On less than 3 hours of sleep, I found myself at the starting line of Cleveland City Finals of American Ninja Warrior (Season 9). Minutes before my run, I began to very gently warm up… and immediately became dizzy and nauseous.

Not good.

I’d managed to Qualify for City Finals the night before – finishing 27th out of  over 100 ninjas. And all day, I was thrilled that I’d get a chance to try it all again.

Jonathan Angelilli - American Ninja Warrior - Cleveland Qualifier Results- Season 9

27th = Victory! Only the top 30 move on to City Finals.

But as the moment of truth approached, things changed drastically. And now, right before showtime, unprecedented levels of fear and stress hormones cascaded through every fiber of my being, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life.

All my darkest demons came marching on parade, sweeping me along a tidal wave of self-doubt that threatened to drown me into oblivion: “what if I fall on the first obstacle? What if the “Rolling Log” hurls me right onto my neck? I won’t be able to work and support my wife and daughter.”

“I’m too old to do this stuff.”

“I don’t belong here.”

“I’m such a loser.”

I wasn’t even on the course yet, but the real battle had already begun. In truth, the war had started 4 years ago, when I finally had enough courage to listen to my heart, follow my dream, and compete on American Ninja Warrior.

TODAY -- American Ninja Warrior on the Plaza -- Pictured: Jonathan Angelilli on Monday, July 24, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC) - Traindeep.com

Testing a ninja obstacle on the Today Show. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

Ninja Warrior Vision Quest

Sure, I was already an athlete, a martial artist for 30 years, and a high level trainer for the last two decades, but I was carrying with me many scars that I knew would weigh me down on that course: childhood trauma, a teenage drug addiction, a serious neck injury from snowboarding in 2007. All would need to be confronted, healed, and transcended for me to be “light” enough (spiritually speaking) to climb to the summit of my deepest aspiration.

Because if there’s one thing I learned from the previous season (my first) of competing on American Ninja Warrior, it’s that physical strength alone just ain’t gonna cut it.

Anything and everything that’s in your heart will be magnified times one thousand the moment you get onto that stage.

That’s why it’s so hard. That’s why it’s so rewarding. That’s why it’s such a deep self-reckoning. That’s why a ninja tribe that’s willing to travel all year round just to compete has sprouted up across the land.

So for the fourth year in a row, I put all of my heart and hard work into creating the very best audition video possible (Thank you Jason Morrison for the ninja editing).

And also for the fourth year in a row, my audition video was not enough to get me cast on the show.

I Willed This Sh!T Into Existence (Again)

Looking at some of these stories coming out in Season 9, I’m totally at peace with being rejected by casting. I’m in awe of the amount of adversity many contestants must face just to get to the starting line: Parkinson’s disease, a fatally sick wife, missing a leg, losing their home to a fire, and being legally blind, just to name a few.

But there is always a back door, and where there is a will, there is a way. So my only choice was to leave my wife and 2 year old daughter to join the “walk on line”, an unofficial group of highly dedicated ninja that show up to the qualifier city two or three weeks in advance in hopes of being cast for the show.

Departing Is Such Sweet Sorrow

The decision to “walk on” is not an easy one to make; it’s a moment of daring that is pregnant with uncertainty, vulnerability, and humility. And in that emotional state, you can make all kinds of mistakes, like deciding to wake up your 2 year old daughter in the middle of a nap just to say goodbye. That little munchkin wanted to slap me across the face something terrible!

It was not the moment I was trying to manifest, and my wife Alexandra laughed in shock as she noticed the tears silently running down my cheek as I descended the steps of our apartment building to catch my flight.

Luckily, I’m not a complete idiot.

Emma and I had talked at length about my decision to “walk on” the night before, and she decided it’d be a good idea for us to make some gluten free “Ninja Gratitude” protein cookies for me to take with me on my adventure.

Emma, the little cookie whisperer.

She helped every step of the way, mixing the ingredients, stirring, and of course taste testing! While we baked, my heart felt so full it could burst, which you can actually hear in my voice in the video below… a premonition of things to come.

Once the cookies were baked, she advised me to “hold it very patiently, if not sall done you be sad!”

I watched this video many times while away from my family for 17 days – and it was playing on repeat in my heart constantly.

And you can be damn sure I held onto those cookies patiently like my life depended on it,  waiting for JUST the right moment to eat those three magic love balls. (More on that later.)

