Jedi Markowski got on my radar about two years ago while he was at Pinnacle Parkour in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Since then, that gym successfully spawned three additional locations. That helped launch him onto the national scene as a contestant on American Ninja Warrior. In his “free” time, he volunteers at the Goliathon, where I picked him up again last October. This past weekend, he started his own gig, the Obstacle Training Academy: a Mobile Ninja/OCR Experience. The Ultimate Jedi Challenge event took place at the Will-Moor Gymnastics facility in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
Third time’s a charm. This inaugural event combines the best of what Jedi has learned about ninja, OCR, and parkour. The morning event started out with about 25 kids (pre-teen). Parents cheered from the sidelines as their children jumped, climbed, and soared on a series of very challenging obstacles. When I arrived, about ten teens were just wrapping up their individual competition. Then it was the adults’ turn. Thirty of us showed up and we broke into five teams of six each.
Like Goliathon, each challenge was tiered. The twist was, each tier was on the same obstacle. It started out easy, got a little harder, then, got darn near impossible. Each contestant got to try everything and go as far as they could. As the difficulty increased, so did the possible points earned. Best of all, everyone got to try every obstacle and go as far as they could. This was not a one and done course. So the day was packed with 20+ challenges including some familiar obstacles from OCR and ninja courses. Others were new and never seen before.
One required you to build a ladder from struts and pipes. Then climb the ladder (very wobbly) and grab a key from the top of the block. Run back to the starting line to get ahead of steam and run up a warped wall. Hold on tight there and use the key to unlock a ball grip chained to the top. Come back down and run over to a swinging rig. Clamp the ball grip on and then traverse the rig. I saw just one teen boy make it all the way. The rest of us cheered, admired his perfect technique, and moved on, knowing we had some things to work on.
Some events were timed, others were not. While this got the adrenaline going when under the gun, it left far too much idle time when there was no limit. There was a reason for this, however, and it backfired somewhat. Another floating rig featured a very difficult ending using custom grips created by a local company. It was called the Light Saber rig. The final four grips, Saber Chucks, made by Eric Totten of Monstro Ninja Holds, looked like bright neon lightsabers. A lot of people got to them; nobody got all the way across. The good news is that this rig and the grips really grabbed everyone’s attention. That’s where the crowds gathered to watch.
So while I respect the concept and the well-deserved exposure, this untimed obstacle, and others like it, made the overall day very long. It started at 9am and went well after dark as advertised. Jedi had plenty of help. The coaches were great. They volunteered at each obstacle, one scorekeeper and one timer (if required). They demonstrated each challenge, explained the rules, and answered all of our questions.
The Land Speeder obstacle had a series of about thirty PVC pipes line a path from the start line to a finish pad. The contestant jumps on a skimmer board and rides across. Not as easy as it looks. Lots of excellent wipeouts. But then the idle time kicked in as the volunteers reset the course. Next time perhaps, make it like the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge. The team resets the pipes and has only so much time to get each team member across.
Jedi’s Obstacle Training Academy:
A Mobile Ninja/OCR Experience can go anywhere. It’s available for back yard for kid’s parties. Put it up in a park for teens and adults. Rent a gym and make it a real extravaganza. If you want to train and compete with one of the best in the business, contact Jedi through his Facebook page and bring this mobile creation to your team. And if you are in the Philadelphia area, be sure to come back to Will-Moor Gymnastics where they will soon introduce WOW – Will-Moor Obstacle Warriors. You heard it here first.