Eighth grader Jordan Brown was tasked with closing out her school year with a big project. She needed something new, something that would challenge her. After three years of watching American Ninja Warrior, it didn’t take Jordan long to settle on a determined goal. She was going to become a Ninja.
Next, she needed a course, and she needed a trainer. Jordan discovered DojoBoom, a trampoline park with a Ninja course in Thousand Oaks, CA, not too far from her Los Angeles home. The first day she walked into DojoBoom, Jordan asked to speak to the manager. That’s when American Ninja Warrior Kevin Bull entered the picture.
You know Kevin. The guy who pulled this off during his first season.
Kevin and Jordan trained together for 12 weeks. In the end, Jordan’s hard work paid off. Check out her final course run!
During the training process, Jordan had to face new frustrations and challenges. The obstacles didn’t come easy and the progress wasn’t always as swift as she wanted. Kevin drew on his own training experiences to help guide Jordan to her goal. After, both Kevin and Jordan reflected back on their time together.
Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
KB: I had a lot on my plate. But the way she talked about the project. This was her big eighth grade project. Which is a school related thing. I think a lot of people would have thought of something academic. But she said, “Okay, I want to become a Ninja and be able to do this Ninja course and I have 10-12 weeks to do it.” But that was a really aggressive goal, I thought. I really liked that this was what she wanted to do for her eighth grade project. I thought, “Okay, I don’t have a lot of time, but I’m going to try to help Jordan here and provide what coaching I can so that she can really make this attempt.”
JB: I trained for 12 weeks, 3-times a week. An hour and half each time. In the beginning, it was going really, really good. I was progressing a lot. Then around week four or five, for a couple weeks I was struggling on one obstacle and that made me really mad because I couldn’t get it. I was starting to give up. I kept practicing it and eventually, after like three weeks, I got over it. Then I started progressing. It went pretty good. But it took a lot of work and I had to practice a lot. I had to make sure to keep trying even though it was hard.
(Kevin told me) to keep going. Keep training. Not get too mad about it. If you’re not doing so well on an obstacle, you can focus on something else. Just don’t worry about it. You’ll get it eventually. Don’t let it get in your head.
KB: I remember that she had structured her training out in a way that I think a lot of people would if they had just started their journey on Ninja. She said, “Okay here’s the course, and I have to complete this obstacle in that week and so on.” So the first step was to talk to her about, “Well, we’re not really training the obstacle. We’ve got to get the skill set in place. It may not come one obstacle at a time.” I changed the way she looked at her training. That was kind of her first lesson. It’s about building that set of skills that can then be used on any number of obstacles. That’s what we started working towards.
JB: The Clear Boards gave me a little bit of trouble because it’s a really hard technique. You’re just hanging by your fingers. It took me a while to figure out how to do it. But I found a way to use my legs and that made it a lot easier. Also the bungee ropes because they really hurt my fingers because you grab on to them and they re-adjust in your hand. So it’s really hard to get a good grip and when you fall it hurts your fingers. I realized that if I hang on, and I don’t fall, then it doesn’t hurt.
KB: I think we all, in our training, plateau at various points in something we’re trying to accomplish. Weeks can go by and you’re not making any progress and you don’t really understand why it’s happening. It’s a common thing not just for Ninjas but for all athletes I think. You just have to stick with it because eventually something clicks. Sometimes it’s just that you had one little thing that was a bad habit. Sometimes it’s just your body taking the time to develop the way you want it to. But you just have to be patient and keep at it. Eventually you’ll break through that plateau.
JB: What I want others to take away from this is that if you want to do something, and you want it bad enough, then you can set out a timeline and you really work hard at it, you can do it. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end.
KB: Accomplishment isn’t supposed to be easy. I think there’s a lot things that happen to people today, particularly young people, that suggests that accomplishment should be easy. That’s one of things about Ninja training. Most of the time you’re training, you’re not succeeding, you’re failing. And as soon as you do succeed at something, the expectation is to just make it harder. So you can’t do it until you’re able to learn how to do it that way. So really it’s all about being willing to tackle a challenge that’s difficult and being willing to doggedly work through it until you make that accomplishment.
After the 12 weeks, Jordan prepared a final presentation for the class. She showed them her course run and talked about what the experience was like for her. You can watch the presentation here.
While American Ninja Warrior might be “just” a TV show, it has a ripple effect that goes much deeper. It inspired a stock trader and former decathlete like Kevin Bull to become a gym manager and trainer. That left him open to teach a young Jordan the perseverance and dedication to be confident that she can reach her goals. With that in place, who knows what Jordan will go on to accomplish.
And yes, Jordan got the highest grade possible.