Sneaking In Through the Back Door

Cleveland was the closest qualifier city, so I hopped on a plane seventeen days before the event and met up with the other ninjas on the walk on line. I ended up being #9 in line, which is a strong position as the top 10 have a very good chance (but NOTHING is guaranteed) of getting a shot at the course.

To walk on, you’ve really got to be strong mentally and physically and above all believe in yourself. In short, be a ninja bad @$$.

Cleveland was a way different experience than Philly’s walk on line last year. In Philly, the set wasn’t in a city center but at the very outskirts in an industrial ghetto filled with junk yards, strip clubs, and an air of decay and desperation that I’ll never forget. It was an intense place to have a spiritually transcendent experience, but that’s the nature of Spirit; it’s everywhere, nothing is separate from its vastness.

One day, I’ll write a post on “How to Master The Walk On Line” (because how I approach it and what I do while on it is very different than anyone else). For now I’ll just reveal my daily schedule:

  • Shop/Cook/Eat high quality food.
  • Meditate 3x/day.
  • Practice Tai Chi and Qigong.
  • Visualize success.
  • Create space for quiet. Maintain a healthy distance from all other energies, especially unstable ones.
  • Sleep. Conserve energy.
  • Above all, avoid self-destructive urge to over-train. Channel that urge into a low force movement practice, like primal movement.
  • Write in dream journal (my dreams are always OFF-THE-CHARTS while on a vision quest).
  • Travel through the city as a pilgrim (on a bike).
  • Work on computer.
  • Repeat.

Ditch the car and cruise on a bike to get a real lay of the land.


Just getting on the course is a tremendous accomplishment, with over 90,000 people applying online for a shot and only 600 people getting their chance.

I also created a clear intention for each ninja quest. The clearer your vision, the clearer the result. Vision + strength = brilliance! For me, it was (in order of importance):

  • Learn, grow, and heal myself. Self-discovery through movement, and resiliency through chaos.
  • Show up to starting line as balanced and strong as possible: physically, mentally, emotionally.
  • Get to National Finals in Las Vegas.

And while having an intention is key, it’s not enough. Because…

Dreams Demand a Sacrifice


In many eastern spiritual systems, including Taoism, the mountain represents adversity, or more specifically, the wisdom that can be gained through adversity. Ascend the path, struggle to rise to the top, find meaning in your efforts, and you’ll be gifted a heavenly vision and higher perspective.

This is what ninja obstacle training is all about; by embracing the impossible, sacrificing, and transcending fears, we can reach our full human potential.

You can not beat the mountain spirit, only dance with it. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be dancing like your life depends on it. And, perhaps, if the guardian of the high mountain is pleased with your dance offering, he’ll let you pass and summit.

Along the journey, you’ll learn important life skills and lessons about what it means to be truly alive. The climb requires that you release all the trauma, ignorance, and personal demons weighing you down, keeping you from becoming the highest version of yourself. 

the ninja hero's journey - jonathan angelilli - american ninja warrior - traindeep.com

Journey to the depth’s of the under world to rise up, higher than ever

Ninja Warrior Competition Is a Spiritual Practice

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe I’m just giving a voice to what many others feel.  Ninja obstacles are an amazing training ground for life and death. But the moments on the course feel divine.

The ninja of history were highly influenced by the Shinto religion of early Japan. The word Shinto is derived from “shen tao” which can be loosely translated from Cantonese as “the way of spirit”.

Everything has a spirit. And nothing is separate from the “great spirit that moves in all things”. All is connected. Opposites are unified. Power and precision, strength and sensitivity, yin and yang, all is one – and unified integrity is exactly what it takes to succeed on American Ninja Warrior… and  in life.

Each obstacle has a spirit and every competition is a sacred battle. Everything that is inside of you will be expressed outwardly when you are pushed to your limit. It is a supreme art of self-mastery and magnificent opportunity for self-discovery. Much like becoming a parent 🙂

It Takes REAL Courage to Be FULLY Human

Right before leaving my home in New York City, I watched Emma take her first swim lesson. And I was thunder struck by the spiritual lesson it awoke within me.

She was so brave – so bold, so completely herself – the first time she dove under the water! And I thought “WOW! What trust she has in herself and her body! That’s exactly what I need on that course.”

And I had a major realization. If life demands epic amounts of courage from the most innocent little humans, than who am I to deny that fear dance in my own life. What kind of father would I be, if I lied to myself and clung to the illusion of safety and certainty that most in our culture are addicted to?

