When the American Ninja Warrior crew hit the ground in Indianapolis, there was one gym mentioned by almost everyone: Hoosier Heights.
Located just about 25 minutes outside of downtown Indy, Hoosier Heights is a climbing gym at first glance, but upon closer inspection, also houses one of the most comprehensive, creative ninja gyms in the area: The Dojo.
When I popped in, more than a few VIP Ninjas and members of the Walk-On Line were practicing their skills for the next day's competition. The Dojo Coach and American Ninja Warrior competitor, Jay Haas walked me through his set-up and talked about what makes this gym a growing part of the Ninja community.
"I started out here as a climber, as a patron. This zone (The Dojo) was just storage. And I approached them with some sketches and some ideas. They loved it. We built this over the summer (2015), and in September we had a soft opening. And since then, since it's kind of a start up thing, we've had to kind of write the book. The protocol."
Jay uses his martial arts and personal training background to present challenging, but thoughtful classes that focus on each student gaining something valuable, no matter what their skill level is.
Safety is a huge concern for Haas, who paused more than once during our talk to sternly correct students for approaching obstacles incorrectly. He's even more vigilant during his Kids' Ninja Classes, where he takes the time to discuss the idea of respect: Respect for the challenges, the obstacles, and respect for the safety that will protect them as they advance.
"So day to day duties for myself, number one is making sure nobody gets hurt. I don't care if they have fun. They're just not allowed to get hurt. Coming up with safer ways of doing things. Communicating to the public how to do things."
Think practicing the same course over and over might get redundant? Jay is passionate about making sure that's never the case with his Dojo.
"My favorite favorite thing I do most of the time through the week is: I go to Home Depot, and I buy miscellaneous things from different segments and they never know what I'm doing across the street. I build new stuff just from my imagination."
My boss gave me the go-ahead to start version 2.0 on this course, which I'm really excited about. I'm going to start doing that in May. I think that to get people in here for competitions and such, I have to keep coming up with the next thing.
"Fitness gets boring. You have to keep re-inventing the wheel. And this is a new way for people to work out, to stay fit. It's functional fit, and they get to have an adventure with fitness. I think that if you're going to have a connection with what you do, that's got to be a part of it."
What you're also getting from working with Jay Haas at The Dojo is someone who is truly passionate about the sport and his community. Through his military and fitness career, Haas has always been drawn to the creativity of the obstacle course.
"I've always loved the obstacle course components as a Marine, as a kid. I've always sketched them. I've always been like 'Oh this would be a cool idea.' Never thought that one day that would come to fruition, and then I would get to start literally doing it for a living. This is like a dream come true. If I won the lottery I would come back and still do this every day. But there would be an espresso machine over there."
9850 Mayflower Park Drive
Carmel, IN 46032
- (317) 802-9302
Current Listed Hours:
- Monday-Friday: 11am-10pm
- Saturday & Sunday: 11am-9pm
- "The Dojo," Comprehensive 2,000 square foot Ninja training ground overseen by Jay Haas.
- Kids and Adult classes
- Dedicated, kind, attentive staff members (Ask for Erik if you have ANY rock climbing questions!)
- Open gym with space for climbing, bouldering, a cross-training fitness area, and a gear shop
- Really decent pricing on classes and memberships
Take a closer look at one of Jay's Kids Ninja classes here.
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