Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why I don't recommend martial arts for victims of abuse

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone whose stepchild had been a victim of abuse. I was going to suggest martial arts as a means of building self-esteem and learning self-defense ... and then I stopped myself and did not.

Here is why -- because in my 43 years of experience in judo, I have seen a higher proportion of sexual abusers than I have in the general population. I suspect this is also true of other martial arts. Now, it's true that this is only limited to my experience, but in 43 years, traveling around the world, as well as monitoring the news on judo fairly closely, that experience includes a lot of people.

There are a few reasons I think this is true:

  1. In general, people who are seeking to abuse children have to get access to them in some way. Thus, you find more child abuse among people who come into contact with children regularly in settings unsupervised by other adults. To become a teacher at the K-12 level you need to get at least five years of education plus pass a background check, including getting finger printed. To teach martial arts you need to be in a club for a year or two and convince someone to give you a rank. Yes, in some clubs it can take five years or more to get a black belt, but that's not true everywhere. Often, if you show up to class and pay your dues on time you will get promoted. The background check is pretty minimal. The same is also true of many other extracurricular activities like youth sports or dance. 
  2.  In AYSO soccer, my daughter has competed for five years in two different cities and nowhere could you have practice unless there is a female chaperone there.  In contrast, supervision in martial arts programs by other adults tends to be pretty minimal. At our judo program at Gompers Middle School, we cannot have practice without a certified staff member from LAUSD on the mat, but that is an anomaly. I know of dozens of judo programs that have practice with just one adult instructor. Growing up, that was the norm for me.
  3. Situations where a person is in authority - coach, teacher, priest/ minister or parent - not only do they provide an opportunity for abuse but children are often trying to please those people and are often afraid of their authority. Besides, these are the people who children are supposed to be listening to their directions.
To sum it up, you have a setting where physical contact between an adult and a child is allowed, where people with minimal to moderate screening  are in positions where they have unsupervised access to children and are put in a position of authority over them.

On top of all of that, there are certain characteristics that make abuse more likely to occur.  The vast majority of judo instructors are male and over 90% of sexual abuse of females  and depending on the study you read, 63-86% of sexual abuse of males occurs with a male perpetrator. 

That is not to say that victims of abuse should not do martial arts, ever. There are people I would trust completely.  Jim Pedro, Sr. , Tony Mojica, Steve & Becky Scott, Karen Mackey - I could give you a list. The point is, all of these are people I have known for years.  I would feel comfortable recommending any one of them INDIVIDUALLY. 

However, I would not feel comfortable recommending judo, or martial arts in general, and since I did not know anyone who lived near this particular family, I caught myself and just expressed sympathy and recommended family therapy.

The reason I wrote this post is that I think people who love martial arts often DO recommend judo, jiujitsu or whatever it is they do as sort of a knee-jerk response, because, after all, it may be great for them. For some children, though, it may be the worst possible thing to do.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Avoid the people mother warned you about

My friend, Dr. Jacob Flores, is certified in geriatrics. Thus, he gets to see many people at the end of their lives. When I commented that I didn't want to regret on my deathbed that I hadn't accomplished something or other, he cut me off.

Maybe you will regret that on your deathbed but guess what, even if you do, that's one day out of your entire life. Why compromise the other 30,000 for that one day?

Jake is a brilliant guy and he regularly says things like that. I advise you to hang out with smart people because it's contagious.

No, I'm serious, because they will talk about intelligent ideas and make you think. They'll use words or expressions you don't know and increase your vocabulary. They'll forward articles to you, recommend books they have read, lectures they attended or watched online. Hang around with smart people and you get smarter.

Some of my friends from when I was young have spent the past thirty years or so hanging out with the dumbest people on the block, and it shows. If I mention a new operating system or, really, anything other than going to the gym or drinking, they'll laugh and say,

Oh, I don't know anything about that shit!

