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Five regional talents to compete for a chance at 'American Ninja Warrior'

Patrick Hall has been so pumped by the “American Ninja Warrior” television series that he started a gym in downtown Buffalo for those who share his enthusiasm.

He plans to step up to even greater heights before and after the June 1 premiere of the eighth season of the show on NBC.

Hall, 38, a former ANW competitor himself, will take five members of his gym, Hybrid Fitness, to Philadelphia next week to compete in a qualifier for the new season. He also plans two local family events: an outdoor obstacle event along the Outer Harbor and a Hybrid Fitness Ninja Academy at the gym, 475 Ellicott St.

Q. What will the local events be like?

We will be hosting a replica of the qualifying course, pretty much the same that viewers will see on the show for the Ninja Academy, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 5. The course will be modified for the layman and doable for everyday adults and children. The cost is only $10.

In addition, we will be collaborating with New York State and Paramount Pictures from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 4 at the Buffalo Harbor State Park (1111 Fuhrmann Blvd.) to showcase Buffalo’s involvement in the filming of the new “Ninja Turtles” movie. We will be setting up a huge Ninja course for children of all ages.

Read a previous story about local "American Ninja Warrior" training here.


Q. What will the two courses for the upcoming events look like?

In the park, it’s going to be very scalable. People will have the option to get into lines. There’s going to be kids from 4 and 5 to teenagers, so we’re going to have a beginner, intermediate and advanced area where people can come and try obstacles you see on the show, like the Quintuple Steps, Snake’s Crossing, our Feeder Totter, or Holy Roller. We’ve also constructed a 15-by-15 foot rig that has swinging capabilities, so we’ll have a ring toss, a peg board, a ring rush – where you swing from ring to ring – and a bananarama, where you swing from plastic bananas. And we have a Cliffhanger. We’ve been traveling to schools around the region and bringing it for field days. You can pick your line for comfort or self-challenge.

Buffalo Bills assistant trainer and nutritionalist Dan LiBurd will vie to compete on television in the upcoming "American Ninja Warriors" season. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

Buffalo Bills assistant trainer and nutritionalist Dan LiBurd will vie to compete on television in the upcoming "American Ninja Warriors" season. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

Q. Talk about the five local competitors for the TV show.

I’ll be down next week for the Philadelphia qualifier to coach five clients. I know very well how the show works. My favorite competitor is 69-year-old Dave Kozak. In my opinion, he’s certain to be aired. He’s a Vietnam veteran who has amazing capabilities and strength. He flew on 188 missions in Vietnam and after that became the trainer for the top (flying) guns in Vegas in the Air Force. I’ve been working with him for two years. He’s had a hip replacement. His nickname is “Ageless.” We have a bunch of Ageless shirts we’re going to hand out in the audience. I think he’s got a chance to do very well. He wants to be the oldest competitor to get up the Warped Wall. I think he can do it.

Philadelphia will be the fifth show to air, so picture five weeks from June 1 (to find out who makes the broadcast). People do a good job of honoring the secrecy.

The shows are never live. They change the order of competitors to make it more dramatic.

We also have a father-daughter team, Olivia and Joe Sinatra from Jamestown. They travel an hour and 20 minutes twice a week to work out at the gym. Olivia is 21 and Joe is 53, and they are capable.

See Olivia and Joe Sinatra's audition video here.

Joel Santana is a veteran of the Armed Forces and a male model. He travels and does a lot of stuff in New York City.

Another guy is pretty new to the gym. He’s been in every day, Dan LiBurd, an assistant strength coach for the Bills, from Orchard Park.

Q. With five local competitors, you think that chances that at least one of them will end up on air are pretty good?

I think its a slam dunk Dave Kozak will be feature in profiles. They’ve made a big deal about competitors in their 60s and there hasn’t been one competitor over 50 or 55 that hasn’t been profiled. Here’s a 69-year-old Vietnam fighter pilot who trains the top guns in Vegas. They like a good story and they’ve never had father and daughter competitors before, either.

Q. What does your gym setup look like?

At the gym, the way every city qualifying course works on “American Ninja Warrior” the first round has six obstacles and the first round all follows same pattern. The Quintuple Steps is five steps you bound from, 5 feet apart. This year, and viewers don’t know this yet, it will be harder because they’ve elevated the steps. Each step is one foot higher than previously, so you’re not only jumping 5 feet, but you’re jumping a foot higher. People will see it June 1 and you’ll be able to try it in our gym.

The second obstacle is always a combination of grip and skill. We set up what we call a Bear Hug Jump. People will jump from a platform and have to grab on to a 175-pound heavy bag, and find a way to create enough momentum to swing to a platform. That’s the number two obstacle people will see on “Ninja Warrior.”

Number three is called Snake’s Crossing, one of the most popular balance obstacles the show has ever created. We are the only gym in country that has a built-to-scale Snake’s Crossing obstacle. It was seen last year in the Pittsburgh qualifiers. We studied it and came home and built it.

Trampoline jump to a customized cargo net built in shape of spider web is number four. It’s a difficult distance, a 5- to 6-foot jump from a trampoline without a running start. You’ve got to get to the cargo net and climb to the other side.

Obstacle number five is the Devil’s Steps. Its ladders are like a letter A without the dash in the middle. They go up one side and down the other side.

Number six is the infamous Warped Wall. The one on the show is a 14-foot wall. Our is 12 foot because of our ceiling limitations. What we’ve done to make it harder is eliminate the run-up space.

Q. You’ve also has other opportunities to set up obstacle courses?

We’ve had a demand. Schools contacted us and ask, “Would you be willing come over and do some Ninja stuff with the kids?” We thought it was a great idea. We come into schools and take over a gym class for an entire day, so the kids have us for 40 minutes and we put them through Ninja Warrior courses. We also have a ton of field days coming up in June at local schools, all over Western New York. We travel with at least six obstacles they’ve seen on the show. I anticipate this being a big part of business for us in the next year.


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