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Ninjas Making a Difference: Jimmy Choi

This series will highlight a Ninja each week who is making a difference in their community.

American Ninja Warrior - Season 9 Photo by: Fernando Leon/NBC/NBU Photo Bank

Jimmy Choi has competed on seasons 9, 10, and 11 of American Ninja Warrior, failing in the Qualifiers each time. But what’s impressive about Jimmy is that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) when he was 27, which is a neurodegenerative disorder that often affects motor or movement-related functions. It can result in tremors, especially in the hands, limb rigidity, and balance issues. Which means that the ANW obstacles are even more of a challenge.

Now in his 40s, Jimmy told Parkinson’s Life that even in college, “I remember I had real trouble throwing a baseball. Every time I tried to pass it to a friend I’d end up throwing it straight into the ground. It puzzled me for a long time, but looking back it was because my hand didn’t understand what my brain was telling it to do.”

He recalls the night that he decided to apply for American Ninja Warrior: “My 10-year-old daughter always used to bug me about going on her favorite TV show ‘American Ninja Warrior’, and I’d tell her I couldn’t because of my condition. Then one day, we were watching it together and a contestant with Parkinson’s walked on. She turned to me and asked: ‘What’s your excuse?’”

After competing on ANW, Jimmy connected Akbar Gbajabiamila, whose father lives with Parkinson’s disease, to The Michael J. Fox Foundation and has become an advocate for PD research.

Most recently, Jimmy drew quite a bit of attention to himself at the Chicago Marathon. During the race—which is 26.2 miles—Jimmy stopped after each mile and did the number of burpees that corresponded with the mileage (5 burpees after 5 miles, 17 burpees after 17 miles, etc.), for a total of 351 burpees. Runner’s World took notice and published a story about him here.

On Instagram, Jimmy said he did it for three reasons:

Jimmy is certainly an inspiration to us all. Keep up with Jimmy on his website or Instagram.