Akihiro Kawasaki is originally from Ibaraki, Japan. He has had unique career in the medical and fitness field. Kawasaki holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed an internship with Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabama, where he trained under physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. As a student athletic trainer, Kawasaki worked with the baseball, soccer, softball, tennis, rugby and national championship winning football team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC). He previously served as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning (S&C) coach for Olympic athletes on the national team of Japan. Kawasaki is currently the head S&C coach at Houston Ballet and Houston Ballet Academy. He holds certifications in Functional Movement Systems (FMS) – level 2, Y Balance Test (YBT) of FMS, Fundamental Capacity Screen (FCS) of FMS, Rossiter – level 4, Yamuna Body Rolling – Face, Feet, Table Treatment and Animal Flow and Spatial Medicine.
Kawasaki began teaching Strength and Conditioning, Weight Training, Strength Training, Yamuna Body Rolling classes and Private training sessions at Houston Ballet Academy in 2011. He also provides weekly private and group sessions with Houston Ballet company members to strengthen their weak-links and prevent injuries.
Kawasaki has created exercises using various techniques and knowledge of FMS, Animal Flow and Spatial Medicine for dancers that will help strengthen the muscles efficiently to prepare them for the strenuous movements on stage. This style of muscle strengthening takes a specific understanding of how dancers’ movements are complex, yet graceful, and demanding. His strength and conditioning classes at Houston Ballet are creative and fun for the dancers to participate in while utilizing resources such as: their own body weight, Swiss balls, weighted sandbags and various sizes of dumbbells, among other resources.
Kawasaki not only instructs dancers on proper form but also reiterates the importance of nutrition, diet and hydration. He helps keep them motivated to reach their goals and achieve their full potential. One of Kawasaki’s philosophies is, “it is essential for student dancers to understand human anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology in order to be able to practice self-care, to rehabilitate, and to choose training exercises in order to maximize and exceed their full potential in their body for their practice and performance in ballet.”
Kawasaki has taught both male and female dancers about the importance of the human body and how to take care of it. He has designed different exercises for male dancers to improve personal ballet technique and strengthen partnering skills. Kawasaki works with Houston Ballet’s instructors to help the dancers with any weaknesses and to improve dance technique through strength and conditioning.
After the dancers’ strenuous yet productive session with Kawasaki, he teaches the importance of conditioning, resting the muscles and how to help prevent injuries after exercising. One way of helping the muscles relax is the practice of Yamuna Body Rolling or YBR. YBR is a component of bone stimulation which posits that if the bones are in correct alignment, then the muscle then will function correctly. Having the muscle properly function assists in relieving pain, preventing injuries and reducing unnecessary stress.
As with any professional sport, these dancers work hard on a daily basis to better themselves in their performances. During the ‘off-season’, the dancers continue to exercise and maintain a healthy diet. They rely on the help of health professionals/trainers such as Kawasaki to reach personal goals, minimize injuries and keep the body healthy. Kawasaki asserts that understanding human physiology will “produce more great, strong and reliable dancers in order to bring the level of Houston Ballet or other ballet companies higher and better.”