Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sticking a landing: Getting the most out of practice

I had the privilege today of working with a group of young people in a West Coast Judo Training Center practice held in Long Beach.

We did a lot of matwork drills and one of the points I tried to make is that there is little benefit in rushing through your matwork moves in a half-ass fashion. If you're doing your drills at less than full speed or less than perfectly, you are missing the point.

When I looked through this blog to find an example, I found a lot of them, which just goes to show that I practice what I preach. If you look at the picture above at the end of one of a zillion times I have done the same drill, my partner is flat on his back and I am pushing off on my toes to put all of my weight on him.

I do this EVERY time I do a drill.

Here is another picture with another person and another pin. Again, my body is on top of hers, my feet are under her hips, my hands are locked tight.
Here is yet another picture, on yet another day on yet another person. Notice that I have both hands on his arm, my hips are pretty much "sitting" on his shoulder, I have his arm locked against my chest.

I explain this as being similar to when a gymnast does a technique and "sticks the landing". After they flip off the bars, horse or whatever, they try to hit the ground and be as on balance as possible.

Now, when they are practicing, they could just kind of drop off the uneven bars or hop off the balance beam, but they don't because they are practicing to do it as they want to execute the move in competition and the landing is a key part. If they flip around on the bars, then dismount and fall over, they'll lose points and probably lose in the event.

The same with judo - if you do a turnover but don't really tighten up on the pin, or do an armbar and don't really have it locked in, then your opponent will probably get away.

Fast, hard and stick the landing. Do every one of your matwork repetitions that way every day. It's not just how much you practice that matters but how.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Will it matter in 2026?

I doubt I'll ever do this but it's an interesting thought ....

You hear about people writing letters to their younger selves giving advice, or finding a diary from 15 or 20 years ago and marveling about how much their lives have changed. I was thinking the next time I get really upset about something, I should write a letter to myself to be opened 12 years from now.

The reason I'm pretty sure I will never do this is that every time I think of it, I realize how stupid it is to think that whatever I'm stressing about today will matter in 2026.

Here is a picture from 2001 or so. Okay, it's 13 years, but whatever.

I have no idea what I was worried about that day, but I'm sure it was something. Maybe I was worried about paying for New York University, where Maria was in her first year. Didn't do the least bit of good to worry and I paid off the last of the parent loans last year.

Maybe I was worried about Ronda winning some tournament - in fact, I'm pretty sure that we were at Legoland that day because Ronda was competing in a tournament in San Diego.

Maybe I was worried about how Jennifer was doing academically, since it looked as if she might not even graduate high school - and she didn't. She quit high school, went into college early and ended up with a masters from USC.

This isn't to say there haven't been some bumps in the road over the past 13 years, or the past 30, for that matter. My point is simply that the things I really worried about some days - whether I got a particular contract, a specific client whose name I have completely forgotten acted like an ass, some mother of some kid I will never see again said something rude about one of my children - the exact type of stuff most people worry about most of the time - would have me shaking my head today.

On May 20, 2001, I was worried about THAT ?

So, that is my brilliant advice today to me and to you. When you find yourself all bent out of shape about something, think about sitting down and writing a letter to yourself 12 years in the future explaining how you are beating yourself up today because you were worried that you didn't get the XQD contract - which you ended up getting - or that you ran into the CEO the one day you decided to take advantage of casual Friday and wear jeans to the office. 

I'll bet you don't do it because as soon as you sit down to take pen to paper you'll realize how stupid this will sound to yourself in 2026 and you'll quit worrying about it.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You Reap What You Sow: Thoughts on Parenting

My friend stopped by to ask if our family was going to enter a team in the Didi Hirsch Alive and Running Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention. It's the sort of thing we would do, except that I'm in Kansas City that weekend with the kids from Gompers and Ronda is in Brazil right now so I don't know what her plans are. Maria is busy being pregnant.

It's possible that Jenn, Julia and Jessica might enter. I will have to ask them. Then, my friend said,

"You are such a good mother. Your children turned out so well. You should write a parenting book."

There are a couple of reasons not to do that. The main one is that I am really busy working on building another company right now. My day job is making games to teach math, and I really like doing it.

Then there is the fact that Julia is only 16. Although she looks like a winner so far, who knows, maybe she will ride a motorcycle through the school gym tomorrow wearing nothing but a shit-eating grin. All indications are to the opposite, but one thing I know for sure is that there are no guarantees in life.  [Julia: If you are reading this - don't even think about it. I will skin you alive and tack your hide over the front door as a reminder to your nieces not to be so stupid. - Love, Mom]

That being said, to a large extent, whether it is parenting, sports or business, you sow what you reap. My children aren't perfect, I'm not perfect and there have been times when I wanted to smack them upside the head.

