Posts Tagged ‘Luis Moco’

Final Thoughts from American Ninja Warrior 5

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Just a few short months after it finished airing on TV, I’m finally getting around to writing my final thoughts at the conclusion of the American Ninja Warrior 5 season (doh!).   A dramatic increase in the intensity of my job and some predictable post-season depression has undermined both my will and availability to blog about good old American Ninja Warrior.  My thoughts at the end of the season fall into three general categories:  This Blog, The Show, and Me, Me, Me.

THIS BLOG – Many of you may know that I operated this blog over the past years at the killer domain until the beginning of this summer.  I’ve been a fan of Ninja Warrior (Sasuke) and an aspiring ninja for a good number of years, and purchased the domain before American Ninja Warrior existed in an moment of inspiration that there would eventually be a competition in the US operating under that name.  From very early days of the show I started my blog using that domain to chronicle my journey as a middle-aged dad dreaming and attempting to compete in the world’s toughest obstacle course competition.  As the show grew and I had the honor to compete over the last four seasons, so did the following of my blog at that domain, and I soon routinely had over 10,000 visitors a month to my site from all over the world.

The blog itself evolved in its nature over time, originally starting as a simple blog about my experiences & training and morphing into a hybrid of my personal experience combined with journalistic reporting of the events and episodes of the show.  I realized that many people coming to the domain were looking for information about the show, and were not necessarily interested in my personal experience, so I felt obliged as caretaker of the killer domain and (sorta) ambassador for the show to cover general happenings of American Ninja Warrior to provide them what they were looking for.  This meant I began posting summaries of episodes with my personal observations and spin on the happenings.  That was a lot of fun, but it began to feel a bit like a burden if I didn’t cover every episode.  I didn’t want to let down my friends and fellow ninjas who might have competed in a given region or episode, nor the fans of my blog who grew accustomed to reading about them, and I felt compelled to write summaries of every episode even when I had little time to do them (and they were time-consuming).  The blog became less about my personal experience, and more of a general blog about the show.  For American Ninja Warrior 5 I didn’t even write a blog about my own experience and run on the course, which previously had been one of my biggest blogs of the year in past seasons.

This is all background to why at the end of this past season I just stopped writing blogs.  I transferred the domain to TBS and NBC in recognition of their intellectual property ownership of the name American Ninja Warrior when they requested it, and I ported my blog over to this new domain  At first I continued blogging as usual, but with hardly anyone coming to the new domain (and certainly not tens of thousands of people looking for general American Ninja Warrior content), I no longer felt compelled to serve up routine content.  Now a few months have passed, and I’ve been feeling the itch to write again about my favorite past-time, and somewhat liberated by the modesty of my new domain and negligible site traffic to return this blog to my roots and write about my own experience and aspiration as a competitor.  I’m sure I will still cover big news about the show, but I’ll hopefully be less of a compulsive journalist about it and more of a periodic personal columnist.  Thank you to what few readers of this blog I may still have, and I hope you continue to read about my experiences, and share your own thoughts and aspirations with me.

THE SHOW – As a viewer and a competitor, this may have been my favorite season of American Ninja Warrior.  With it being the second year that NBC was operating it as a prime-time show, there was a lot more invested in the quality and freshness of the course.  Instead of the obstacles barely being different from region-to-region, and from the previous season to the current one, the show invested in building many new obstacles that were fresh and never used in competition before.  This leveled the playing field as competitors had to first attempt these obstacles on the course in competition, versus having tried them in previous competitions or having built rote skills on them by having replicas of them in their backyard or at their local parkour/ninja gym.  As a competitor and a viewer, I loved this, and enjoyed trying new obstacles and seeing other competitors try their hands at new exciting inventive obstacles in their own regions.

One thing that saddened me a bit about this season, and this was entirely predictable and a natural byproduct of the success of the show, was the increased participation in the show of people who didn’t appreciate the original spirit of Ninja Warrior that emphasizes humility and camaraderie.  I know this makes me sound like a grouchy “old-timer”, but many good people who loved this original spirit of the competition did not get invited back to compete in this season, while a gaggle of newcomers arrived who seemed more interested in doing whatever they could do garner their moment in the limelight and lacked this defining humility.  This is certainly not true of all newcomers to the show, or even most…many of the new competitors are amazing people with inspiring backgrounds.  But every time I saw a competitor blatantly behave to grab the spotlight and act with arrogance it made me miss some of my old ninja friends whose spots they took more poignantly.