When we were in school, these were really smart people, and I think to myself,

When did you start to think it was okay to not know things, to be ignorant? You weren't always like that, I'm sure of it.

Maybe not everything you do is influenced by the people around you, but much of it is - exercise, honesty, work ethic, drinking.

If most of your friends are not working full time, crashing at someone's house, working a few days here and there, getting money from their parents, borrowing everything from cars to cash, you see that as an acceptable lifestyle.

The pernicious part is that you don't see the effects as they are happening. You're working hard at a real job. If you take off for a "mental health" day or two a month, no big deal. Everybody does it. You're still working harder than anyone you know.

The fact, though, is that NOT everyone does it - whether "it" is playing hooky, lying on an application, forging someone's signature on a document, cheating on your wife or drinking six beers a night.

Not only are your friends your standard of comparison, but they are also your partners, for good or evil.

Even Batman had Robin.

I'm pretty sure I wrote that in a chapter in a book once. (Thought I was kidding, didn't you?)

The point is, your friends can recommend you for a job opening, come by to give you a ride to the gym with them, help you with your Calculus homework or bring over the beer.

This weekend, I was with the Gompers Judo team for a judo weekend - a two-hour seminar at Millenia MMA on Friday followed by  an inter-club tournament sponsored by Guerreros Judo on Saturday.

The students on the Gompers team look out for one another. They're kind to each other. If a student forgets his backpack or his homework, someone else gets it for him. They offer to help each other with schoolwork, cheer for each other and encourage each other to go to practice.

At an adult level - the other volunteers at Gompers (Jose Gonzalez, Will Beane and Jimmy Sanchez) and I all have a shared commitment to making this a good experience for the kids - as do Gary Moore from High Desert Judo, Eric and Frank Sanchez from Guerreros, Gary Butts from Millenia and Victor Ortiz from Team Ortiz, all of whom helped with this weekend event.  None of them think it is okay to focus on that one kid who might have a 1% chance of making an Olympic team and ignore the rest.

Also, they are all great people. Let's pick out Eric Sanchez, for example. He's a nice guy. I even buy my insurance from him. I've known him since he was born. Let's say, though, that every person but him at the tournament was a jerk, someone I thought would be mean to my kids, referees who would cheat in the matches - then I wouldn't go and he would be deprived of the value of my presence, such as it is. (-;

Good people attract other good people to associate with you. On the other hand, the rude, unethical jerks drive people away and if that's who you insist on hanging around with, pretty soon that will be your only company.

My point is -- when good old mom warns you about hanging around with certain people, she's probably right.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Effort Sweats

About 14 years ago, Dave Winer wrote a blog post "Transcendental Money", about how much money you really need. It's brilliant and I'll probably write about that on my other blog soon.

Today, though, my point relates to a term I heard for the first time in his post,

"Money sweats. Leave money alone and it becomes more money."

By that, he meant that if you have money, even if you do nothing it accrues interest, so you have more money. If you think you need $3 million to live on for the rest of your life and you are 50 years old, spending $100,000 a year, you could worry you'll live more than another 30 years, but that ignores the fact that you're earning interest on that money every year. This is the reason I've encouraged all of my daughters to start a retirement account as soon as they started working. They'll have all of those years of money becoming more money. Sure, you can start a retirement account at 40, but you'll have missed out on 20 years of compounded interest.

The same is true of effort, as I was trying to explain to my lovely youngest daughter this weekend. Yes, you can go back to college at 40, just like you can start saving for your retirement then. However, if you put in the effort earlier, you will have all of those years of paying dividends. Let me give you several examples:

I graduated from college at age 19, then went on to get an MBA at 21. I was not the most mature 21-year-old, but having a couple of degrees from well-known schools enabled me to get a job as an industrial engineer. Because I was working in a large corporation in the defense industry, I was surrounded by technology, both hardware and software, and had the chance to learn about programming and its applications. At each step, I gathered more knowledge - of languages, project management, different industries.