All around us, people are slowly killing themselves through comfort, convenience, and entertainment. How many people injure themselves by vainly attempting to insulate themselves from the vicissitudes of life?  As a father, I can’t live that way. Because it’s not actually living. Fear is an essential primal driver, absolutely crucial to the experience of being enlightened and alive. 

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” Joseph Campbell

Boldness and Belonging: Learning to Trust The Moment (Again)

I remember a time when, just like Emma, I was supremely confident in my body. I’d climb trees 30 feet high, hurl myself down a full flight of stairs, launch myself off jumps on my bike, all without thinking twice. That wild boldness that we are all have inside of us – that ability to trust the moment and my body deeply, intuitively, and completely – was taken away from me around age 9.

A childhood rivalry. A fist fight. A victory. And then, later that day, vengeance. The older (and much bigger) boy that I had fought and beat fair and square snuck up from behind me, lifting me up, and body slammed me (this was the WWF 1980’s) down on the ground.

Onto a small rock.

It was an accident, a shock… and something inside of me broke that day. This was a defining moment in my “personal mythology” because it shaped my identity for years to come and gave birth to what I now call my “inner victim”. It’s that voice that screams “life’s not fair!” the moment the slightest thing doesn’t go my way.

Yes, it was traumatic and horrible, and yes that injury got buried in my body for years until I had enough strength to face it. But the fact of the matter is, I was a privileged, white, upper middle class boy living in the  (materially) “richest” country on the planet. Indeed, life ain’t fair, but if I’m losing nobody is winning.

That frozen wound expressed itself unconsciously during my dark rite of passage through violence, drug abuse, and drug dealing in my teens. There, too, was a boldness that made me feel alive, yet it led me down the path of self-destruction. Because while my childhood boldness was born out of curiosity, innocence, and trust, the boldness of my teenage years was driven by self-hatred, ignorance, and anger. In a single word… pain.

Once I got clean and started picking up the pieces of my life, I became obsessed with working on myself. Movement, meditation, and connection to nature were the three keys to my self-rescue. And through years of meditation and energy healing, I began to peel back the layers of trauma and pain that had been influencing me all along, silently yet profoundly.

Finally, one day while meditating I felt a sharp pain in my spine, and I remembered for the first time in over  twenty years that fateful day when I was a little boy, just trying to impress the older kids by kicking some ass, and ended up getting slammed on a golf ball sized rock.

It became apparent to me that healing this “inner victim” wasn’t about just wishing it away, some kind of treatment, or therapy. Rather, I’d have to reclaim that innocent boldness – that supreme faith in my body and presence – on a stage similar to the one where the original insult occurred. Such is the nature of karmic alchemy; you have to return to the “scene of the crime” and move through it with spontaneity and wisdom, to transcend your habitual pain pattern once and for all.

You can’t think you’re way out of your trauma because it’s stored in your physical cells and tissues. Controlling the body is THE KEY to controlling the mind, what I refer to as “Exercise Alchemy”. Maybe I could turn that break down from way back in grade school into a break-through? Like going back to the future!

“You can’t change the past, but you can change the way it lives in the present.”

Showtime! Night #1: Cleveland Qualifier

So having spent years on this healing path, and successfully navigating the walk on line for the 2nd year in a row, the day of reckoning was at hand.

On qualifying night, there were around 125 ninjas competing on 6 obstacles and the top 30 (whoever goes farthest the fastest) move on City Finals the second night (where I got horribly sick – more on that shortly).

That night it was cold. One of the biggest challenge being a walk on line ninja is that you don’t know when you’ll run, they basically squeeze you in whenever they can. So you have to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. 

I did my warm up and was feeling good. I timed my food just right and ate one of those precious cookies my daughter had made with me. I got to the starting line and was very nervous, but not nearly as much as last season when my body literally froze from nerves on the 3rd obstacle.

I had a good plan in place, stuck to it, and was the ninth person to touch the course.  

I took it very conservative on the first obstacle – the “Floating Steps” – and that helped my nerves settle by getting the energy moving. I got on the 2nd obstacle – “Rolling Thunder” and holy crap was it intense. I gripped that sucker something fierce but the g-forces peeled my neck backward off the log. I held on, but felt 4 or 5 of my cervical discs pop. Seriously.

It was a real surprise, and my fingers began to release their grip, but I had no pain and hastily cinched them back tight. I work quite a bit on neck mobility, so it ended up being a chiropractic adjustment instead of an injury. Ha.

