There are obstacle courses, there are warped walls, there’s parkour and there are a handful of centers across the Front Range that call themselves ninja warrior gyms. They’re all fun in different ways.
And then there’s Ninja Nation — designed by Geoff Britten, the only “American Ninja Warrior” to ever land a perfect season on the TV show — where you can train with one of “American Ninja Warrior’s” most famous ninjas, Jamie Rahn.
Ninja Nation opened this summer in Lafayette, just east of Boulder, and it’s already expanding. It just opened a second branch in Centennial and is launching a Texas gym soon.
Rahn is Lafayette’s head coach. He’s known for his funky costumes. Not to mention the fact that he’s competed in eight “American Ninja Warrior” seasons and had made it to the national finals five times. Needless to say, he’s got mad ninja skills, and he’s willing to share.
Ninja Nation, 1700 Coal Creek Drive Unit 2, is designed to bring the look and the feel of the TV show to Boulder County, with some of the most iconic challenges, like a warped wall, Salmon Ladder and the Spider Jump (combining a large piece of plexiglass with a trampoline).
The gym is also built to be highly versatile. The ceiling is lined with metal trusses to accommodate all kinds of obstacles. Things change every week, which makes Ninja Nation different than many other ninja-style gyms, says spokesperson Lewis Clarke.
Ninja Nation’s class programming is unique, too. It has regular drop-ins and beginner classes, but if you want to really grow, check out its official, progressive Ninja curriculum built on a 12-week cycle. Each class builds on the last.
As an additional motivator and challenge, Ninja Nation offers a unique “band progression system,” where students can work their way through different colored wristbands, starting at white and going to black, sort of like a karate belt system. To level up, you must earn a certain number of points, which are pre-assigned to various challenges (called “achievements”) and organized on an app.
For example, you can earn a certain number of points by doing a dead hang for 10 minutes, or remaining on the balance beam for five minutes, or going through the monkey bars backward. Challenges are organized by different types of athleticism (such as speed, power, agility, balance and grip strength) with the overall goal to build well-rounded athletes.
“We built the program to not just reward one aspect of the sport but full-body movement,” Clarke says.
Students can work through their wristbands on their own in open gym, show a coach to verify and earn the points, which are tallied in their app.
“People who are competitive love it,” Clarke says.
Students can join this by upgrading (for just $10 a month) to the NextLevel Achievement program.
In addition, certain popular challenges have the option to scan in with the wristband to start a pre-set video camera, which will capture the person attempting the challenge and automatically send the email evidence to their NextLevel portal. They can download and share it. (Because if you don’t share it on Instagram, did it really happen?)
Most participants (80 percent) at Ninja Nation are youth, but there are classes for all ages, and opportunities for families to exercise together. The ultimate goal is for one million kids and adults to experience Ninja Nation, Clarke says.
“We’re teaching kids how to fail forward in a way that’s positive and makes trying things the game. That’s the focus of ninja,” he says. “There’s a support system and positive environment to try things and to fall and to fail, but fail up.”
And he says the gym is seeing it already. Participants who may have originally come to meet a famous Ninja Warrior are staying, getting strong and growing more confident, he says.