Interview with the Deaf Ninja
Renca: Hi Kyle!
[Video Clips of Kyle’s qualifying run]
Renca: Congratulations on qualifying for the American Ninja Warrior finals in Las Vegas. What made you apply to American Ninja Warrior?
Kyle: I used to do a lot of OCR (Obstacle Course Racing). I love running and competing. It’s fun and I’ve enjoyed it. Then I got involved in rock climbing…
[Video of Kyle Rock Climbing - he jumps off and celebrates]
Then I started watching video clips from American Ninja Warrior and I thought, “Maybe I can do that”. It seemed like it’d be easier for me since I have a lot of experience with obstacle courses. So I applied. When I got in, I was thrilled. I started to challenge myself in training. I was nervous a little bit, but it was a lot of fun, I loved it. That’s why I got into American Ninja Warrior.
Renca: I’m curious - what did you do to prepare yourself for this competition?
Kyle: I have to train about 5-6 days a week, averaging 3-7 hours every day. I also work two jobs - so I was really busy when I was training for American Ninja Warrior. I also do a lot of rock climbing because I have to improve my grip since I have to hold onto obstacles for long periods of time.
[Video of Kyle Rock Climbing - after a strenuous climb, he gets to the top victoriously.]
I have to train for different types of grips as well. I also train and coach at the American Ninja Gym. We have a gym that’s not far from here.
[Video of Kyle running through a training course at the gym.]
I also do a little bit of yoga as it helps balance my body. It gives me relief and helps me relax. I meditate because I’m always excited and jumping full of energy, but I have to calm myself and teach myself to calm down because have to relax when I’m doing the courses. Often, I’ll be faced with an obstacle that I’m struggling with and I have to breathe and analyze it and think of a solution and beat it. That’s what I do.
Renca: Can you talk a little bit about that chant: “Beat that wall!”?
[Video of the chant]
How did that start?
Kyle: If you look at that moment where I taught the crowd that sign: “beat that wall” – I know the sign looks like “window” but signing the wall as a giant slope looks weird in a chant, so I changed it to this.
So I taught the crowd how to sign “beat that wall”. That’s not something I invented, I’ve seen other [hearing] people chanting it, “beat that wall, beat that wall”. I’m deaf so I can’t hear them chanting, so I taught them how to sign it.
Renca: Which part of the course was the most challenging? Which was your favorite?
Kyle: When I ran it - it wasn’t one obstacle that was harder than the others, it’s doing all of them together that was challenging. Fatigue kicked in and my arms were throbbing. I was tired, but determined to keep going.
In the Indianapolis final, there was an obstacle called The Cane Lane. I had a hook that I had to use to get across. [Video]
That was new and exciting, I loved it! I thought it was cool, and loved it. I would have beaten it if I hadn’t mistimed my swing. When I was swinging I was supposed to swing back then forward and “jump” to the next one. When I swung back though, I went too far back and jumped too early. [Video] That’s why I missed.
My favorite obstacle is the wing nuts. They look like this. You have to hold on to it and then launch yourself. [Video] That’s my favorite because you have to change the direction you’re facing. You start sideways then launch yourself into the air.
Renca: What are you hoping to achieve in Las Vegas?
Kyle: In the Indianapolis final you have to make it in the top fifteen. I was tenth. [Video] I was lucky, but that’s because I made it further than anyone else did. They all fell earlier in the course. I went further than they did, but I didn’t hit the buzzer. I still qualified.
My goal for Las Vegas is to beat every stage. Every stage from now on, you have to hit the buzzer. If you don’t, you’re eliminated. It happens. People sometimes make mistakes too. Sometimes all of them fall, it happens.
If you make it with the top score, you win 1 million. Wow, that’s impressive! That may be one of the reasons - the money would be nice! But still, I’m here because last year I wanted to do this obstacle because it was fun. I enjoy the challenges, challenging myself. But what I didn’t realized about what happened, after that show last year in Kansas City, the qualifier… [Video] People began contacting me saying they were impressed and that their kids were inspired and wanted to learn to be like that. It really touched me. I didn’t realize that I would actually make that big of an impact on other people. That impact told me to keep going and continue to inspire other people. Not just for myself, to try to win the money, but I’m now trying to inspire other people, to inspire the world to see deaf people can compete on the same level.
That’s why I’m doing this… We are all capable of succeeding, whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, at anything. Sometimes people look down on you. I grew up getting looked down on a lot. I wasn’t the best at some sports, but I was still fast, but I was never picked because I’m deaf. I grew up mainstreamed - the only deaf person in school, with my interpreter. Now I have that opportunity to change that perspective. I want to help other kids, the new generation, and adults too, to improve themselves and pursue their dreams. That’s why I’m here.
Renca: Thank you for your time and good luck!