Cross Training (and Career Training) in the Pool
An Actor and Fighter Swims to New Horizons as a Stunt Performer
Shinji Ishigaki is at a crossroads. He's established himself as a working actor, and he has 12 years of boxing and mixed marital arts (MMA) training under his belt. Now, he's combining both to develop new opportunities as a stunt performer. Personally and professionally, he's using his Endless Pools® training to push himself to new heights.
"In the U.K. there's something called the British Stunt Register," Shinji reports. "To get on the register, you need to qualify in six disciplines." Martial arts, strength and agility, falling, riding and driving, and a miscellaneous category make up five. The sixth is "the water category: scuba diving and swimming.
"I'm doing acting, and I've had some success," he notes, with his IMDb credits going back to 2012. "There's more work if you're an actor who has stunt skills." The same Endless Pools swimming that's helping Shinji cross train for his MMA and boxing can also help him get on the Register.
Pushing Past Your Limits
Shinji compares the challenge of the Endless Pools current to being in a boxing ring. "Athletes need to put themselves in a position where they're forced to train," he observes. "You need an element of urgency to push you to the next level. If we rely on ourselves, it's really hard.
"Training in the ring, you're forced to spar. You're forced to push yourself," he's found. "That's why boxing is one of the hardest sports in the world. In a gym, you're forced to train in a group class more than if you're on your own."
In a traditional pool, he notes, "People slow themselves down. To really improve, you need to push yourself. And to push yourself, you do need the hydraulics," by which he means the hydraulically powered current of the Endless Pools environment.
The Endless Pools current has dozens of speed settings for every level of swimmer. Once you select one, you need to swim consistently at that pace, the same as if you were running on a treadmill.
"Compared to normal pools," Shinji observes, the Endless Pools current "forces you to train, helps you adjust training and speed. This is vital," he asserts.
"If there's any drag in your movement, you know it," because the current's pace remains constant. Any inconsistency in your swim stroke "is like you have a parachute on the back of you," he says from experience. "[In] normal pools, you will never be aware of that, and you can afford to be lazy or slow with no consequences."
Swimming to Get in Fighting Shape
"I’m passionate towards cross training, which has improved my game immensely." Swimming with the Endless Pools current, he's seen, "massively helps all the other areas."
The Endless Pools environment, Shinji asserts, "allows me to smash out my training with nobody in the way. Adjusting the speed of the flow, you know how fast you are, especially if you want to hit your timed swims" as required for the Stunt Register.
"It forces you to breathe correctly and in time. That’s important for the ring, for endurance. Fighters are also forced to control their breathing and breathe out in time with their strikes and when being attacked. Otherwise, they would wind themselves."
He calls swimming "the ultimate strength and fitness sport that has no impact on the joints, so all athletes, especially fighters, should consider it.
"As a marital artist, it's massively good for speed," he's found. When's he's in the pool "shadow boxing, all that resistance [from the water] slowing your speed down … when you get out of the water, you're a little bit faster."
He also pushes his limits by swimming underwater, which should always be done with supervision. "Holding your breath and swimming as long as you can – the longer you can hold your breath, the calmer you are, the more you can handle your breath to stay longer down under the water."
Even if you're not a boxer or MMA fighter, he notes one perk of swimming that we can all get behind. "You feel great after the swim! It's one of the only sports where you come out of the shower and feel like a different person. It's so revitalizing!"
Rebounding in the Water
"When you get injured, you have to find alternatives to train," Shinji notes. Like many athletes, he uses aquatic rehabilitation to stay active while encouraging healing.
"I had a groin injury from gymnastics. I couldn’t do breaststroke because it opens and closes your adductors [inner thigh muscles] and your groin and your hip flexors. I could do the front crawl [freestyle] because that didn't hurt.
"I knew that was improving the injury, building the muscle up around the injury. That was my road to recovery."
Swimming as a Lifesaving Skill
Shinji was a lifeguard for about five years, so he knows firsthand that swimming skills save lives. "The more we go swimming, the more confident we are," he advises. "We can relax and not panic. When people panic, and they gasp and splash about, draining their energy – It's only going to make them sink."
He recalls when he was 18, swimming in the ocean with his brother, who was then just eight. "I couldn't find him. He disappeared.
"I went to one of the danger zones, and I saw his head pop up as if a shark took him. The tide was completely different. The danger zones can literally drag you to the ground. He screamed for help, and I had to dive down and pick him up. It took every bit of my energy.
"I managed to save him. So having swimming is a life skill. It's an absolute lifesaver."
Shinji continues to swim, spar, rock-climb, and develop a broad-ranging skill base for the British Stunt Register. Up next, he's off to Finland to appear in a few episodes of an upcoming thriller, The Man Who Died. Given his tireless work ethic, he'll surely seek out an available Endless Pools installation to keep training during downtime from the shoot!