Jake: I’m Jake with Conquer Ninja Gyms, season 8, one obstacle course tester. I’m here with Daniel Gill season 12 champion. We’re going to talk about the sport of Ninja and some of the successes that Daniel has had with it.
Daniel: Thank you for having me today, Jake.
Jake: With that said, why Ninja? Like why and how did you get into..
Daniel: Yeah, so why Ninja? I think the easiest answer is just the excitement and the newness factor of it. Because, I grew up as an athlete playing a bunch of different, you know, regulated sports. But when it came to Ninja, it was so different and so unlike anything that I’d ever seen, just in the physical challenge that it was. But, also, the fact that it was an individualized sport. It was like you versus the course. I love that! And I think that appeals to alot of people. But, also, the fact that every round of every competition is different. So you never know what obstacles you’re going to get. As an athlete ,like myself, I love the challenge, the ever-changing challenge that IS Ninja. Even going to, like, local gyms and local competitions, they might each have a salmon ladder and a warped wall, but the curvatures might be different. The textures and the things might be different. So it’s such a fun challenge, as an athlete, to push myself in the sport of ninja, because of the diversity and the changes that you see from gym to gym.
Jake: You mentioned you were an athlete when you were a youth. Like what sports were you in?
Daniel: Oh, man. Okay. So I was the monkey boy in my family. So I climbed on everything. I wish I had done ,like, rock climbing as a kid, but I didn’t. So I had to build up my tendons later in life. But as a kid I played baseball, basketball, roller hockey, tennis, I played in a dodgeball league. That was fun, but soccer more than anything else is what I played growing up. Because (Imean, fun fact) my dad, who's from Colombia, was a professional soccer player there.
Daniel: Yes, so if nothing else in life, I was gonna play soccer with my dad. I played soccer and I loved it. That sport, more than most of the others, translated really well to Ninjas. Just the cardio, just being light and strong. The endurance side of it . So those were all the sports that I played growing up in my high school years. I got into like parkour and free running. My dad got us a home bowflex gym. And so I just always wanted to be physically strong enough to overcome any challenge that I either came across or someone challenged me to . So when it came to Ninja, I was, like oh my gosh, I’d been training my whole life for this show. And once I got the opportunity, I was like, this is perfect! Like, I love this. And already I had a foundation of strength from, you know, my 21 years of athletics right before that.
Jake: When you started Ninja Warrior, were you doing other sports, too?
Daniel: Yeah, so, most of my sports ended around my early high school years. So for most of high school… I mean, Ninja Warrior talked about me being like the opera ninja, like the renaissance man, because most of my high school years I was into singing, dancing, performing theater, and the visual arts and things like that. So, I was still training on my own side, on my own time. Because training, to me, is therapeutic, like it's a way to release and de-stress. So, I trained just for fun all through high school. I didn’t play any sports, official sports, during high school, but I continued to train and get stronger. After high school, when I went to like a ministry school, that was when a friend told me about a local ninja gym. I was like, sign me up! I’d love to do that. So, after two years of training in a local ninja gym and actually translating the strength and the foundation of, you know, athletics that I had, translating that to the sport of Ninja and the technical elements that I needed to work on there. Well, that’s when I finally got a shot at doing ninja on the show. And you know the rest, as they say… is history.
Jake: Yeah, you started your first year, uh, technically on the show was2015?
Daniel: Yeah, 2015 was my first year. It was season seven of the American Ninja Warrior. And I’d already watched like all the other seasons and was a super fan. Still to this day, I love the show. And I’m just waking up thinking like, oh my gosh. Like I have the opportunity to be on a show that I watched while growing up. So it’s just, I’m grateful and blessed to be doing what I’m doing.
Jake: Was your family supportive with whatever endeavor you were working on?
Daniel: Um, yeah. As a youth or going into being a young adult, Yeah, I know that my family is my, I mean, they’re my greatest cheerleaders, my biggest supporters. And even from a young age ,coming from a family of five, my parents, um, allowed us to try as many different things as possible. Uh, you know, sports or other extra curricular activities, different hobbies, and things to pick up and try. As we found the ones that we really enjoyed, they would allow us, you know, if we had the time or the energy, or the money and funds they would let us. They would let us try these new things. And so, me, being an athlete, as soon as I started to gear myself more toward ninja, you know, I had a mixture of responses. I mean, like, well, “That’s awesome, Dan. You could do this. You are the type of person in our family that could do well.” But at the same time there was still the risk you know, They said, “Well, it’s a reality tv show. What if you don’t get accepted? You know how many years of your life do you want to spend doing this? Like you really feel like this is what you’re called to do?” And so it was kind of like finding the balance of that. But also following just the peace in my heart. I was like, I want to do this. I want to try this out. I’m young. I don’t have too many commitments right now. And I have the open doors to do it. And so at the end of the day, even though my family hasn’t always been with literally every decision that I’ve made in life, they’ve given me the space to step out on a limb, to try new things. And if I fail or miss the mark, they’re there to pick me back up and help get me where I need to go. And I’m very grateful for that, because not every family is like that. But I can say that through thick and thin my family's got my back.
Jake: I’d love to be in your family, I’m kidding.
Daniel: No, it’s not to say they don’t pick on me. Like gosh, they keep me humble like nobody else. But we are close.
Jake: So ultimately for you, How do you define success?
6:34 Daniel: Oh, man. I think a ...
Well to simple it down, sorry.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah.
Jake: How would you define success when it comes to how you look at ninja?
