I had a conversation with AnnMaria De Mars on the Take It Uneasy Podcast. She is the first American to win gold at the World Judo Championships. She has a PhD in applied statistics, is a mother of 4 kids including Ronda Rousey, and a CEO of 7 Generation Games.
Just in case you didn’t know, here’s the list of Americans who have ever achieved the same feat:
- 1984: AnnMaria De Mars -56kg (then: Ann Marie Burns)
- 1987: Mike Swain -71kg
- 1999: Jimmy Pedro -73kg
- 2010: Kayla Harrison -78kg
She writes a great blog: AnnMaria’s Blog on Judo, Business and Life. I sometimes say that people have a “great” blog. What does “great” mean? In some cases, that means it’s very informative. But frankly, “informative” alone is way too boring for me to be a regular reader. What makes her blog “great” AND make me actually go there and read often is that she has A LOT of opinions and is not afraid to say them. I agree with her often, disagree with her often, but either way it’s always a good read.
I’m going to make a habit of writing up some post-interview thoughts for these podcasts, so here are some takeaways from the podcast interview I did with her:
Ronda Rousey: Going From Judo to MMA
Ronda Rousey was one of my favorite judoka when I first started judo. In fact, it was watching her and Travis Stevens in the 2008 Olympics that got me into the sport. So when she decided to leave judo after that Olympics for MMA, I was one of the people that thought it was a bad decision. And AnnMaria, it turns out, was understandably sceptical as well, but now admits that she was wrong. Ronda single-handedly changed the way the world sees women in any combat sport (including judo, jiu jitsu, wrestling). So beyond the money, the fame, the personality, she will be remember long after she retires as helping the public accept the idea that two girls can punch each other in the face as a sport. That will do more for women than Simone de Beauvoir ever could with her books.
Ronda is defending her UFC title this weekend in UFC 170 against Sara McMann. AnnMaria’s prediction? Quick win by armbar.
Fear of Death
“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death
I tend toward the dark and the philosophical, so I asked an Ernest Becker inspired question about whether AnnMaria is afraid of death. I find it remarkable how differently people approach the answer to that question. Some of the most accomplished people I know are of the same mind as AnnMaria. They have “come to terms” with death, because they are essentially living their dream or are passionately pursuing it. But of course, it is the fear of death that has created this approach to life, this urgency. I didn’t want to delve deeper into this question, but I do with friends over vodka, and probably will in future conversations.
One of my favorite moments of the interview was when AnnMaria answered the question of “What’s more important, technique or aggression?” with: Aggression. Of course, it’s obvious that both are important, and she went on to say just that, but her instinctual response first was: aggression. That’s something every competitor learns through experience, and also is the reason that many people get run over when they first start competing. They are not used to the often violent pace of competition. Jiu jitsu is often gentler if style and technique, but even there, in time-limited matches, aggression can pay great dividends if you are mentally and physically tough enough to keep up the pace.
Win With What You Got
One of the common criticism thrown at AnnMaria and American judoka in general is that we lack technique and make up for it with gripping, groundwork, and cardio. That always sounds funny to me. Any statement that starts with: “The only reason she won was…” is probably going to be a stupid statement. “Won” is the key word there. What I learned from reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is that you have to be brutally honest with yourself about your strength and weaknesses. Based on that honest self-analysis you have to develop a plan on how you will win with the tools you have. You weaknesses have to become your strengths.