Before our Ninja Warrior training session we spoke with Alex Grunwald, founder of Ninja Hall and Ninja Warrior Germany finalist to find out a bit more about this weird and wonderful sport…
USC: What exactly is Ninja Warrior?
Many people know Ninja Warrior because of the show but it’s also a sport; in the US you have real competitions. The rules are simple. You have to get from A to B and there are areas that you can’t touch. In the show this is usually water. Sometimes it’s also part of the obstacle but it changes each time so you need to listen and concentrate.
USC: How did you first discover Ninja Warrior?
The show was aired in Japan and the USA long before it came here so I saw the videos on YouTube. I always loved parkour and bouldering and loved the movements in Ninja Warrior. But I never found anything similar that I could do in Europe. And then Ninja Warrior came to Germany. I planned to enter in its first year but I was too busy with my second daughter and missed the deadline. But the second year I applied and they accepted me into the competition.
USC: How did you prepare for the competition?
It was difficult to prepare because there aren’t any gyms with the right equipment. But I trained for six weeks by taking my kids to the playground and using the equipment there. I actually bouldered around the ping pong tables. That was my training – I would climb around the ping pong tables without touching the floor. It was great training for grip and hanging. I also did a lot of jumps.
I studied sports science so I knew the kind of exercises I needed to train in, and so I was able to get through to the Ninja Warrior finals. But really I enter the competitions just to have fun.
USC: Is there a prize for the winner?
The last man standing gets €25,000. There are a lot of very strong people, but often it comes down to luck. There are some things you may prepare for and if they come up in the competition then you’re more likely to get further. On the TV show if you can climb a 20 meter rope in 25 seconds then you’ll win €400,000. Last year a finalist climbed the rope in 28 seconds so he just missed the prize money!
USC: Why did you decide to open Ninja Hall?
After I was on the TV show my brother and some friends suggested I build a Ninja Warrior gym. I wanted to but I had my studies and children to look after. I thought it would be too much work. But this year I took part in loads more competitions and fell in love with the sport even more. I decided to go ahead and build the gym because I want more people to have access to the sport. I love that I can switch up the obstacles and it never gets old, it’s always changing.
USC: When did you open Ninja Hall?
October 12th last year, so very recently. It all happened very quickly – I was studying for finals and then was told we could have this gym. Then we started building it and for three months we worked for twelve hours a day. The gym is only here because of all the hard work from everyone involved. Lots of people helped – my parents, friends, sisters. Now what you see is just part of Ninja Hall – soon we’ll open our bouldering gym which will be 1000 square metres.
USC: Wow! And are you planning to enter next year’s Ninja Warrior?
Yes. I like the people there – we’re like a small ninja family. We’ve got to know each other through entering the same competitions. Everyone in the Ninja Warrior world is very nice. We don’t compete against each other. Even though there’s a lot of money to win it’s better we help each other because if we don’t then there’s a chance no one will get the money.
USC: It’s a huge spectacle. Did you feel nervous when you first went on TV?
Very nervous. It was very scary. But now I’ve been on the show about 12 times so I feel much more confident.
USC: What are your future plans for Ninja Hall?
We want to get the word out that we’re here and we want loads of people to come, enjoy themselves and have a good time.
If you want to try it out for yourself, take a look at Ninja Hall’s website for more details.
And Urban Sports Club has tons of parkour partners. Take a look at our site to see what’s happening near you.