Divided into four extreme stages, competitors face the ultimate test of strength and will in their quest to become champion. Many are called. Few are chosen. Who’s tough enough to become the next Ninja Warrior!
Ninja Warrior hails from Japan (the original programmes are Sasuke and its female counterpart Kunoichi). One hundred competitors take on the course, ranging from world class athletes to celebrities to the common man, and attempt to clear its four extreme stages.
It is the ultimate test of strength and will. It began airing on Tokyo Broadcasting System Television in Japan in 1997 and now airs in over 150 countries. The original series continues to run on TBS-Japan with the most recent tournament stage in July 2011.
One hundred participants are given the opportunity to attempt the First Stage, a course which primarily tests one’s speed. The object is to hit the buzzer at the end of the course before the allotted time expires. If a competitor goes out of bounds or comes into contact with the water in any of the pits below the course, he is disqualified. Obstacles include Barrel Climbs, Rolling Log, Jump Hangs, Tarzan Jump and Cross Bridge.
Typically, 85 to 90 of the 100 original entrants are eliminated in this stage.
Those with enough skill to complete Stage One, then take on an even more grueling set of obstacles in Stage Two, which can include the Spider Walk, Moving Walls, Spider Climb, Hammer Dodge, Reverse Conveyor and Wall Lifting. Like Stage One, the obstacles alter throughout the competitions, but all hold to the same principle: if the competitor makes a single mistake they fall into the water below. The obstacles determine the time limit, and it is usually between 50 seconds and 100 seconds.
Unlike the First Stage, which has always required the competitors to hit a buzzer at the end of the course to stop the clock and pass the course, the Second Stage did not have a buzzer at its end until the 8th Competition. Before then, the competitors simply walked through an open gate to stop the clock. From the 8th Competition onward, the buzzer opens the gate. If the competitor busts open the gate without hitting the button, they are disqualified. In addition, the course judges can hold the gates closed if a competitor committed a foul earlier in the Second Stage that would result in their disqualification, such as using the Chain Reaction gloves on the Spider Walk.
On average, 10 to 15 competitors attempt the Second Stage on each competition.
The third stage has no time limit, allowing contestants to go at their own pace. Contestants are allowed a few seconds of rest between obstacles during which they can apply “sticky spray” to improve their grip. While the first two stages focus on speed and agility, this course almost exclusively tests one’s upper body strength and stamina.
The Third Stage is so grueling that, on average, someone passes it only every other competition. Obstacles include Pole Bridge, Propellor Bars, Arm Bike, Cliff Hanger and Pipe Slider.
To date, the Final Stage has known three forms. Each of these share a single, common goal: to scale the tower and reach the button at the top before time expires. If the competitor does not reach the top platform in time, the rope is cut and the competitor falls. Reaching the top is referred to as kanzenseiha, translated roughly as “complete domination”, and rendered on Ninja Warrior as “total victory”.
Typically, only one or two people make it to the Final Stage, if any make it at all.