Throughout their lives, though, I have tried my best to always put my children first. Sometimes it might not have seemed that way to them, if I was flying to Washington instead of helping them with a science project, but I sincerely believed that the money I made for private schools, universities, was more important. I also thought having a role model of a mother who had a career would be a benefit to them.

I suspect that when Ronda was young she resented the fact that I did not fly around the world and coach her, nor did I take out loans to pay for her competition around the world or a lot of other things some other parents did. There was a reason behind that. With three other children, I was not willing to sacrifice all of the time with  them and the amount of money we would lose from me not working.

I had seen families where everyone focused on one child who was supposed to be gifted - and maybe was - to the detriment of the others. It never seemed to turn out well for anyone. The "gifted" child felt pressured but also entitled and the other children felt cheated. The parents are resentful the favored child doesn't appreciate it. I could go on - it's just a hot mess.

Maybe my book would be very short if I ever wrote it - Do what you believe is best for your children, even if it's a lot of work, even if you really would rather do something else at the time.

Actually, that would be pretty much my same advice whether it is winning in judo or building a business. Do what you think is most likely to achieve that goal - even when you're tired, even when you don't feel like it.

If you are right even most of the time that this drill, tournament, proposal or design is what you should be doing, then in the end all of that sowing will pay off.

Friday, September 12, 2014

It was a good day for uchi mata

 Judo at Gompers renewed a little of my faith in humanity.

"Every day is a good day when I'm on the mat."

It's beginning to feel that way. Today, 1980 Olympic team member Steve Seck dropped in unannounced for a visit.

Not only is Steve a terrific judo coach and an Olympic athlete, he also teaches at King Drew Medical Magnet High School. A major goal of our program at Gompers Middle School is to help students succeed personally and academically. Part of that is encouraging them to apply to the best high schools they can attend. Steve came last year to talk to our students and encourage them to apply to his school. Two of them did and were accepted.

He came again today and taught uchi mata because, being a former teammate of mine, he knows well that matwork is my strong point.  (Uchi mata is Japanese for inner thigh throw. You can see why in the pictures below where Steve's right leg catches Ain about on the inside of his thigh.)

When Ronda was young, I took her to Steve and Blinky to learn uchi mata and now both of them have come to teach the students at Gompers.

He told the students he told Ronda when she was 11 years old,

Anyone who can hop backward in a circle can do uchimata.

Another point he made, and see it illustrated in the photo above, is that you are generally going to be more effective with uchi mata using a high grip on the collar than a traditional lapel grip.

You can also see Steve's head going down toward the mat and his body turning as he pulls Ain into him with BOTH his right hand on the collar and his left hand on the lapel.

 Although Steve said he was too old to throw any more, you can clearly see that is not true. He's only letting go with his right hand at this point so as not to fall on Ain.

Speaking of good people - the good people of Orange County Judo Training Center had donated money to buy the kids water all year, since there is only one water fountain for 17-20 people, and that is on a different floor.  Every kid running down to get a drink would take half an hour.

I thought the water came from the check they gave us. Today, I found that I'd had that check in my gi bag all along. José Gonzalez, the same teacher who has been volunteering his  time after school for six years, also had been buying the water. I gave him the check for the Woodcraft Rangers so, from now on, that will be one less out of pocket expense for him!

We received a donation from a kind gentleman from Italy that will allow us to buy judo uniforms for the kids going to Kansas City and Gompers Judo t-shirts for everyone else. We desperately need more mats as the class is growing, so that is next on my list.

Everything is improving in every way all the time.  I had fun teaching. Steve was a great help because his strengths in throwing match up perfectly with my weakest points. I injured my knee when I was a teenager, so during my competitive years, I couldn't do a left uchi mata to save my life. Also, every time he comes, it is one more bit of encouragement for students to consider King Drew Medical Magnet.

To even further sweeten the pot, a couple of our kids that I was really concerned about academically are doing much better.

It was a good day. 

--------------- Black Belt likes me to remind you 
occasionally that I wrote this book on matwork with Jim Pedro, Sr. and it would be nice if you bought it. It's about winning on the ground. That's why it's in the title.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Santa Monica City Council 1:30 am Vote against Ponies

So, I was at the Santa Monica City Council meeting at 1:30 am and I must admit I was probably at my least articulate because I was SO pissed off.

You can read more about it here because I feel I'm getting stupider just thinking about this issue.

Seriously, who has a vote on someone's business at 1:30 IN THE MORNING.

As you might imagine, about the only people who stayed around for 8 HOURS to speak about pony rides were me and some people who gave testimony like this:

"We have gotten rid of human slavery, now let's get rid of animal slavery."

"I am an empath and I can feel those ponies are unhappy."

