARE true. I still do that, but these days it's always because she starts it. I will be sitting there minding my own business and she will jump on me and attack me yelling,

"Always be ready."

I'm fairly certain that constitutes elder abuse. I'm contemplating pressing charges.

It's also completely true that I would grab her when she was playing around with other kids before a match and tell her to go sit in a corner and think about winning.  It is true that between matches she was supposed to either sit by herself or sleep.

I have noticed over the years that most of the people doing that are trying to avoid thinking about fighting because they are scared. It's a good idea in general to face your fears and not avoid them.

I've also seen many people exhaust themselves before a fight jump roping, running sprints. Again, they are just nervous. It doesn't make any sense to be getting tired before you fight. Watch sprinters at the Olympics - do they run 10 sprints all out before their event? Of course not.

Rest, focus, warm up, win.

And another thing …. since I'm in my ranting mode, whoever started that story about Ronda not wanting to go to judo when she was a little kid and me making her go (for the record, Ronda did NOT say this happened on the podcast) - it never happened.

It was quite the opposite. I would drive her to judo 7 or 8 times a week - on Tuesdays we went to two practices, at Venice from 7-8 then hopped in the car and she worked out at Hayastan from 8:30 - 10. Every day she was somewhere, Gardena, West LA, Baldwin Park, Hollywood. Traffic in Los Angeles blows, and after working all day and driving back home in traffic, some days, the last thing I wanted to do was get back in the car and drive another two hours across town. I would say to her,

Ronda, do you really want to go to practice tonight?

And she'd answer,

Of course, Mom. Why wouldn't I want to go to practice?

On top of all of that, if there wasn't anyone her size to practice with, I'd take falls for her. See that picture up there? She is a 14-year-old brown belt and I'm a 42-year-old statistician taking dozens of falls for her because I'm the right size and I know enough to give just the right amount of resistance.

Did anyone seriously think what I wanted to do after a 14-hour day was drive in rush hour to somewhere I'd get thrown 150 times? I don't expect any medals for that - it's what millions of parents in America do every day, cart their child to gymnastics, piano lessons, wrestling practice, academic decathlon or a million other things. When we're children we think the world revolves around us and that is exactly what mom or dad wants to do most because we are so charming and adorable.

Then we grow up and realize that what they really wanted to do was sit home and drink a beer while reading the paper or watching TV, but they loved us, so they got their old tired ass up and took us wherever we needed to be.

Rant off.

Since you're now done reading  this blog and not doing anything, 
buy my book on Amazon or at Black Belt and write a nice review about it. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Judo Helped Me in Business: Part N of a Billion

I've rambled on here randomly about how sports helped in business. This week was yet another example. A couple of years ago, I started a new company, 7 Generation Games, that makes computer games to teach kids math. I think I was 53 when the company was founded.

This past week, I read yet another discouraging article with a chart showing the low percentage of companies that made a billion dollars that were founded by entrepreneurs over age 50. I was discouraged for about 30 seconds, until I realized a salient fact, that made me feel immediately better:

Yes, the percentage of companies with founders over 50 was small. However, at the time that I decided I wanted to win the world championships in judo, the percentage of Americans who had done it was zero.

Even if the prior probability of something is zero, it doesn't mean you can't do it. I should know.

And with that, I went back to work.