Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ultimate Fighter: I am not amused

Since it is no longer a secret I showed up for a day of The Ultimate Fighter show, I guess I will write about it before I head off to the AAU National Judo championships, en route to a meeting with a charter school in Kansas City about our game, then to North Dakota to meet with more schools, give a keynote address at a conference and then head home before heading out to a software conference where I am a speaker five days later.

Which is to say, when Ronda called me and asked could I fly out there, on my way back from another business trip, I said,

"Aren't there lots of people with no job you could ask to come out there? I've got shit to do."

However, as in her whole life, Ronda can be persistent, so I ended up changing my flight last minute to go to Las Vegas instead of Los Angeles.

That being said, I only had one day to observe some of what went on (did we miss the 'shit to do' part). I'm trying not to be a hypocrite and judge someone (cough Dana White cough) on just a small bit of what I have observed, especially if Ronda gives them a good recommendation.

From the fraction of the entire time I observed, it appeared that Ronda was taunted quite a bit without being allowed to respond, with a deliberate intent to create  a certain image for television.  Maybe they'll show some of that on the episode, maybe not. For those of you who say she cries too much - she's always cried like that all of her life. Who the hell are you people  to enforce a crying quota? If she cries over sad movies, happy endings and losing her car keys, what's it to you? I'm the opposite of that. I've cried three times in the last twenty years, and one of those was when Ronda's father died. So, she can have my share of the quota and it averages out.

When people ask me,

Are you proud of your daughter?

Yes, I am extremely proud of all of my daughters.

Let me tell you a few things about the real Ronda.

Right before she left, she autographed some t-shirts to be auctioned off to raise funds for Frida Wahlberg, who was injured in a world boxing title fight. They raised $2,000. (I think it's actually still in the bank for Ronda to send her when she gets back from Bulgaria.)

She also gave her hoodie from the TUF show and autographed some other shirts so we could send four kids and a teacher to a tournament in Kansas City. We raised $2,400 auctioning the stuff on ebay and then she donated $500 of her own money so we can take a fifth student. So, this is what Ronda has been doing.

Incidentally, she started the program at Gompers Middle School and taught there as a volunteer for two years before her mixed martial arts career heated up.

This is just a FEW of the things she has done for charity, for the community. There are a lot more. And yet, she's not a nice person because she says, "Fuck". Are you fucking kidding me?

You know, of those thousands of people who were fed from her various free rice contests, I'll bet not one of them would have been happier to go without food unless it came from someone who talked like Strawberry Shortcake.

Since Ronda steals my lines all of the time, I'll take one of hers,

To be a champion, you have to be willing to let your heart be broken.

Ronda cares if she wins. When she loses it feels like the whole world fell in. She's extremely loyal to people and when they are hurt, it hurts her.

People are sometimes offended by Ronda because she does not fit how they think she should act. At Ronda's age, given the same degree of provocation, I would have punched out a few people, hit someone with a chair, told everyone to fuck off and walked out. This is why our family cannot do a reality TV show. So, no, I am the LAST person to ask don't I think she should behave differently.

Some of those same people will argue, "I don't care what the instigation, you should never  ---- " fill in the blank. They are entitled to their opinions. I am equally entitled to my opinion that they have their heads up their asses.

The Chokey-Chokey

Here is what you missed not coming to practice at the West Coast Judo Training Center - my demonstration of the Klaus Glahn choke, complete with song and dance.

If you want to learn more matwork from me, I'm doing a clinic at the AAU Judo Nationals on Friday. Cost is a measly $25. I won't have copies of Winning on the Ground with me, because I'm in the middle of a business trip, actually and flying straight from there to give a keynote address at the Tribal Disabilities Conference. The title of it is "On the Internet, no one knows you're disabled". (Pretend you care.)

You can get The Book on Amazon or

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Arm Bars and Lady Bits

My fellow coach was a bit embarrassed today when I explained to the students to get the right position for an arm bar, you should pretend that the opponent's elbow is your boyfriend (or girlfriend) as the case may be.

I'm not wearing a gi in this pictures so you can see the exact placement of the opponent's arm.

Once you have the arm locked in position, to break it, you make the exact same movement with your lady bits (or man parts, as the case may be) as if you really DID have your girl/boyfriend there. This will cause your opponent's elbow to bend in the opposite direction that God intended it to go and then all will be well - if we define all being well as the opponent tapping.

Now, every time I give this graphic description, people groan and say, "I can't believe you just said that."

However,  I noticed that while Blinky was saying, "Get your crotch on it more" people did not have the exact correct position, once I explained it, they understood much better.

