Aaron Orth: The Next American Ninja Warrior

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Aaron Orth: The Next American Ninja Warrior

Photo by Ellen Spencer 
Sophomore Aaron Orth trains at the Ultimate Ninjas gym in Naperville. “I try to go to as many local [competitions] as possible,” Aaron said. “If I have a break in school, I like to go somewhere for them. It turns into a ninja-cation.”

Photo by Ellen Spencer Sophomore Aaron Orth trains at the Ultimate Ninjas gym in Naperville. “I try to go to as many local [competitions] as possible,” Aaron said. “If I have a break in school, I like to go somewhere for them. It turns into a ninja-cation.”

Photo by Ellen Spencer Sophomore Aaron Orth trains at the Ultimate Ninjas gym in Naperville. “I try to go to as many local [competitions] as possible,” Aaron said. “If I have a break in school, I like to go somewhere for them. It turns into a ninja-cation.”

Photo by Ellen Spencer Sophomore Aaron Orth trains at the Ultimate Ninjas gym in Naperville. “I try to go to as many local [competitions] as possible,” Aaron said. “If I have a break in school, I like to go somewhere for them. It turns into a ninja-cation.”

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Hundreds of years ago, ninjas represented Japanese agents of death: infiltrating, sabotaging and assassinating. Though the 21st century definition has changed over time, a ninja must still possess three core abilities: agility, strength and legendary skill. Training to master all three – while still working to graduate high school – is Naperville Central sophomore Aaron Orth.

Aaron first became involved upon visiting Ultimate Ninjas Naperville. His sister, Emily, and her friend had initiated the trip, their interest stemming from the popular television series “American Ninja Warriors,” where competitors challenge a collection of increasingly difficult obstacle courses.

“I just liked watching the TV show,” Emily said. “The day we found out [that] we had a gym in Naperville, my friends and Aaron and I went.”

Her brother was far more hesitant.

“I did not want to [go] at all,” Aaron said. “Once the gym opened up, [my sister and her friends] all went on opening day to look at it and try everything out.”

Upon testing the obstacle courses, Aaron’s feelings soon changed.

“I kind of fell in love with it,” Aaron said.

The two now train at the Naperville location of Ultimate Ninjas located at 2012 Corporate Lane.

“[It’s] such a really nice community,” Aaron said. “Everyone’s supportive, it’s like a big family, and the obstacles are fun.”

American Ninja Warrior Jesse Labreck opened the gym in November of 2017. She now instructs the twins.

According to the gym’s website, Labreck “has competed on and won Ninja vs Ninja as the only female captain of ‘Labreckfast Club,’” additionally competing on “All Stars and Skill and USA vs The World where she was the second woman to complete Stage 2.”

Aaron views his coaches, including Labreck, as his biggest source of inspiration.

“All my coaches inspire me,” Aaron said. “They’re all really good. I want to learn everything I can from them, and become as good as or better than them.”

The twins often train with – and at times compete against – their coaches.

“I’ll do an obstacle, and they’ll try to beat me or I’ll try to beat them,” Emily said. “Aaron and I fall into the pro division, so at Worlds, we went against our coaches. It was kind of scary, but it was fun.”

Aaron began training and competing seriously a few months after his first visit.

“Most competitions I’ve podium-ed third place or above,” Aaron said. “They’re always really hard coursed, but they’re really fun and I get to try new moves that I wouldn’t normally do.”

Aaron frequents competitions once or twice a month, occasionally traveling out of the state to compete.

“I try to go to as many local ones as possible,” Aaron said. “If I have a break in school, we like to go somewhere for them. It turns into a ninja-cation.”

The twins tend to compete against one another during practice, as divisions for competitions are often sorted by gender and age.

“In practice we do ninja vs. ninja, where you run against other teammates,” Emily said. “There [was] one day where it was randomized and it ended up being me vs. him, [and] he won by one second.”

Despite the friendly sibling rivalry, the two readily support one another.

“We love to cheer each other on,” Emily said. “At real competitions, we always want each other to do the best.”

The twins joined the elite team a couple months ago.

“Before we were just going to classes, and it was more fun,” Emily said. “Then we tried out, and I got more competitive.”

Training consumes both energy and time. During a typical week, Aaron spends two to three hours each day after school training at the gym.

“[Ninja] impacts my entire life,” Aaron said. “I spend a lot of time there [and] I got a job there, so I work there.”

Emily agrees that training as a ninja has significantly changed her brother.

“He really enjoys it, he lives there,” Emily said. “[It’s] something he’s always excited about. Ninja is his main sport now.”

While training as ninjas, the obstacle courses aren’t the only barriers the two face.

“Getting some big moves or hard moves [is difficult] for me,” Aaron said. “I’m kind of shorter for my age group.”

Both twins struggle with height, as those with taller statures have advantages in obstacles that require good reach. Despite this, the challenges they face make their experience all the more rewarding.

“My favorite part about training and competing is just seeing a challenge and after working, to beat it, and know that I can do it,” Aaron said.

Since his first visit to the gym in 2017, ninja training has become integrated in Aaron’s life. At times, balancing his academics and extracurriculars can prove difficult.

“Finding time for homework when I want to train afterwards can be tough at times,” Aaron said. “I’ve got to toggle all that. It’s hard because if I want to keep getting better, I’ve got to train a lot, but school’s also really important.”

Aaron has few regrets about visiting the gym with his sister and her friends, hoping to compete on American Ninja Warrior when he is older.

“I want to be captain of team USA one day,” Aaron said.

 

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