The following article was contributed by FightLikeAChampion.com / Jaime Lapena Jr – dedicated to undertstanding the competitive forces behind mind, body and spirit that drive some people to win and others to be great. We encourage you to check out more at their website, we enjoy their interviews.
Interview With Willie Cahill and Mike Pechina,
Training Judo Champions Pt2 of 2
By Jaime Lapena Jr
Willie Cahill is a legend in the sport of Judo having
coached over 10,000 athletes (1,000 of them being national champions) and two
Olympic teams over the course of an amazing 60 year career.
Mike Pechina is a product of Cahill’s
having started there at the age of seven. A former All-American wrestler, he
served eight years in the Marine Corp.
His accolades include US champion, Pan American Silver Medalist, World
Team, Pan American Team, All Military Team, and now coach. He is the creator of the up coming series
The depth of their experience and storytelling was almost
For more info about Cahill’s
go to http://www.DaWave.com
For seminar info on “Subtle Judo”, email email@example.com
FightLikeAChampion: It seems like MMA is taking notice of Judo
players. Do think Judo is playing a role
now and what’re your feelings on it?
Mike Pechina: I definitely feel Judo is a big
part of the MMA just because the takedowns and lockups are very effective. Judo
you to coordinate your hips and feet properly. If you transition it from gi to no-gi, it’s
still effective. It’s a great skill to
learn from the lock up position. People
are seeing how useful it is because of the stances. It’s ready as a stand up position that can
blend strikes with standing throws and lockups.
I think MMA is a great evolution in sports. It blends the modern combative scenario. It’s the closest thing to being in
combat. What I like is that everything
is unset and instinctive. I like when a
lot of the MMA and grappling guys come through Cahill’s. We’ve had the Diaz brothers, the Machado
brothers, and some of the Gracie’s come by.
All of them were very good. I
respect those guys a lot because they put it out there and compete.
FightLikeAChampion: How did you get your athletes ready for
Willie Cahill: With
the Olympic trials in November, all of these guys are trying to qualify and
it’s all of these countries in the Pan American union. We placed eight guys in that tournament. So right after the tournament they were
asking, “so what’s their training regimen?” I told them, “Well for the rest of November
and December, don’t do any Judo.” They
looked at me and said, “You’ve got to be kidding?” I replied, “No, I don’t want you guys to do
Judo. I want you guys to STAY in
shape. Play basketball, ride a
stationary bike, jump rope, just keep physically fit, but not to the peak.” When January came, I told them the same thing:
slow down. You’ve got to be able to
train and get to the point of not worried about anything. So what we did with these guys was that I
went to a strategy to bring them down to a level to relax them, but physically
they’re still in good shape. When February
came, I told them to just put the gi’s on.
I tell you that I got so much hassle from the Olympic committee. They were saying, “What’re you doing? Are you
telling them not to train?” I told them,
“I didn’t say not to train. I told them
don’t do any Judo.” You can’t do Judo all year around. No sport can or else
you’ll burn out. Then February came and
they started working out. We went to the
ground work first. Then in March, they
started doing some throws and in April they started doing Judo. In April, May, June, July, and August they
went all out in Judo. In September, we
won the World’s. I did a graph, and I
wanted them to hit their peak here (he raises his finger pointing to the air at
all of a sudden relax and come down. When
we go to the smaller tournaments, I didn’t care if they won or lost. It wasn’t about winning a lower level
tournament. It was about pacing for the
Olympics. I told them, I want you guys
to try things at the smaller tournaments using techniques that you wouldn’t
normally use at the bigger tournaments.
You want to practice it there. So
they tried it at the tournaments and sometimes it didn’t work. I think they did get frustrated, but I would
say, “So what? So you didn’t get a medal
today. Big deal.” But it got to a point that by July and
August, they were on the ball. By the time
we got to
(Olympics), I knew mentally they were ready to fight. They were hungry. They wanted to fight real good players by
Mike Pechina: I just tried to do everything I could because
once I got my physical and conditioning game on, I felt my mental game followed. I just trained
everyday. I would start training three to four months
out. I’ve visited the Olympic Training
and that helped me put the mental game together with my physical game. Visualization was a huge part of it all for
me. If you can see it repeatedly in your
head, it programs your body. The biggest
thing up there when I visited was to mentally get me ready.
With all of the athletes you’ve coached, what’re the few consistent
things you’ve seen that allowed people to be successful both on the mats and in
Willie Cahill: Confidence
and focus. I’ve got over 1,000 national
champions, but beyond that I’ve got four guys that graduated from Annapolis,
three graduated from West Point, two from Air Force Academy, I’ve got five
doctors, a bank president, and Jackie Speier who is a congresswoman. Our club is a lot different. I’ve had a lot of Judo coaches come here and
they didn’t like the way I coached. I’m
too relaxed. They felt that I won’t get
respect from the students. I said, “I
don’t demand respect. I have to earn that respect and they have to earn it from
me too.” I’ve got a friend of mine who
teaches karate. He’s got a class where
they all stand at attention. Even when he’s teaching class, they’re all
standing still. No one is relaxed. Everyone is standing still. Nobody’s having fun. He gave them a test. The test took two and a half hours. He invited me to be a judge. He said to me, “What do you think?” I asked, “Why do you make them do 50 push-ups
and sit-ups?” He replied, “They have to
be disciplined so they do this and that.” I said to him, “I think it’s a waste
of time (laughing). I don’t care if the
guy can do the exercises. I care about
if they can do the throws right.” I
think the whole thing is that they’ve got to enjoy what they’re doing.
FightLikeAChampion: Is relaxation a big thing to offset the
nervousness before a competition?