(Kids aren't as naive as you think. Better tighten up those parental controls on the cable.)

Come to Kansas City for the AAU National Judo Championships and I will also be hanging out after weigh-ins on Friday from 6:30 - 8pm  teaching matwork. I will be slightly more socially appropriate, since there will be children present.

Also, buy the book Winning on the Ground, by me & Jim Pedro, Sr. It's good, and I'm not the only one who says so.

Also available for the Nook

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coaching, Then and Now

Like many competitors, when I retired from competition, I was very excited about coaching, and particularly about coaching players like me - that is, national and international level competitors. Even though I had just come off of winning a world championships, not too many people were interested in hearing anything I had to say. Part of it was sexism - thirty years ago, not many men or women gave much respect to female coaches. I can only remember two female judo coaches in the U.S. - Rusty Kanokogi and Diane Pierce. If women black belts were "allowed" to teach at all, they taught kata.

Part of it, though, was although I was a great competitor (come on, if you won a world gold medal you get to say you were a great competitor), I certainly was not a great coach, I was just a beginning coach. I didn't totally suck - I knew a lot of judo, especially matwork, I was in good physical shape to demonstrate, and I honestly wanted to help athletes learn the techniques that I was good at. I had a GREAT time at every practice and I couldn't understand why everyone else didn't, too.

Several things are different now. I'm certainly not in the same physical shape. I want to help everyone learn the techniques that will benefit them. Not everyone wants to be an international athlete. Some people just want to get in shape, have a good time, maybe compete in a tournament now and then. Even the people who are athletes are not all best suited doing the techniques I did as a competitor.

On Sunday, I was watching Bradley work out and it occurred to me that a particular entry to an arm bar would work really well with the way he does judo. It's not something I ever did personally, but Ronda does it. So, we spent some time working on that and he did it really well. I thought Marcello was not advanced enough to do the same technique, but he came over to watch us, and it was obvious he wanted to try it, so I invited him to join in. I was wrong, he actually did the technique better than I expected.

My point here is that when I was younger, I focused on what *I* wanted to do, what *I* was good at, what *I* thought a player should do. Now that I am older, I've learned to focus more on each person as an individual. So, you could say I have gone from being "coach-centric" to "player-centric".

I didn't show that armbar here for the same reason that I did not include it in Winning on the Ground and that I asked Bradley's mom not to post any video of it. Tune in to the fight December 28th and maybe you will see it then.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Be Like Frank

There are a few judo coaches I really admire, and one of them is Frank Sanchez of Guerreros Judo (the father, although Frankie, Jr. and Eric are fine coaches also). An excellent coach in a different way, Jim Pedro, Sr. once told me,
After I'd been coaching for ten years, I looked back at when I began and couldn't believe the mistakes I had made. Every ten years, it's the same way, I just shake my head about the things that I didn't know ten years ago. I'm sure ten years from now, I'll be thinking the same thing about some of the decisions I'm making now. That's just the way it is.
I definitely think differently than I did ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Like Jim, when I was younger, I was all about winning. I think most coaches who have been successful competitors start out that way. We loved the sport, the training and most of all competing, so we assume everyone is going to want to be like us. Some coaches never mature past that way of thinking.

With the benefit of 42 years in the sport, I can look back and see how successful some clubs and players were in competition and look forward and see how those same players and coaches turned out. If we define success in terms of junior national medals won - there were "successful" programs where coaches ended up in jail for molesting players. Other "successful" programs had less than 1% of their players ever attend college. Other programs centered around one instructor and once that person was no longer around, these just fell apart.

I used to think the point of judo was winning. That was the point of my whole life for 14 years. Don't get me wrong, personally, I LOVE winning and I HATE losing - but not everyone is me.

While winning the world championships - and other tournaments - was a great thing, and the thought of it still makes me smile to this day - how sad would it be if my life had peaked at 26 years old? Getting an education, being a good parent, contributing your talents to your community, writing a book, creating software that makes people's lives better - all of that is great, too.

There are other aspects of judo that are every bit as important as winning - a lesson I did not learn until I had been coaching for a while:

  1. Getting exercise
  2. Having a good time
  3. Making real friends
  4. Developing discipline
Some of those aspects relate to being a good person, like discipline, others, like having friends, having a good time and getting exercise just relate to having a good life, not in the future as an adult, but right now, as a kid. 

When we selected the students from Gompers Middle School to send to the AAU Nationals we looked at these things:
  • Cannot have a grade below a C
  • Cannot have been in trouble at school
  • Most attendance at judo
One of the students asked me, 

"Will you be mad at us if we don't win?" 

