Fishlike International | About Total Immersion
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About Total Immersion

Terry Laughlin and Total Immersion

Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion, was not always an outstanding swimmer. In fact, he did not make the team for his Catholic Grammar School in 1964.


After 4 years of swimming at St John’s University in New York and despite hundreds of hours of practice, Terry felt that his timing was never going to improve and he was disappointed that he was going nowhere with the lack of an innate talent.


Terry began coaching at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point on Long Island 6 months after retiring swimming. It was there that he realized that technique was the most significant factor in swimming success and begun to work with a group of pioneering coaches on teaching a ‘fishlike’ style of swimming that emphasized ‘slippery’ bodylines instead of muscling the water with arms and legs. As a result of his technique, the teams he coached went on to win several swim meets and championships, breaking long-held records and earning national rankings. Terry was only 21 when he was named Coach of the Year by the NCAA.


Amongst Terry’s stunning achievements are completing the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim while in his 50s, winning the National Masters Open Water championships at four distances, and breaking the national records in the 1-mile and 2-mile cable swims. He has also written the highly regarded “Total Immersion”, which remains one of the best-selling books in the sport. For someone who believed he had “no talent”, Terry had come very far indeed.


In October 2017, Terry passed away at 66 years old after complications with the prostate cancer he was suffering from. Laughlin is survived by his wife, Alice, and daughters Fiona, Carrie and Betsy.

What Is Total Immersion

Unlike traditional freestyle which is a test of endurance, Total Immersion (TI) is a skill-based approach to freestyle that harnesses the laws of fluid dynamics, developments in exercise physiology, cognitive psychology (how we learn) and neurobiology (train the brain as specifically as any muscle) to improve your swim. Instead of expending energy to work against water resistance, TI allows you to flow with it, hence achieving a sleek “fishlike” effortlessness. Using heightened awareness of mind and body, you will learn to utilize the right muscle groups for propulsion, and to achieve balance and streamlining in the water instead of using your arms and legs for all the work as with traditional freestyle swimming.


The end result is comfort, control and confidence – and the ability to swim further and faster with less effort. To find out more about Total Immersion, visit their website at

Watch Total Immersion In Action With Shinji Takeuchi

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