A Japanese professional rope skipper has taken on a physically taxing 24-hour record in a bid to raise the profile of the activity he loves.
36-year-old Hijiki Ikuyama has broken the record title Most skips over a rope in 24 hours after hitting an astonishing count of 151,409 skips on 26 August.
Hijiki has several other Guinness World Record titles to his name, but he says that this was the most important challenge of his life.
How it all started
Hijiki was still an elementary school student when he first became fascinated with skipping but had a very different reason for first picking up a rope.
"I had a crush on my teacher, and I was thinking of ways to get some attention from her. Because she was pretty good at rope skipping, I thought mastering that would impress her."
The more he practiced, and the more moves he mastered as he gradually fell in love with it.
"Sometimes I was not sure whether I'd mastered a move or not at first, but when my friends and my teacher told me I'd done it, it was exhilarating. That feeling was truly special; the feeling I still carry to this day."
Towards the end of Hijiki's elementary school years, he had become so good he was selected to perform at an assembly.
Hijiki's first crush, however, moved to another school only after a year.
Making a career out of rope skipping
In his 20s, Hijiki was no longer skipping ropes and was auditioning in a bid to become an actor. But after years of non-success, Hijiki realized that he wasn't tackling the interviewer's questions head-on.
"When they often ask, 'what’s your skill?' I answered, 'maybe playing games or sleeping'. After realising I was to blame for failed auditions, I had to think everything through again."
As Hijiki started thinking about his skills, he recalled the activity that he so enjoyed doing during his youth. And when he started looking for online for some inspiration, he found more than what he expected.
"I found rope-skipping legends doing some insane moves, and I was like 'wow'. Until then, I thought double under was one of the hardest moves in rope skipping. That idea was turned upside down. The moves those legends were doing were so challenging, I couldn’t even tell what they were doing. That got me into rope skipping once again."
From there, Hijiki picked up rope skipping again, making improvements and met some rope-skipping legends to a point where he was confident to raise rope skipping as his skill. "But by then, I was so hooked on ropes, and I started to think that I can express myself more through rope skipping."
After clinching World Jump Rope Championships, as well as claiming six Guinness World Record titles, including the Most rope crossovers (criss-cross) while skipping backwards in one minute and the Most skips over a 10 m rope in 30 seconds, Hijiki is now a professional rope skipper, going to schools across Japan to teach, as well as doing performances in shopping malls and theme parks. He also makes TV appearances, showing his great skills on air.
The 24-hour attempt
One of Hijiki's biggest goals in life is to spread the fact that a job in rope skipping is a valid career option.
"I think it would be really great if kids in 20 or 30 years time ranks rope skipper as one of the top 20 or top 30 dream jobs.
"I think it’s difficult to choose your career from such a small range of options. In fact, many kids nowadays have a hard time deciding what they want to do with their lives.
"Even if they have an interest, they might give it up because there are no jobs even if you pursue it. That’s why I want to firmly establish rope skipping as a valid job. Doing the record attempt one of the means to achieve this goal."
In order to help achieve that goal, and to leave a big record in his career, Hijiki thought, 'what would happen if I rope skipped for 24 hours?'. But after some searching, he was surprised to find that there already was a record, and it was a tough figure to beat.
He began practicing for the 24-hour challenge since the end of 2017 and spoke to trainers to figure out the best way to ramp up his physique in order to attempt the record. In June of this year, Hijiki did a six-hour skip to test his stamina, followed by a 12-hour skip a month before the official attempt.
The previous record set by Isabel Bush was 151,036 skips. Just to equal this Hijiki had to skip 6,293 times in an hour (that's 105 times per minute) at an average speed of around 1.7 skips every second.
After some trials, Hijiki realized that his stamina wouldn't last without frequent breaks. In the end, the plan was to do a set of 25-minute skip followed by a five-minute rest for as long as possible which would allow him to take a 30-40-minute break to eat or get a massage.
It didn't go to plan, however.
"It was so tough I had to take 10-minute breaks every 20 minutes. The guidelines allowed me to skip a large rope spun by assistants so the plan was to alternate between a large rope and short rope. But for the long rope, we didn’t practice together beforehand, and we couldn’t synchronize properly so I kept on trapping the rope and losing time."
"Eight hours before the end of the attempt, I ditched the large rope and skipped solo – I thought I have to go and push the limit."
Towards the end of the attempt, Hijiki's body had indeed reached its limit, and there were many moments where he was close to toppling over.
"Sometimes my muscles won’t listen to what I’ve told them to do – this sensation I’ve never experienced before."
Hijiki says what took him to the end of the attempt were the people supporting him from the sidelines.
"They really wanted to do whatever they could to make it to the very end, and to beat the record. At the very end, all I heard was people cheering for me. Although I was the one doing the skips, we did the attempt together."
As the large race clock hit "24.00.00", everyone at the venue was ecstatic, with cheers and tears abound. With 151,409 skips, he successfully broke the Guinness World Records title.
Rope skip gone full circle
According to Hijiki, it took him a couple of weeks for the record-breaking moment to seep in.
"After two weeks, I can finally start to feel what I had achieved. I had no energy left at the end of the attempt, so I couldn’t really feel it then. But now I can finally look back and think about what I’ve done."
When asked what message he would give to those who are pursuing their dreams, he answered: "I’m still partway (in my pursuit) so I’m no expert, but ‘dream’ is not a word I like very much.
"But I do like the word ‘chance’ because I think that people who have been doing one thing for a very long time will have more chance than those who don’t.
"Whether a dream can be fulfilled or not is up to that person, I think to be able to feel that you are increasing your chance to fulfil your dream will bring excitement to your everyday life, so I think it’s important to keep your head down in that one thing."
And finally, we asked Hijiki whether he's had the chance to meet the first crush he's had in elementary school. It turns out, he had.
"I’ve been visiting many schools, and I always had in the back of my mind that maybe one day I will see her again. And it happened! Three or four years ago I went to a school to teach, and to my surprise, it was where my first crush now teaches at.
"After all these years, I was finally able to reunite with her. I’ve told her I had a crush on her back then, although she shrugged it off. To meet again after literally decades is like a dream, and I feel the rope brought this crush to full circle – it was one of those precious moments where I was so glad I’ve been skipping ropes."