The Ninja Next Door

Popular TV show inspires unique fitness craze that officially reached New Orleans in May

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Crescent City Ninja Academy
504-609-1907  //  info@crescentcityninjas.com  //  crescentcityninjas.com


Gyms, especially boutique and specialty gyms and clubs, are making a huge rebound as clients are looking to get back in to shape post-COVID lockdown, learn new athletic skills and interact with others who are also interested in fitness or competitive sports.

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Literally jumping off the success of the TV phenomenon “American Ninja Warrior,” Tara and Terry England launched the first and only dedicated gym in the state for aspiring ninja kids and adults at a custom-built space in Gretna in May of this year.

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A wide range of classes provides specialized ninja training for all skill levels and ages, from children age 5 and up to adult beginner through competitive levels.

The idea behind Crescent City Ninja Academy began long before lockdowns for the Englands, right in their own backyard. Now, acting on a personal passion for a burgeoning new sport, Crescent City Ninjas is seeing big rewards with their one-of-a-kind fitness classes.

“Our ninja warrior journey started 10 years ago when we were sitting as a family watching American Ninja Warrior on TV and our daughter saying, ‘Daddy I think you can do that,’ said Tara England. “From there, we researched the sport, and Terry started to build some things in our backyard to train. At that time, our son was 2 years old and he wanted to do everything his daddy did. They both spent so much time out there that I started joining in to spend more time with them, and soon I was hooked myself.”

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As the Englands’ backyard setup grew, so did their knowledge of the sport. 

“We learned about leagues, competing, and found some resources to learn how to build more obstacles,” said Tara England. “Our dream was to open a ninja warrior gym, but we kept building up the backyard and it was basically an outdoor training facility. We invited people we met through our journey to come train with us in our yard. When people from the area were called to be on American Ninja Warrior, the ninja community from around the country would tell them they needed to get in touch with Terry to help them train. We have trained five ninjas that have appeared on [the show] in our backyard. We decided it’s now or never to follow our dream of opening a gym, and here we are.”

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A June 2023 Sports Illustrated article noted the almost meteoric rise of ninja gyms from TV to the backyard, and now, into a full-scale business opportunity.

It noted, “In parallel with American Ninja Warrior’s success, a grassroots sport started to flourish. At first, fans crafted their own home courses. Then basements and backyards gave way to converted warehouse gyms, filled with ragged, unsightly DIY obstacles. From those gyms sprung local and regional leagues, a few of which even turned national. Nearly 400 ninja gyms have sprung up across the U.S., according to the website Ninja Guide, with hotbeds in the Northeast, Florida, California and Texas.”

And while ratings for the televised version have waned in the past two years, in-person leagues and competitions may be poised for its biggest audience yet, according to the article. Ninja workouts have become so popular, the sport is on the verge of breaking out of niche status to an international competition level.

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“Considerable interest exists within the community to aim even higher by bringing ninja to the Olympics, which would give the sport a prominent new TV platform and would afford young athletes a new goal for which to strive: one that can be reached based on merit, not marketability. Already, significant progress has been made. Last November modern pentathlon’s governing body approved obstacle racing—in this case, ninja under another name—as one of the sport’s five disciplines, replacing equestrian. The new event will debut at the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, pending approval from the International Olympic Committee,” it said.

It’s a developing story that Crescent City Ninja and the Englands will be looking forward to: “What’s next for the sport of Ninja,” Tara said. 

“We’ll keep an eye on the upcoming Olympics to find out. Terry and I are members of a committee actively working to get this sport to the Olympics.”

Part parkour, part obstacle course, part boot camp, ninja gyms offer something different than basic workout machines or classic competition sports, such as basketball or soccer. Participants learn a variety of new athletic skills and have the opportunity to compete one on one with others in equivalent class weight, age and sizes, according to Tara.

“Crescent City Ninja Academy is for everyone and every skill level. Our classes start at the age of 5, and we do offer adult classes. All classes are scaled to your ability. We started to incorporate a females-only novice ninja class after many of the moms showed interest in learning ninja but wanted a female only setting. We scale back all of the exercises and hope to have them swinging on monkey bars with their little ones soon. Our classes are divided on skill levels. We have kids’ beginner classes, levels 1, 2 and 3; adult classes from beginner to competitive — we scale everything to your ability and work on getting you stronger.”

Memberships range in price from $115 per month (one class per week and two open gym sessions per month) to $220 per month (unlimited classes and open gym sessions). Drop-in rates start at $20. Birthday party packages are also available starting at $375 and include gym time, party space for 15 ninjas, plus add-on options for additional time, participants and cake.

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Tara and Terry England launched Crescent City Ninja Academy as a way to share the sport with a new generation of competitors while providing a fun alternative to typical gym settings.

The selection of the training facility location in Gretna was a no-brainer for the Englands, as they stumbled on an easy-to transition property in an easy-to access area for many of their ninja clients. The 9,200 total square footage of the building includes 4,000 square feet of dedicated to ninja warrior area space and obstacles.

“Our location is perfect in so many ways, and you know how they say everything happens for a reason, well this is definitely one of those situations,” said Tara. “We had been looking for locations for a few months, and none of them worked out like we needed. Then one day we were driving on a street we drive on every day, saw the ‘for lease’ sign and called immediately. This location was used for laser tag, so it already had so many aspects we were wanting. It’s air conditioned, it has party rooms, and plenty of lobby area for holding competitions and events. Not to mention its easily accessible from Greater New Orleans, and Huey P. Long, but also only 2 miles from our home.”

Terry, with a background in professional training, and Tara, a registered nurse, both have a passion for competition, one that has become a family affair, taking them across the region to competitions. 

“Our inspiration for opening our gym was to introduce the sport we love to so many new people in the area and help grow our ninja community. We have both always been into health and fitness,” Tara said. “I can’t remember a time that we weren’t working out in some form. We have been traveling and competing as a family for five years now and have learned technique from ninjas all over the country.” 

Equipping the space with all the unique equipment and obstacle course apparatus came through a collaboration process with others involved in the sport, according to Tara.

“We researched many companies, and we actually ordered our equipment from overseas. Many gym owners from around the country recommended this route for our equipment. We have met so many people through our ninja journey, and a lot of them are gym owners in other states. We consulted a lot with them on types of equipment, and what has worked for them at their facilities. The ninja community is so huge on growing the sport, that everyone was willing to help and answer questions. We have had amazing support from all of our friends and competitors about opening up a gym here in Louisiana,” she said.

For the Terry and Tara, the response from parents, students and competitors new to the sport has been a huge reward, with more classes and competitions already in the planning stages. 

“The response from the whole community is amazing,” Tara said. “What’s next for the gym is to grow our clientele and introduce the sport we love to as many people possible in New Orleans and surrounding areas. We do plan on incorporating some fun new classes also to get everyone active. We are excited to introduce the ninja leagues to this area, too. We have been travelling and competing in ninja for years, and we are excited to bring those competitions to the city. We have people who travel from all over to compete. We held our first competition in June, and we had ninjas from Texas, Florida, Alabama and even Europe here. We look forward to inviting ninjas from all over the country and world to our beautiful city.”


Did you know?

A July 3, 2023, report from WellnessCreatives.com on fitness industry statistics found continued rebound and growth since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total industry revenue is estimated to be $81.5billion in 2023, down from its peak of $96.7billion in 2019.

Yes, the fitness industry is growing again (+7.4% last year) but hasn’t yet recovered fully to its 2019 peak.

The industry has already rebounded dramatically from recent global events and although the next few years may be challenging, there are positive macro signals that it will continue to grow over the long term.

 

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