Amateur Athletes In Phoenix Train For A Chance To Compete On 'American Ninja Warrior'

By Sarah Ventre
Published: Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 3:53pm
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(Sarah Ventre/ KJZZ News)
Yoni Kachlon's hands are calloused from his intense training.
(Photo courtesy of Riqui Martinez)
Yoni Kachlon's backyard obstacle course.
(Photo courtesy of Riqui Martinez)
The "warped wall" replica is 14 feet high.
(Photo courtesy of Riqui Martinez)

If you’ve never seen the TV show "American Ninja Warrior," think of it as "American Gladiator" meets "Wipeout."

The show is essentially this: hyper competitive, super fit people completing a series of intensely physical obstacle courses. The obstacles include everything from swinging from rope to rope over a pool of water to running to the top of a curved, vertical wall.

Riqui Martinez attempts a replica of the warped wall in a backyard in west Phoenix that belongs to Yoni Kachlon.

“It’s called the warped wall and it’s 14 feet high,” Kachlon said.

Kachlon trains dogs for a living, but one of his biggest goals is to compete on "American Ninja Warrior." To that end, he’s built a makeshift miniature course at his house, where people from around town come to train.

“At first I built it just for me, because I had the time, the space and the money and it was something that interested me because I used to do a lot of gymnastics and cheerleading and stuff like that," he said. "So one of my biggest passions is just kinda helping people, I guess, improve themselves with their confidence in their dogs and confidence in themselves and this is a great way to do that.” 

The course includes a pegboard made of baseballs and a doorknob and metal bars to grab onto or swing across. 

“It’s just a whole lot of pieces of wood screwed together in order so that we can hang stuff and swing on it like monkeys," Kachlon said.

There are a few foam mats underneath, padding the hard dirt. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart. Falls are a regular occurrence.

But bumps and bruises don’t deter competitors like Riqui Martinez.

“I mean, I was doing normal things such as going to the gym, but then after a while I knew right there and then it wasn’t going to help me as much, unless I actually partook in some of the ninja-like obstacles," Martinez said.

But training for American Ninja Warrior is way different than training for a marathon or even an Ironman. The obstacles are really specific. You have to prepare to do things that aren't transferable to other situations. So why choose this?

“I just saw that it’s way more difficult and no one’s ever finished it yet," Kachlon said.

That’s right, no one has successfully completed all rounds of the competition in the show’s six seasons. Kachlon hopes to be the first.

“And if not there’s always next year,” he said.

This weekend, Kachlon is hosting his own competition for locals in order to get ready for the regional qualifying auditions in Venice, Calif., in a few weeks. Until then, it’s all about the challenge.

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