Saturday, September 24, 2016

Too bad you can't come to the judo legends dinner – but here's kind of my talk

(The judo legends event is sold out, but if you had a mad desire to know what was going on there, here is the outline of my talk which Hayward Nishioka  only asked me to send him 4,182 times before now.)

These days my time available for judo is very limited. I coach a wonderful group of young people at Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles and that is all the time I can spare away from running a company that just got voted one of the top 50 startups in the US. However, there are some people that you can't say "no" to and Hayward is one of them.

Gompers Judo

So he called me and asked,

"What are you doing on October 2?"

 I responded I guess whatever he's about to tell me. As you probably know, I am America's oldest living world judo champion. I don't want to talk about that today, though, except to say that if you personally ever have the opportunity to stand on the podium and be the undisputed best on the planet at something you should do it because it is unimaginably cool. It is even better than sex, but you have sex a lot more times so that's got something to recommend, too.

 Now that I'm old and able to reflect back on life and have 4 wonderful children all grown to adulthood I've given some thought to whether it was all worth it. What did I get out of 46 years and counting in judo? 46 years! That's pretty incredible. Amazing I'm not dead.

There have been times when I wondered if it was a waste of time. I have a doctorate, published scientific articles, founded companies and there are the 4 aforementioned children. One might think that judo has been a distraction from what ought to be bigger priorities – certainly our investors sometimes think so and ask me what I'm doing at a judo clinic in Wyoming or Louisiana instead of making money for them. Certainly my professors when I was in college wondered why the heck I was gone every weekend at a judo tournament and sometimes even missed class for something as frivolous – to them – as the collegiate national judo championships.

(Hint: You can calm our investors by buying or donating our games here.)

 I'm going to ignore Hayward's advice to pick one idea  and just ramble on the way I think best. It's what we do in our podcast every week  and it seems to work for thousands of people. My point – and I do have one – is what exactly did I get out of almost 1/2 century in this sport?

 I started judo because I was a short, fat little girl. My brothers' nickname for me was 'Stumpy', because I was built like a little tree stump. My mother told me I could not spend my entire life sitting in my room eating and reading. Did I mention I also had super thick glasses? So one  year, she managed to get together the money for a family membership to the YMCA. She drove me there push me out of the car and said "go join something".

Then she drove away.

 You may not remember before title IX. Back then it was perfectly legal to say, "we don't allow girls in this sport or club". My choices were limited. I could run track, which if you're a short fat little girl is not a great option. I could've joined the swim team, but that was expensive and besides, if you're a fat girl, you don't really want to put on swimsuit. Judo was free if you had a Y membership. They also allowed girls. Isn't that weird? That they "allowed" girls. The instructor had a sister who had wanted to do judo and so he allowed other girls so she would have someone to train with. By the time I came along, she was a black belt. So, I was probably one of the few women in this country who was taught by female black belt early on.

 If I told you the name of any of my early instructors you wouldn't know a one. That's a pretty important point. My mother had very little extra money. I took judo for several months before I had a judo uniform. I remember that it costs $12 and there were 3 of us, me, my brother and my sister who all took judo. My mom insisted that we stick at it a few months before she put in the money to buy each of us a uniform to make sure we were serious because that was a lot of money to her. I got my first uniform shortly before my first tournament. I walked there, fought, won and walked home. I was 12. After I had been in judo a year, we could not afford another Y membership. That's when the instructor stepped in and said the YMCA would offer me a membership if I would be an assistant instructor – I was 13 years old. He knew that my mother would never accept charity.

 For the next several years, I took judo lessons at the Y. I absolutely loved judo from the very beginning. My brother did, too. We had a garage behind our house, too run down with boards falling down to park a car safely in. There was a lot of random stuff thrown in there including an old mattress. My brother and I spent a lot of time throwing each other on that mattress in the garage. We both made brown belt and then my brother discovered girls and decided they were a lot more interesting than judo.

 People always laugh when I say that if it wasn't for judo I would be in prison right now but it is the God's truth. When many of my friends were doing drugs or knocking over liquor stores, I was at judo practice. It was not that I was a better person, I was just in the right place at the right time.

 Because of judo, I met people like my first instructor – his name was Bill Shelton, in case you are wondering, a guy who had gone off to Japan in the Air Force, got his black belt, and come back to a small town where he had grown up to teach judo. I know at least 2 other judo clubs in this country, one in Missouri and one in Illinois, run by people that he taught. 3 of the people from the club had children who were nationally ranked players.