Daniel: Okay. Yeah, I think the easiest way that I would define success, in the simplest way, would just be consistency, consistency, and being able to do what you’ve trained to do. Because I mean as a ninja athlete we show up to these competitions, especially the televised ones. And we’ve never seen the obstacles, a lot of these obstacles before. Where there’s a lot of brand new obstacles we never get to touch those obstacles. What you see on television is the first time that we jump on those things. So you see like top all-star athletes go out early only to learn that oh, they’ve never done that. Oh, that was their first time. It just didn’t . It felt different. The jump was different. Like things like that. so it’s a truly humbling sport. So I think success in the sport of ninja is just consistency. Letting your training lifestyle and your training routines actually showcase your skills and your abilities on the course when it matters most. When you’ve got the lights and the cameras and the audience and just your heart pounding out of your chest
And you’re able to do, in that one attempt, what you’ve regulated on a normal basis constantly or consistently in your gym. And so, as an athlete on the show like consistency for me has been a huge goal. Because I know that as I’m consistent, the platform’s going to grow, the following is going to grow my success- getting a little bit further each and every year is going to grow. So consistency, more than anything else, is my goal on the show.
Jake: Perfect, perfect. Building off of that, so how do you overcome when you do or don't complete an obstacle? Whether it’s training in the gym where you don’t have all the lights and cameras on you, and when you do on the show. As we all know, with the show, until this year, there was only one time that anybody’s ever got all the way through. Yeah, you know, so like it’s part of the sport is overcoming obstacles and probably doing it more than once. But how do you get through that productively.
Daniel: Yeah. Oh man. That is something where the earlier or the sooner that you can realize and come to terms with the fact that we all make mistakes, you can be the strongest and the fastest ninja athlete or just an athlete in general, right? And you make mistakes. People do it all the time. The fastest or the sooner you can learn to get back up, or to bounce back from those mistakes, and learn from them, not just move on, but learn, so that you don’t repeat those mistakes, the better athlete you’re going to become. So, if and when I come across obstacles that knock me down, like every single season, there has been something someplace where I have fallen or failed or come three seconds away from winning a million dollars. Like, I’ve already decided beforehand: I’m strong enough, I believe I can finish this course, now It’s just gonna come down to... can I do it this time? And coming to terms with the fact that anything can happen. This is a sport unlike any other. I don’t get to practice my exact routine a hundred times like every other sport. This is something I have to be adaptable and learn to adjust with the course. So I think coming to terms with the fact that we all fall we all fail. We all have obstacles that knock us down, but deciding beforehand, I’m going to get back up no matter what happens. I’m going to learn from every mistake that I come across. And I’m going to productively build upon every day of training, if it’s a new obstacle in the gym that knocks me down okay. How do I attempt this obstacle differently and get across it. Then going to an actual competition and saying okay, here's the obstacles that I’ve had or that I have in front of me. Have I done something similar? And do I know physically, like in my mind, can I do it? And if so, can I make it happen the first time on my only chance on the course. and then learning. I think if you can stay a learner, then you're going to go a very long way. Because then consistency comes into play and literally to will just you can keep yourself on an upward trajectory. If you have the mindset to do so, and the work ethic.
Jake: Yeah, exactly. It’s the commitment, and the work ethic, and consistency, like you stated earlier. Yep, at this point, you know, being the2020 champion of season 12… Which, congratulations! That’s pretty…
Daniel: Thank you very much.
Jake: That was pretty epic!
Daniel: Actually, it was stressful. Yeah those power towers! Oh my gosh!
Jake: And usually like on the show, like most people I’m like Yeah, I could do that, you know. And you see some of the courses. Like yeah, I could have done that one. I’m confident, I could have done that one. Like you guys were so fast! It was so impressive! But with that said, with the success you’ve had to this point, how has that changed you?
Daniel: hmm, so honestly. Honestly, the success I have and I personally have done my best to not allow it to change me. But also I have people in my life, like my wife or my family know my ins and outs, know my flaws, know everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. They won’t allow me to ever have a big head in any kind of way. And I’m grateful for that. They’ve not let, quote-unquote, the success of the show change who I am. Now, at the same time, the ways that the show, and the success that I’ve attained, has changed me, is that it's given me the opportunity to have a greater platform, a greater level of influence. Be a role model to a larger number of those who watch the show. Whether it’s kids looking up to me or it’s those like any adults who just look at the show and say, “Hey, he can overcome it. Or look at what he has overcome. Look at the obstacles he’s accomplished, the hurdles he’s made it through.” And so for me, success has just been a greater level of responsibility. And I shoulder that, with a joy, because I’m going to do my very best to use this platform for the benefit of others. Because, honestly, you know coming from my background and like in ministry and, you know church leadership and stuff. Like I want to bean example for others to follow and impact and encourage as many people as I can. And the platform of American Ninja Warrior has done just that. So my goal is to continue doing that. Continue utilizing, um, you know, every round of competition and ever other, you know, byproduct. Whether it’s like children's books that me and my wife are writing. Or like, you know, merchandise that we're creating. Like using the platform and the success from that to, you know, impact a generation.
Jake: That’s awesome.
Daniel: So it’s been great! And I don’t think... I’ve done my best to not let that success change me in any type of negative way . I love being down to earth. I love being genuine, and I love meeting people.
And then saying, oh my gosh like you did so well on the show. Like I thought you were going to be this pompous, like high and mighty. I’m like, no guys. I’m still a super fan of the show. Yeah, I just now have the opportunity to do it. And I’ve done really well on it.
Jake: That’s awesome! Well, I know when we posted this event and repost edit, the comments people, and parents, and kids were so excited to, you know, come and meet you to spend time with you. So we appreciate you coming.
Jake: Best of luck with everything. Thanks to you and your wife, again, for coming.
Jake: I want to shout out to At Bowling Ninja Dude for behind the camera. And to Miranda, at Conquer Ninja Gyms-Blaine, for hosting this event. Again, thanks for coming to Minnesota in the middle of winter.
Daniel: Absolutely, it’s cold. But, I’m starting to get used to it.