Because of that, I seldom apply for anything these days. Whether it is to present at a conference, teach at a university, work as a consultant or for a full-time job, people contact me based on the effort I put out in the past. They talked to a former student or client, read one of my company blogs or a paper I had published. I get opportunities now because of effort I put out in the past.

The same is true of judo. I wrote a book on judo that was published a year ago, but people still read it. Most of the time I spent coaching my daughter, Ronda, I put in during the years from 11 to 16 - over 10 years ago. If I go somewhere to teach judo, people have heard of me because of the work I did then.

This is not to say that I'm resting on my laurels. If I have to teach a class, I put a great deal of effort into, whether it is statistics or judo. If I'm giving the keynote address at a conference, I spend a lot of time researching it and practicing it.

Still, effort sweats, in two ways.

First, I don't have to put out any effort to get opportunities.  Quite the opposite. I'm more likely to have a friend call up and say, "We put you as our keynote speaker," or "I need you to write a chapter for this book" or "How about doing a judo clinic on this day?"

Second, although it is true, as Shane Welcher said on twitter,  "Yesterday's home runs don't win tomorrow's games" it is also true that all that batting practice you did yesterday is going to help you out tomorrow. It's more than that, though. The fact that you are the best batter/ goalie/ statistical programmer or whatever is going to give you opportunities to play more, get your hands on the latest equipment or whatever. That, in turn, will make you even better.

I learn more about judo because I have the opportunity to be around people with a lot of knowledge. Because I understand about transition, combinations, techniques that were formerly allowed but aren't used any more, etc. etc. when those people tell me something, I can relate it to what I already know.

The same is true whether I'm writing a program or a lecture on population attributable risk - I can take code or lectures I wrote in the past and re-use that, making a better product with less effort.

Moral of the story: Work now so you can work less later.

I'm not sure she really took it to heart. I think she fell asleep.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Mother's Day - Nobody Really Knows What They Are Doing

I have often threatened to write a book on parenting with the title:

Nobody Really Knows What They Are Doing

The older I get, the more evident this is. In the last ten years, my daughters have done relatively well - graduated from NYU, masters from USC, scholarship to prep school, Olympic medal, world champion, journalist of the year, etc.

All of a sudden people are telling me what a great mother I was to them and asking my parenting advice.

Prior to all of that success, I was just the worst mother in the entire world out to ruin their lives. They were dropping out of high school, running away from home, passed out drunk at parties where I had tracked them down and carried them out of the house on my shoulders. (Not all of them and not all at once, and they will each claim that it was their sisters and they were perfect.)

There are a few things that I have, hopefully, instilled in my children. Since I was fortunate to spend the day with my two youngest, who (correctly) concluded that the present mom would most like was their presence, I spent most of it trying to impart to the littlest sister, also known as The Spoiled One, what lessons in life I most hoped she would learn.

Although you can't tell it by this picture, it was met with much eye rolling, sighing and pretending to fall asleep. However, I gave it my best shot, which is all I can do.

Here are a few lessons I hope they will learn.

  1. Sacrifice what you want now for what you want most. If you really want to pass the AP History Exam you will study for it every night instead of watching vampire shows on NetFlix.
  2. Figure out what it is you really want out of life. Even if you don't know at 16 or 18 years old - and most people don't - you should be making an effort to figure it out.
  3. Being outstanding takes far more work than you think. To be the best in something doesn't take 10% more work than being good, it usually takes twice as much work.
  4. Strive to be the best at something. Regardless of the economy, there is never a surplus of excellence and you will always have work.
  5. Success takes far longer than you think. The biggest factor in being successful at something is to just keep working at it. (Ronda added that although it seems like it's taking a really long time in the middle of it, when you look back, it really doesn't seem that long after all. Time is funny that way.)
  6. Value your family over friends because friends will come and go in your life but your family will be there always.
  7. Words mean things. (I stole this line from my friend, Al Bane.) If you say you are going to meet someone at the Eiffel Tower at 2 p.m. on May 3rd, 2017, when that time comes, you should be there.
  8. Give back. You have a very privileged life in a beautiful state in a prosperous, safe country in a fairly well-off family. You didn't hit a double. You started life on second base. Appreciate that by helping whenever you can.
  9. Effort sweats. That is a whole long topic in itself. It's important enough that my whole post tomorrow is about that.
------- Hey, it's Mother's Day, do something nice ....
Buy Winning on the Ground, by me and Jim Pedro, Sr.  or

