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The gentle way: Judo master Willy Cahill receives Lifetime Achievement Award
July 20, 2013, 05:00 AM By David Egan Daily Journal

David Egan/Daily Journal Willy Cahill watches a demonstration at Cahill’s Judo Academy in San Bruno.

Willy Cahill

Willy Cahill was diagnosed with polio at age 7.

“Doctor told me I would never walk again,” said Cahill.

He was just one of numerous children diagnosed with the crippling disease during World War II. His father guaranteed him that he would be out of the hospital in a year.

As his father had predicted, Cahill was able to walk again after a year of message therapy from Professor Henry S. Okazaki, his father’s judo instructor who worked as a masseur for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Since then, he has made the most of his life.

Cahill, 77, has trained more than 1,200 national and international judo champions, has coached for several Olympic teams and was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as a judo instructor in 1975. Even with all those accolades, Cahill says his biggest achievement is seeing all of his students live a better life for themselves through Judo, something he himself has achieved. His former students have gone on to have successful careers outside of the sport.

Cahill was born in Honolulu in 1935 to John and Abbie Cahill, both professors and founders of the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation. In 1939, John Cahill opened his first dojo in Honolulu in which he taught both judo and jujitsu. His family moved to California in 1947, where they opened a judo and jujitsu school in Daly City. Martial arts for Cahill came naturally at a young age.

Coming to California

“I started training in judo in Hawaii, but I wasn’t serious about it,” Cahill said, adding it wasn’t until he came to California that he got serious with the sport.

After the passing of his father, Cahill took over his father’s dojo at the request of his mother and moved the dojo to downtown San Bruno in 1963.

“That was a big shock when my father died, because he was still young,” Cahill said.

It was his father who made him the coach he is today, because his dad pointed out what he did right and wrong while keeping things in perspective. According to Cahill, if someone underperforms, they’re already upset with themselves, so they don’t need another person hounding at their ear.

“It is best they receive constructive criticism,” said Cahill. Judo translates to gentle way and is very much a representation of the man himself.

This is the philosophy that has elevated Cahill’s Judo Academy to become one of the most highly regarded dojos for more than 50 years. It has been the home to more than a thousand local, national, international and Olympic competitors and coaches.

He has had the privilege of coaching the 1984 and 1988 U.S. Olympic Judo teams and two U.S. Paralympic judo teams, which includes the 2000 team that won the gold medal in Sydney, Australia.

“This was the first time in U.S. Paralympics’ history a U.S. squad won gold for Judo,” Cahill said.

Four year later, Cahill and Ron C. Peck would establish the Blind Judo Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the blind and visually impaired compete in the sport of Judo.

Lifetime achievement

In recognition of his lifelong commitment to Judo, Willy Cahill along with Yoshihiro Uchida received the Lifetime Achievement Award from USA Judo at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City July 19.

“It was a real honor to be recognized for my entire career,” said Cahill.

It is an accumulation of what he and his family have worked for, but nothing expresses his accomplishments more so than his Judo Academy. His dojo’s walls are decorated with plaques and pictures of past and present students, each with their own story to tell by Cahill. His classroom is full of students old and young, and Cahill can give a synopsis of every one of them.

“It has been a fun ride and I could not ask for a better life than this,” said Cahill. “Doesn’t matter what age you are but how serious you are in your endeavors. I have been fortunate to have all my students follow this philosophy.”



Tags: cahill, students, father, achievement, jujitsu, california,

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