Ferguson made it to the national finals on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior in 2019; he returns to the world’s hardest obstacle course on June 7.
How did you get into ninja training?
As a kid, I was fascinated by ninjas and martial arts. I was naturally athletic and used to dream of being an actual ninja. I was a big fan of Power Rangers and karate movies and all that stuff, Karate Kid, all the old Bruce Lee movies. I was just really enamored with that. In 2015, I saw a video of a girl who was five feet tall, the first woman ever to successfully complete a full course on the TV show. And the video went viral online. It was my first time seeing a course run on the show and I immediately applied for the show and ended up competing that next season. I was a dedicated gym rat before, training every day for nothing in particular because I loved training and exercise. So it was a natural fit for me.
How do you train for something like this?
I started training in rock climbing, gymnastics, parkour, and calisthenics. I combined those disciplines primarily to hone all the facets of what the skill sets entail for the show. Now that I basically live at a ninja gym, I train on obstacle runs every day. But those four disciplines cover a lot of the skill sets involved.
It seems like there’s a wide range of ages among the competitors.
The oldest person who has successfully completed a course is 56 years old. There’s a very big spectrum in age, especially now that they have teenagers on the show. It is really very individualistic. Obviously, it’s not a team sport. It’s on the person, the individual, to be prepared and be in shape. It really varies. There are guys in their 40s stronger than competitors in their 20s. One who may be older had kept up a consistent routine and high level of fitness where some younger guys may be naturally skilled but maybe not as disciplined. I have trained a lot of people who have been on American Ninja Warrior and there is a kid’s show now, American Ninja Warrior Junior, and I actually trained the kid who was the champion, and the runner-up of that show.
How do you prepare mentally?
The mental aspect is by far the most important part. It’s the biggest separator between competitors. Confidence is paramount. It’s called the hardest obstacle course in the world for a reason. Focus is huge. You can be prepared from practicing and you can have all the skills and be confident but just a moment of misplaced focus can end a season and you have to wait another year. So you have to have unshakeable confidence and focus and a level of fearlessness. The obstacles are challenging but you’re also 20 feet above a pool of water. You train a whole year for one moment, your run is just a couple minutes long. If the fear of failure is in your head then that’s going to be a huge disadvantage. There are just several layers of fear you have to destroy before you can set foot on the course.
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