 Because of judo, I met people like Bruce Toups who not only funded a lot of my trips when I was young – because my mom could have sent me to Europe about as easily as she could send me to the moon – but who was also a really important mentor to me after I retired from competition and started one business after another. I met people like Frank Fullerton who has always stood out in my mind is the standard of integrity I wanted to meet. With Bruce, he funded a lot of my travel overseas just because he wanted to see that American flag go up when they gave out the gold medals. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was flying back from Athens and happened to be on the same plane as Frank who turned to me and said "I'm glad you turned out to be worth all the trouble." 

When I think back on it, yes, it was worth it. Perhaps, not for the reasons that you might think don't get me wrong – winning is awesome – I highly recommend it. 

When I add it all up, what I gained from judo was from the good people that I met. Not all of them are good – some of them were pretty damn awful – but the good ones made up for them. Most of all, were the good ones who were around when I was young and helpless and needed them. Now that I've been somewhat successful and my lovely daughter Ronda has been successful as well, there are a lot of people who want to be my new best friend. The people I will never ever forget are those who when I was 13 or 14 years old and had nothing - and I was not a promising or rewarding child, believe me – who nonetheless provided me with instruction, guidance, discipline and role models and changed the trajectory of my entire life. I will never forget them. Just in case you wonder what I was doing at a  kata camp this summer – it was because Eiko Shepard was one of those people.

 That's the reason that I focus the limited time I have for judo working with young people in South Los Angeles. It's great to win a world championships but  even greater to change somebody's life.

 And that's all I know about judo.

 PS – I had my thumb replaced a few weeks ago, which is my 2nd joint replacement. A few more and I will rival the tin man. I already set off security every time I go through an airport. Anyway, I had to write this whole thing using voice to text software. So please excuse any typos. I head out to South Dakota tomorrow but I will be back by Wednesday and show up wherever the hell this thing is this weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No pain, no gain? Not exactly

The first time I won the national championships my motivation was to prove everybody wrong that thought I couldn't do it. The last time I won the national championships, it was for practice.

Even though I competed for 14 years, I can't remember a day that I wasn't really happy to be on the mat. We had some hard practices – don't get me wrong. In fact, there was some days that I just lay on the mat after practice at Tenri  Dojo and I swear if the building had caught fire, I was so tired I would have just laid there and burned up with it. Those were great days!

I never understood people who talked about practice as if it was a chore. It was the best part of my day! I dreaded driving in rush hour traffic for 2 hours to get to East Los Angeles. Sometimes I felt as if I really needed to spend more time at work or with my daughter.  However, the actual physical act of judo itself I loved. There was never a time that I thought of it as a pain or something I didn't want to do.

I never understood those coaches who said,

"Sure, they'll hate practice but they'll love me when they win."

You spend so much more time practicing than you ever do competing, what's the point of feeling miserable for 300 days in a year just so you can feel good for a dozen?

Recently, someone asked me if you lose your reason for competing, can you get it back?

Speaking from personal experience, I don't know if you can get the same reason back but you can find a new reason.

As I said, when I was first competing my motivation for winning was to prove people wrong. I was not exactly the child who would be picked most likely to succeed. If there had been a yearbook category for "student most likely to end up in prison", I would have won the vote hands down.

Several years after winning my first national championship, I was still competing. By then I had graduated from college, bought my first house, earned a Masters degree and was working as an engineer. No one expected me to go to jail, no one made fun of my clothes from Goodwill – because I actually bought my clothes  at Nordstrom's by then because I had a job and money.

My friend, Lanny and I were talking about the last national championships I won and he  was the one who made the comment,

"I hated the people like you who won the national championships just for practice."

It was true, too. By then, my goal was to win the world championships and the nationals were just a tournament to get ready for the ones that really counted. I wanted to win the world championships  because no American had ever done it and also, to a large extent, just because I thought it would be really, really awesome to be best in the world at something. I really like judo, so that seem to good something to be best in the world that.

I'm not saying that you can't go to practice  every day, be miserable, gut it out  and still win. Maybe you can. What I'm saying is that I know for sure that's not the only way.

 PS: I use Dragon voice input software to write this blog because I had hand surgery – they took a tendon from my arm and made me a new ligament for my thumb as well as some other equally painful stuff, like sawing off the ends  of a couple of bones in my hand.