"We can't have a petting zoo because animals in cages are nervous."

"Ponies are meant to run free in the wild."

"Children can go to farms or animal sanctuaries to see animals."

In the end, the city council said that even though they found NO evidence of animal cruelty, no citations had been issued against the pony rides owner, all health documentation was on file, they were going to hold a Request for Proposals anyway because, in the words of one of the motion authors, Gleam Davis,

"We don't want controversy in our city."

So, basically, they are closing down a young woman's business because some people protested even though they found no validity in the accusations. As I said, I was not at my most articulate because I was just livid to see all of the worst stereotypes of Santa Monica being anti-business and local politics being  determined by a few extremists right in front of my eyes.

No, I'm not going to run for public office. In fact, the only reason this was wasn't a COMPLETE waste of time is that I was able to write most of a proposal while sitting there and I now know three people I will never vote for ever again (see below) and which campaigns to donate money to the opponent.

Even though it doesn't really affect me personally, seeing that the city council did not give a damn about this young woman running a business or the children who benefit was disheartening in the worst way.

If you'd like to give them your opinion, feel free to email

Or maybe you can tweet #keeptheponies

Why one woman should have more say than the families of 400 children who ride the ponies every weekend, I don't know.

Just so you know, Ted Winterer and Gleam Davis are the two council members who put this item on the agenda.

Some self-proclaimed community activist named Marcy Winograd has got the city council to put an item on the agenda to get rid of the pony rides. She also said the ponies and trees have rights just like humans. She says she's an English teacher. Thank God she doesn't teach my child.

You can sign a petition to keep the ponies here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Let the kids ride ponies for crying out loud!

I cannot believe that I have to go down to the Santa Monica city council meeting tonight to speak out against this idiocy!

See the happy little girl on the pony? That's my granddaughter. Some IDIOT of a so-called community activist named Marcy Winograd has got the city council to put an item on the agenda to get rid of the pony rides and replace them with "non-animal activities" because it is so hard on the poor little critters that they have to work six hours a week.

Hell, I wish I worked six hours a week! I am going to walk down to Main Street now and try to get on the agenda to counter the crazy people.

Here is the email I sent to the city council.

I have lived in Santa Monica for 18 years. My youngest daughter was born here and my oldest daughter recently moved back to Santa Monica, with her husband and two small children. So … I have had two generations of experience with the Farmers Market. I have also had my fill of this nonsense of people protesting the pony rides at the market and I’d like to voice my strong objection to replacing these with “non animal activities”.

First of all, the Farmers Market already has painting activities. Over the years, they have have had face/ hand painting, spin art and crafts tables. Thus, replacing animal activities with those would reduce the variety of experiences offered to young children.

Secondly, children have many options for painting and cooking, including in their own homes. The nearest zoo is in Griffith Park - hardly within walking or biking distance with small children.

Finally, the children really enjoy these animal activities and they benefit from them. With my own children, grandchildren and many others, I see week after week children who come up to the animals, and then shy away. Eventually, they’ll overcome their fears and ride a pony or pet a llama. Learning to overcome one's fears is a pretty significant factor in a successful life, in my opinion.

This motion strikes me as bullying of a small business on the part of the city council to fit into someone’s preconceived notion of the type of activities we ought to be engaging in. Much of my business takes me through rural America and I see the enjoyment children get from being able to interact with animals. Denying this to my grandchildren makes Santa Monica just that much less desirable of a city to raise a family.

I sincerely hope the council will deny this ill-conceived motion.

If you'd like to give them your opinion, feel free to email

Or maybe you can tweet #keeptheponies 

You can sign a petition to keep the ponies here.

Why one woman should have more say than the families of 400 children who ride the ponies every weekend, I don't know.

Just so you know, Ted Winterer and Gleam Davis are the two council members who put this item on the agenda.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's it like having a famous daughter?

I get asked this so often, I decided to answer it here. The answer is ...

Mostly, I think it is wasted on me. The more well-known Ronda gets, the more people I happen to end up meeting who are very famous - sports figures, people in the media, people who are extremely wealthy. The reason I say it's wasted is that I rarely know who any of them are unless someone tells me.

Often, what I refer to as a group as "the Hollywood people" fill their conversations with who lives next door, who they worked with, who is their very best friend. Watch the movie All That Jazz, even though it's old, it's still good and there is a lot of truth to it.

Sometimes I tell them, "Shannon and Deborah Brock live next door to me," just so I can amuse myself watching them rack their brains trying to figure out which movies they produced or starred in or directed.

When Ronda has a party for something, I may show up for an hour or so, and usually one or two of her sisters will, too. We want to celebrate with her whatever she is celebrating and let her know we are happy for her. Then we all go home to our own lives.

