Hawaii’s Ninja Warrior

“Marc, we’ll take the Physical Challenge,” was the Double Dare phrase that introduced many 80s television viewers to the concept of obstacle course racing (OCR). Interest continued with programs like American Gladiators, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge and now … American Ninja Warrior (ANW).

Rather than battling muscle-bound gladiators, the ninja warrior hopefuls on ANW compete in a series of obstacle courses, which increase in difficulty. Out of the thousands who apply every season, only 100 are invited to each regional final. In season six, one of Hawaii’s own was featured in the Los Angeles regional.

Ky Vuong, 45, of Kaka’ako did not go on to conquer Mount Midoriyama (total victory), but he had fun and he has a lot to share with future ninja warriors from the islands.

WBH: When did you become interested in OCR?
KV: Probably about 10 years ago. All my life, I’ve been pretty active and competitive – doing track and field. Sometimes we would try to be creative and develop obstacles like jumping over a wall, picking up some tires, and it started from there. Then my friends and I started signing up for races with obstacle elements and race for the fun of it.

WBH: On ANW, we sometimes see competitors training on homemade obstacles in their backyard. How did you train for the course?
KV: For me, I just had outdoor parks — children’s parks where they have a pull-up bar. I used to practice on that and certain gyms with monkey bars — just being creative. I would practice for the salmon ladder by doing a pull-up and switch my grip. If your body is ready from all the years of training, you should be ready.

WBH: Should someone training for the competition focus on one area of the body more than others or should they try to be well-rounded?
KV: You have to be well-rounded. From your core, to your handgrip, to your hand strength, and your forearm  — you need all of that. You’re trying to complete this course in a short amount of time. Your legs need to be fresh. At the end you have to run up that “Warped Wall,” so if your legs give out, you can’t make it to the top. You need to have that strong core because everything is balance. You need to climb and do all those different things. You can’t just train for one part. You have to have good cardio too. Even though it’s just 2-3 minutes to finish a course, at the end … your heart is pounding.

WBH: What is your current active lifestyle like?
KV: As a dad of a two and a half year old, chasing after him is quite a challenge. I try to work out at least three to four times a week to keep myself sane and de-stress myself. If my wife has enough time, sometimes we’ll work out together, hiking or just something active.

WBH: Any words of wisdom for future ninja warriors entering the world of OCR?
KV: Just train complete — core and everything. Try to be humble. Take your time.