Several people have asked me if that was related to judo. I asked the surgeon and he said very likely not, that he does a couple of these surgeries a day and I'm the first person he met that competed in judo. It's more likely genetic. My grandmother had  very severe arthritis, too, and she never did judo a day in her life. In fact, she often warned me that no man was going to want to marry a woman who had a pile of sweaty judo gis  in her house. In the summer time when my gi would be  soaking wet with sweat after practice she would pick it up at the end of a broomstick  and carry it to the washing machine, refusing even to touch it.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Critics, ass holes and how to tell the difference

I appreciate criticism. I really do. For example, we were recently green lit on Steam, which made me very excited.

 To all of you who voted for us – thank you very much! It was interesting to me that a lot of people gave specific criticisms to us about the game, and some of those people voted for us too. One of the criticisms that came up a lot was that the graphics could be better. I actually agree with this but I don't make games just for myself and we are little company and we have to set priorities. Our first priority is making games that really work to teach kids (or adults, we know some of you guys play as a stress reliever, we don't judge you – Maria says that she judges you – just ignore her).

Getting feedback that graphic seems to be the area where players and potential players think that we should expand our efforts is extremely helpful. As soon as I finish the task I'm working on now, which will be in a week or 2, my next thing is to move on to improving the graphics in Fish Lake and I'm very excited about that. I never thought that I or our games were perfect and having a group of people who play games a lot and hence have a good background to judge them point out that in their considered opinion this is the biggest priority and not, say, game mechanics or the educational component or something else is useful criticism.

Now let's turn to the people who are not useful. When someone posts, tweets, etc. about my game or just about anything else "YOU SUCK!" Or, "you will never succeed because you have X flaws" they aren't being a critic or "telling it like it is", they're just being an ass hole.

Everything has flaws. I'm writing this blog with the latest version of the Dragon naturally speaking software that came out for the Mac less than a week ago. It has some significant flaws. It has crashed Google chrome twice tonight. It doesn't work nearly as well is the Windows version that has been out longer. I could give you a long list of things that it doesn't do. However, that doesn't mean that it is a failure or no one will ever buy it. (Thank you, Ronda, for the birthday present, by the way.)

In fact, it's probably the market leader in voice to text software.

Disneyland and Disney World are super expensive and crowded. Often, the ride you really wanted to go on is closed for repairs or something.  Yet, millions of people go to the Disney theme parks because they have fun on the rides, enjoy the shows or grew up with characters like Mickey Mouse.

 Similarly, while this software occasionally puts in random letters, spells my daughter Ronda's name with an H and I have to correct it manually every damn time and other annoyances, it actually does a pretty good job of writing what I say and saving my hands.

 You don't have to be perfect in every way to succeed. You just have to be good at some things that are important.

  So, critics tell you what you can do to be good. Ass holes just tell you that you're bad because you're not perfect.

Learn from from the critics. Ignore the ass holes. Have a nice life!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Quit blaming your parents!

I've been reading a good book, Rules for Aging, and one of his rules is

After 30, quit blaming your parents

This chapter only has one sentence. "Better make that 25".

I was amused reading this chapter but not in a completely happy way. Recently, I have run into four people who really really need to take that chapter to heart. Two were in their 30s, one in his 40s and the fourth in his 50s! All of them were blaming their parents for how their lives had turned out. Three of them had done a lot of drugs to the point where I was a bit surprised they weren't dead. All of them had done time in jail for minor offenses and had a hard time keeping a job.

The description I just gave makes them sound like complete losers but all of them had times in their lives when they looked pretty much like everyone else. They all had periods where they were sober, employed and in relationships. I can't tell you what went wrong because I don't know. What I do know is this, a big part of their problem is a failure to take responsibility for their own mistakes.

Two of them blamed their fathers and the odd coincidence here is that I had met both of their fathers at different points. Their complaints were that their dads were gone too much working and that they were never the type of people to talk about their feelings or tell their sons that they loved them.

I'm listening to this shaking my head and thinking,

Seriously? That's all you've got? Your dad wasn't warm and fuzzy enough so you're going to shoot up heroin?

No, don't even! Don't tell me how tough it was not having a dad to tuck you in at night and tell you he loved you and give you a kiss on the fore head because I don't fucking want to hear it! Your problem is that you don't realize it's YOUR problem. Your father was raised in the time that he was when men didn't do that sort of thing. He did the best he could and better than most. The fact that you didn't find it good enough for you when you were growing up is unfortunate but in no way makes it your father's fault if you decide to be a complete fuck up now. The best you could do is go into rehab. I mean that very very seriously. I presume that your father is very hurt by your drug abuse and other problems but guess what, he's older than you and will be dead eventually and you'll still have all these problems.

