Confessions of a Non-Ninja: A Ninja Warrior Experience


By: Avi Glickstein

Here’s a minor confession.

American Ninja Warrior is a national obsession and has been on the air for close to a decade. Despite this, I had no idea it existed until someone in my family shared this video of Kacy Katanzaro’s 2014 run. My jaw gradually slacked to the floor as I watched. But then the awe gradually subsided. In its place arose the thought that so readily occurs to all my fellow soft-bodied couch coaches: “It can’t be THAT hard.” This is, of course, the illusion someone at such a high level of athleticism creates – our minds just leap right over all the work and pain that goes into them making it seem so easy.

I was crestfallen to discover that I am out of excuses as Aviator Sports is apparently springboarding off their popular parkour program and will begin offering the American Ninja Warrior experience with Ninja Warrior classes. They’re in the process of building out a course containing many of the obstacles fans of the show will be familiar with – Warped Wall, Cannonball Alley, Cargo Net, etc. – and plan to start introducing Ninja Warrior elements into their parkour classes in April with an eye toward doing a combined class in the summer and possibly offering separate Ninja Warrior classes in September.

So back to that “work and pain” thing. I wondered what training to run a Ninja Warrior obstacle course would look like – aside from lots of falling down – so I spoke with Gymnastics Manager Jenn Dooley and instructor Thomas Dolan, who are working on building the Ninja Warrior program.

Depending on age (students can be age 5 to adult), classes will run one hour or 1.5 hours. They’ll start with warm-up and stretches (mostly arms and shoulders) and move into going through the course one obstacle at a time. The final 20-30 minutes will be devoted to going through the course. While the parkour classes also utilize obstacle courses and timed runs as part of their training, the Ninja Warrior classes focus on completing specific unique and challenging obstacles with the end goal of making it all the way through the course without falling. In addition, there are some features Aviator has that other facilities don’t. One is their foam pit and trampoline into the foam pit. Another is their relationship with USA Gymnastics, as Jenn explained:

“We’ve been members of USA Gymnastics since we’ve opened — so the past 10 years. And USA Gymnastics has been working with Drew Drechsel, who’s known as The Real Life Ninja. We’ve taken a lot of the information from USA Gymnastics – from their partnership, going to conferences and conventions – directly from him. It’s just kind of fit in here very well. It’s great to have both in the same facility – Ninja Warrior experience and the gymnastics program.”

Thomas adds: “All of our parkour and Ninja Warrior coaches have been practicing for many years – most of us over a decade – and are extremely passionate about movement of all forms. We’re excited that we can now introduce a new generation of students to these activities that have meant so much to us growing up!”

The main difference between the parkour and Ninja Warrior classes is that the parkour class is meant to prepare students for any type of obstacle they encounter by developing strength and speed while Ninja Warrior is focused on practice for specific, unique obstacles. If keeping it loose is more your speed, they have a fully modular parkour setup and change it up every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, their parkour classes are currently full, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on their site. They’re going to be offering a 6-week introductory class in the spring in anticipation of ramping up their Ninja Warrior program.

Or you could always go the DIY route…

But this is Brooklyn – space is at a premium, right?


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