In terms of the sheer athletic quality and the determination of the competitors, this past season was a huge jump forward from an already high plateau.  This season attracted a number of amazing new competitors, and many veteran competitors took their game to a completely new level.  I know a lot of fellow competitors personally, and I’ve marveled at their dedication and sheer will to train and prepare during the long off-season.  There were as many as a dozen guys this year who I felt could have won the whole thing if a critical spot or two went their way.  Brian Arnold had an awe-inspiring run that ended with him just one rung away from completing Stage 3 and probably cruising up the rope climb in Stage 4 of the Vegas Finals, and earning the coveted title of the first American Ninja Warrior.  His near Total Victory has inspired other top ninjas to really accelerate their own training this off-season and I predict that there will be a mad sprint to the top of Mt Midoriyama in American Ninja Warrior 6, with the season witnessing the first winner of Total Victory and awarding the title of the original American Ninja Warrior.

ME, ME, ME – Aside from my blog entitled “Thank You Baltimore” that I wrote back in April right after having competed there, in which I couldn’t share any information about my actual performance on the course or my thoughts in its aftermath due to non-disclosure provisions, I didn’t write a single blog dedicated to my experience competing in American Ninja Warrior 5.  I explained why in the section This Blog above.  I still hope to write an article about my run in American Ninja Warrior 5 (not that many people would care this far after the event), but on a top-level I’ll share that I obviously fell short of my goal of advancing to the National Finals in Vegas.  In American Ninja Warrior 4, I sincerely feel that I narrowly missed achieving that goal when I couldn’t advance past the Warped Wall in the Midwest Regional Finals, missing by just a couple of inches.  This season I was healthy and not plagued by the healing torn Achilles that had undermined my jumping ability on the Warped Wall in ANW4, and I felt like I had a great shot.  But it wasn’t meant to be, I fell on the second-to-last obstacle in the opening regional round in Baltimore.  Although disappointed, the skinny waxy ropes of the Circle Cross obstacle and the cold night chill was simply too much for my grip strength and 215 lbs, and I can live with that.  My failure there was comforted by the failure at the same spot by a number of stronger ninjas than me – guys like Chris Wilczewski, Luis Moco, and Jesse “The Jet” Villareal among others.  I was bummed to have failed there, but I knew before I stepped on the course that the Circle Cross would be the “do or die” obstacle for me.  At least I didn’t fail on something that I knew I should have gotten past, so that helps me sleep at night.

After this season, after every one season in fact, I continually got asked whether I was going to try again.  Most people seem to fail to realize that I LOVE competing in ANW, am COMPELLED to compete, and I’ll keep trying my hand at it until they tell me to not come back again (and even then I might still try to sneak on!).  Fellow competitors don’t ask me this question, we all understand each other and what compels us to compete, and know each other’s competitive souls and don’t question that we will all be back stronger and more determined.  Civilians don’t get this though, and they mostly seem pleasantly surprised at my continuing delusion when I tell them that I will absolutely keep competing, even at age 42!  My next blog will be about my training, determination, and mindset this off-season as I prepare for American Ninja Warrior 6, but until then let me leave you with the words of the great poet Dylan Thomas:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


Circle Cross – Top Killer in ANW5

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I felt marginally better when I saw that the Circle Cross, which slew me in the Baltimore Qualifying round as well as other top ninjas like Chris Wilczewski, Noel Reyes, Luis Moco, Justin Kidd, Michelle Warnky, and Jesse “The Jet” Villareal, was the #2 ninja killer of the entire American Ninja Warrior 5 season.

Guess I lost the coin flip

Guess I lost the coin flip

ANW5 Circle Cross

The slick little rope slipped right through my fat sausage fingers

ANW5 Circle Cross Falling

I think I am about to get wet

Thank You Baltimore!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

At Starting Line Moments before ANW5 Run

Wow. Words are going to fail here describing how insanely fun this past weekend was competing in Baltimore for American Ninja Warrior 5. So surreal and immersive, and a roller-coaster ride of adrenaline and aspiration that was only tethered to the earth by the amazing camaraderie and humor of my ninja brothers and sisters who I was sharing the experience with. Unfortunately I can’t tell how I did, as we are all bound by confidentiality about results until the season airs this summer, but before I got totally swept away back into the tides of my “regular life” I wanted to pause and be thankful for being able to have such an amazing experience with some truly great people.