The other two, older people blame their mothers. In one case I did know the mom and I'd say some of what her son said about her was accurate. She never made him suffer the consequences of his own actions. You know the type. If he failed an exam at school because he didn't study she was the mom yelling at the teacher for not making the class interesting enough. If he stole money from a friend, she was the one blaming society that her son had to "suffer" from seeing others his age who had more than him just because they were lucky enough to be born to richer parents.

I didn't know the other mom but she seemed to be just the same. Even though her son was in his 50s, she would call his employer and say that he was sick when he was actually hung over. She met with his parole officer and I don't know how many other people in his life that he should have been meeting with himself.

I actually understand those moms because I know as a mother myself that you always want to help your children – even if you don't always know the right way to go about it.

What I don't understand is those adults who constantly use their parents at as the "bad guy" either to excuse their own bad decisions or deliberately make bad decisions to show "she's not the boss of me".

Here's what I have to say – Man up! Or, not to be too gender specific, Woman up!

After a while, you need to take full responsibility for your own life. Some of you, pretend you are because you are doing the exact opposite of what your parents want you to do and you think that proves you're independent. Ha ha ha ha ha – excuse me, while I laugh with no amusement what so ever because I have been in exactly your shoes. Doing the opposite of what your parents want to show you are independent does nothing of the kind. You're still being controlled by trying to prove that you're not controlled.

Try to figure out the right thing to do and then do it.

Quit being a whiny spoiled brat and resenting that you didn't have the perfect parenting. No one did. Some people had good parents who tried their best. Some people had not very good parents who tried their best. Some of you were swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Which ever it was, you have two choices now that you are an adult:

Make a life for yourself that doesn't suck.
Or continue blaming your parents.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Retirement in judo and life

When I was competing, I knew people who were far past their prime but still went out for the major tournaments and usually lost. These were competitors who were very good at one point but when that point passed they didn't have anything else. So they kept competing. Finally, too injured or too broke, they would limp off into the sunset and take a minimum wage job – because after all, they had no experience or education because they had spent so many years doing judo.

This is one of the things that I learned from judo, or more accurately, from watching people in judo – plan for what comes next.

Right now I'm thinking about retirement. If this makes any of the investors in 7 Generation Games nervous it should be quite the opposite. Those people who had no plans after competition often seem to sabotage themselves. They'd be doing well enough to make the national team but always seem to be injured when the Olympics came around or some other way never had to meet whatever goal it was they set for themselves. I'm convinced that was in part because they really didn't have a second act.

I only got as far as thinking about it. Part of my problem is that all of the things that people do when they retire I pretty much already done. Look at this list:

  • teach college – done that
  • write a book – check
  • conduct scientific research – done that too
  • teach judo as a volunteer – done that for decades
  • serve on volunteer boards – done that at all levels and no thank you
  • travel around the US – that's what I do for my job already
  • travel around the world – I've done a lot of that and I wouldn't mind doing a little bit more but that's not going to take up my whole year

, Now, I'm sure there are some options that I have forgotten, and I deliberately left off the ones I'm never going to do, like learned to knit or collect cats.

I've decided to at least start taking off a day and a half during the week. I prefer working Saturday and Sunday because it's so crowded in Santa Monica on the weekends. So, starting today I'm taking off Friday afternoons and every Wednesday. Usually, I'll be teaching judo on Fridays but it doesn't start until next week.

So, here's what I did on my afternoon off:
got a haircut(first time in three months)
took a nap
packed up boxes of clothes, shoes and household goods to ship to Louisiana for people affected by the floods
wrote three blog posts

Clearly, I still have some work to do on figuring how to spend time not working. The closest thing I have to hobby is getting rid of things.(If you don't believe me, ask my children). With kids who are always leaving things at my house and a husband whose hobby is buying things it's a challenge to reduce the clutter when I'm home. I shipped out 10 boxes to Louisiana today and have at least 40 more to pack up so I guess that will keep me busy for a while.

Hey, no one said I had to figure out this whole retirement thing in a day!

(P. S. I'm still using voice input software to write my blogs and still figuring it out, so please excuse any grammar or spelling errors. It also refuses to recognize swearing as real words – but that's another post.)

Since I'm Not Ready to Retire yet

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