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‘American Ninja Warrior’ inspires new gym in Cedar Falls

October 7, 2018

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Friends tried to talk Scott Behrends into watching the popular TV show “American Ninja Warrior” for several years.

“They knew I was a monkey and like to hang on stuff,” he said.

Once he watched the show, where contestants pursue their common dream of reaching Mount Midoriyama on the notorious obstacle course, he was hooked.

As a climber, he said, it was the sport he always wished he had as a kid.

“I love the camaraderie of it. It’s mostly the ninjas versus the obstacle course. I love seeing ninjas cheering each other on,” he told The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier .

Now Behrends, along with Jacob Pauli, a decorated former University of Northern Iowa pole vaulter and an alternate for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, have opened the Cedar Valley’s only obstacle training course gym, Ninja U.

Located in Black Hawk Village, Ninja U offers a facility where children and adults of any skill level can jump, crawl, climb, hang or swing their way through an ever-changing lineup of obstacles.

Ninja U recently hosted a grand opening with food and coffee from local vendors, prize giveaways and ninja demonstrations from “American Ninja Warrior” and “American Ninja Warrior Jr.” competitors.

The gym includes equipment for younger children, as well as some of the popular obstacles from the show, including the warped wall, salmon ladder and spider climb.

In 2016, Behrends’ sons began making obstacle courses in the backyard and timing themselves. Behrends recorded them and uploaded one to YouTube. “Backyard Ninja Kids” was born, and it now has more than 2,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 5,000 Instagram followers.

Behrends has competed in Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association competitions, qualifying for worlds and course-tested for “American Ninja Warrior” season 10 in Minneapolis. His sons, Ben and Jason, competed on “American Ninja Warrior Junior” season one, which will air Oct. 13 on the Universal Kids channel.

Coaching the guests and showing kids hard work and determination pay off has become one of Behrends’ favorite things to do.

“They’re sweaty and they’re exhausted, but they just keep trying and trying,” he said. “When you see a kid conquer an obstacle, it’s a game-changer for them, especially when they’ve worked hard at it.”

Behrends also wanted to teach his children about being a positive influence on social media. Many of the YouTube videos include information on how to build a ninja gym in your home and ways to get kids out and exercising.

And now future ninja warriors are coming out of the woodwork, Behrends said.

Jed Grove, a UNI student and intern at Ninja U, said in just the few weeks since the gym opened, he has seen major improvement in his skill level.

“Almost every time I’m here, I accomplish something I couldn’t do before.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com

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