Gruen panellist and Leo Burnett ad executive Todd Sampson learned there's only so much you can preparation you can do to spend just a few days in an extraordinary person's shoes.
"I had to get my eyes seen by a doctor in America before I could fight in mixed martial arts," Sampson tells WHO of training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for his Ten series BodyHack. "I was sitting in the waiting room and I couldn't see because they had dilated my eyes. I said to director Jeff Siberry, 'I can't film, not like this, especially with people throwing punches at me, or, whatever. I could get seriously hurt.' Then he said, 'We need a safe word.'"
Although Sampson isn't sure why he and Siberry chose 'Baltimore,' he concedes, "I tell ya, I said 'Baltimore' so many times on this series, but it didn't really help. I said it in my mind — not out loud!"
Sampson survived his bout, along with hunting in Tanzania, training for the French Foreign Legion, performing stunts in Bollywood, free-diving in Borneo and becoming a Mount Everest Sherpa. He then broke down his experiences through science to see how people do the extreme things they do.
"We worked from what people would be interested in knowing about," Sampson says. "For example, we thought about 'resilience' and 'mental toughness.' It's good for families and good for kids. So we thought, 'Who are the toughest mentally? French Foreign Legion.' It's not like I sat around and went, 'Wouldn't it be great to become a fighter?' It was more, 'endurance' and 'pain management,' who does that really well in the world? Fighters.'"
After trying a Houdini escape and walking on wire for his series Redesign My Brain, did Sampson's wife Neomie and their daughters Coco, 9, and Jet, 7, draw any limits for what they wanted to see him do?
"Obviously, I put myself at a little bit of risk," Sampson says. "I consider it to be a calculated risk. I kind of had a deal with Neomie that we don't really talk about it. She has a rough idea because there's no use in them worrying about it because they can't do anything about it — I just do it."
When he's at home, though, Sampson is happy to leave the derring-do to the rest of the family. "They're really good fighters," he says. "Neomie is a blue belt in jiu-jitsu and my kids are yellow belts in jiu-jitsu."
Sampson adds that Neomie is the role model in the house. "In some ways, I'm a bit of a sideshow for the girls," he says. "I introduced Neomie to the MMA and Neomie took over. The difference between Neomie and me is that I was a fan watching it — she just went out and did it."
To hear more from Todd Sampson, pick up this week's WHO on newsstands everywhere.
You might also like...