TEMPE, Ariz. – A gym in Tempe uses obstacles popular on the television show American Ninja Warrior to train every day Phoenicians into ninja warriors.
Arizonan Lee Cates appeared on season 10 and 11 of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior and competed in the Los Angeles City Finals. The crowd cheered when we entered the spotlight with his daughter, Jaelynn, and their matching shirts reading “Daddy Daughter Ninja.”
“The experience is unbelievable,” said Cates. “Everybody asked me why I did it. I definitely didn’t do it to win a million dollars. I did it to make my daughter proud so one day when she looks back at this experience she can say her dad was ‘cool.'”
Cates did not make it past the Los Angeles event, but he decided to bring the obstacles home to Arizona. The Marine Veteran no co-owns Hitsquad Ninja Gym, a gym dedicated to the obstacles featured in American Ninja Warrior.
“It’s an adult playground,” said Cate. “We train one: future ninja warriors, or two: just individuals that just want to find a workout that’s actually fun.”
Lee and his business partners hold training sessions with actual ninja warrior-style obstacles such as the salmon ladder and warped wall.
“The benefit of owning your own gym and being on the television show is you get to see what the television show offers,” said Cates.
Cate’s daughter, Jaelynn, is a ninja warrior in training, and many times it serves as the test dummy for new obstacles.
“We decide what’s popular at the time and what’s gonna fit in a certain area, then we have little munchkins like this test it out,” said Cates.
Hitsquad Ninja Gym as weekly classes for kids and adults and open gym hours on the weekends.