Kevin Bull might be the king of adaptability. When presented with a difficult obstacle standing between him and a goal, “The Bull” finds a way around it.
Case in point would be the moment he rocketed to American Ninja Warrior notoriety. At the 2014 Venice City Finals, Kevin, a rookie, faced the difficult Cannonball Alley. No one had managed to survive it. Until Kevin invented a new way to approach the obstacle.
Since that moment, he has been an American Ninja Warrior fan favorite and an elite competitor. Season nine saw him back at the National Finals once again, making it all the way to Stage Two.
Kevin’s adaptability extends to his life off the course as well. Once a stock trader, he’s now shaped his life to be all about Ninja, all the time. It was announced in June of 2016 that Kevin Bull had signed a sponsorship deal with CircusTrix, a company that owns and operates extreme recreation parks.
This was a big deal in the Ninja community. Many competitors wanted to focus on the sport full time, but finding a way to make it financially possible was a challenge. With Kevin’s deal, he became one of the first sponsored athletes from the show, proving that the Ninja-life could be possible.
Now, it’s gone one step further. Kevin is the general manager of the brand new DojoBoom in Thousand Oaks, CA. The CircusTrix owned park is a sprawling landscape of trampolines and obstacles, with Kevin at the helm designing an experience that comes from his unique perspective as a Ninja Warrior.
Just days after DojoBoom opened their doors, we stopped by to talk with Kevin about how his life transformed into its current state.
Responses lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you decide that you wanted to make your life all about Ninja Warrior?
KB: When I was trading stocks, I definitely enjoy stocks, I found it to be one of the more rewarding things I've done. But I've always been much much more interested in physical activity. Ninja stuff specifically. Trying weird challenges. Sort of out of the ordinary things. That's what I like to do. So when Ninja Warrior popped up on my radar, I knew it was something I wanted to try. When I saw some success at that, I knew that I wanted to take it as far as it could go.
When did it become practical? When CircusTrix approached you?
KB: Yeah, when CircusTrix approached me it was the moment it became practical. I thought that it would become practical, and I had believed that for awhile. But I didn't have any real proof that it would be until I was able to start working with CircusTrix. They've been a wonderful partner.
It seems like there is a big push now for Ninjas to become full time Ninjas as a career. Thoughts around that?
KB: I think it's great. I think when you have athletic talent that so many people enjoy watching and such a big draw from an entertainment perspective, that's something that you should be able to focus on full time so that you can make it as good as possible. You want to have the highest level skill and in order to do that, you need to spend most of your time doing it.
How's the life transition been to the Los Angeles area? (Kevin relocated from Scotts Valley, CA)
KB: I've really enjoyed transitioning down south. I wasn't really sure what to think. I think being out in Thousand Oaks helps. I think if I went straight into the city it would have been a harder transition for me. I'm used to being in kind of a wilderness area with lots of trees and forest. I've always enjoyed that. But Thousand Oaks has a very similar feel to Scotts Valley where I was born. There's less trees but they do have a lot of oaks. So I don't feel out of place.
What's the process been like getting this facility open?
KB: When I was sponsored by CircusTrix, this wasn't intended as part of that arrangement. That was a sponsorship deal that had to do with me doing events and marketing in connection with CircusTrix. But as time went on, CircusTrix decided to offer me a position as General Manager at one of their parks. We weren't sure which one yet. So I requested, because of my time with Ninja, to go somewhere that brought me closer to Los Angeles. Because that's where Ninja Warrior is headquartered and where it's all happening.
With all this going on, are you still prepping for American Ninja Warrior season 10?
KB: Yeah, I mean this has been a big focus for the last couple of months. The last couple of weeks I've been doing 15-19 hours days. There hasn't been time for training much in that period, but once things settle down a little bit, this is a great situation for me to be in. I'm always around Ninja. I'll always be inside a Ninja facility. I'll have a lot of opportunity to get on the obstacles and perfect my skills on the trampolines. All of those things. Of all the things I could be doing, this puts me in a really great place to train for the future.
Will the obstacles here be difficult enough to challenge someone like you?
KB: Yeah, they are difficult enough to challenge someone like me. I can get through the Ninja course (at DojoBoom) consistently, but it's not easy. It's taxing. I set it up that way on purpose. As time goes on I'll have more flexibility on the kinds of attractions that are in there and more ability to customize it, so I can make it as hard as I need to.
