Arnold Hernandez has quietly become a pillar of the Los Angeles Ninja Warrior community at the young age of 25. His training course, 323 Ninja Training Grounds, attracts some of the biggest names in the Ninja world, like Jessie Graff, Ben Melick, Grant McCartney and even Akbar Gbajabiamila.
As one of the few Ninja training courses in the Los Angeles area, Arnold’s gym is a hidden gem. Well hidden.
The 323 Ninja Training Grounds are tucked away in the backyard of Arnold’s father’s house in East LA. No signs. No website (aside from a Facebook page). It can’t be seen from the road. The address of the location is only released if you’re an invited guest.
Our first hand peak at the course came when NBC American Ninja Warrior needed a course to shoot some short promotional items with Matt Iseman and Alex Weber, host of the digital series “Crashing the Course.” 323 Ninja Training Grounds came to everyone’s minds.
Arnold graciously hosted us as Matt and Alex pulled their best Ninja moves on the course. (You’ll see those at a later date!) The course takes up every possible inch of the backyard. It gives off a wild, jungle-like feeling until Arnold starts explaining how he built it and how the obstacles can be moved.
It’s a brilliant contraption that was born from Arnold’s need to stay focused.
“I started building a couple days after my mom’s funeral. I just needed to take my mind off things.”
Arnold began building his own course in October of 2013. It started small, just a Salmon Ladder in his dad’s backyard. Just something to take his mind off his mother’s passing.
From there, it found a life of it’s own. With no previous carpentry skills, Arnold built his course by himself. He found blueprints that had been created by other Ninjas. When a new obstacle was debuted on the show, he paused the TV and studied the design.
Over the course of two and a half years, Arnold has turned his father’s backyard into a home grown and heart felt Ninja gym. There are no frills here. Cushioning your falls are a few mattresses. The Warped Wall is 14 feet and 3 inches with an unforgiving incline. (Jessie Graff is currently the only woman that’s beaten it.) Arnold has constructed about 20-25 obstacles by hand and he changes the course up every week.
As his course grew, Arnold started posting photos of the gym on social media, which is when other Ninjas in the area sat up and paid attention. They began reaching out to Arnold, asking for a chance to train on his course, wanting their friends to join them and see it as well.
Word was out and 323 Ninja Training Grounds was born. Now, Arnold has expanded to private lessons and kids’ birthday parties, but all still while keeping hype around the gym calm.
When American Ninja Warrior is taping in LA, the out of town Ninjas flock to his course to keep their skills sharp. Arnold himself is becoming a competitor as well. In Season 6, Arnold waited in the walk on line for a shot at the American Ninja Warrior course, but wasn’t selected.
Season 7, he finally got the call. Most recently, he ran the course at the Season 8 City Qualifiers in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the TV audience didn’t see his run, as a tactical error got him disqualified on the second obstacle.
But Arnold’s patient love of the sport is in the process of transforming his life again. He’s teamed up with Scott Wilson (the Chess Ninja) and Brian and Chris Wilczewski (Ninja Warriors and co-owners of the Movement Lab).
The group is in the process of opening a comprehensive Ninja gym in the Los Angeles area. This is huge news as it means there will be a hub for the local Ninja community to rally behind.
And Arnold’s dad will get his backyard back.
“Yeah, he’ll want me to take it down. He’s a little bit like, ‘Really, what are you doing now?’ whenever he sees me start building something.”
But we firmly believe he should let that original Salmon Ladder stay up. It’s a testament that something so seemingly small can spark new dreams. It represents the heart of the 323 Ninja Training Grounds, and the American Ninja Warrior community.