Buy Spirit Lake: The Game  -- for yourself or someone in your life who could be better at math. If you want to give it to a low-income school, we can even handle that for you. You can donate it in your mom's name - mothers like that sort of thing.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mama AnnMaria's Rules for When to Shut the Hell Up

Did you really say that out loud?

This past week has been FULL of experiences where a young person said something that left me literally shaking my head in disbelief that they had actually said that out loud.

It was suggested to me that I am a hypocrite because Ronda has said some very controversial and often obscene things. I'm hardly a shrinking violet myself, for example, having written a blog post where I expressed my desired to bitch-slap a particular congressman.

Here are Mama AnnMaria's rules for when to shut the hell up …

Ask yourself this question:

  1. Will it hurt someone's feelings, reputation, relationships or career? There is a difference between saying I'm not attracted to people who are thin and saying that you, Marylou Who, are so skinny no one will ever love you.
  2. If the answer to 1 is, "Yes", then proceed to this question. Do I have a reason to want to harm this person? In the case of the congressman, absolutely yes. He was pushing a bill that would cost my business money and not coincidentally had received a lot of donations from publishing companies it would help. Now, if this person has never done anything to you personally, you still might wish them ill. For example, that racist rancher in Nevada is making money off federal lands and hasn't paid fees in twenty years while I pay my taxes every year, and he's also suggesting black people were better off as slaves. I am disgusted.
  3. This brings up point number 3. Even if I *do* have a reason to wish the person ill, do I really care that much to bother, both with making the effort to say, tweet, post some negative thing and deal with any repercussions, because even tax-cheating racists have their supporters?
Don't try to bullshit me about this with any stupid versions of how the world should be versus reality. In particular, here are two lines of bullshit I don't want to hear:

  • Well, there shouldn't be repercussions. Everyone has a right to express their opinion. 

Those two statements are contradictory. If everyone has a right to express their opinion, then just like you had the right to say whatever stupid thing it was, I have just as much right to be of the opinion that you are a dumbass and not hire you, do business with you or invite you to my next dinner party. I don't really have dinner parties, but you get my point. 

What you are really saying is,

 I am SO right that no one in the world should vigorously disagree with me so there should be no repercussions.

and what I am saying to you is, 

"Grow the fuck up."

If you say things that offend people or hurt their feelings, you should realize in advance that they are not going to respond by sending to your house via fairy dust a unicorn that shits cupcakes.

Perhaps your intent was to correct them and show them the error of their ways. Which brings me to the second line of bullshit I don't want to hear.

  • I'd want to hear the truth if *I* were in Bob's position.

Let me breakdown the number of stupid points in this short statement:

  1. You are not Bob.
  2. Therefore, it by no means follows that Bob wants to hear the truth.
  3. Your version of the truth, unless you are Jesus Christ, or possibly the pope, is not infallible. Maybe you are wrong, in which case it isn't the truth, it's just a mean thing to say to Bob.
  4. Unless you've actually been in Bob's position, your statement is purely hypothetical and possibly wrong. Like you are not Bob, I am not you, but I can tell you this - my life is full of experiences - from having children, to not agreeing to a Do not resuscitate order to being an employer - that did not turn out AT ALL like I thought they would when I was in that position.
  5. Even if Bob DOES want to hear the truth, what makes you think he wants to hear it from YOU in the manner that YOU choose? I have had to fire people. It's no fun. I did not do it by yelling across a crowded parking lot, "Hey, Bob, don't bother coming to work on Monday because you are fired."
It is not that older people like me do not think the same things that younger people say.