I told him no, I'll be mad at you if you don't try your hardest.

I've told this story before but it is worth repeating. 

Years ago, I was watching a tournament in Florida. My friend, Frank Sanchez, ran a club in a not very wealthy part of Los Angeles. The parents held fundraisers all year long and had raised enough to bring 25 or so kids to the tournament. Standing next to Frank was a coach from a club that won a lot of medals. The coach had been a very successful international competitor himself. He asked,

Why do you bother bring kids like that eight-year-old out on the mat to this tournament? One or two of the kids you brought might become a champion, but most of these kids are going to be nothing when they grow up.
Frank answered, 
First of all, that eight-year-old's parents worked just as hard to raise the money for this tournament as anyone else. Secondly, that eight-year-old is having a great time this week. And you know what else?  None of my kids is ever nothing and you're an asshole.

Be like Frank.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More than Judo Was Learned

Yesterday, we took seven students from Gompers Middle School to judo at Hayastan Martial Arts Academy.

Gompers Middle School is in south Los Angeles, in an area everyone but Jimmy Sanchez refers to as Watts. The school ethnic break down is 67% Latino, 32% African-American and 0% white.

In case you don't know, Hayastan is a primarily Armenian school in North Hollywood, founded by Gokor Chivichiyan and Gene LeBell and home to many well-known fighters. I thought they had one African-American student in the class but then I realized he was actually a new kid in the Gompers Judo program that had ridden there in someone else's car.

We went to Hayastan because I wanted the students to learn a double leg take down from someone who does it better than me, so I asked Manny Gamburyan, a fighter in the UFC, if he would be kind enough to come to practice early to teach my kids.

All the kids did their homework in Mr. Gonzalez' room after school, and when they were done, the two teachers and I drove them up to North Hollywood. We got there early and Karen, one of the instructors at Hayastan, invited them to join in grappling with his class. Because our kids were mostly new, he told his students that if they were working with someone much less experienced they should teach their partner something. A couple of our smaller girls were really nervous about trying new techniques with their partners - and I should mention that most of the Hayastan classes were 95- 100% male.

After the grappling class, our Gompers kids joined in with Gokor's judo class. Again, they were often the smallest and least experienced in the group. Despite feeling really nervous, they all jumped in and at least tried every technique. They then went several rounds with the Hayastan players.

The first thing my kids learned about themselves is that they were braver than they thought. Although Hayastan was much bigger than any club they had ever seen and the players they practiced with were far more experienced, they found that each round left them more confident than the previous one. While  one or two of the players said after practice they had not thrown anyone even once, several others bragged,

"I knocked a guy down two times!"
"Miss, did you see me make that guy tap?"

The second thing they learned was that practice pays off. All of them worked with people more experienced who threw them several times. That's what happens in judo. Afterward, they asked me about several throws they had seen and when they were going to learn how to do them. They asked the students at Hayastan how long they had been doing judo and how often they worked out. Several Gompers students asked if it would be possible for us to have a second day of practice each week. (The sad truth is only if I find another instructor because my spare time is stretched to the breaking point, but we're trying to figure something out.)

We went out to eat after practice and all of the students commented that they had never met anyone who was Armenian before that day, and then there was an entire building full of dozens of Armenians of all ages, one class after another, all speaking a language they had never heard before. I asked them what they thought about that, and every single student replied, "They were really nice."

While we waited for our food, we watched youtube videos of Manny's fights and the students were really surprised, saying he looked so scary in the videos but was so nice in person. The third thing that was learned was a bit of appreciation of diversity and to be a little more comfortable in different settings and with different groups of people. That may have been the best lesson learned of all.
Thanks to the auction hosted by Armbar Nation of Ronda's stuff, we raised over $2,000 to cover plane tickets and hotel for four of the kids and a teacher to go to the AAU Judo National Championships. Hopefully, more lessons will continue to be learned.
Thank you to everyone who bid in the auction. You are appreciated.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Is Being a Life-Long Sport a Good Thing?

Had a nice time at the grand opening of the new judo dojo for Valley Judo Institute last night. The difference between the old and new dojo is night and day. I ran into a lot of people I genuinely like and respect, and whom I had not seen in a long time.

Often, people I have known for 20 years or more are surprised and a bit disappointed in me, I think, that I "only" teach judo once or twice a week. I've even heard people say that "my generation" have let the sport down by not giving back because we didn't go out and open up judo clubs.

