The warped wall has always been a ninja favorite. Easily one of the most recognizable obstacles, the warped wall can be intimidating for beginners. But with practice and proper technique, you may find that this obstacle isn’t as scary as you thought. Learn how to stay safe on, conquer, and even how to build a warped wall of your very own!
History of the Warped Wall
The warped wall originated on the Japanese television show, Sasuke (Ninja Warrior) season 5 in the year 2000. It was then called “Soritatsu Kabe” which roughly translates to “Sled Wall”. Soritatsu Kabe was 4.3 meters tall; that’s roughly 14 feet. When the television station G4 began airing Sasuke tournaments in the US, they renamed all of the obstacles for their English speaking audience, and Soritatsu Kabe was donned the Warped Wall. Since then, the warped wall (or some variation) has been a part of every televised ninja competition across the globe.
If you want to know the exact incline and type of paint used on American Ninja Warrior, then I’m sorry to disappoint. Like all obstacles, the television show producers don’t exactly make their construction blueprints available to the public. However there are a few generalities you’ll want to keep in mind when building or designing your warped wall.
For starters, the warped wall on most ninja warrior competitions around the world is about 14 feet tall. I say ‘about’ because outside the US, almost all of the world uses the metric system. Most walls measured using the metric system are 4.3 meters tall, which is 14.1076 feet. It may not seem like a huge difference, but that’s 1.2912 inches. As anybody who’s ever gotten just the tip of their fingers over the ledge can tell you, that’s quite alot.
Changes Over Time
As the sport evolves, many more athletes are training specifically for ninja. That means that less and less people fail the 14 foot wall every year. As a result, many warped walls have been modified/replaced to give advanced ninjas an added challenge. For those of you wondering, the warped wall on ANW was raised to 14′ 6″ in season 8.
As for the incline, it varies greatly from one wall to the next. I’ve been on my fair share of warped walls, and I can tell you without a doubt that height is far from the only determining factor in warped wall difficulty. Some walls that are taller are built with less of an incline. So yeah, the top of the wall might be 16, 18, or even 20 feet off the ground. But if you can take a leisurely walk up the first 10 feet, then it isn’t necessarily much more difficult than a 14 foot wall.
Keep in mind, when a lot of ninja gyms were first being developed, there were no warped wall plans, blueprints, or how to videos in existence. The incline on many warped walls was done by eye. The result is that you can never afford to be over confident in your warped wall ability at local ninja gym competitions.
If you are a beginner, or interested in building a warped wall for a kid, consider altering your plans for a 10-12 foot warped wall. I have also seen warped walls with a slot for your hands starting at 10 feet, and then every 2 feet up so that ninjas in training can work their way up to a full scale wall.
Warped Wall Variations
As a classic obstacle, the warped wall has seen a few variations over the years. Many warped walls were raised to greater heights as more athletes were finding it too easy to scale the wall. Most notably, American Ninja Warrior offered a chance for competitors to attempt an 18 foot warped wall introduced as ‘The Mega Wall’ for an additional $10,000 prize in the qualifying rounds of season 10. This version of the warped wall proved to be far more difficult. Only 6 competitiors were able to complete the obstacle on their first attempt.
In Sasuke 18, soritatsu kabe was switched out for a new obstacle, The Great Wall. The great wall was 20 cm taller than soritatsu kabe, but featured a rope that hung down 20 cm from the top of the wall. Despite being designed to make this obstacle harder, it had a much higher completion rate than soritatsu kabe. In season 19 the rope was removed and the name returned to soritatsu kabe. The obstacle was now 20 cm taller than in previous iterations of the show. I have personally seen an obstacle similar to the great wall once in competition. A banana shaped rock hold was dangled from the top of a warped wall.
Like any obstacle, the risk of injury is ever present. Luckily, we are able to minimize that risk by practicing proper safety techniques.
ALWAYS FACE THE WARPED WALL.
This is without a doubt the most important rule. It’s a shame more gyms don’t stress it as much as they should. You run up the wall, stay facing the wall, and come down on your hands and feet in a push up position. Literally every semi-serious injury I’ve seen on the warped wall came from someone who turned around on the wall. The most common injury is a rolled/ sprained ankle, but I’ve seen worse. When you first start training on the warped wall, you will instinctively want to turn around to see where you’re going. Don’t do it. Even if you think you’re comfortable not turning around from half way up the wall, the first time you get all the way up you might turn around if you aren’t consciously thinking “Don’t turn around.” Say it with me, ALWAYS FACE THE WARPED WALL.
No Sliding on your Stomach, Knees, or Elbows
Like I said before, we come down on our hands and feet in a push up position. This way we can safely walk backwards until we reach the floor. Depending on the bottom of your shoes, you may slide or walk down. Shoes with rubber grips on the bottom are a definite advantage for getting up the wall. The danger in sliding on your stomach is that you may come down to fast and jam your feet into the ground abruptly. The danger in sliding on your knees or elbows is that you will most likely give yourself a friction burn.
