Ninja Strength: Billy Kinsey Is Training For A Shot At American Ninja Warrior


Halle Backman

Billy Kinsey swings on an obstacle at the training center.

Halle Backman, Staff Writer

Focus. Concentration. Strength. Attention.

All are qualities that Billy Kinsey possesses.

All are qualities that a ninja must master.

So Kinsey must be a ninja…well, at least he hopes to be one. And soon. On national TV.

Kinsey is training with the goal of becoming a contestant on the popular television series American Ninja Warrior. He hopes to achieve this goal sometime next year, so he spends multiple nights a week hanging above the ground, swinging through the sky, and climbing up walls.

Every kid wants to be a ninja. Actually, every person, regardless of their age, wants to be a ninja. What would it feel like to have that strength? To be able to swing across long expanses of ground without even touching it, to nimbly climb up or across walls, or to master complete body control. Just imagine.

Kinsey approaches each obstacle looking totally unfazed and determined. Calm. Composed. Poised. But his eyes are moving. They constantly dart back and forth, from the floor to the ceiling to the obstacle and back again–tracking and planning his every move.

He continues to do this as he swings and launches his body from obstacle to obstacle, unconsciously superconscious of each graceful movement he makes. Knowing that one lapse in concentration will result in a quick reminder that gravity can thwart even the best of ninjas.

Now, that concentration on each and every obstacle is a natural instinct. But has it always been?

“No,” Kinsey said. “You have to learn it, and get good at it. Be consistent. And then, once you get that, you have to learn how to do it in a faster way.”

Of course, it’s no easy feat. The obstacles on a Ninja course are meant to be challenging at the very least. No one can expect to get it easily on the first try. But Kinsey makes it look effortless. It is not.

And I can say that, knowing with a 100% surety that it’s true because he tried to make me do the obstacles. Which was….interesting. I could barely bring myself to even try the most simple of them, having no idea how I would use my own upper body strength (non-existent), momentum (too much or not enough), balance (I can barely walk without falling down, much less run across a sloped bar with footholds!), and enough faith to just let my body do the work.

Faith. That’s the hard part.

Kinsey filmed my adventure, providing narration throughout.

“She’s experiencing a little bit of a mental block…”

It sounds like the voiceover of a nature show. Except I am the prey, the obstacle course, the predator. I suffered through a huge mental block. Just believing that I can swing or climb or leap to where I need to be without falling is much easier said than done. And that speaks a lot to the sort of mental strength that Kinsey has.

Kinsey relayed how in his first ever Ninja competition, he didn’t do very well.

“So I just started going, and then I went to a competition and did really bad, so I just started going a lot so I could get better,” Kinsey said. “I just kind of used that as motivation.”

To have that drive to keep trying even when it feels like he wasn’t very good is a huge part of what it means to be a Ninja. Ninjas have to be dedicated.

So what does dedication look like?

It starts with a couple of hours at the gym at least twice a week. And being at the gym entails a plethora of different workouts, each targeting different areas of ninja skills.

“We’ll do core workouts, where we have some core, and then we’ll go do some obstacles, and then we’ll come back and do more core,” Kinsey said. “We do a lot of speed courses, and we do a lot of training courses.”

Apparently ninjas need abs of steel, too.

There is a lot of variety in training. Ninjas need to be well rounded in basically everything, from grip strength, to core strength, to speed.
It’s also important to eat well and get enough sleep, which can be really hard to do for a teenager as busy as Kinsey. There often doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to balance school, sports, and keeping his body healthy, which can be stressful.

So what makes it worth it?

“It’s just fun to get better,” Kinsey said. “And there’s always an obstacle that you can’t do that you can work at, and try to get better and improve,”

As I looked at the daunting pieces of ninja equipment and tried to imagine myself scampering across them or propelling myself from iron bars, I have to say that I felt…intimidated, to say the very least.

Kinsey didn’t care.

“Why would you not try? Just do your best,” Kinsey said. “If you believe in yourself you can do anything. If you don’t think you can do it, then you’ll never be able to do it. You can do it.”

Spoken like a true ninja master. He was completely unaware of the wisdom he was imparting. Completely unaware that with these simple words, he was illustrating exactly what it is to be a ninja.

It’s about commitment and a total belief in self. When Kinsey steps up to one of the obstacles, he has full confidence that he can do it; otherwise, it will be impossible.
Being a ninja is about so much more than just looking cool (which it does look incredibly cool). It’s more about learning the limits of the body and pushing those limits until something amazing happens. It’s about making a goal and working until that is an accomplishment. It’s about discipline, strength and belief.

To quote the ninja himself: “Even if you have this mental block, you have the strength and ability to do it. So just do it.”