Course design and obstacle design are integral parts of AMW for obvious reasons, I mean how are you supposed to compete without a course to compete on. Now some of you might be thinking “ Oh I could totally design an obstacle that sounds super simple”, but trust me when I say that it’s not. Like most things with ninja warriors it is much more difficult than people think it is, I’ve met many people who think Ninja is just glorified gymnastics and the feeling of pure joy when I get to prove them wrong is unparalleled.
Similarly many people assume course design to be simple, and i can assure that it is the furthest thing from simple. If you’re ever looking to build a course there are a few things you need to keep in mind, and a few questions you need to ask yourself first. You’ll need to ask yourself what type of course you are looking to build, Is it a super fast paced speed course with a lot of balance meant to be completed quickly? Then you should probably think about Course “flow” and how every piece of the course fits with the others almost like a puzzle, as well as having mostly balance obstacles with maybe a few quicker swinging obstacles that can be completed quickly, Example: rings. (this is personally my favorite kind of course). Or are you thinking about making more of an endurance course that will leave your athletes panting and tired? Then you’re probably going to want to put a lot of upper body obstacles that are really taxing like Cliffhangers and Devils steps. The really important thing for these types of courses are that they are long with more obstacles than your average courses with little to no breaks in between taxing upper body obstacles, but if you’re looking to be more kind you can usually throw in at least one Balance obstacle to give your athletes a break. The final type of course is what I like to call the “Even Course”, this is a course that has a mix of Balance and upper body obstacles to form a challenging full course that tests everything a ninja trains for. These types of courses need to of course have a good mix of different types of obstacles to really qualify. And because of this mix these courses are the hardest to build properly, if you put too many balance obstacles you run the risk of having that dominate the course and the same goes for upper body obstacles. These are also the most common type of course because a well rounded course is of course usually preferable.
Another important thing when it comes to course design is the design of the obstacles on an individual level, Obstacle design within the ninja community is actually very popular with the show itself holding an obstacle course design challenge every season, where a few select winners will see their obstacles implemented to the the shows course that season, and if the obstacle proves to be challenging and fun enough may even return in later seasons and also be used in the non show competitions like the NNL and others that I’ve talked about before. For example:
This is Kevin Carbone, and he is known as the maker ninja. Kevin is most famous for the invention of the obstacle the Wing nuts, Showcased in the photo above. This obstacle since its introduction has become insanely popular, and can be found in most gyms across the nation now and has also appeared on the show several times now.
All of this is to say that, like most things in Ninja, course and obstacle design are not as easy as they may appear at first glance, and the people that put so much time and effort into designing courses and obstacles deserve so much respect and admiration for what they do. I’ve worked with a few people who have designed courses before for competitions, and the level of creativity and commitment they have to making a great course is amazing.
Course designers are a cornerstone of Ninja Warrior because obviously without a course there isn’t anything to compete on, and course and obstacle designers, at least all the ones I’ve met, are incredibly creative and dedicated to what they do.