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Ryan Stratis candidly discussed his decision to step back from Ninja Warrior this season

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It’s not a retirement, but the OG Ninja is taking some time for himself.

Quantrell Colbert/NBC

There are a few American Ninja Warriors that, when it comes to discussing their history on this website, it feels unnecessary. Their contributions to the sport and their accomplishments are so revered and well-known that it feels un-needed to repeat them.

Ryan Stratis is one of those Ninjas.

But we’ll say a little bit about him anyway, in case you’re new around here. Ryan is one of the original Ninja Warriors. He’s competed on every season of the show here in the US. Season three saw him make it to Stage Three in Sasuke 27. Since the National Finals took up their place in Las Vegas, Ryan has qualified for the final stages seven times, made it to Stage Two three times, and made it to Stage Three in season 11. Ryan was also the first competitor to complete the Mega Wall two seasons in a row. You can read more about his accomplishments on his website, here.

Basically, he’s a big deal to the show and the community. Which is why when he announced he would not take part in season 12 of American Ninja Warrior, there was a collective gasp. We reached out to Ryan to learn more about his decision. We’re presenting his responses to you below. Ryan takes us through the personal and emotional reasons behind his choice in his own words.

David Becker/NBC

What played into your decision to announce that you’ll sit out season 12, ending your “streak”?

RS: Several factors came into play that made me decide to step back from competing this season. These last two years may have been some of my best performances on the show to date but they came at a cost. They have been the hardest for me when it comes to living, making ends meet and life decisions in general.

Since leaving the Army way back in 2013 my goal was to secure a job where I could coach and work on obstacle training full time. I achieved this but after only a year of working in that position I couldn’t seem to find a suitable work / life balance. I was getting burned out and realized it was affecting my personality and mental state so I decided to resign my position prior to competing in the Las Vegas finals in season 11 which added extra pressure to try and perform as best as I could. Essentially I was having a hard time juggling training and maintaining a high level of energy that my position required.

When things were ramping up for season 12 I was faced with yet another potential shoulder surgery and although I initially believed I could push through much like I did back in Season 8 post surgery, I decided it was best to give my body more time to heal properly instead of throwing it back into the grinder right away. The stem cell treatment I received has been working wonders so far and I’ll be excited to compete again when I’m healthy.

Also for well over a decade it seems I have been living my life summer to summer. Every decision I made would hinge upon when and where the show was happening. Once the pandemic hit and put a halt on all ninja activities it kind of put a lot of things into perspective. I am taking some much needed time to determine what my career path should be outside of opportunities that have come about from being on the show.

As we don’t know when season 12 will be filmed, does timing play into it? (If the show is postponed long enough, would you consider taking part?)

(Season 12 of American Ninja Warrior is currently postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.)

RS: No, I’ve already accepted that I won’t be competing this season. I would love to be a part of the season as a tester and hang out on the sidelines without all the pressure of competing. If my body and finances are in a good position for me to be a tester or maybe hang out in the tower and call a few runs with Matt and Akbar, I would love to do that. As far as when I come back onto the show as an actual competitor that may be a while and as always my fate is in the hands of casting so hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to get selected again when I do decide to come back.

Are you taking a break from everything Ninja Warrior at the moment or just the filming process?

RS: I won’t be taking a break from everything Ninja Warrior related. If given the opportunity I’d love to compete internationally again like many of my other friends have over these last few years. Many other countries are having their own versions of Ninja Warrior and I’d love to see how I would perform on their courses.

I will be launching a website soon that will allow fans to follow me and learn more about my history as well as book me for various types of events. (That website is live now.) I still love coaching and getting back out into the community that has developed over the years as ANW has gained more and more traction. So if there are any gyms / schools / events etc looking for a special guest / coach to come work an event I am free and available as soon as the pandemic stuff calms down a bit more.

What would trigger your return to the show beyond season 12?

RS: I’ll likely come back when I feel like I am in a more stable position in life with my career. Like I said before, living summer to summer for the sole purpose of trying to beat a game show definitely has a shelf life - lol. These last few years I seemed to have the “what if I don’t win” feeling floating around in my head more so than usual and I need something more stable. ANW should accentuate my life and not be the entire focus. Many other ninjas have been able to progress in their careers, get married, start families etc. I’ve been a perpetual man child for a while now and at 37 I think it’s time to start growing up just a little - haha.

What does that title of “OG” mean to you? What does it mean to you personally to break that streak?

RS: Being one of the original competitors has been a huge honor. Seeing the sport grow from backyards to stadiums has been an incredible journey. When I do come back I intend on keeping the passion and spirit of the show alive and well that I’m known for. My end goal has always been to beat the show.

Long before the popularity, long before the prize money all I’ve wanted to do was challenge myself and see if I was capable of achieving something near impossible. I’ve come close many times and have stood in the shadow of Midoriyama my fair share but I feel a break may be what I need in order to come back stronger than ever.

One of my idols from Sasuke in Japan is Shingo Yamamoto and he’s competed on every Sasuke that has happened since it started. Ending the streak means I won’t be able to be the American equivalent but I feel this is something I need to do in order to grow as a person and an athlete. So I’m putting the battle cry in a bottle for now but I’ll be back!