If you watched the Cleveland City Finals this week's Ninja Killer should be no surprise. It is the Nail Clipper. The Nail Clipper is the sixth fan created obstacle from last season's obstacle design challenge to be featured on the show this season (they're running the contest again this year so if you've got a crazy obstacle idea turn it in here). Every fan created obstacle this season has been mentioned in some context in one of these weekly Ninja Killer recaps. The Nail Clipper was thought up Calvin Boyce from Provo Utah.
The Nail Clipper took out 20 ninjas! That's over 60% of all the Cleveland City Finalists, and 11 ninjas fell before they even reached the obstacle. This means the completion percentage for the Nail Clipper was an abysmally low 9.09% (2/22). Ranking the Nail Clipper as the obstacle (that has been completed at least once) with the second lowest completion percentage in the history of American Ninja Warrior. This is the third obstacle already this season to rank in the top 10 in terms of lowest completion percentage.
Nail Clipper featured a grip that most ninjas have trained for years now. Each of the ledges on the "clippers" were cliffhanger ledges, roughly 2 inches deep. However, unlike any Cliffhanger previously seen on American Ninja Warrior, these ledges moved (Drew Drechsel did get to play on a moving cliffhanger ledge in Sasuke 32 - and again in Ssauke 33 - although those ledges were moving in their own way).
Every time a ninja put their weight on one of these cliffhanger ledges the whole clipper would rotate to them. Each of the clippers had different lock points where they would not rotate beyond. So not only was Nail Clipper a physically taxing obstacle it was also very confusing, as ninjas could be dumped into the water early if they thought they had locked the clipper in place.
In order to get through Nail Clipper, ninjas had to make a minimum of 13 moves: 1 - Reaching with one arm from the Salmon Ladder to the first ledge. 2 - Matching (getting both hands on the same ledge). 3 - Reaching over/around to the ledge which locked the clipper in place on the same clipper. 4 - Match on the new ledge 5 - Reach from one clipper to the next. 6 - Match. 7 - Repeat move 3. 8 - Match. 9 - Repeat move 5. 10 - Match. 11 - Repeat move 3. 12 - Match. 13 - dismount.
There may be some slight variations possible, such as the lache between clippers we saw Najee Richardson pull off, but this is the sequence both ninjas who cleared used. Basically what all that means is ninjas were hanging for a long time. Every time a ninja placed their hand and weight on a ledge that didn't lock a clipper in place, they added two more moves to the obstacle.
As far as technique, the best strategy for an endurance obstacle like this is to shorten moves as much as possible. By that I mean staying high, arms at 90 degrees when doing the reach over/ around move. I don't always agree when Akbar says ninjas need to keep their L's, but this was definitely a move made easier with L's. If it's possible (it was tough for ninjas to keep their heads out of the way) even using the ledges above the current ledge to lower themselves to the "locking ledge" - which were not labeled, so trial and error/ watching others fall was also crucial.
Joe's "backward move" to transfer between the ledges was textbook. He created a little momentum, just as you would if you were lache-ing forward, only instead of lache-ing when his body swung backward, he turned and reached out with the hand on the side of his body he turned (Joe turned right and reached right all three times but just as easily could have turned left and reached left). This little momentum move brought his body closer to the next clipper decreasing the amount of time he spent on a single arm.
Just like all the other fan created obstacles this season Nail Clipper was a Ninja Killer.