Friday, 5 June 2015

16th June '15: My Ninja Warrior UK Experience.

Having taken part in the first Ninja Warrior UK show which aired through May/June 2015, I wanted to write and share a few thoughts from my experience. This might give interested readers a bit of an insight into the show and hopefully dispel rumours/ add some points to any future discussion about the show.

If you like, please read, share and/or comment.

You only get one shot.

One of the questions I get asked a lot about the show is "do you get a chance to practice?".
Quick answer is no! Each run you see on the show is as it happened, give or take any course malfunctions, (only happened once on the show from what I saw) and the runner would start from that obstacle at the time they got there, as stated in rules (Remember this happened with Makoto Nagano one year, it's no big deal, it happens).

Your one and only run, which could be at the start or end of the filming session (A few hours long) is the first chance to attempt the obstacles.

It takes a particular type of training and mindset to be able to deal with the physical adaptation of new movements/obstacles/surfaces, keeping calm and composed to make positive choices for your course approach and how you tackle each obstacle. Some people manage to wing it and that's a great part of the show too!

We did get a chance to walk alongside each obstacle to see course testers show a few options for obstacle approach and to brief us on any Health and Safety precautions, however, that's as much and as close as you get.

If I had the chance to practice with a few runs, I'm certain I could have brought my time to at least around the 30-45 second mark, but practice isn't a luxury you get on Ninja Warrior.... or in a real-life.

To have the chance to experience a 'real', one-chance situation like this was great as a Parkour practitioner. Being cautious but confident and where possible, having a back up plan to fix an error and keep moving forward. "Just going for it" might work and might have worked for some, but is it worth the risk? Its your choice ultimately but as a Parkour coach, with over 10 years of Parkour experience, my choice was slow and methodical, you only get one shot.

As for my semi-final slip-up, after waiting around backstage for hours, watching attempt after attempt I was tired and I think, let nerves get the better of me; I rushed the chains and either my hands were too sweaty or the chains were wet; either way, no grip and a slow slip. :(

This is a reason I train Parkour and why I believe practitioners are well suited to Ninja Warrior, not only do we spend a lot of time practising overcoming obstacles but many practice and play with odd and awkward movements. During training, we ensure any time spent practising is to high standard, being strict, being consistent and ready to adapt learned movements if and when required.

A broad experience within movement will keep you calm, confident and (hopefully) on your feet!

Comparisons to Japan and American Ninja Warrior

There has been some criticism around the course suggesting that Ninja Warrior UK is 'watered down' or too easy. Although I can understand the points raised, I feel that the series did a good job in baring the Ninja Warrior name and for the UK audience.

The UK is a silly country when it comes to TV, look at soaps and prime-time shows, generally it's all very over the top and silly. British people do like to have a laugh at others, most people do...  and for the first series, viewer-ship is required to get anywhere near making another series.

I agree that Ninja Warrior UK was a little, "lighter" in terms of how it was edited and commentated. However, during the show, both filming and backstage, everyone there was there to have some fun, OR really give the course a go, much alike the Japanese and American versions. Gladiators and the Crystal maze are great examples, they were a show and entertaining but it was very respectful and they favoured the successes, hard work and determination over painting it with the same tongue-in-cheek entertainment brush.

Participants make the moments; encourage, support them and let them. Make the course test them.... and I mean really test them, from heats to finals, and you'll see something amazing.

Having been a NW fan for many years,as I'm sure the majority of participants were, in the heats and during the semi-finals, the focus was very much excitement for having the opportunity to try a purpose built obstacle course, similar to the ones we've seen people attempting for many years. Personally I would like to have had each heat more difficult, but again, for the first series, I think there was a good balance of obstacles and challenges with even the practised course testers taking a plunge during the briefings! Things ARE bigger than they look on TV.

Lastly, the great thing about the global Ninja Warrior movement are the people who come and try, their stories and their abilities. The global Ninja Warrior opportunity has pushed people to improve their lives, help others and share their stories of overcoming obstacles faced both on the course and in their lives. Father and son attempts, Nanny-ninja attempts, professionals wanting to test themselves further, pushing the limits of age, injury or disability etc.

In this respect Ninja Warrior UK did the show justice. I'm proud to have been part of the GLOBAL Ninja Warrior community and will aim to go further to complete the course for next series. Determined, experienced and ready.

Suggestions for the second series.

In the way the show was aired, it feels like it tried a little 'too hard' in some respects. Voice-over's trying to add 'hype', trying to make it intense and exciting, visual effects to make it look flashy, when really, it doesn't need it!

Katie McDonnell hanging on the ring slider for minutes was exciting, Dion and Geoff Trigg's father and son story of Ninja Warrior was moving, the near misses, the families, the incredible performances of real athletes who live and breathe this stuff like Toby, Tiege and Tim. No need to add hype, challenge is entertaining enough.

What I'd like to see in the next season:
- A more difficult course from the start, if ITV can "build it..... they will come" and get better TV from it, both in terms of the 'successes' and 'failures'. One of the best things about Japan is how notoriously hard the course is! There are more people in the UK who do 'this stuff' than I think, is assumed. Look at OCR, Parkour and MovNat participation figures....

- Keep the editing simple, Japan and America's versions keep a good balance of respect, encouragement and fun without poking too much fun at anyone in particular; sometimes, less is more. It doesn't need to try and entertain, there's plenty of excitement happening already.

- The jump from the Heats/Semi's compared to the second stage of the final was BIG leap. The time restraint was very tight in watching and knowing how challenging those obstacles were, it would have merited either no time (like Japanese version). A reasonable time limit for the 1st Heats would have been a good idea to add a little pressure to keep moving and not take too long.

Thanks for reading, agree or disagree? Comment below and share!

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