clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What’s in a Ninja Warrior?

What skill sets are most common among Ninja Warriors?

David Becker/NBC

American Ninja Warrior is not your typical athletic competition. There are multiple different skill sets that can take you to the Vegas finals and beyond. However, there are a few backgrounds that seem to have a habit of showing up when you are watching an episode of ANW. Let’s take a look at some of the marquee talents that have been correlated with ninja excellence.

Rock Climbing

The skills needed to be a successful rock climber overlap extremely well with the ones needed to conquer an obstacle course. Ninjas need to have strong grip strength and be comfortable hanging (sometimes by only their fingers). It also helps, when facing a particularly challenging obstacle, to be able to visualize how to attack it. These same traits are found in a successful rock climber. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many top Ninjas can also be found scaling mountains including members of the Wolf Pack like Ian Dory and Meagan Martin, and Europe’s all-star Sean McColl.


David Becker/NBC

Talented Gymnasts not only have the grip strength needed to hang on to punishing obstacles, but they also have incredible body control. There are a variety of swings and dismounts to navigate during your typical qualifying run. Top Ninjas understand how to build momentum, harness that energy and land softly on the next target. Najee Richardson and Sean Bryan each used these talents to fly past the Wing Nuts and on to Stage Three a year ago.


The ANW cast is filled with parkour athletes and daredevils. These athletes are fearless, attacking even the most intimidating courses as if they were fun, elementary school jungle gyms. They bring speed to the course but also creativity. Some of the trickiest obstacles require innovation to defeat: one small tweak can turn a ninja killer into a walk in the park. Of course, for these parkour ninjas, even a walk in the park can become one of the most viewed videos on YouTube.

Ryan Tuttle/NBC

Ninjas in Disguise

Part of what makes American Ninja Warrior so special is the simple fact that you never know who the next star will be. Last year’s last man standing, Joe Moravsky, earned the nickname “The Weatherman” based on his unlikely occupation. Since then, he’s been storming across the course as an all-time great. Being an elementary school teacher may seem like it has little in common with obstacle training, but Allyssa Beird pulled a variety of skills from the classroom to the course while going all the way to Stage Two in ANW9.

The national finals in any given year include everything from wedding photographers to pizza makers. We have heroes like firefighters, military veterans and stay at home parents who are making the world a better, safer place through their efforts. It’s clear to see that there are a variety of occupations or talents that can take you to the top of Stage Four. What brings all these athletes together is their determination, work ethic, and unbelievable resiliency.

Even when they fall, they get back up and go for it again.