Ninja Challenge Civil War competitors David Ravi, Marc Waugh, Adam Chatfield, Emma Blockey, Tiarna Lindsay, Connor Powell, Caitlin Hagdorn, Adrian Giannini, Jordan Tocknell and Nicki Lane.
About a month ago, Ninja Academy had the idea to run a friendly team event on Stage One of the Ninja Challenge course to give its members another chance at the stage before moving on to Stage Two in May.
However, when the teams were named and captains nominated, the competitive fire within each team member was stoked and the event became more than a friendly contest – thus was born Ninja Challenge Civil War, a two-team grudge match that would see two teams of competitors go head to head in a race against time and the course in a best of five series.
The trash-talk had been flying back and forth between the two teams so that even the most seasoned competitors were feeling the pressure when the date ticked over to game day on Sunday, April 17.
At the helm of the two teams were Adrian Giannini, the energetic showman and Connor Powell, the quiet assassin, whose calm demeanour belies the fierce competitor just below the surface.
Having won a social media contest in convincing fashion, Powell had the choice of running first or second and elected to go second.
The first match-up saw Adam Chatfield from Team Adrian face off against Jordan Tocknell from Team Connor.
Chatfield had been unlucky to suffer from an administrative error in the Stage One Qualifier in February which hurt his focus and contributed to his fall on the Rail Balance, which he then repeated on his make-up run later that day.
After wowing the Ninja Academy community with clips of his training on the course, Chatfield was more than ready to make amends when he stepped up to the starting platform.
Make amends he did, blazing through the first four obstacles at an incredible pace, but paused to collect himself before attempting to defeat his nemesis, the Rail Balance.
After a shaky start, he successfully cleared the obstacle that had haunted him for the past month and with that out of the way, annihilated the remaining three obstacles to finish the course in a record-breaking time of 01:08:78 – beating the record set by Jake Sawyer at the previous competition by more than 10 seconds.
The secret to Chatfield’s success was a new technique on the Monkey Pegs, developed by Connor Powell and perfected by the lean auto detailer in the lead up to the event.
With a mammoth task ahead of him, Jordan Tocknell stepped up to the platform, hoping to pull out an improbable victory for Team Connor.
Tocknell was a relative newcomer to the course, having trained almost exclusively in the Earth and Water classes at Ninja Academy, but shocked the field by placing fourth in the Stage One Qualifier in February and earning a call-up to Team Connor.
Tocknell got off to a great start on the course, but lost some time on the Monkey Pegs because he had not mastered the new, time-saving technique favoured by Chatfield and other competitors.
Despite his use of the traditional technique, Tocknell was on track to beat Chatfield’s record-setting pace, but couldn’t quite match his competitor’s speed on the dreaded Devil Steps and came up short by less than half a second.
Team Adrian’s plan to put its best foot forward to jump out to an early lead had paid off going into the second round, which would see the first female competitors, Tiarna Lindsay and Caitlin Hagdorn, do battle.
Representing Team Adrian, Tiarna Lindsay, with a rock-climbing background, had no concerns about her upper body strength and had a distinct height and reach advantage over the diminutive former gymnast she was facing.
Despite her nerves going in, Lindsay looked strong on the Quintuple Steps, Spider Walk and Rope Traverse.
Coming in to the Monkey Pegs, it looked like Lindsay would be the first female to finish Stage One in competition as she used the new technique to cover most of the distance across, but as she transitioned to the fixed pegs at the end of the obstacle, her grip gave out and she fell, leaving the door open for Hagdorn to steal the victory.
Lindsay’s early fall had taken the pressure to finish the stage off Hagdorn, but getting past the Monkey Pegs was no certainty for the Ninja Academy support team member, who had met her end on that obstacle in the Stage One Qualifierback in February.
Shaking off her nerves, Hagdorn set about tackling the course with alacrity, determined to win the heat for her team, breezing through the first three obstacles.
Reaching the Monkey Pegs, Hagdorn looked confident and successfully used the new technique to breeze past the obstacle in a few short moves.
Having already won her match-up, Hagdorn set her sights on a greater honour – being the first female to finish Stage One in competition.
Progressing through the Rail Balance and Rings in an unhurried manner, she paused before the Devil Steps to chalk up her hands.
Working her way up and down the Devil Steps with great control, it seemed like Hagdorn was certain to make history, but when it came time to transition to the Teeter Monkey, she decided to attempt the grab on her first swing and ultimately came up short of finishing, but winning the round and the applause of the watching crowd for her gutsy effort.
With the scores tied, it was time for the team captains, Adrian Giannini and Connor Powell to step up in the third round and earn their sides a pivotal 2-1 lead in the series.
Up first was Giannini, a dynamic athlete hoping to apply skills from parkour, rock-climbing and parkour to his run on the course.
Having trained extensively for the event and sporting his lucky Marvel headband, Giannini’s every move was calculated as he used a slower technique on the Quintuple Steps to set up his transition to the Spider Walk, which he leapt into without hesitation, covering almost a third of the obstacle with his first jump.
Blazing through the Rope Traverse, the Ninja Academy coach used the technique developed by Powell to breeze through the Monkey Pegs.
Steadying himself for a moment, Giannini worked his way across the Rail Balance, keeping low and using his parkour skills to vault off the obstacle.