CASTING & PRODUCTION – I’ll begin by saying that it was an honor and a thrill to be invited to compete in American Ninja Warrior 5. Even though it is my fourth season competing I never take the opportunity for granted, and if anything feel increasingly lucky every year that I get to be a part of this great competition and community. So I want to be certain I give a huge THANK YOU to the American Ninja Warrior production and casting team that invited me to participate again this year, and did an absolutely amazing job both before and during the event managing the logistics and fragile dreams of a growing horde of applicants and competitors. Particular thanks goes to Sabrina Hybel, my main casting contact, who handled not only me but many others with a deft professional and personal touch. Also big thanks to Phil, Matt, Jeff, and Andrea are also due (forgive me for overlooking others who played important roles). Thank you guys!

NINJA BROTHERS & SISTERS – I’d be totally remiss and missing out on a big part of what makes the American Ninja Warrior experience special if I didn’t shout to the heavens “LOVE YOU GUYS!” to all my fellow ninja brothers and sisters. The amount of encouragement and support I’ve gotten from fellow contestants has been humbling, and I cherish their friendship. Although I love me some obstacle course running, the best thing of this experience has been the friends made and experiences shared with them. It’s funny, some of these people you know for a few seasons just from online boards and Facebook groups, and forget that you’ve never met in person, so it was awesome to finally meet in person great people like Luis Moco, Bradley “B-Nice” Smith, Tom Hutchman, Dan “GravityForged” Galiczynski, Travis Weinand, Noel Reyes, Mike Needham, Jesse “The Jet” Villareal, Adam Grossman, Tim Shieff, Brandon Willis, Gabriel Arnold, Seth Caskey, Michelle Warnky, Chris DiGangi, Chris Zurcher, Justin Conway, Beth Higginbotham, Sarah Williams, TJ Allcot, Mike Ciardi, Aric Lee, and many others to build those friendships (forgive me those I left out here!). It was also great to spend more time with existing buddies like Chris Wilczewski, Jamie Rahn, Mike Bernardo, Andrew Lowes, Andrew Karsen, Eric Sietsema, Nick Kostner, Brian Wilczewski, and others to further build those bonds. Your friendship and humor made the weekend incredible fun. I also want to specifically thank The Warrior Lab family (now The Movement Lab), and particularly the ring-leader Chris Wilczewski, for including me in their family and fun for this experience, hanging with you guys was “awesome sauce” (to quote Chris Z). A shoutout to the Lab “support crew” of Charles Kokolskyj, Rachel Carlton, Kaitlin Flip, and Kaitlin Faunce.

THE EXPERIENCE – Now this is a bit more amorphous than thanking casting & production, and my fellow ninjas, but I am deeply grateful for the broader experience of simply participating in something like American Ninja Warrior. This year was incredibly competitive to just get a spot to compete with a reduction in run slots being magnified by a huge spike in submissions from wannabe ninjas fueled by the NBC network exposure of two primetime series focusing on American Ninja Warrior 4 airing in the last 9 months. Even though I had competed in the 3 previous seasons, it was not a given at all that I would be invited back to compete. Many many very qualified committed ninjas who were veterans and even stars of previous seasons did not get invited back. I’m very grateful and humbled to have been invited back to ANW5. I’ve summed up what American Ninja Warrior means to me in other posts, so I won’t bore you with a broad treatment of that here, but I will say that I’ve been truly surprised by all the rewarding positive things I’ve gotten out of this experience of being a competitor. For a middle-aged dad with serious responsibilities as a father-of-three and a businessman, having something so fun, physical, and playful has added an amazing and fun dimension to my life experience, and has been an profound vehicle of lessons for my three young sons. Not only does it make them appreciate their dad more (not too many middle-aged dads play on the playgrounds with their kids like I do!), but they also learn key life lessons about trying your best, and hard ones like even when you try your best you sometimes fail. As my oldest son (7 years old) has observed, if you try really difficult obstacles sometimes you fall in the water. And even falling in the water in itself can be a valuable life experience. So…American Ninja Warrior…thank you for this great experience!

Re-reading this blog, I was right at the start. Words failed me. Even as long as this blog post is, there were many things left unsaid. One thing I do want to acknowledge is the hard luck of many folks who waited for days to try and get a walkon spot to run the course. Fate (and rain) conspired against you, and only 6 of you got to run when at least 20 expected to out of a line well over a hundred. Tough luck, and my heart goes out to you, but I admire your will to compete and what you were willing to do to go after your dreams. Even if you didn’t get to run this year, those attributes are priceless in life and will benefit you in great ways down the road, so don’t despair! Great things lie ahead.

National Finalists in American Ninja Warrior 4

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Here is a list of the 90 national finalists in American Ninja Warrior 4 who advanced to Las Vegas to compete on the Mt. Midoriyama replica uber-course that was built there. There will be 10 wildcards added to these 90 competitors to make an even 100 runners, which is the traditional number that competed in the original Ninja Warrior Japan (Sasuke) for many years. The identity of these wildcards will be revealed when the show airs.