In the 43 years I have been playing judo, I have

  • taught at the Alton YMCA as an assistant instructor,
  •  started and ran an after school program at the Pillsbury-Waite Community Center near the Little Earth housing project in Minneapolis for a couple of years, 
  • taught a college class at Jamestown College in North Dakota,
  •  taught at the Jamestown YMCA, 
  • taught a college intramural class at UCLA, 
  • been an instructor at Mojica Judo Club in Baldwin Park, 
  • been an instructor at Venice Judo Club, in Los Angeles,
  • run the judo program at Gompers Middle School, now for the third year
  • taught two or three times a month at the West Coast Judo Training Center

With the exception of the two college classes, I have done all of this for free.  I'm not complaining, I volunteered to do it and if I didn't like it, I would stop.

I used to do clinics for free all over the country. I still do them occasionally but not for free because I'm super busy and if I charge money, fewer people ask me.

I am doing a matwork clinic in Kansas City, September 27th - anyone is welcome to come and the $25 goes toward the hotel costs for the West Coast Judo players coming with me. The Gompers Middle School kids expenses are being paid by an ebay auction of Ronda's own personal stuff and some t-shirts and other things she auctioned off.

So, from my perspective, given that I have two businesses to run and one of them released its first commercial game this week, I've done and am doing a fairly exhausting amount of stuff. That's not to mention having competed for 14 years and held state, regional and national offices in judo organizations.

Other people don't see it that way - I'm not running a judo club teaching three, four or five times a week. I don't have a team I take around to all of the tournaments. The AAU Judo Nationals will be the second tournament I made it to this year and it's September. I'm a world champion. Shouldn't I be doing  more than this to "give back"?


My lovely youngest daughter, Julia, plays soccer. She played with Santa Monica AYSO for three years. She made the "extra" team, which allows kids who are doing particularly well to have an extra season of several months more soccer each year. She loved it. The coaches were great. The parents and other kids were nice.

After she finished her last season with them and went off to boarding school, she played varsity soccer at her high school. And guess what, no one expected me to come back and volunteer for the soccer association - ever. 

Do you have any idea how nice that is? 

My judo coach, Jimmy Martin, was a terrific competitor, won the national championships seven times, a silver medal in the Panamerican Games, on several world teams. When someone asked him if he ever missed judo he said, 

"Nope. Judo is like high school to me. No matter how much you liked it, you don't go back and do it again."

I see people who played soccer or basketball as kids still playing in the park, people who were on swim teams as kids swimming laps at the Y and no one asks them what they are doing to give back to the sport.   I wonder if the notion that you have to be equally involved your whole life because "judo is a life-long sport" turns a lot of people off who otherwise might still be around. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Auction started for Gompers Middle School - Get Ronda's hoodie from The Ultimate Fighter

Well, Ronda took off for Bulgaria but she left her stuff to be auctioned off, including her hoodie from The Ultimate Fighter show, one of her shirts from the 2007 Panamerican team and then some t-shirts and things she autographed.

All of the money goes to sending the students from Gompers Middle School to the AAU Judo Nationals. They put some t-shirts up also with a minimum bid of $25 so even if you can't afford to buy her actual hoodie you can get something.

We're going to take four students and a teacher to the tournament. If we manage to raise more money, we will bring more kids.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Matwork Clinic in Kansas City

If doing matwork with me is on your bucket list - or you just happen to live in Kansas City and are free on Friday night, I'll be doing a matwork clinic there September 27th.

I'll be there with a group of athletes competing in the AAU Grand National Judo Championships - weigh-ins are September 27th and the tournament is September 28th. 

Since we are coming in early so our players can get a good night's sleep, and the tournament director, Kenny Brink, knew I wasn't exactly a party animal, he figured I wasn't doing anything on Friday night anyway. He was correct.

If you'd like to come learn armbars, turnovers and maybe even a choke (hey, it's only an hour and a half), come to:

Kansas City North Community Cente
3930 NE Antioch Rd
 Kansas City MO 64117

September 27  from 6:30 - 8 pm

Fork over $25 and have a good time. In case you're interested, the money goes to our team expenses and not to the AnnMaria Drinking Fund. (I'm much more expensive than that.)

The greatest thing about this clinic, if you are a coach, is to know that the coaches meeting starts at 6 pm so it can't go over half an hour because I'll be doing a clinic and making a lot of noise. You'll just have to finish meeting and get on the mat. Yeah, I know it breaks your heart.

If you read our book,  Winning on the Ground and have some questions on how things are done, come and ask me. As you could probably guess, I wrote the parts where Ronda is demonstrating and Jim wrote the parts where other people are demonstrating.

No, you don't have to read the book in advance and, no, there will not be a test.

In all seriousness, though, if you read this blog and are at the clinic, come say hi. I'd be delighted to meet you in person.

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