Yeah. During the fighting part in
class, they’re relaxed and don’t get so stressed out. You know, talking about success…if I have to
describe people I’ve seen….I had a kid named David Perkins who had won the
United States Championships three times.
Then he went to high school and started wrestling. In the last two years, he didn’t do any judo.
Then he went to college and I didn’t see
him. I saw him eight years later at a
health club. And here comes David
walking in. I told him, “Man, you’re in
good shape!” He told me he tries to stay
in shape. I asked him why he didn’t
compete in tournaments and said to him that you never know; you may make the
Olympic team. So he came down (to
months. He won the Nationals and came in
second in the United States Nationals.
He never fought in the Nationals before and came in second. He only lost to the guy who was number one
before and the guy just barely beat him.
Three weeks later, I get this letter that says he’s in the Olympic
trials and he’s one of the top five players in the
the Olympics. So I call him up and tell
him that I’ve got a surprise for him. He
comes down and I tell him to read the letter. He opens it up and starts
laughing. I give him the equipment that
they gave him, like a sweat suit and other things. He’s still laughing and says, “Nah, I don’t
want to do it.” I asked him, “You don’t
want to go to the Olympic trials?” He
said, “Nah, I just wanted to see if I could do it!” And that was it. He didn’t even go. I had to send the ticket back. I said, “David you’re kidding!” and he told me, “Nah, you told me you thought
I could win so I just tried it. I didn’t
think I could win.” (everyone laughing)
Mike Pechina: It’s
hard to offset the nervousness. I was
always somewhat nervous. It never fully
went away. The more I prepared, the less
nervous I was. It definitely helped my
mental. All you can do from there is to
step out there and perform.
FightLikeAChampion: What are the most common mistakes you see
with athletes during the competition?
Willie Cahill: The
one thing I see is when someone loses his / her concentration or focus. Some people get behind and that’s it. They break.
I know it. I can see it. They just can’t get themselves to catch
up. As long as they’re ahead, they’re
ok. For some people it’s really
Mike Pechina: The thing that I see in the modern day is that
we get so stuck on certain techniques, as far as the Judo side. They don’t add their own out-of-the-box style
to the techniques. And if they’re
stopped on the mat, they mentally break.
I don’t see them toughing it out and staying in the fight mentally. I think some athletes have a hard time
thinking out-of-the-box. They stick with
the same standard techniques and thought process so much that they beat
themselves. Then when there’s that road
block in the way, there’s not that ability to adapt to the situation.
do you get them around that obstacle?
Willie Cahill: You’ve
got to get them to focus in and do their stuff over and over and over
again. You know one reason I got pretty
good at coaching is that I used to read John Wooden’s books (UCLA men’s basketball
coach who won 10 national championships in 12 years). You know you read his book and it’s common
sense. I used to read his books all the
time. I used to tell guys about
different philosophies that he had. And
they’d say that it’s not going to work for everybody. And I’d say, “This guy won a lot of national
championships! He did it. How’d he do it?” They’d tell me he had good
players. I would say, “Yeah, he may have
had good players, but you still have to motivate them.” You know one year someone interviewed me and
the coach at
for Judo. At the end of the interview,
the guy asks us, “As a coach, between you two guys who’s the best?” The other coach said, “It’s obvious. I’m the best because I’ve developed so many
national champions and have so many guys on the Olympic team.” The interviewer
asked me if I agreed. I said, “Yes, but
he’s not the best. It’s like any college that recruits the best players in
champions. I get kids who don’t even
know how to put on a Judo gi or come in with their pants on backwards. These are the kinds of people I teach and for
me to bring them up to national championship from the ground is different” If I had the guys he gets, I’d be a lot
better than him. Then I told him that I
was just joking, but for the last 10 years he wouldn’t shake my hand or talk to
Mike Pechina: I feel
the same way about raising kids from the grassroots and developing them as
people. There are enough coaches that
coach the physically gifted or high level.
There’s not enough that are willing to coach anyone and everyone from
any background. I like to start programs
for the working class kids and adults that incorporate “Subtle Judo” so that
it’s accessible to anyone. I want
everyone to enjoy the benefits of the sport.
What’s the most important thing to remember when you’re coaching your
Willy Cahill: Train hard,
but right. This is where you think you can beat him: in the workouts. But then you get to the point where you have
to enjoy what
you’ve been training for.
FightLikeAChampion: How important are these small tournaments for
athletes to fine tune themselves?
Willy Cahill: It’s important
for them. Use the monthly local tournaments
as a training ground trying out new moves.
Attempt techniques you wouldn’t normally use. Keep practicing until
you’re confident enough to make them work.
Once it works in these competitions, you can move it up a notch to a
tougher event until you feel confident to use it at the Nationals. Also, you’re
still going to get nervous. You still
have to go out there and fight somebody. It’s the same level that you’ll be scared
when you fight at a small tournament as when you fight at a big
Mike Pechina: Small
tournaments are definitely important.
You’ve also got to spend time overseas.
If you’re expecting to be a top athlete, it’s a must.
FightLikeAChampion: Do you have any favorite products?
Willy Cahill: The one
thing for me with supplements is that I make sure they pass the drug test. That’s number one. We’ve got a company that we endorse. It’s called Usana. For the last four years, they’ve been giving
the Paralympic team the supplements. I
also like Agel. I had surgery on my leg
because I had a blood clot and I started taking this thing called Flex (by
Agel). It’s easy to take and I tell you
this really helped my legs.
For more info about Cahill’s
go to http://www.DaWave.com
For seminar info on “Subtle Judo”,
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