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.

Read an EXCLUSIVE interview with Ronda Rousey in this FREE download!
Ronda Rousey: An Exclusive Interview With the Gene LeBell Protégé,
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.”
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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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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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