What does it mean to be a ninja? Well, you could don the traditional all black garb. Run around in the dead of night. Carry a katana on your back. But that’s not the kind of ninja I’m talking about. So what is ninja? Learn here how to be a ninja.
How to be a Ninja – Obstacle Training
Ninja is a sport that gives standardized rules to the fun little challenges we used to dare each other to on the playground. It takes those challenges, knocks them up to the next level, and lines them up in one big obstacle course. So if you want to be a ninja, you need to train like one.
Most ninjas train at a ninja gym. Not sure where to find a ninja gym? Try out this ninja gym locator tool! But if you’d rather train on your own, that’s fine too. In fact, before ninja gyms became commonplace, most ninjas found ways to train at local playgrounds. Building your own equipment is also a viable option.
One of the best ways to prepare for obstacle training is to develop your body control. For this reason, gymnasts and traceurs (athletes that practice parkour) tend to do well in ninja. There are constantly new obstacles being created, and obstacles themselves aren’t really standardized, so the only way to get good at them is practice. However, a solid grasp of the fundamentals will make you more capable of understanding how to approach a new obstacle the first time you see it.
How to be a Ninja – Muscle Training
Strength and muscle endurance is important. Like any sport, the use of certain muscles is emphasized more than others. It’s also important to note that growing muscles unnecessarily large will weigh you down. Notice that none of the best ninjas on American Ninja Warrior have massive bulging muscles. You want them to be dense, so that they aren’t filled with water. So if you want to learn how to be a ninja, don’t go to the gym with the intention of looking like a body builder.
Perhaps the most important part of your body in regard to ninja is your core. The muscles that make up your core need to be strong for a vast majority of obstacles you may face on a course. The core is almost always being used to stabilize your upper body, keeping you in equilibrium. In particular, a well-developed core is needed on balance. It is also the primary method of controlling your body while hanging.
Sit ups and crunches are a good start, but if you are serious about strengthening your core, exercises from a bar hang (knees to elbows, toes to bar) will work muscles in your abdominal that floor exercises just won’t. Russian twists and windshield wipers will work your obliques, while back extensions will strengthen your lower back.
In terms of upper body strength, the area ninjas lack most is usually their forearm (grip) strength. The ability to hold your weight in a hanging position doesn’t take much. However hanging as your body is swinging, twisting or turning for the duration of an obstacle can be much more challenging. Sometimes, depending on the difficulty of the course, you will need to hang for multiple obstacles before you get a rest. So the focus of your training should be on forearm muscle endurance. To this goal, many ninjas take up rock climbing.
Controlling your body as you maneuver off the ground will become easier if you can hold a lock off (the highest part of a pull up). If you can hold a one arm lock off, all the better! This requires bicep and upper back muscle strength. While you may use free weights to develop your upper body, many ninjas agree that the best methods are to train mimicking the movements you will make in competition.
The warped wall and a few other lower body obstacles require a lot of explosive power. To this end, sprints, box jumps, and stair climbing exercises can be of immeasurable help. More powerful legs can come in handy with jumping and running obstacles, as well as overall speed.
Another set of lower body muscles that you don’t want to neglect are all the tiny stabilizer muscles within your ankle. Most athletes tend to ignore these because there aren’t many sports where you train or compete on uneven and moving surfaces. But if you want to know how to be a ninja, you can’t underestimate balance obstacles. I’ve seen a great deal of ninjas take balance for granted only to fall victim. The best way to train these is to simply practice balance. If you do weight train ( and are confident in your technique) try some of your lifts while standing on one foot, or even a Bosu Ball.
How to be a Ninja – Learning to Control your Body
Learning to control your body takes time. It is however, completely necessary if you want to learn how to be a ninja.
What it really breaks down to is simple physics. For example, if you’re spinning out of control, open your legs to slow down. If you want to build a swing, condense your body weight into a ball as you travel away from the ground, and extend your body as gravity pulls you back toward the ground. If you want to turn that swing into a lache, you need to know when to release and how to throw.
The truth is we learn basic body control at a very young age. Figuring out how to be a ninja is just an advanced extension of that. As such, the best way to learn is to do. Having a coach will speed up the process and hopefully prevent any bad habits from forming. But the best way to learn is to practice.
How to be a Ninja – Have Fun!
I’m a huge believer that you should always enjoy any challenges you willingly take on. Competitive spirit is an important motivator, but don’t let it take over. The reason ninja has been growing so overwhelmingly fast, is because it’s so much fun. We ninjas love flying through the air, swinging on ropes, and running up walls. Never forget that the first reason you play a sport is to have fun.