Grant McCartney arrives in Johnson City to teach children the ways of the 'Ninja Warrior'

Brandon Paykamian • Nov 17, 2018 at 5:39 PM

To compete on the world-televised “Ninja Warrior” obstacle course competition, you need focus, strength, speed, and most of all, perseverance.  

That’s what Knoxville native Grant McCartney, 30, a Ninja Warrior contestant and champion, came to teach children at Heart of Tennessee Gymnastics on Saturday morning. He and other coaches taught kids how to take on the obstacles featured in the show. 

McCartney, who has lived in Hawaii for the past decade, is now known as the “Island Ninja” for his appearances on the competition over the last few years. He said the show’s obstacle courses are much like adversity in life. 

“It just encourages them to be fit and have fun,” he said. “I also do speaking at churches, events and schools, encouraging kids to overcome obstacles that maybe aren’t physical.”

Through Ninja Warrior, McCartney said children can learn the value of teamwork and positive encouragement. 

“The show metaphor relates too easily to life when it comes to overcoming things by training, focus and support of your family and friends. All of that plays into overcoming stuff,” he said. “This is how I got over the loss of someone I loved after my mom passed away when I was really young.

“This is how I dealt with it — it wasn’t me alone. I had guidance counselors, teachers who loved me and taught me how to get through this,” he said. “They walked me through those obstacles — just like I walk these kids through these obstacles.” 

But for young Ninja Warrior hopefuls, McCartney said the obstacles – which require strength, dexterity, coordination and agility – demand rigorous training and preparation.  

Many contestants like McCartney have to train six days a week for months to gain what it takes — and it’s the same for any age division. 

“You have to have good coordination and balance because you may be strong, but if you don’t have the balance, you can’t do it,” he said. “Some days I’m doing CrossFit, some days I’m doing ninja training, some days I’m rock climbing, some days I’m running. You got to keep the body guessing because a lot goes into it.” 

He said many of the children, teens and young adults he has trained – some as young as five and six – are already also Ninja Warrior hopefuls. 

Isaiah Odum, 22, who helped coach the children Saturday, has also been training for Ninja Warrior himself. He said he is planning on entering the contest in the future. 

“It definitely takes a lot of self-discipline. When you’re at the course, there’s the added pressure of people watching. You have to be really able to shut all of that out and focus on the tasks you have to do,” he said. “It takes years of training prior to it.” 

To keep up with McCartney and his Ninja Warrior training events, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or on Twitter @IslandNinja. 




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