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, Pt1 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”,
FightLikeAChampion: At the Olympic level, what role does the
mental game play
Willie Cahill: At the
Olympics, everyone is physically fit.
They’ve been training the same
It’s the mental part that’s really tough. You could be the best athlete and physically
ready, but are you mentally ready? This
is where you have to get the people ready to compete.
Willie Cahill: Well
the main thing is that if an athlete is so physically fit to a point where
they’re so focused saying, “Man, I’m in the best shape I can be. I’m prepared”. They’ve got to realize that they’re prepared
and focus and have done everything they can.
Then from there they have to build they’re own confidence. Sometimes when they compete, they’re so nervous,
but I tell them that the guy you’re going against is just as nervous as
you. So it becomes who attacks
first. It’s like when I played football. You’re so scared before a game, but when somebody
hits you, you say, “Ahhh, that wasn’t so bad. Let’s do it again.” It actually relaxes you a little more after
the initial contact. If you prepare
yourself to the best of your ability, and knowing that you’re in top physical
condition, that sort of brings in that mental attitude.
I knew a Dr. Dahlkoetter, from
Armstrong for four years as well as an Olympic pole-vaulter. So I had her come in and talk to Jordan, a
girl that was coming in and fighting for us, and it made a big difference.
there any techniques Dr. Dahlkoetter performed that stood
out to you?
Willie Cahill: I think she makes them ask the
questions. Like “what motivates you,” or
“what are your fears,” or “what are you worried about.” Then she asks those questions that they can
answer for themselves: “are you in the
best shape you can be?” “are you in weight?” “have you done everything that can
be done?” And just with that now it’s up to you to get yourself prepared
mentally. Because you’ve done everything
that you can. You’re at the peak of
where you want to be. So that alone can
bring the mental attitude up.
Mike Pechina: I
always felt strong mentally when I felt that I did everything I could to
prepare. It’s all in what you did to prepare
and get to that point. You just let go from there. Win, lose or draw, you don’t feel bad. You know you did everything you could for
you take us through the Olympic experience?
What do the athletes feel leading up to the first day of competition all
the way to the end?
Willie Cahill: You
know it’s the training that builds you up.
The more you train, the more nervous you get especially when it gets
closer to competition. Then you focus in
on who your competitors are and you should know exactly how they fight. Sometimes you get some people that get so
worried about how they’re competitors are going to beat them or how they’re
going to beat their competitors.
In 1988, I coached the Olympic team in
International competition and we had one kid, Kevin Asano, a 60 kilo guy. He’d fight in different tournaments and he
would get beat by guys from
always get to that point, but never got over it. One time he was fighting and he got pinned. I
just said stay there and don’t worry about it.
He took the loss and when he got up I said to focus in on the bigger
picture. So we went to
beat them. This is 3 to 4 weeks before
the Olympics. We got to the Olympics and
what we did was first thing in the morning we woke him up at 6 o’clock and got
him weighed in. Then after the weigh-ins
I said let’s go get breakfast. Over
breakfast we never talked about Judo. We
just talked. He was from
So when we got to the tournament, we just waited for the doctor. A lot of times, you won’t know who the
trainer is. He could be a trainer for the
swim team or another team that doesn’t know anything about Judo. Me and Kevin were standing around and it
started raining, and in
rain is good luck. Kevin said, “Wow,
it’s raining!” He then saw the doctor
come in and found out he’s from
it was raining which is good luck in
and we had a Hawaiian doctor; he felt at home.
He then went on to blow everybody away.
Relaxation was the key. Once he
got to the point that he was relieved because he had something for him that was
set and he’s not going to think about who these guys were that beat him before.
First match was the guy from
and boom Brazil
he blew that guy away. Next match was
against Hosokawa, the Olympic gold medal winner in ’84. When he got thrown (Hosokawa), the whole
place went “Wow! Who is this kid? He beat everybody.” Now he was going to fight in the finals. I gave
a protest because there were three guys, two judges and a referee, and they’re
all from the
Far East. You’re supposed to have a guy from Europeand no guys from your own country. They said, “Well, no one is from .” It doesn’t matter; they’re still from the Korea Far East. They
wouldn’t do it so they let them fight anyway. In the match, Kevin’s leading,
there’s 20 seconds left and the referee stops the match calling the two judges
in. Kevin’s on the front of his stomach,
and the guy’s on top of him. All of a
sudden, his coach says something in Korean and shifting his hands. I began to feel that it was a set-up. Kevin was on the bottom and he’s trying to
come down and choke him. The guy said
Kevin grabbed his fingers to pull the choke off. So Kevin lost the match because the referee
gave a penalty bigger than the score.
