Posts Tagged ‘Makoto Nagano’

Jacked Up and Ready to Go!

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Tomorrow morning I head out to LA to compete in American Ninja Warrior 2 to be held at Venice Beach over the weekend, and MAN am I jacked up and ready to go!  Apparently G4 has really set up a great festival format that will have not only the competitors’ course, but a kids course, a museum to Ninja Warrior history, a meet-and-greet section with two of the Ninja Warrior Grand Champions (Nagano and Urushihara), and all sorts of merchandise.   They are anticipating over 100,000 to come to the event over the weekend.  Should be a madhouse at Venice Beach!

To further prepare for the obstacle course itself, last Tuesday I got up at 5 am and returned home after midnight in a marathon day with 12 hours traveling in cars and through airports just for the privilege of going to Santa Cruz, California, to train for a few hours with Ninja Warrior icon David Campbell on his legendary backyard obstacle course.  David Campbell is a hardcore Ninja Warrior nut, and competed in Ninja Warrior in Japan (2009) and in American Ninja Warrior 1, and is known far-and-wide in the Ninja Warrior community here in the US for both his prowess and his awesome backyard obstacle course.  Figuring that what I most needed at this point is some specific obstacle training, I flew out to Santa Cruz to train with David for a few hours in his backyard and get tips from him on some of those specific obstacles.  Many of his obstacles are harder than what they have in American Ninja Warrior, designed to the more rigorous Japanese Ninja Warrior specs.  It was great practice, and I got to train on the Warped Wall, the Spider Jump, the Jumping Bars, the basic Rope Swing, the Sextuple Step, and the Salmon Ladder.  It was awesome!  Some things were harder than I expected (Warped Wall), and other things were easier than I expected (Jumping Bars and Salmon Ladder).  The Spider Wall was a bitch, which was pretty much what I expected, but I think the one I may face in American Ninja Warrior will be easier (it was much easier last year than the Japanese version).  No doubt I am better prepared for having done this training session, and only wish that I could train on it a bunch more like David and his nephew Travis (he was a finalist in ANW 1 last year and competed in Japan).  David and Travis were great…very cool and supportive (thanks guys!).  It was a great experience, and, man, was I sore the next couple of days!

Anyway, my run time on Sunday is at 10 am, so I get to hang out all day on Saturday and watch the other competitors give their best on the course, and hopefully pick up some tips of what to do and what not to do.  I can’t WAIT to find out what obstacles they have on the course this year!  Then I can go to bed Saturday night dreaming of running the course and surmounting those specific obstacles, and hopefully rock it in the first group of runners Sunday morning so I can hang out for the rest of the day seeing if my time makes the top 30 slots to advance to the semifinals.  About 300-350 people will run the course in the opening round over Saturday and Sunday, and only 30 will advance, so it is sort of a long shot, but this whole adventure is sort of a long shot!  All I can do is my best, and with my training the last few months, my healed hand (yeah!), and my training with David on his obstacle course, I am as ready as I’m going to be.

Wish me luck, and please channel some strength, determination, focus and agility my way on Sunday morning, I’m going to need it!  I guess I’ll only have to follow the advice of my 5 year old who said this morning, “Daddy, if you feel like you are slipping and going to fall, just hang on!”

Reality Check – Weight

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I stepped on the scale and cringed when I saw it read 227.  That’s probably close to a hundred pounds more than Ninja Warrior Grand Champion Makoto Nagano, and probably 70 to 80 pounds more than the majority of the top competitors in the inaugural American Ninja Warrior from 2009.  Every additional pound I have is a pound I’ll have to haul around on this obstacle course that rewards relative strength.  So many things to hang on and drag yourself across.  227 lbs is a burden.  Not that I’m not pretty strong in relative terms even in that weight, I can crank out 15 to 20 full pullups in a set yanking that 227 pounds up, but I know I need to drop some weight to increase my chances.  I figure the fastest way to increase my strength and chances by at least 10% is to lose 10% of my body-weight.  I actually figure that it’s somewhat of a non-linear function there, and my stamina and relative strength will go up by more than 10% if I can drop 10% of my weight.  So 10% off my weight means dropping 23 pounds down to 204.  Can I do that in 3 months?  Probably not (that’s the spririt!), but I’m going to at least try.  I think dropping 20-25 pounds has to be one of the core steps of preparation that I will have to commit myself to.

Do I Dare?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Do I dare try to make and compete in American Ninja Warrior as a middle-aged 39-year-old father of three? A few years ago a buddy of mine, Ron, and I sort of got into Ninja Warrior (called Sasuke in Japan), the insane obstacle course competition featured twice a year in Japan that the cable channel G4 plays all the time. For those that haven’t seen the show, the obstacle course is diabolical, laid out in 4 stages of increasing pain and insanity.  In 24 contests over the last dozen years only 3 competitors out of 2,300 have ever finished the course.

Like a lot of couch potatoes, my buddy Ron and I would comment about how we could probably get past a lot of the obstacles. We harbored dreams of going to Japan and competing in Ninja Warrior, and taking it by storm as a couple of middle-aged Americans. This dream even motivated us to start going to the rock climbing gym here in Santa Fe, because many of the Ninja Warrior obstacles are based on insane grip and arm strength, characteristics we thought rock-climbing would help further.  More than anything we felt that to even have a chance at competing we needed to develop an “iron kung fu grip.”

Fast forward a couple of years, and we’ve forgotten about the Ninja Warrior dream (although we’ve continued to rock-climb), that is until last fall when AMERICAN Ninja Warrior was held for the first time, a competition here in the US where the finalists would get flown over to Japan to compete on the legendary Ninja Warrior course (here’s a good short video about the American Ninja Warrior course and competition structure). Hundreds competed in this tournament held in LA, with only 30 completing the first stage and moving forward. A couple of more stages of punishing obstacle course madness, and the ten finalists were left standing. They went to Japan and largely flailed on the Japanese Ninja Warrior course, but that’s not really the point.  The point was that ten guys got to beat the American Ninja Warrior course, get to look like studs for a few hours of cable TV, and get an all-expense-paid trip to Japan to step onto the hallowed course of Mount Midoriyama and compete in the legendary Sasuke.  With only 3 competitors out of 2,300 pretenders completing the 4 stage Sasuke course over the last dozen years, clearly the honor is in the competition and leaving it all out on the course.

So  back to the fast forward part…American Ninja Warrior 1 was replayed on G4 last week and it began to stir the juices.  I looked up the specifics of competing in American Ninja Warrior 2 and saw that they had just released the info for American Ninja Warrior 2 (to be held in July in Los Angeles). What I found was that there are basically two ways to get into the competition: first, you can submit a video with your story and some footage of your Ninja Warrior-esque athletic accomplishments to earn a guaranteed invite, or, second, you can just show up to the competition and wait around in line for a couple of days hoping to get a shot. Nothing guaranteed. But if you are determined and submit a good video early in the submission window, and are even willing to go to the competition without a guaranteed invite, there’s a pretty good shot you’d get a chance to compete.

At 39 and with my opportunities for athletic competition rapidly dwindling, should I give it a shot? Sort of insane, given that at age 39 I’m a good 50% older than most of the competitors who tend to be in their mid 20s. Another significant disadvantage…I’m a big guy. Makoto Nagano, Grand Champion of Ninja Warrior and the last guy to finish the course, clocks in at about 5’2″ and 130 pounds. That’s pretty typical of the top Japanese competitors, and not too far away from what the top American Ninja Warrior competitors who tend to be taller but still only about a buck-fifty in weight with ridiculously low body-fat.  With many obstacles requiring you climbing, swinging, and launching yourself using only your upper body, there is a real premium in relative strength. Me? I’m 6’4″ and 225 pounds.  Hauling that much body around is going to be my principle challenge.

But should I try anyway? Dare to put myself out there for probable failure, and potentially looking ridiculous? I think I just might…butterflies in the stomach even thinking about it.  At 39 and a long way from my athletic peak, which by the way was pretty good (could 360 dunk), do I have enough left in the tank?  Do I still have a little Ninja Warrior inside me?