Though everyone in the sport of Ninja agrees that there are different levels of athletes,…
When we opened our first Rock Solid Warrior location in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina in 2019, we were told by our insurance agent that “Ninja Warrior” was the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Unfortunately, while still in its infancy, COVID hit and really tested the entire ninja community. Some organizations didn’t make it through, but now we’re back on track. Even so, it is still a fairly young sport that is still working through some challenges.
Some of the really unique things about the sport is the freedom and innovation that keeps it continually evolving and improving. Unlike some other sports like gymnastics where the events are pretty strictly constrained, course designers and obstacle manufacturers are constantly coming up with new ideas. When you come to a competition, you never fully know what to expect, other than a challenge. As it is still a growing sport, sometimes, the courses are put together by people with less experience and less investment, and some events can be a little disappointing. Other times, the courses are more challenging than an athlete is ready for. Sometimes, when a course designer pushes the envelope with innovative obstacles, something can go wrong – like an obstacle malfunction – which interrupts the flow of an event. As long as you exercise some patience as you recognize that things may not always go perfectly smoothly and appreciate the efforts of the event organizers to be innovative, you’ll typically find the events a joy as you watch the amazing athletes push themselves to conquer the challenges set before them.
In a strange kind of way, the sport is a little like golf. It takes a decent amount of investment to create a facility to host events. There are larger ones and smaller ones as well as more polished and less polished ones. It is difficult and expensive to put up a set of courses quickly, so the vast majority of competitions are held at facilities that are already built. Like golf courses, there are similarities between facilities but the design and quality may vary significantly. But unlike golf courses, the ability to change the course from day to day is very possible and, at some facilities, highly likely.
As a whole, the leaders in the ninja community generally embrace the idea of experimentation and innovation while we also recognize the need for increased safety and enough constraints to not have to guess at what kind of competition you are going to participate in. As much as some of the obstacles may look pretty scary, Ninja is actually a very safe sport compared to many others, as long as a few well-known precautions are taken. But, safety is the topic of another video we’ll be releasing soon.
Although innovation is generally encouraged, there are some calling for more uniformity in the sport. For example, the Federation of International Ninja Athletes (FINA) is beginning its 4th season and adds some more constraints to provide uniformity while still allowing for some creativity. Some coming to the sport from Gymnastics think that a lot of the equipment should be standardized. Others think that more variety is something to be embraced. It is a balancing act that will probably go on for a while and we believe the cream will rise to the top as we are already beginning to see. But that cream currently does not have and probably will not end up with a single flavor.
In addition to the various leagues events, there are a decent number of gyms that host independent events that are not sanctioned by any league ranging from beginner friendly competitions to advanced multi-stage events. We expect that these independent events will also continue for quite some time.