The Women of Ninja Warrior: Obstacles and awesomeness


A Japanese professional surfer. Olympic Romanian gymnasts. Brazilian ultimate fighters. Olympic Australian soccer players. Professional dancers. A 13-year-old local track and field star.

This is Women of Ninja Warrior, the Japanese reality game show for female athletes. The show is called Kunoichi in Japan — the word for a female ninja. In the U.S., you can catch it on the G4 cable channel. Kyla Gracie, the Brazilian ultimate fighter, is just one example of what you’ll see.

The show is a spin-off of the men’s version, called just plain Ninja Warrior, now in its 10th season. The men’s version draws some pretty big athletes to Japan, like the gold-medal-winning gymnasts the Hamm brothers.

I’m home nursing the knee I sprained when I fell off the stage interviewing Leisha Hailey (long story), so I have more time than usual to channel surf. I swear, I thought I was dreaming when I first saw this show. I’m hooked. I thought I might have a seizure at any moment because of the fast pace of the show, but at the same time, I did like the mixture of watching the women hurl themselves across some very sketchy bridge thing, cut with footage of them competing in the Olympics or some other event.

Women of Ninja Warrior is not set up for people to win. Only a handful of people — men or women — have actually completed the obstacle courses. Most athletes eat it in a big way on the first or second obstacle.

Like the famous Wide World of Sports footage of Eddie the Eagle biffing it on the ski jump, this show is all about getting people to face plant.

And every now and then, they throw in a gym teacher or bricklayer to compete against an Olympian or professional athlete. On the day I watched, a 13-year-old Japanese kid who had won a few local track meets beat the crap out of a member of the Australia’s Olympic soccer team. Sweet. Go little kid, go.

I want to build one of these courses in my backyard. I’m not kidding. This is Dancing With the Stars meets … I don’t know what. Thunderdome? Iron Chef?

The only thing this show is missing is a Mimi.

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