I can't blame Hollywood, though. Lately, our company has gained more and more visibility, as our games continue to improve and we keep plugging away while so many start-ups fail. So, I end up in groups of the tech version of Hollywood people, telling me about that time they saw Elon and Mark and Reid.

Seriously, I don't care either way.

As far as I can tell, extremely successful people in entertainment, sports or business have pretty much the same variation as everyone else except that they tend to be harder working and are more likely to have some special talent. (On the other hand, some were just born rich, or lucky.) Other than that, there are going to be that small fraction of people you have common interests and hit it off with and the rest it goes kind of like this,

"Nice to meet you mega-famous person who I have no idea who you are."
"Your daughter is very talented/ bad ass/ amazing."
"Thank you. All my daughters are amazing. I'm very fortunate."
Random comments and on to the next person.

I don't see Ronda as often as I would if she worked as an accountant because she's often flying hither and yon or training. Her sisters also all have jobs (or finals and PLANS. I have PLANS, Mom. With my friends.), so it makes family get-togethers a little harder to organize.

We don't have to pay her car insurance/ parking tickets / car repair bills any more, so that is a plus. Also, when we go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, Ronda usually picks up the bill unless she forgot her wallet (which happens often). I feel bad having my daughter pay hundreds of dollars for dinner for the whole family, until I remember the car insurance/ parking tickets/ car repair bills - and then I don't.

For a while, it was a pain in the ass because there were all kinds of TV shows, documentaries and interviews people wanted to do and it took time away from my work and teaching judo. It's not a pain in the ass any more because I just quit doing them.

So, in answer to the question,

 What's it like to have a famous daughter?

It's actually very much like having a non-famous daughter.

It's just fine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I probably should have learned something, but I didn't

An odd thing happened a few weeks ago. I hurt my back. I hurt it as in I jumped out of bed at 4:30 a.m. feeling as if someone stabbed me. I searched Dennis for knives but did not find any, and because he doesn't exactly wear pajamas to bed, there weren't many places for him to hide one. Also, he claimed he was innocent.

So ... as soon as the urgent care office opened at 8 a.m., I went in and got x-rayed, weighed, poked, prodded. The nice doctor basically told me that I was old, had arthritis in my back, probably a pinched nerve, and I should go home and not work so much and it would probably be better in 6 or 8 weeks.

So, for the next few weeks, between flying to Hawaii, attending a conference for game developers and finishing a grant, not to mention writing a couple of papers I presented this week and working on the game, I also was waking up after four hours sleep because my back hurt too bad. I would get up at work at 6 a.m. because I couldn't sleep, that's for sure.

I went to another doctor, and he gave me more pills, and told me not to sit at a computer 12 hours a day seven days a week.

I listened to him a little bit. I did watch a couple of movies while lying on my back (Monuments Men was good). I read three of Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant books, also lying flat on my back.

I also had a couple of massages from a really terrific masseuse Ronda knew.

One thing I did learn is that being deprived of sleep really does make you stupider. I made some mistakes at work that I KNOW I would not have made normally.

I worked a little less - maybe 8 hours some days instead of 12.  A couple of times, I actually took a whole day off because we were watching my granddaughters or something. Gradually, I got better.

This morning, I was on a panel on Statistics and Data Analysis, then gave  one-hour talk on using SAS software to meet government reporting requirements, came up to the room and worked on the game for a few hours, went to a couple of sessions on using state open access data sets and calculating standardized incidence ratios, had a beer with someone, grabbed dinner at the volunteer party, worked with Jessica and Jose to book plane tickets and hotel rooms for six people to attend a judo tournament in Kansas City this month, worked on our next grant and now it is five minutes to midnight.

I've given some thought on giving a pass on this grant I'm working on now but it's for $100,000 that would go toward game development and we're a small company so that's not exactly chump change for us.

Being somewhat incapacitated for weeks should have taught me something profound about life, like that health is fragile and tomorrow you could be incapable of doing the things you love today - but I already knew that. Perhaps it should have taught me to spend more time with my family - but frankly, I think my family probably spends as much time with me as they want. They are all adults, except for Julia, who is a junior in high school, and I'm pretty sure none of them wake up thinking, "If only my mother would hang out with me more."

I mean, seriously, no matter how much you love your mom and enjoy having dinner with her now and then, you don't plan on making it a nightly occurrence.

I suppose the doctors (and the masseuse) would tell me I should have learned to work less, but it didn't. I like working.

I did not lie on my back and think, "If only I had not worked so much"  and I sure as hell didn't think, "If only I hadn't done judo so much."

Nope, in fact, exactly what I thought was, "This sucks and I can't wait until I get over this so I can go back to working more (effectively) and start teaching judo at Gompers again."

Oh, yeah, and writing this blog (-: