Aussie Ninja takes on the NNL and UNAA - What went wrong?

Australian Obstacle Racing News   |   Feb 21, 2017

Ninja Warrior is a strange beast.  It’s as much a performance as it is a test of agility and strength. 

Unlike other obstacle course races, you perform completely solo, you perform in front of a crowd, there’s a heap of cameras capturing every move you make and one tiny slip up - you’re out.

As Australian Ninja Warrior gets ready to air on Channel 9 in the next few months, we’re seeing more and more Ninja Warrior style competitions. There was one last weekend at The Compound in Victoria and Perth Ninja Academy has been holding them regularly for a while.

I recently had the opportunity to try my own luck in the United States with 3 Ninja competitions.  In the US there is a season of small competitions (one or two every weekend) that all wrap up on by the first weekend of March so that everyone can then focus on American Ninja Warrior (filming starts 7th of March in LA).

And, I did the worst.

The worst… like, I’m still crushed just thinking about it, in all 3 comps.

In two of the comps I probably went out earlier than anyone else, and in the other I went out on the 3rd obstacle that literally tripped up most of the competition.

It was brutal.

Here are some videos of people doing well in the 3 competitions I entered:

National Ninja League in Fresno

National Ninja League in NorCal (Concord)

Ultimate Ninja Athletes Association (Gresham)

So, what happened to me?  I kept trying to attribute it to one specific thing, that I can take away and work on, but it really is a whole heap of things.  This is what I’ve learned in this way too humbling experience: 

1.)  Prepare for the worst.

First comp ever…  I’m super crazy late (delayed flights), stressed and didn’t think I’d get to compete at all. I was the very last person, I scream in, barely notice the rules they’re shouting at me as I’m trying to change and get to the starting line.

I get through the first obstacle, adrenaline spiking, this is gonna be easy… and then the crowd aaaaawwwwww’s  in disappointment.  I overstepped a box I was supposed to stay on to line up for the 2nd obstacle.

I didn’t know that was a rule, but that doesn’t make it any less of one.

The take away though, is that if something is important, then plan and prepare appropriately. Prepare for the worst. I only thought about the best possible case scenario travel-wise. Instead I should have arrived a day earlier to check out the obstacles in the open-gym the night before… and heard and understood the rules at the start of the comp.

2.)  Balance obstacles really are the ninja-killers.

My 2nd competition, I breezed through the first two things, and totally crashed on the balance obstacle. I nearly hilariously bounced my way to safety too, but it was not to be. This balance obstacle (it was 3 balls in tires with a rolling log separating) took out a heap of very strong, very competent ninjas.  In Fresno, I didn’t even get to the rolling log, but apparently, it took out 80% of the competition.  Ninja Warrior competitors need to be training balance way more than we think we do.

3.)  You’ve got to do the work.

In the Fresno comp; only one finisher, in the UNAA comp; only one finisher…

I’ve watched over a hundred people tackle these courses, and only seen a couple of people complete.  Everyone who I saw finished sailed through the majority on the courses barely breaking a sweat.  Make no mistake, the cumulative fatigue is hardcore.  I’m now adjusted my training to include more intense cardio, and stringing obstacles together, tackling obstacles when I’m already fatigued.  This has the added benefit of getting used to being completely exhausting and still putting in the effort.  In at least 2 cases, only the finisher’s pure determination and will-power got them through, they were beyond spent. Where did they get that determination when his arms were burning and he had nothing left in the tank…. by spending hours training with burnt arms and lungs screaming for air.  Those hours helped him sail through the course and it absolutely helped him when the going got real tough. The most talented don’t win these competitions, the hardest working do. The guy who came 3rd went straight to the hospital because of the stress the course put on his body… but 3rd place gets him into the NNL finals, so I guarantee he’s happy he pushed himself.  I saw him 2 weeks later at Apex NorCal, he was fired up to do it all again.

There is so much glory attached to Australian Ninja Warrior, but to really succeed, there is hours and hours of boring “work”.  It’s so worth it though!  It is absolutely 100% worth it.

4.) Get used to performing.

The 3rd comp, I went out on the 2nd obstacle… the jumping spider which I’ve nailed so many times before and since.  I don’t really know what my problem was… I was all nervous and stressed and rushing and terrible.  Everyone else had been training for years and years – even the 18 year olds – so I was feeling like a bit of a fraud.  I was the last competitor, so had so many nerves built up, hungry, busting for the loo, really wanted to beat my coach, really wanted a good run on video… I dunno, it was all in my head.  My big stupid head.  After I crashed, the organisers went away to tally the results, we could play and I did the first few obstacles so easily… once the pressure was off I was fine.  I don’t think it even matters on what sort of performance you do… whatever teaches you to calm yourself when you’re stressed.

If you’d like to follow Adam Waring's (aka Aussie Ninja's) (mis)adventures in the world of Ninja Warrior, pop over to his blog at or follow him on Instagram.

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