Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When Ninjas Attack

Total "girly-girl".

After hearing all the hype about Kacy Catanzaro on “American Ninja Warriors” (ANW), my wife and I tuned into the show (i.e. watched on Hulu) last night.  It should be noted that, in my younger days, I’ve been a rock climber and a Tough Mudder, so each of the obstacles hold a special little place in my heart, as well as an understanding of the effort to complete.  I haven’t seen Ms. Catanzaro’s much-lauded run, but we caught Meagan Martin’s qualifying effort.  I couldn’t help but cheer her and a number of others, especially those who had trained specifically for this competition.

That does seem to be the key.  There were some impressive looking specimens of human training out on the course, but those who were rookies, who touted their strength in body-building over specific
Go ahead.  Say something funny to the woman holding chains.
obstacles challenges, were practically doomed from the start.  The ANW course isn’t just a test of strength.  If that were the case, we’d Magnus Ver Magnusson from “The World’s Strongest Man” breaking the ninjas in two before he hefted the set on his back and walked around the grandstand.  Nope, this is a combination of strength, agility and stamina that often goes unrecognized because the elite athletes of the ANW make it look easy.

It occurred to me, while watching, that this is true of the characters I read and write about.  They are the heroes of the story, so their abilities are often a degree of magnitude or three above everyone around them.  That’s what makes them special, that’s what places them in the situation where they fight, tooth and nail, against teaming hordes screaming for their blood, and live to fight again.  It’s not luck that creates a skilled swordsman, a powerful spear-Dane, or an impressive Captain of the Ax.  It is, as my good friend Eric Lahti likes to write in his books, “the intersection of skill and opportunity.

That is to say that unless a divine finger reaches down from the heavens to touch the forehead of a
Life-changing on a budget!
character, imparting strength, stamina, ability, and awesomeness in a million-watt charged moment, most heroes aren’t born that way.  They’re forged though hours of practices, training and actual experience.  Think of their entire life up to the moment of their glorious victory as one long training montage.

That’s exactly ANW.  That’s part of why I like it so much.  It’s the perfect “intersection of skill and opportunity.”

Plus, people falling into water is funny.

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