FightLikeAChampion: Who were the top Judo players that you’ve
seen in your career.
Willie Cahill: One of
the guys was Yamashita (Yasuhiro
He was awesome. He was the best guy. He was undefeated. I don’t think anyone ever beat him. What made him strong was his attitude. For a
big guy, his technical Judo was a like a lightweight. He does throws like the
lightweights do. He does them
great. There’s another guy, Geesink
(Anton Geesink) from the
who won the World’s. I met him in
his students, about four years later, Ruska (Willem Ruska), who was trained by
Geesink and he came down to fight everybody.
He also won the World’s. Geesink
was really strong. He was a big guy and
fought everybody. Ben Campbell, who
senator, was a really good U.S. Judo player.
He trained at San Jose State Univ. and then went to
there. When I went to
sixties, every club I visited, there was a Judo gi hanging there. He’d visit all the clubs and leave a gi
Mike Pechina: It was
never one Judo player. I could name a
few. Yamashita, Saito, Sokolov, Jimmy Pedro, Mike Swain. There’s so many. Even the athletes of today, I’m impressed
with how people are evolving it to new levels.
Changing the techniques to what they need. The classical techniques may not work totally
today. You still see classical, but it’s
conditioned enough to work against the conventional European styles now.
FightLikeAChampion: Can you compare different countries Judo
Willie Cahill: The Russians
know a lot about Judo. When you go there
it’s a different world. It’s like the
stuff you see in movies, when people are sitting outside smoking and talking
about Judo. Russian Judo is completely
different. They have different
grips. The Japanese Judo is really
technical. They got the good Judo. They’re still the best. A lot of guys beat them, but in the end they
seem to win the most medals. The good
thing about the Russians is that they changed Judo. Judo can now come from any place. It’s not from one country. I think the problem in
we spend too much time learning one style, which is Japanese Judo. Every time we go to Japan to train, we live
there for a while and learn that style, which is good, but then when you go
back to successful people it’s the stuff they’ve done on their own. They develop their own style of
fighting. Muhammad Ali fought different. Joe Louis fought different. If everyone gets their own style, it’s
usually a lot better. When we went to
the first time, you always do things their way.
But then you can’t. Each body is
made different. You can’t teach a guy
who’s a left handed fighter to do right sided throws. You’ve got to teach them their style
first. If you take the best thing of what
each individual does, then it’ll be easier for these guys to learn Judo.
Mike Pechina: I really enjoy the Europeans because they’re
so out-of-the-box with their approach.
They bring something different and re-invent techniques. They polish them up and make them useful
today. The thing with Judo is that
there’s not a dominating country anymore.
It’s truly an international sport now.
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?
Willie Cahill: I
think it’s good. They’re really good at
the mat and groundwork. If they mix it
up with the Judo it’s good. They’ll do
anything to take the guy down. If they
have the technical part it would be a lot different. But then, they’d be fighting us
[laughing]. With Judo throws, you really
don’t need the uniform. You can do any
throw you want with just one arm. A lot
of people say, “Well, you need the gi”.
That’s not true. You don’t need
the gi. You can throw with your bare
hands. If the guys has nothing on, you
can still throw. What the mix martial
arts people are doing is good, and it’s the reason I let them in to my club. I’ve known Caesar (Gracie) for awhile. His guys came in with him and were really
respectful and just wanted to workout. It was really good because you get to see the
other side of them. They can come back anytime. I get along with Royce and also Charles
Gracie. The best thing is that if all
athletes would come together, all sports would be a lot better. I’ll teach them what they want to learn. We don’t hold back. I think it’s better for the sport and for
everyone else. My biggest problem with
any sport or anything is the political part.
You don’t want that style learning this because he’ll beat me. Well if you’re not better physically and
mentally you won’t beat them.
End Pt 1
For more info about Cahill’s
go to http://www.DaWave.com
For seminar info on “Subtle Judo”,