How To Speak Ninja: Your Vocabulary Manual For 'Team Ninja Warrior'

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Kacy Catanzaro competes in Dallas.

Consider this your field guide to preparing for an onslaught of 72 ninjas.

"Team Ninja Warrior" premieres tonight on Esquire Network, pitting teams of obstacle-climbing and gravity-defying athletes against each other for the first time. The show is a spinoff of the TV show "American Ninja Warrior," where participants, instead of vying against one another, simply attempt to complete demanding obstacle courses.

If you're unfamiliar with Ninja Warrior, never fear. Below is a vocabulary list to help you speak ninja.

First, a little background. "American Ninja Warrior" has filmed seven seasons in which athletes try obstacle courses through several rounds: city qualifying, city finals and the stages of Mount Midoriyama. Completing all four stages of Mount Midoriyama means achieving the glory of being crowned American Ninja Warrior. To get on that show, about 50,000 competitors submitted casting videos for Season 7, and 100 were selected to run in each city qualifying round.

Team Ninja Warrior functions more like an all-star season, with the best of the best lined up to play on a giant jungle gym. Split into 24 teams of three -- each with one woman -- these ninjas will race through difficult obstacle courses, head-to-head, in a new, timed format.

It's ninja time!


City qualifying: The first round of televised competition in "American Ninja Warrior," based in multiple cities across the country. Each city qualifying course is unique and consists of six obstacles. The top 30 competitors (or the number of finishers) move on to the city finals. Only three women have ever finished a city qualifying course: Kacy Catanzaro, Michelle Warnky and Meagan Martin.

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Meagan Martin on Bungee Road in Kansas City.

City finals: The second round of competition in "American Ninja Warrior," consisting of the city's qualifying course, plus four additional obstacles. The top 15 competitors (or the number of finishers) move on to Las Vegas to compete at Mount Midoriyama. Catanzaro became the only woman to ever complete a city finals course when she hit the buzzer in Dallas in 2014.

Grip strength: The ability to hang on with fingers and hands, tested on obstacles such as Cannonball Alley, Bungee Road and the Ultimate Cliffhanger.

Mount Midoriyama: The four-stage finals course in Las Vegas. Completing these stages crowns a competitor an American Ninja Warrior. By the way, Mount Midoriyama literally translates to Mount Green Mountain.

  • Stage 1: The first stage of Midoriyama, known for the "ninja-killing" obstacle the Jumping Spider. This level must be completed within 2 minutes, 30 seconds. No woman has beaten Stage 1.
  • Stage 2: The second stage of Midoriyama, specifically known for being a brutal upper-body test with the Double Salmon Ladder and the Unstable Bridge back-to-back. This level must be completed within 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
  • Stage 3: The unbelievably difficult (and subsequently untimed) third stage of Midoriyama, focused on grip and upper-body strength. Only two competitors have conquered the stage in regular-season competition: Geoff Britten and Isaac Caldiero.
  • Stage 4: The final stage, which is a 75-foot rope climb to the top of Mount Midoriyama. To be crowned American Ninja Warrior, competitors have to complete the fourth and final stage in less than 30 seconds. Only Britten and Caldiero have done so in regular-season competition. Caldiero, however, was the faster of the two and took home the crown and the $1 million prize in 2015.

Ninja killer: An obstacle known to eliminate a large number of competitors, including elite ninjas. The most famous ones are Cannonball Alley, Jumping Spider, Hour Glass Drop, Modified Body Prop, Unstable Bridge and the Silk Slider.

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Abel Gonzalez in the Jumping Spider.

Sasuke: The original show from Japan that inspired "American Ninja Warrior." "Sasuke" challenges Japanese competitors in a four-stage series of tough obstacle courses. Participants are known for being typical individuals, as opposed to professional athletes -- a sentiment that runs through the American version of the show as well.

Strength-to-size ratio: The amount of upper-body strength compared to the height of the competitor. So, a participant who's taller, such as 6-foot-1, 205-pound Alan Connealy, might have a less-than-favorable ratio when compared to a smaller athlete, such as almost-5-foot Catanzaro. The taller individual would need exponentially more strength to lift his or her mass.

Walk-on: These individuals weren't selected through the video submission process but made it onto the show after camping out at a city course -- often for days at a time -- waiting for the opportunity to run. Not everyone who camps in the line gets an opportunity to compete.

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Joe Calderon running up the Warped Wall at the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles, September 9, 2015.

Warped wall: The famous 14-foot wall at the end of each city qualifying course. A more difficult version of it also appears in Stage 1 of Mount Midoriyama, where competitors have half the running room or approach distance to scale it. Only four women have ever made it to the top in city competition: Warnky, Catanzaro, Martin and Jessie Graff.

Wild card: A competitor invited to run at Mount Midoriyama who didn't qualify through city competition. Typically, this is how women get the chance to compete in Vegas. Catanzaro and Graff are the only two females ever to have placed in the top 15 in their respective cities.

Katie Barnes is a digital media associate at ESPN. Follow her on Twitter at Katie_Barnes3.

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