Work your way up from a walk, to a jog, to a run, to a sprint. I can’t tell you how many people I coach for their first visit to a ninja gym that fancy themselves strong athletes (and often times they are). They decide they can get up the warped wall on thier first try (sometimes they can). The problem is that the warped wall is a lot of technique, and if you try without the proper safety technique, you can hurt yourself. The first thing you should do is see how high you can get using a walking speed. This will help you understand how well the grips on the bottom of your shoes work. On most walls, you will find that you can get the first 3-6 feet without even jogging! There are a few reasons we want to be comfortable here before we try running.
Drive your knees
You’ll ram your knee into the wall. First, I want you to imagine what your leg looks like during a sprint. Your knee drives forward first, then your foot follows, plants on the ground, and drives your body forward. This is exactly how you’ll run to the wall. However, if you try to run up the warped wall with that same sprint mechanic, you will hit the wall. Hard. First your knee, and then, if you have enough momentum behind you, your whole body. It will hurt, and you won’t make it to the top. On the warped wall, you have to drive your knee up faster than you would on flat ground. If you start from a jog and build to faster speeds, your body will figure this out on its own.
Maybe you have really great body awareness and can get to the top on your first try. That’s great for you, but getting that high up on your first couple runs can be scary. Your body might not react the way you would expect it to. One of the most common mistakes people make is to jump slightly backwards when they make the jump off their last step. It’s a common mistake, but as the 140 lbs. guy standing at the bottom spotting you, I’d appreciate it if you figure out how to fix that from 8 feet up the wall before you jump backwards from 14 feet up the wall.
The next most common mistake is that people turn around from the top. They’ve heard me say it a thousand times. ALWAYS FACE THE WARPED WALL. But in the heat of the moment from 14 feet up, your instincts are strong. If you haven’t built yourself up a few feet at a time, you’ll probably forget everything I told you and panic. Again, as the guy standing at the bottom spotting you, it’s much easier to catch someone stumbling backwards down the wall than someone that decides to turn around at the top and fall at you face first. Work your up to it, and it won’t be so scary.
Use a Spotter
For at least the first couple days that you practice the warped wall, you should have an experienced spotter. You need to be completely positive that you won’t forget not to turn around at the top before you even think about attempting the warped wall without a spotter. Even experienced ninjas attempting a warped wall that’s taller than they are used to use a spotter.
Warped Wall Technique
Like most all ninja obstacles, scaling the warped wall is more about having the right technique than it is being insanely athletic. Sure, it requires a certain amount of leg strength and agility, but knowing how to approach the wall is fundamental in your success.
As I said before, I strongly recommend you build yourself into a full sprint. But by the time you are running full speed at the wall, you will most likely be taking three steps. The reason being that most people running full speed can only fit three full strides on the wall. After that, they get to the point where the wall is so vertical that if they tried to take another step their foot would just slide. On the flip side, after only 2 steps you most likely still have some room on the wall. Why not use it? The golden number? 3. Though uncommon, this may vary to 2 or 4 depending on your running speed, length of your legs, height of the wall, and incline of the wall.
Shoes are never more important on an obstacle than they are on the warped wall. Generally, you want something with a soft blown rubber outsole. I recommend New Balance Zante V4.
Okay, so remember about half a second ago when you read that you should take 3 steps on the wall? There’s a little more to it than that.The first and third step will be on your dominant foot. The most important step is the first one on the wall, because this will dictate where the remaining two steps land. You want it to be high on the wall, so that the third step gets as high as it can. That being said, you want to keep all of the speed from your run up.
Don’t focus so much on your first step that you slow down to leap at the wall. Foot placement during the run up varies greatly from person to person, but generally speaking, it only takes 2-3 steps to hit a max sprinting speed. That means if you’re having trouble with your footing on the wall, a bigger run up isn’t necessarily the answer. Often times, taking a fraction of a step forward will yield much better results.
Keep Your Chest Up
This is probably the most common mistake beginners make on the warped wall. Many people over correct for the steepness of the wall, and end up leaning forward so that they hit the wall with their hands.This slows down their momentum way before they reach the top. On the flip side, some people lean so far back that even if they get to the top, they are so far from the ledge that they can’t reach it. The solution is to keep your chest perpendicular with the ground and throw your hands straight up in the air toward the top of the wall.
Your third and final step on the wall is a calf jump right to the top. Sometimes while people are trying to learn this, they bring their two feet together because they are used to loading their jump from the knees. While this would maximize the height of your jump on the ground, it’s a fast way to lose all your momentum on a warped wall. All of the power behind your jump should come directly from your calf on the leg you are taking your third step on. This is why it is so important to use your dominant leg on the third step.
Time To Build Your Own
Watch this video to learn how to build a warped wall your very own in no time at all!
Download blueprints here.
Ready to start building? Here’s the equipment you’ll need: