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Monday, 19 January 2009 19:00

Interview With Willie Cahill and Mike Pechina, Training Judo Champions Pt 2

Written by Jaime Lapena Jr
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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

http://www.FightLikeAChampion.com

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. 

Willy Cahill has coached nearly 1000 National and International medal winners.
Willy Cahill has coached nearly 1000 National and International medal winners.

Mike Pechina is a product of Cahill’s Judo Academy 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 “Subtle Judo”.   

The depth of their experience and storytelling was almost surreal.

For more info about Cahill’s Judo Academy in San Bruno, CA

 

go to http://www.DaWave.com

 

For seminar info on “Subtle Judo”,  email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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 teaches  

 

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
Davina and Charlee Minkin with coaches Jim Powers and Willy Cahill.
Davina and Charlee Minkin with coaches Jim Powers and Willy Cahill. The Minkin sisters won the Triple Crown in 1996 and won Gold Medals at the US High School Nationals in 1997. Charlee represented the United States at the Junior World Championships in Portugal in 1996 at age 14.
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 competition?

 

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 a high point) then 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 Australia (Olympics), I knew mentally they were ready to fight.  They were hungry.  They wanted to fight real good players by this time. 


 

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

John Matsuoka won a bronze medal at the World University Games in Belgium in 1990.
John Matsuoka won a bronze medal at the World University Games in Belgium in 1990.
everyday.  I would start training three to four months out.  I’ve visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs 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. 

 

FightLikeAChampion:  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 life?

 

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?

 

Willie Cahill:  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 Cahill’s Judo Academy) and worked out for two 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 United States.  He’d be going to fight in Colorado Springs and the winner goes on to 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?

Pierre Sene, Pat Barre, and Laurie Mintz all placed in the US Judo Senior Nationals held in Florida recently. Pierre won first place, Pat third and Laurie another first.
Pierre Sene, Pat Barre, and Laurie Mintz all placed in the US Judo Senior Nationals held in Florida recently. Pierre won first place, Pat third and Laurie another first.

 

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 hard. 

 

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. 

 

FightLikeAChampion:  How 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 San Jose State.  San Jose State is number one in the United States 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 America.  The players he gets are already national 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 me (laughing).


 

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. 

 

FightLikeAChampion:  What’s the most important thing to remember when you’re coaching your fighters?

 

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

Brett Barron won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela. One year later, Brett represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Brett Barron won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela. One year later, Brett represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
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 tournament. 

 

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 Judo Academy
in San Bruno, CA go to http://www.DaWave.com

 

For seminar info on “Subtle Judo”,
email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Read 5418 times Last modified on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 15:23