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A would-be ninja grasps the rings.

Image: Troy Fields

Go Ninja at Iron Sports

I’m hanging from the ceiling, holding onto gymnastics rings for dear life. Using swift hip movements to gain momentum, I grasp for another ring with clammy fingers, but alas, miss it by just inches. I drop to the floor, landing on a sea of cushions. “Don’t worry, you were so close. Try again!” the other students say encouragingly, even though I’ve failed every exercise so far.

This is a normal Tuesday evening at Iron Sports, a 30,000-square-foot obstacle-course training gym in Willowbrook, where would-be ninjas train in two-hour sessions—and where failing at tasks is far from out-of-the-ordinary.

Owner Sam Sann, a five-time contender on the NBC hit American Ninja Warrior, opened the gym in 2009. His classes incorporate metal and wood obstacles he constructed himself, including rock-climbing walls, ropes, hanging grips, floating pipes and I-beams, as well as Sann’s own version of American Ninja’s famous Warped Wall. While most of his students are fans of the show—a few have even competed on it—plenty just want a good workout.

“This is all sports put together in one, but it’s not about who can finish the fastest,” Sann says. “It’s about self-discovery, gaining confidence and overcoming fears.”

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