This season’s Ninja vs. Ninja has been filled with the type of scenes that have made us love the American Ninja Warrior franchise – feats of strength, displays of speed, epic victories and shocking falls. We are reminded time and time again that we are watching some of the strongest, most powerful athletes in the nation. However, this season of Ninja vs. Ninja has highlighted the competitors’ brains just as much as their brawn. Here’s a quick look back at some of the winning strategies we’ve seen so far on Ninja vs. Ninja and what they could mean in the episodes to come.
A Fast Start Is Important
In the opening rounds. when the Ninjas compete on the short course, a fast start is key. We saw this from Jesse Labreck’s Labreckfast Club, a team made up of former track athletes, who got off to consistently aggressive starts and went undefeated in competition. Not only is it hard to pass mid-course (especially on overlapping obstacles), but a lead will also put pressure on the other team to sell out, increasing the probability that they make a mistake. Jon Alexis’s run was a prime example of this as the Giant’s perfect start kept the pressure on Team Tarzan to respond with something heroic.
One of the things we love about the Ninja community is the comradery. These athletes support one another with the same passion they have for their own performance. Nonetheless, in the team competition, you often have to put this love aside during the heat of battle.
Arguably the most important place to be aggressive is on the floating tiles. We’ve seen Ninjas hop straight down the middle of this obstacle rather than step around and use that to get an edge in the team race. Nicholas Coolridge and Tyler Yamauchi both took advantage of this strategy in relay match-ups, leading to team victories. Barclay Stockett had one of the smoothest tiles transitions in Episode Three as she fearlessly attacked the obstacle against a more passive opponent.
I’d say JJ Woods sums up the strategy during the Ninja vs. Ninja intro: “I’m either going to pass them, or I’m going to knock them off the course.”
Timing a Dismount
Often times, when we watch the Ninjas on obstacles, we are floored by how fluidly they navigate the obstacle itself. However, an underrated piece of Ninja brilliance is how they get on and off it. We’ve seen Ninjas like Jake Murray go for a big take off on the tilted ladders, conserving energy by spending less time hanging while simultaneously advancing quicker to the next challenge. On the flip side, we saw some big leaps out to the Pole Grasper during episode two, including a huge jump out of Karson Voiles in the first match of the day.
Once you move to the longer course in the final round, the emphasis shifts away from speed and towards endurance. Ninjas will need to properly pace themselves to get to the back half of the course in a good position. Practically every competitor has looked completely gassed by the final obstacles and that’s for good reason, the back half of the course is grueling. If you can just finish the course, you’ve got a chance so these Ninjas have proven the key is not to panic early and to get back into the race when you have the opportunity (recently that seems to have been the Salmon Ladder where many Ninjas catch their breath). The Young Bloods were one of the best paced teams we saw through the first episodes and it paid off with three wins in the finals.
These are just some of the strategies we’ve seen during this season of Ninja vs. Ninja. What are your favorite moves from the competitors so far? And be sure to check out the Ninja vs. Ninja Thursday nights on USA!