From Polio to Professor, Hawaiian Native Son and San Francisco Bay Area Legend Celebrates 65 Years of Empowering Others Through the Sport of Judo

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Willy Cahill, Principal of Cahill’s Judo Academy and Co-Founder of the Blind Judo Foundation has risen from the effects of Polio at a young age; the possibility of not walking again; lack of confidence and became one of the greatest Judo Coaches in history. Those talents and skills have been imparted to over 1500 national and international champions and a myriad of overs in his 65 year journey.

SF Bay Area Legend, Judo Icon and Former US Olympic and US Paralympic Judo Coach - Willy Cahill

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. –W. Clement Stone

Willy Cahill was born in 1935 in Oahu, Hawaii. At the early age of 7 Willy contracted Polio. Few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century than did polio and his parents were no exception.

Willy was admitted to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu, HI where his began his long treatment regiment and a low level of expectancy. In those days polio had no cure but Willy’s parents, John Sr. and Abigail were not going to accept that fate for their son. “He will walk again,” the Cahill’s declared.

Willy comes from a very athletic family and especially his Father, John Cahill, Sr. who started his first introduction to Jujitsu at 27 years of age under Professor Seishiro “Henry” Okazaki. Okazaki was a Japanese American healer, martial artist and founder of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu who befriended Cahill Sr. Okazaki also studied health sciences and physical therapy.

In 1929, Okazaki established the Seifukujutsu Institute of Restorative Massage. Learning about John Sr’s son, Okazaki applied daily a special ointment and massaged Willy's legs. The Doctor wasn't pleased when he learned of the Okazaki treatment but knew young Willy wouldn't walk again and resolved that the “treatment” certainly couldn't hurt. Months later, Willy walked out of the hospital cured of Polio.

Professor Okazaki's restorative therapy and work became well known. President Franklin D. Roosevelt availed himself of Okazaki’s services. FDR was so impressed with Okazaki that he invited him to be his personal therapist at the White House.

After regaining his strength, Willy became a student of his Father’s Dojo (Judo gym) called Hui Miki Miki Judo Club (club with lots of pep in Hawaiian) training in Judo and Jujitsu. Willy drew upon his Father’s foundation far exceeding the vision of sending one of his Hui Miki Miki athletes to the Olympics in 1964 where Judo would be introduced.

Unfortunately John Cahill Sr. passed away in 1962 at the young age of 50 not realizing his goal. But the mold was set with Willy. The Cahill’s had moved to the main land and Cahill’s Judo Academy was coming into existence. Willy’s aspirations were to become a football coach but after his Father’s passing, his Mother Abigail asked her son to take over where her husband had left off. “When a Hawaiian mother asked for something to be done, you don’t ask questions,” says Willy. This marked the beginning of a new era and a new generation for the highly regarded Cahill’s Judo Academy located in San Bruno (SF Bay Area), CA.

If Willy wasn't going to be a football coach, he was going to be the best Judo Coach. Therefore in 1963, he traveled to Japan to train at the home of Judo called the Kodokan and also viewed Pre-Olympics Judo.

In 1999, Willy was asked to coach the US Paralympic Judo Team for the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. Two Gold Medals, a Silver Medal and a Bronze Medal marked the beginning of training and developing Judo for the blind and visually impaired. A Gold Medal for the sighted US Olympic Judo Team took 48 years (1964-2012) to be won. Cahill’s team did it in 2000 with blind and visually impaired athletes. Not bad for someone wanting to be a football coach.

In 2003, Cahill co-founded the Blind Judo Foundation along with Ron C. Peck. Cahill’s says, “Training blind and visually impaired athletes is one of my greatest challenges.” Paralympics unfortunately doesn’t get the same financial support, visibility or media coverage as the Olympics. Cahill’s says, “It’s not about personal recognition but a matter of giving back” from what was learned from his Father and Professor Okazaki.

Following is a partial listing of titles and accomplishments of Coach Willy Cahill:

  •     8th Degree Black Belt in Judo
  •     10th Degree Black Belt in Jujitsu
  •     Black Belt Hall of Fame Judo - Instructor of the Year
  •     Jujitsu America Hall of Fame – Instructor of the Year
  •     Judo Coach: SF State University; Stanford University; Foothill Community College
  •     US Coach Junior Pan American Championships 1976
  •     US Coach World Championships 1981, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991
  •     US Coach Pan American Games 1983, 1987
  •     US Coach Pacific Rim Championships 1983, 1985
  •     US Olympic Games - Assistant Coach 1984, 1988
  •     US Paralympic Games - Coach 2000, 2004
  •     US Coach Goodwill Games Championships 1986, 1990
  •     Member National Coaching Staff USA Judo, Inc.
  •     Director of Development USA Judo, Inc.
  •     Co-Founder of Jujitsu America 1978
  •     San Mateo County Hall of Fame 1995
  •     Co-Founder Blind Judo Foundation 2003
  •     USA Judo Honoring Willy Cahill with a Lifetime Achievement Award 2013

Cahill continues to impart those “exceptionalisms” to the blind and visually impaired through the work of the Blind Judo Foundation.

The Blind Judo Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization whose mission is to empower the blind and visually impaired using the tools and tenets of Judo. These include but not limited to confidence building, character development, how-to make commitments and follow through, humility, respect and responsibility. All members of the Foundation are volunteers. Funding of blind and visually impaired athletes to train, travel locally, nationally and internationally are through tax exempt donations, the financial life-line. Donations can be made at http://www.blindjudofoundation.org/donate.php which are tax exempt. To learn more about the Foundation, check out blindjudofoundation.org and at http://www.facebook.com/BlindJudoFoundation or contact Ron C. Peck at roncpeck(at)blindjudofoundation(dot)org or 425-444-8256.

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Ron Peck
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since: 11/2008
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Blind Judo Foundation
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