 Twice in the last couple of days I have thought something word for word that someone else blurted out loud. The first time, I thought to myself, if I say what I think, it will hurt this person's feelings who has done nothing to me and why would I do that?

The second time was in a work situation when someone asked a question so basic my initial response was, 

Are you fucking kidding me?

I was tempted to call the person's supervisor (who I knew) and ask whether this person was competent to have the job. I didn't. I answered the question. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I misunderstood what the person was asking and the new person was not as clueless as it appeared. Here's the thing about being older - I HAVE been in that situation where I was the new person asking dumb questions and hoping people would give me the benefit of the doubt.

Here is the other thing as you get older - if you choose your battles (and words) carefully, when you do say something, people take you more seriously. If I had called that supervisor, there would have been some serious thought given to whether that person should be retained beyond the probationary period. Maybe that would be the correct decision, but I really did not have enough information to decide that based on one interaction, so I shut the hell up.

That's what we call maturity here in the Daisy Hill Senior Citizen's Center.


COMPLETELY SHAMELESS PLUG, for more awesome advice from both me and Jim Pedro, Sr. as well as good stuff on mat work  and competition, buy Winning on the Ground on Amazon 
or, if you don't have an Amazon account, you can get it straight from Black Belt

Friday, May 2, 2014

Guest Instructor at Gompers Judo

You'd think since it is a Friday, school got out early, it is Cinco de Mayo on Monday and it was 92 degrees that there would not have been a big turnout for judo.

You'd have been wrong.

I was NOT happy that some of our students lost matches at the last tournament because they were out of shape. So, twice in the last month, we have had the great good luck to have Jeff Fujimoto come and run practice, because a young person in his twenties is going to be able to work out harder alongside them than me.

You know who would be even tougher than a medical student in his twenties? A professional fighter in her twenties. So, Ronda popped by practice today and started with having warm ups with half an hour of running, push-ups, sit-ups, shrimp crawls and a lot of uchi komis.

After that, it was time for some technical training.

I'm sure when Mr. Will Beane went to school today he wasn't thinking this was how his day was going to end, being thrown by Ronda - over and over - to demonstrate correct technique.

He was a great sport about it, though.

Despite the heat, the hard work out, the fact that all of their friends had left school three hours ago, every student stayed until the end and had smiles on their faces - well except the ones that were trying to look tough when we took the photos, and the ones who were too tired to smile (Iain, I'm looking at you, son.)

Also, special thank you to the Woodcraft Rangers staff, especially Ms. Robinson, who brought up boxes of juice for the students. There is only one (frankly disgusting) water fountain for all of the people below, and it is important to stay hydrated when you're working out this hard in this kind of weather. Her consideration was appreciated.

In case you don't read this blog regularly, here is the story of the Gompers Judo Program …

I have four daughters. The two middle ones, Ronda and Jenn, are 13 months apart. When Ronda was 21 she won an Olympic medal. Meanwhile, Jenn, at 22, was finishing her teaching credential and masters in urban education from USC. She was student teaching at Gompers Middle School and brought her sister in as a visual aid for teaching the concept of budo. The students were so interested in judo that Mr. Gonzales, Jenn's supervisor for her student teaching, asked if she knew anyone who would teach a judo class - for free, since there was no budget. Ronda offered to do it.

So, for two years, Ronda taught every week at Gompers, on borrowed mats, with judo gis friends had outgrown. As her mixed martial arts career grew, I ended up substituting for her and eventually taking over. We had more mats donated this year so were able to increase the number of students allowed in the class from 12 to 16.

Ronda still comes back once a year to teach and visit everyone. She doesn't tell anyone about it in advance so that there are no media people - no cameras (except these on our cell phones) - because she wants the kids to know that she does it for them and not for publicity.

So … now you know the rest of  the story.