Gene LeBell, Gokor Chivichyan and Fight Night! author Lito Angeles look at the training, talent and trajectory of two hard-core female judo masters!

Tough guys, we have plenty. In fact, on any given day you can’t swing a nunchaku around the Black Belt office without hitting a self-defense expert, an MMA champ or a street-hardened master who has dropped by for an interview or photo shoot. Tough girls are a different matter. First off, we don’t have as many women cycling through. Second, not all the female martial artists we deal with are into fighting; some practice the arts for other, less physical reasons. These two female martial artists, however, bring some special accolades and history to the table. Both were featured on Black Belt magazine's recent two-part article series "Tough Girls: 10 Female Fighters Who Scare Us."


Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

Background of This Judo Techniques Master: She’s been a judoka since she was 12 and coached since she was 14. She’s also the co-author of Winning On the Ground: Training and Techniques for Judo and MMA Fighters (featuring Ronda Rousey and Kayla Harrison), among other books, and — oh, yeah — the mother of MMA sensation and definitely-a-judo-techniques-expert-in-her-own-right, the aforementioned Ronda Rousey.

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Olympic Judo Medalist and MMA Fighter

Qualifications of This Judo Techniques Master: In 1984, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars became the first American judoka to win the World Judo Championships. That means her judo techniques were first-rate back then — and the fact that she’s remained actively involved in the sport means she’s kept herself up to date on technical developments in the judo world. Comments Regarding This Judo Techniques Master: “She’s tough,” says Lito Angeles, author of Fight Night! The Thinking Fan's Guide to Mixed Martial Arts. “I saw her on Inside MMA, and she threw around Bas Rutten pretty well. “They say judo is the combat art that has the most female competitors. That means it has the biggest base of elite female fighters, and that, of course, means the level of competition is higher. So any martial artist who was a world champion in judo has to have great skills.” Having great skills entails knowing plenty of throws among one's judo techniques and being able to do them flawlessly. That translates into having the ability to function on the feet as well as on the mat — which, it could be argued, is better than just knowing mat fighting from having practiced BJJ. “When a competent judo exponent like De Mars blasts you to the ground — and it’s concrete instead of a mat — a lot of damage can be done,” Lito Angeles says. “That’s a great skill to have.” Making matters worse for the assailant, with judoka at this level of mastery in their judo techniques, it’s next to impossible to even lay hands on them. “As soon as you reach out, you give them something to grab,” Lito Angeles says. “That’s all they need to off-balance you and slam you into the ground. “Street self-defense should technically be about stun and run. You don’t approach it like a street MMA fight. You want to do enough to be able to safely get out of there. Judo throws are like stun and run because you’re not attaching to the attacker. The common reflex is for the other person to hold onto you when you try to throw him, but a really hard slam will stun him badly enough to make him let go.”
* * *
One Black Belt editor grappled with the person who made No. 1 on the aforementioned "Tough Girls" list — and based on such experience, he’ll readily attest that the list was full of women who can handily kick male butt. (“Isn’t it reassuring to learn that the promises of the martial arts — you know, all those claims about being the great equalizer — are legit?” he says about the incident.) That No. 1 tough girl? None other than ...

Ronda Rousey

Background of This Judo Techniques Master: A judoka since the age of 10, Ronda Rousey has medaled in international competition numerous times. In 2008, Ronda Rousey bagged a bronze in Beijing, becoming the first American woman to win any Olympic medal in judo. For that victory, she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. In 2010 she dipped her toe in MMA and continued her winning ways. As of this post, her record stands at 7-0. Qualifications of This Judo Techniques Master: To complement the world-class catalog of judo techniques and skills she acquired from the likes of Jimmy Pedro, Ronda Rousey is being schooled in grapping and MMA by Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell. “She’s a girl, but she has guy skills,” Gokor Chivichyan says. “I think she could fight men at her weight and win with no problem. Her submissions, ground fighting and takedowns are all excellent.” “Her boxing has recently come around — she busted a pro boxer’s jaw in a fight,” Gene LeBell says. “Ronda has heavy hands. I’d rate her skills as nearly a 10 in everything.” Also of note is that Rousey is the daughter of Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, the martial artist who occupied the No. 7 spot on Black Belt's "Tough Girls" list. Coincidence? We think not! Comments Regarding This Judo Techniques Master: “Ronda was a guest on The Ultimate Fighter Season 15 — Dominick Cruz brought her in to put on a clinic,” Fight Night! author Lito Angeles says. “She injured his knee with a throw — that’s why he’s out. She then demonstrated on all the guys on his team, and during the post-throw interviews, they all said she’s a badass. She pinned them down after the throws, and they said she was crushing them. They were all believers. You could tell they underestimated her.” Starting with a foundation based in judo techniques, acquiring experience in the Olympics, and then moving into MMA and boxing is a wonderful progression, Lito Angeles adds. “Some people have criticized her for not having good stand-up, but I think it’s just that she hasn’t had to use it yet because her judo skills are so good — she’s defeated all her opponents by armbar. “Ronda is the most vicious fighter on [Black Belt's "Tough Girls"] list. She has no problem breaking arms — there’s a lot to be said for any martial artist who can do that intentionally. She’s hard-core.”
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