Life imitating televised art: the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” inspires students to replicate the obstacle course in their own time

Hans Janovy Meyer, visual editor

A “Kung Fu Panda” and “Wipeout” crossover may very well have been the best hour of television 2008 unfortunately never saw. Luckily, 2009 brought about a spiritual successor to that fantasy. NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” has seen contestants compete in mind-boggling physical challenges for the past 11 seasons, leaving a mark on television game show history and Edina High School students alike.  

“American Ninja Warrior” sees contestants running, jumping, climbing, hopping, and skipping their way towards a grand prize on courses that combine parkour with gymnastics.  

In the wake of the show rising to popularity and viewers hoping to one day become ninja warriors themselves, special gyms began to open throughout the country. These gyms have obstacles aimed to test any number of physical skills, including balance, speed, and strength.  

At EHS, there is a number of students who participate in “American Ninja Warrior” style activities. One notable participant is senior Jon Klippenstein. For the past four years, Klippenstein has been involved in the local ninja community. He regularly posts videos of himself practicing or competing on his Instagram page, and also works at Conquerer Ninja Gym in Eden Prairie.

While everyone may not be able to compete on the TV show, there are many regional and national ninja competitions. These time-based competitions can put a lot of stress on ninjas, but the reward makes it all worth it. “[My proudest moment] was two years ago; while competing at nationals, I got fifth place,” Klippenstein said.  

Unlike many other sports, being a ninja is a uniquely independent venture. “I think it’s easier [to work independently] because I only have to worry about myself and getting myself to a level to compete,” Klippenstein said. “I like that it’s an individual sport, but [I still have] people I work with, and train with and kind of compete with,” he added. Ninjas need to be able to motivate themselves so that the grueling training hours don’t become a drag.  

For any student looking to become a ninja themselves, there are a variety of options for both local gyms and programs to attend. “Just come try classes; they work in all the basics, and you can kind of get into it,” Klippenstein recommended.