Practicing martial arts is one of the most empowering pursuits a person can take in their life. The physical, mental and spiritual demands of constant practice are staggering, but any regular practitioner will tell you it’s an infinitely rewarding path. One the greatest privileges we have at Scifighting is learning about unique martial arts journeys for a variety of athletes. Supported by the Blind Judoka Foundation, we met Edgar Cabachuela, a unique judoka set on the goal of competing in the 2020 Paralympics.
The Blind Judoka Foundation was co-founded by coach Willy Cahill, a 10th degree Black Belt in Juijitsu and 8th degree in Judo. The Paralympic and community programs of the foundation work to promote the benefits of Judo to the visually impaired. The Blind Judoka Foundation has done a great deal to provide direction for visually impaired people from all walks of life find their path to the mat. One such athlete is Edgar Cabachuela, who was directed to the foundation in his journey to find a Paralympic competition sport.
Beginning a Paralympic journey at 26 years old may sound like a long odds chance, but Edgar has beaten the odds at every turn of his life. Born four months premature, sufficient oxygen was pivotal to his survival. When Edgar was given too much oxygen as an infant, the effects rendered him blind. However, with the support of his family, Edgar grew up in as “normal” of circumstances as possible through standard public schooling. Before his most recent paralympic goal, Edgar’s musical talents brought him all the way to the nationally accredited Colburn School of Performing arts.
Scifighting: Where did you first get an interest in Judo? How did you first learn about the Blind Judo Foundation?
Cabachuela: I was originally trying to help my brother compete in basketball for the special Olympics. I wanted to try to get in to the Special Olympics but that organization is only for people with cognitive disabilities, so I was ineligible. From there, I googled the U.S. blind sports association and found the International Blind Sports Association, learned more about the Paralympics and found the Blind Judo Foundation. I found it through a lot of research.
SF: What made you want to set out with such a high goal?
Cabachuela: Tokyo was not only where Judo was founded, but also the place where I could really get tested to see if all of my hard work really paid off.
SF: What were some of the first instructional directions of the school?
Cabachuela: You start learning throws and stuff, apart from all the crazy workouts they make us do. They teach you how to throw properly.
SF: How far did you get in the practice of Taekwondo?
Cabachuela: I made it to yellow belt in Taekwondo. I felt like I could have made it to black belt but if I was going to compete in a tournament I felt like I would be at a disadvantage. When I talked to friends about it, they suggested that Judo or Jiujitsu would be much easier for me.
SF: What does your average training session of Judo consist of?
Cabachuela: In both classes, I’m there from 5-9 p.m and we only rest for 10-second water breaks. Right now I’m training every Monday but I will need to start training 3-4 times a week soon. It really gets you in shape.
SF: What was it like adjusting to that training regimen?
Cabachuela: Learning the throws is fun but you also have to go through the workouts. People trip out when I tell them how many hours I train. Some say it’s too much.
SF: Are there any other judokas at your school that are visually impaired? Are any others trying to get into the Paralympics?
Cabachuela: No I’m the only one. The others do state, regionals and local tournaments but I’m not sure if any of them want to make it to the olympics like me.
SF: Do you feel like you are at a disadvantage against a sighted opponent?
Cabachuela: No. I pick things up quickly. Since the beginning I’ve never had any negative criticism, only constructive criticism. Most of the time, the instructors acknowledge that I pick things up quickly. The fact that I’m doing twice the work and learning things faster trips people up.
SF: Anything else you’d like to include for our readers?
Cabachuela: Thank you for the support! I will check in with you later on my journey to the Paralympics.