Using the laddering technique to power through the Rings, Giannini made short work of the Devil Steps and Teeter Monkey, before racing up the Warped Wall to slap the back wall with an astonishing time of 01:03:00 – smashing the record set by his teammate Adam Chatfield just moments earlier.
Despite the record pace Giannini, also known as Gentle Palm, had set, his opponent Connor Powell had been training to crack the minute barrier and wasn’t intimidated when he mounted the starting platform.
Staying dangerously low on the Quintuple Steps, Powell exploded out of the gate, blasting through the first three obstacles in jaw-dropping fashion.
As the originator of the new Monkey Pegs technique, Powell was confident starting the obstacle, but missed one of his peg placements before recovering on the second attempt to finish the obstacle.
With no hesitation, Powell flew across the Rail Balance, powered through the Rings and straight onto the Devil Steps, the “Ginja Ninja” not even pausing to chalk up his hands.
Clearing the first portion of the obstacle with no difficulty, Powell made another mistake, missing a grab on the Teeter Monkey with 58 seconds off the clock.
Incredibly, Powell managed to recover and used his experience as a track and field athlete in high school back in Buffalo, New York, to explode up the Warped Wall, finishing the course in 01:00:78.
The stunned crowd waited with bated breath as the result was announced, shocked that the American was able to beat the effort Giannini had put forth despite his errors.
Knowing that he could have been the first to put up a time under one minute, Powell was frustrated, but was happy to settle for a new Stage One record and a 2-1 lead for his team with the victory over his rival.
In the first of the elimination matches, where defeat for Team Adrian would mean an overall loss were two more elite female competitors – Ninja Academy coach Emma Blockey and Stage One Qualifier competitor Nicki Lane.
Once again, size and reach favoured Team Adrian, but Blockey had never competed on the course before and was under pressure to finish with a fast pace to give her team the best chance of surviving the round.
Due to a hip injury Blockey suffered in the lead-up to the event, she and her opponent would both skip the Spider Walk in this round.
Fighting off nerves on the starting block, Blockey set her mind to finishing the course, not worrying about pace as she worked her way through the first few obstacles.
Relying on her substantial hanging strength, Blockey used the traditional technique on the Monkey Pegs, slowly but surely working her way to the other side without incident.
The Rail Balance proved no obstacle for the movement coach, who had spent vast amounts of time balancing on rails while training under Ido Portal.
Reaching the Devil Steps with good pace, Blockey took a moment to chalk up before working her way up the steps with precision but started to struggle on the way down.
Through force of will, Blockey was able to hang on and finish the Teeter Monkey, easily defeat the Warped Wall and finish in 02:33:75, the first female competitor to touch the back wall in competition, albeit without doing the Spider Walk.
Having just seen history made, there was concern on the face of Nicki Lane as she waited to begin her run.
After being eliminated on the first step of the Quintuple Steps in the February Qualifier, Lane just barely survived it this time around, with the ball of her foot coming off the platform and getting perilously close to the blue mats and elimination.
However, after that near miss, she recovered to power through the remaining steps and the Rope Traverse, but despite having completed the Monkey Pegs countless times in training, was unable to finish off the obstacle and fell to the mat, conceding the round to Team Adrian.
With the scores tied at 2-2, it would be up to the final competitors, David Ravi and Marc Waugh to determine their teams’ destiny.
Up first was Ravi, known as Mr Consistency for always finishing Stage One, pace had long been a problem for the Ninja Academy founder, who was the slowest finisher in the past two events and would have to weigh up pushing for speed with finishing the stage.
This had been one of the factors behind Team Connor’s decision to run second, knowing it would unsettle Team Adrian’s final runner.
That said, pace was no problem early, with the 27-year-old cruising through the Quintuple Steps, Spider Walk and Rope Traverse with flawless technique.
But on the Monkey Pegs, Ravi was forced to take his time, having not mastered the new technique and seeming unwilling to risk falling by making longer reaches with the old technique.
Pausing again before the Rail Balance, Ravi was rock steady as he walked across before finally picking up the pace on the Rings with textbook laddering.
Taking the time to apply chalk, Shadow Wolf, as he is known, put everything he had into speeding through the Devil Steps and Teeter Monkey and had a scare on the dismount as a result, but was able to finish the stage in 02:08:97 – a respectable time, but certainly beatable.
The man tasked with doing it was Marc Waugh, a parkour practitioner, rock climber and all-around natural athlete making his competition debut, feeling the pressure to put together a full run after seeing Ravi finish the course.
Steadying himself for a moment, Waugh seemed destined to crush Ravi’s time as he blitzed the Quintuple Steps, Spider Walk and Rope Traverse in short order.
Having trained extensively with team captain Connor Powell in the lead-up to the event, Waugh was well-versed in the new Monkey Pegs technique and seemed confident on his first few swings, but as he switched his grip to transition to the fixed pegs, his hands slipped and he fell to the mat, bringing the grip tape on the peg with him.
The dramatic unravelling of the tape put the result in doubt, but after reviewing the footage it became clear that the tape was not the reason he had fallen and just like that, Team Adrian was declared the winner.
Despite the mild controversy in the final round, the event had been an overall success, with both sides enjoying themselves immensely and providing great entertainment for the watching crowd.
Ninja Academy would like to thank all the competitors and their supporters for getting behind this new format and helping us have such a perfect Sunday.
Full results below: