It's hard to be a ninja in Miami. It's hot in those black stealth suits; the humidity makes everything slippery; and we're way behind our California competitors when it comes to the art of ninja warfare. (Damn the West Coast and its proximity to Japan.)
American Ninja Warrior is a reality TV phenomenon pitting men and women against an ever-changing landscape of crazy obstacles. If you've seen Wipeout, or MXC, the Japanese show it's based on, well, it's kind of like that -- but serious. Real serious. American Gladiators-style serious. Instead of foam cannons and padded obstacles that throw you into the mud, contenders in Miami faced a red ladder forcing them to pull themselves up freestyle, and a log grip, a giant faux log with hand holds that staggered its way down a metal slope.
American Ninja Warrior is also based on a Japanese TV show (of course), and we were present for the final day of competition in Miami -- so we got to see the best of the best rise to ninja glory with a victory at the finish platform, or splash down in ninja dishonor.
Most dudes met their match and went splash-up in strategically placed pools, but a few claimed victory in a burst of CO2 at the towering finish line. Participants mainly went down at the wall, a serious slope that proved a mental (and physical) challenge for many.
From the fame-whoring dude decked out in body paint that read "NBC" to a six-packed hunk who was a live audience favorite, the Southeastern competitors were an eclectic bunch. Sadly, no females made it to the regional finals. But among the remaining ninja bros, there was plenty of diversity. The ranks did include a Tennessee Titan, a Harlem Globetrotter, and at least one Miami native. There were hard bodies, showboats (one dude stripped down to his skivvies and danced after beating the course), skinny dudes, short dudes, dreadlocked dudes, et cetera. When we left at 3 a.m. after six hours on set, there were still 25 dudes to go before filming was through.
The real champs in this kind of challenge tend to be athletes trained in parkour/free-running, which are all about moving creatively through obstacles. Hence their skill at a show built around, well, an obstacle course.
Remember that time the guys of The Office did parkour?
Yeah, this is not that.
While parkour and free-running haven't really blown up in Miami (yet), our city does boast a couple of gyms dedicated to these crazy cool pastimes. The dudes and chicks of the Miami Freerunning and Parkour Academy actually served as the stunt runners for ANW during their stay, so check 'em out if you're looking to bone up on your ninja skills.
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Winners from ANW's Miami round will join other regional champs for the finals in Vegas. The winner will probably be a Los Angeles-area parkour master -- damn you, West Coasters -- and will head home with a wicked $500,000. But let's not rule out Miami-area competitors either. We do have our fair share of ninjas, after all.
The show premieres on G4 on May 20th at 9 p.m.