Ninjas gotta ninja.
But when Rory Jago’s training facility, Momentum Ninja in Port Coquitlam, was temporarily closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 13-year-old was left hanging.
Or, rather, not hanging.
That’s because he no longer had a place to practise his maneuvers navigating bars, dangling ropes, narrow ledges and swaying slack lines.
That’s when Rory’s dad, Mitch, got an idea.
Two weeks of sketching plans on paper, frequent trips to Home Depot, and several hours of construction, later the father-son team, along with Rory’s older brother, Dalton, had erected a Ninja gym of their own in the backyard of the family’s home.
Rory, who finished eighth in his age group at the 2019 Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association (UNAA) world championships in Minneapolis, Minn., has barely stopped swinging and scaling since.
Mitch said the idea of building their own Ninja gym started as a bit of a birthday surprise for his son. But it’s pretty hard to keep a 26-foot-long and 10-foot-high structure constructed of thick 6X6 and 6X8 posts a secret for long.
So he enlisted Rory to design the various elements that can be adjusted and reconfigured to create an endless myriad of challenges that test strength, agility, flexibility and wile, as routes through, over and along the obstacles have to be planned and executed against the clock.
Committing his ideas to paper, the project kept growing in ambition and scale.
“We just kept adding and adding,” Rory said.
HIs dad, who works in the construction industry, was equal to the challenge. He built a structure that Rory figures will be the envy of his friends at Momentum, and may just give him a competitive edge when UNAA events are allowed to fire up again.
“I’ll have the advantage,” said Rory, who was hoping to compete at Canada’s first national championship that was scheduled for this summer in Langley, as well as the 2020 worlds in Las Vegas.
An all-around athlete on the soccer and rugby pitches, baseball diamond, as well as the basketball and volleyball courts, Rory gravitated to Ninja athletics because of the camaraderie, as well as the mental exercise of planning routes through the structures and maintaining sharp focus through the entire journey.
“You have to plan how to do things smoothly, efficiently and safely,” he said, adding designing and helping to build his own gym has put him better in touch with the sport’s unique challenges.
Mitch said it was a special father-son bonding experience to work on the structure together, maybe even teach Rory some of the secrets of his trade.
But, more importantly, it’s an incentive for his son to stay active in his sport through its hiatus, when it might be easier to retreat to the recreation room to play video games for several hours a day.
Rory said the project fired his imagination.
“I can make this as hard or as easy as I like,” he said.