Moms are tough. Not just when being disciplinarians, but overall in leading their family towards a path to success. It take immense patience, discipline and vision to steer a pack of humans toward the goalpost and moms do it effortlessly everyday.
Some moms nurture their children into academic and sporting greatness resulting in their kids being considered the best in the world. We all remember Donovan McNabb’s mom, Wilma McNabb, from the Chunky soup commercials or Allen Iverson’s tearful ode during his Hall of Fame induction speech.
Moms drive their children to greatness where making them proud literally has won everything from Super Bowls to championship belts.
Some are more vocal than others and that takes a fearlessness which many people don't possess. One such woman is Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, mother to MMA star, Ronda Rousey. Her outspokenness, athletic prowess and humanitarian spirit have never been seen in combat sports and are a shining example of a mother whose principles have affected the planet through her own work and that of her daughter.
Born on Scott Air Force Base in Illinois in the late '50s, De Mars was born into greatness. Her grandfather was Dr. Alfred E. Waddell, one of the first Black physicians in North America. This fact, De Mars proudly volunteered to the TMZ cameras early last year when they caught up with Rousey and her mother. The camera guy asked Rousey what was the last movie she watched, and even though she tried to get him to leave her alone, De Mars proudly answered.
“Before His Time. It’s about my grandfather, Ronda’s great-grandfather. They show it during Black History Month every year in Canada because he was one of the first black physicians in North America,” De Mars told TMZ.
Before His Time tells the story of Dr. Alfred E. Waddell, a native of Trinidad who immigrated to Halifax, Canada, and became a prominent physician after years of struggle. De Mars’ father’s name was Joseph Arthur Waddell.
De Mars instilled a sense of toughness in her daughter stemming from her perseverance to achieve multiple academic degrees and athletic prowess in judo. De Mars began her judo career at the age of 12 at a local YMCA, eventually winning her division at the USJA Junior Nationals at the age of 16. She became a college freshman at Washington University in St. Louis as a Business major.
During her junior, year, De Mars was an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo and eventually graduated with a degree in business in 1978. She also won the US Senior Nationals, US Collegiate Nationals and the US Open. In the absence of women's judo world championships, she quit competitive judo and studied for an MBA at the University of Minnesota. Little did she know her path would eventually expose the world to judo in such a huge way through her own actions and her daughter’s.
De Mars earned her MBA in 1980, adding an Master’s and PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. She missed the first women's judo world championships while in grad school, but in 1981 won bronze in the British Open and Tournoi d'Orleans. In 1982, she was ranked #1 in the USJI rankings and won the US Open. However, she did not contest the second women's world championships due to the birth of her daughter María.
She competed in the Pan American Games and US Senior Nationals, and in 1984, she won the Austrian Open, Rendezvous Canada Cup and the US Senior Nationals. However her crowning athletic achievement was coming out of retirement to win the 1984 World Judo Championships, becoming the first person representing the United States to win a World Judo Championships.
When Ronda Rousey burst onto the national scene, much was made of her judo lineage including three gold medals at the Pan American games and a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Rousey was raised to be a champion her whole life by her champion mother.
After De Mars’ husband, Ronald Rousey, committed suicide when their daughter was younger, one can only imagine the fortitude it takes to keep a family together and a young daughter's mind in tact after losing her father so tragically.
Yet De Mars did and continued home-schooling her daughter on the path to greatness. Rousey would eventually leave judo to enter MMA and became a world champion in the process. When she chose relatively obscure boxing coach Edmund Tarverdyan as her head trainer, De Mars was very vocal about his inabilities. She warned her daughter and spoke out publicly about her view of him being worthless and that he would spell the end to her dominance, which was based on judo and jiu jitsu arm bar prowess.
She was right, as Rousey’s false sense of confidence in her striking led to a brutal defeat at the hands of former champion boxer Holly Holm. It was repeated against current UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunez, and Rousey has since faded into relative obscurity.
Still her mother’s example and guidance made Rousey larger than her male counterparts. Through a formula that was part athletics and part mental toughness born through adversity, a legacy was forged that cannot be denied.
Dr. AnnMaria De Mars is a Native American rights activist, scholar, athlete and one of Forbes’ “40 Women to Watch Over 40” recipient.
We all know her daughter for achieving the highest levels of excellence in MMA, but one must look at the mother to understand it all.
Happy Mother’s Day AnnMaria De Mars, and all the mothers fighting for the children out there.