15 finalists from each of the 6 regions (listed below in order of finish) fought their way through their respective regional rounds and then the regional finals to advance to the first finals of American Ninja Warrior held in the US. Mad props to all these competitors, and hit LIKE to applaud them and share this list to spread the word of their awesomeness!

Evan Dollard
Jesse La Flair
Kole Stevens
Remi Bakkar
Brent Steffenson
Chad Simpson
Derek Nakamoto
Dorian Cedars
Dan Mast
Paul Darnell
Sedderick Bassett
Ryan Thompson
Dylan Curry
Ronnie Shalvis Jr
Michael “Frosti” Zernow

Matthew Derouen
Andrew Karsen
Jack Morgan
Stephen Volcko
Arthur Skov
Michael Silenzi
Nick ‘Lovin’ Stephforn
Johnathan Morin
Scott Robinson
Will Dodd
Joshua Grant
Andrew Lowes
Nate Aye
Nick Kostner
Cade Halada

Tim Shieff
Luis Moco
Dan Galiczynski
Chris Wilczewski
Elet Hall
Travis Graves
Jesse Villareal
Christopher DiGangi
Andrew Wood
Danny Johnson
Bradley Smith Jr.
Phillip Pirollo
John Sapinoso
Matt Mings
Michael Pericoloso

James McGrath
Travis Furlanic
David Campbell
Sean Noble
Kyle Cochrane
Justin Sweeney
Josh Horsley
Nathan Sausedo
Justin Walcker
J.B. Douglas
Kevan Reoli
Ben Snead
Brian Kretsch
Gunner Bahn
Patrick McGrath

Paul Kasemir
Brandon Douglass
Brian Arnold
Jaret Salas
Kevin Klein
Sat Khalsa
Ahmed Toure
Josh Lobeck
Lorin Ball
Jake Smith
Bob Pondrom
Nathaniel Spencer
James Wyatt
Tremayne Dortch
Alan Connealy

David “Flip” Rodriguez
Drew Dreschel
Travis Rosen
Jared “J.J.” Woods
Michael Ekhert
Bull Bullard
Sean Morris
William Brown
Thomas Hall
Brendan Kelly
Andy Taylor
Adam Grossman
Niko Bogucki
Tony Reddick
Paul O’Connor

Northeast Region on Deck

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Better late than never…too much work this past week to be dutiful getting this out! The Northeast region is on deck tonight of G4 for the opening round and then on NBC for Monday night for the regional finals. There are a lot of studs in the Northeast region, and I’m really looking forward to watching them throw down tonight and tomorrow night on the tube.

The Northeast region took place in Miami, and below is a non-comprehensive list of some of the cast of characters you’re likely to see. Forgive me for overlooking some folks…I don’t always know what region competitors are running in, and of course I don’t know everybody, but these are some of the competitors that I have on my radar screen for Northeast:

Tim “Livewire” Shieff – Worldwide parkour champ from 2009, professional free-runner/stuntmen, the guy is a living legend in the parkour/free-running community around the planet. Capable of winning the whole thing.
Chris Wilczewski – See my blog below about Chris and his interview video. The guy is a stud.
Mike Bernardo – DC firefighter and paramedic. I’ve known Mike since we were getting ready to compete both of us for the first time in ANW2. He’s a very strong well-conditioned athlete, and could be a real darkhorse in the region.
Travis Noble Graves – From the legendary Tribe\APK team.
The Amazing Oti – Everybody on the G4 and Sasuke Maniac Forum boards know Oti, and his legendary focus and preparation. The dude is an animal, and a good ninja brother who has encouraged me since I was just dreaming about competing for the first time.
Luis Moco – Stuntman from NYC/Boston, good dude and very strong.

And many others…(forgive the jumbled list, rushed to get this out before a long flight): Jamie Rahn aka Captain G4/NBC, Mike Needham, Phil Pirollo (owner of Pinnacle Parkour), Danny Johnson from PA, Travis Weinand from The Warrior Lab, Noel Reyes from NYC/FDNY, Dan Galiczynski aka Gravity Forged (sick gymnast from PA), Elet Hansel Hall parkour stud from MD, Michael Pericloso a dancer from NYC, Ron Dukes personal trainer from Philly, and Gabe Arnold also from Pinnacle. All super-strong competitors capable of going deep in American Ninja Warrior 4.

Gentlemen, start your engines!