Would you say there was more pressure opening this facility than a Ninja competition?
KB: No, I wouldn't say that. Ninja Warrior is a lot of pressure. Everything you train for comes down to just a few moments. It's pretty hard to top that pressure-wise. I think Ninja has prepared me to handle the pressure of doing something like opening the park very well.
What was your motivation to open a park like DojoBoom?
KB: The biggest reason I wanted to open one of these parks is that I get to share with people my love for Ninja Warrior and Ninja things. I get to bring the experience to people who wouldn't have gotten the experience otherwise.
Most importantly, when I was learning and training how to be a Ninja, it wasn't as popular as it is now and there weren't facilities like this. I was doing it in very dangerous conditions and getting yelled at by authorities for training in the wrong places. This is a safe place where people can come and train and it's accepted. And we have nice padded floors, so it's safe.
DojoBoom, tucked away in the Janss Marketplace of Thousand Oaks, features an “open jump” concept that allows for a wide variety of activities and age ranges. It’s perfect for fierce little children who just want to literally bounce off the walls. But it also offers challenges and training areas for both parkour and Ninja Warrior.
Kevin gave us the lowdown on some of the unique aspects of his facility that make it not only fun, but a place to where locals can hone their own Ninja Warrior skills.
Open jump area
“Similar to what you'd see at a trampoline park, but we've got a couple other features. Giant foam blocks that fit nicely over the trampoline giving people a movable piece of terrain. We've also included hanging punching bags from the ceiling for the additional challenge of people trying to get up on those.”
“This is one of the things that we're the most proud of. It's basically a gymnastics, Olympics grade trampoline. So it's very high bounce, much higher than the other trampolines in the park. We've sprung three of those up here and we've placed walls in between. So you use the additional spring that you get off these high quality trampolines to do wall running tricks.
The super tramp is closer to what we use on American Ninja Warrior now, than the regular trampolines. This one is sprung at all four sides, when they usually only spring two on the show. Which makes it even more challenging to control. If you want to train the tramps for Ninja, I would train the super tramp. That's the best one. It's a similar speed in terms of how it returns your energy.
We've got a great zip line here. I had a training series before my second year on Ninja where I spent a lot of time in my house training on zip lines because that's the obstacle I fell on my first year. This would be a much better set up to train on than what I had at my house. We've got a nice long zip line here that comes in at a pretty fast speed and then we have a padded stopper for people to bounce into.
Rock climbing wall
We have a rock climbing wall where customers can practice grip strength. Right now it's set up in a general random set up, but I'm going to be doing routes in it starting in a month or so. So we have specific challenges that are more tailored. We'll have varying degrees of difficulty. Also specific skills. There might be a challenging dyno, or something like that we throw in there. It's not as big as a rock climbing gym would have, but it’s ours. It's about 73 feet.
“We've got a freestyle course. We start with the Quadruple Steps into an unstable, Dancing Stones-like obstacle. Then there's a series of trampolines and vault blocks, so you've got a little parkour mixed with trampolining. Which is challenging because it's launching you at a much faster rate than you would jump normally. So even people who are experienced in Parkour have to adjust a little bit to having the trampoline there.”
“We have a Warped Wall with a very short run up and a slide leading down. The slide will gain you some momentum and then we have a plexiglass Warped Wall. The height is 11 feet on the highest, and then we have an 8 foot wall. It's not as high as you'd see on American Ninja Warrior, but the plexiglass makes it more challenging than an 11 foot wall would be otherwise.”
Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course
“We have my baby. The Ninja course. This is the biggest Ninja course that's in any of the CircusTrix parks right now. I think it's probably the biggest one in a trampoline park in the US. As far as I know. It's 75 feet long and 16 feet wide. We've got two lanes with approximately 12 obstacles. I'll be shifting it from time to time so the number of obstacles won't always be constant. I selected the obstacles myself. I'll be tailoring the design myself as well as time goes on.
It's more challenging than you'd see in most of these parks too. That’s kind of the point of Ninja, to make something that's not possible at first but with a lot of work, is doable.”
You can learn more about DojoBoom on their website, here. If you stop by in the next few months, there’s a chance you’ll catch the Bull himself keeping up with his Ninja training.