The Tampa Bay Frogman Swim is an annual fundraiser that works to increase awareness of the Naval Special Warfare community. It also supports the Navy SEAL Foundation. John Doolittle served in the United States Navy for 25 years, but he feels as strongly about doing events such as this as he did when he wore the uniform.
“This year, we had our highest attendance of Gold Star spouses. Our goal this year was to hit $1 million for the SEAL Foundation to help Gold Star families,” he said. “I think of the ultimate sacrifice being the parents, spouses, and kids of those that are left behind.”
Doolittle reported that the 2023 event was a massive success, and he feels that besides being a dad of three kids, it’s one of his greatest contributions to be a part of an event such as this.
“Seeing these families interacting with their loved one’s teammates and those who served when those loved ones were still around is great. The joy it can bring them is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”
Taking part in events like the Frogman Swim and others is something that Doolittle not only could do, but should do. Like many who have played a role in defending freedom, the job of making the world a better place doesn’t end at the retirement ceremony. He feels that each day that passes is an opportunity to help make someone’s life better.
“There are so many people struggling out there right now, man.”
Doolittle was raised in Northern California. He and his sister were avid swimmers. Initially inspired by the initial “Top Gun” film in the 1980s, Doolittle had initially planned on serving in the United States Naval Academy. They actually declined him, so he shifted to the United States Air Force Academy instead.
“I wanted to try that. I wanted to be a pilot,” he said. One of my swimming coaches helped me get in.”
However, due to cutbacks that were made in the early 1990’s, only the top third out of his graduating class of 92 people would move on to Underground Pilot Training. He was unable to break that threshold. Unsure of what he wanted to do next, he reached out to one of his mentors, 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist and 200-meter world record holder Mike Troy for advice.
“He was my coach in high school, and I called him. He said ‘get out of the Air Force, go into the Navy and join the Seal Teams.’”
After initial contemplation, Doolittle took his advice. The same day he graduated in his Air Force parade uniform, he changed into his Navy choker whites. That would be the beginning of a career that lasted a lot longer than he may have initially thought.
“The vast majority of my time in the Navy was on the Seal teams.”
In 2017, Doolittle hung up his uniform for the final time, but he found another career that has helped him make a positive difference in a lot of lives, including his own. After going through 13 orthopedic surgeries thanks to his service, he needed a way to start feeling better physically. It was through his search for remedies that he discovered KAATSU, a company that shares the same name as the practice.
Doolittle explained that KAATSU is a non-invasive method of using blood circulation to enhance both recovery and performance. KAATSU is Japanese for “added pressure.”. Each time the compression is applied, it’s a little stronger. This was initially done manually, but technology has advanced over the decades, and KAATSU now has both personal and medical devices that can do the work for them.
“It’s not tourniquets or a typical BFR band. They’re elastic and pneumatic bands. It’s controlled releases over and over again so it can be used in a passive mode,” he explained. “You can put them on your upper arms or upper legs, and the machine puts a little bit of air pressure in the band. Regardless of how high you go, you don’t occlude blood flow.”
The practice was discovered and created by Dr. Yoshiaki Soto, and it was practiced in Japan going back to the early 1970’s, but it had only made its way to the Western world and Europe in recent years. Doolittle can be seen in his backyard doing workouts while wearing his KAATSU bands on a regular basis. He notes that KAATSU different than the typical blood flow restriction that many weightlifters and athletes practice today.
“It was what I used for my physical therapy to recover from my last two surgeries,” he explained. “That was how I got introduced to it, about a year before I retired.”
Today, Doolittle is the Chief Revenue Officer for KAATSU, and he serves as an advocate of the practice to help fellow veterans like himself as well as other folks who could benefit from implementing it into their lives.
“What KAATSU is doing for people with residual limb issues or pain, neuropathy issues, phantom limb pain is an amazing way to have better quality of life” he stated. “For example, when you meet a guy that had used opioids and alcohol to sleep, and you can present something to that person that’s not a drug, and they can come off drinking to sleep, that is very special.”
Whether it’s physical health through his efforts at KAATSU or contributing time and effort to helping future generations such as children of Gold Star families, Doolittle realizes that there is a new generation preparing to take the reins, and he hopes that many others will join him in efforts to prepare them to serve by helping them stay fit and prepared to defend freedom as he did for a quarter-century.
“With a suicide epidemic and mental health issues coming to light, it’s crazy what these kids are dealing with. We all have to do better for them.” To learn more about KAATSU, go to www.kaatsu.com . You can also follow them on Instagram @kaatsu.