I then took my time getting off the log, and did a crawl pattern and a counter rotation to help reset my vestibular system. The next obstacle was the “Razor’s Edge”, a balance obstacle that killed many ninjas that night.

jonathan angelilli - american ninja warrior - season 9 - cleveland - razor's edge obstacle - traindeep.com

Dancing along the “Razor’s Edge”.

I made it past the balance obstacle, and then the fourth obstacle, but fell on the fifth, mainly because I was using the wrong technique (which I wouldn’t learn until later). I watched one person demo the obstacle who was super strong, had practiced on the obstacle many times (it wasn’t a contestant, but one of the people who built the course), and was totally fresh when they demonstrated, so they did the move in a very powerful (and hard) way.

There was another important lesson there; observation is key, but a lack of context makes information fatal.

Jonathan Angelilli - American Ninja Warrior - I-Beam Gap Obstacle - Cleveland - Season 9 - TrainDeep.com

That’s me! On the I-Beam Gap… using the wrong technique and about to fall 🙁

I was elated with my performance. My focus had been on getting passed the third obstacle, since that’s where I fell last year. Getting past the fourth really felt like progress, and progress is everything.

Growth or decay? Adapt or perish? Those are the only choices.

Here is the video I took about 30 minutes after my qualifying run.

As the night went on, more and more people kept falling on the 2nd and 3rd and 4th obstacles, and I started to suspect that I might just get to compete the second night. So I lied down on the ground, in the cold, with a space blanket, and closed my eyes.

I half slept until about 3:30am and found out that the trend had continued, with lots of ninjas exiting before the 5th obstacle! And around 6am in the morning, there was no one left to run the course and I was still in 27th place. VICTORY

This moment perfectly captures exactly how I felt about qualifying for city finals!

Night # 2: Cleveland City Finals

So while the qualifier and city finals episodes air about 6 weeks apart, they are actually shot two nights in a row. Which means that I had to head home, go to sleep in the daytime, and do it all over again… on less than 3 hours of sleep.

Not to mention that since I did well, I went from being a nobody to someone the producers wanted to interview and get video footage of. Instead of meditating and regenerating all day, I was posing in the cold late spring wind while doing handstands with my shirt off. Kinda cool, but also the very last thing I wanted to do physically and it left me with NO TIME to eat a good meal. Luckily, I’d saved the other two delicious cookies my daughter made for me, and that REALLY hit the spot.

For the second night, only the top 15 of the 30 ninjas get to move on to National Finals in Vegas. I was surprisingly relaxed all day. It all just felt like such a gift and privilege; I couldn’t believe I’d get to do the same obstacles again! Qualifier night, they ran fifteen walk ons, and I was one of three that made it to City Finals.

Encountering The Mountain Spirit

That relaxation stayed with me right up until about 2 hours before showtime, and then things viciously deteriorated. The anxiety sky rocketed the moment I arrived for check in, way past anything I’d ever felt before. The doubts started to creep in, and were magnified by the exhaustion.

And just as I was starting to realize that yaking was a real possibility, all the ninjas were asked to go dance in front of the audience. Srsly.


Alas, life is absurd sometimes. And perhaps this was the universe inviting me to not take things so seriously. Besides, throwing up isn’t the end of the world, right?

It was AFTER the dancing that the “end of the world” scenarios began.

At first, they masqueraded as sound logic – “well, maybe you should just take it easy and quit while you’re ahead, you already did better than last year!” – and from there these mental assassin’s spread like a virus and multiplied exponentially: “what if you fall? What if you land on your neck? That Log Roll was insane, what if you injure your neck again and can’t work. How will you provide for your family? Who do you think you are? What the fuck have you gotten yourself into? You don’t belong here.”

“You’re too old.”

“You’re such a loser…. You DON’T belong here. You’re SUCH a f-cking loser!”

I was in a death spiral. My system was shot. My spirit was defeated. I felt utterly alone.


And ashamed.

Today Is a Good Day to Die

I’d made contact with the mountain spirit, and it’s presence squeezed my psyche ferociously. The pressure devoured me whole, gripping every molecule of my being, searching for any gaps in my game, any links of weakness in my human chain, any trauma to magnify… and ultimately (I hope), purify.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. You can do this. You’ve trained for this all year. You were born for this. This is your dream. Just start warming up very, very slowly and gradually. Take it one step at a time.”

Sound advice, with only about 30 minutes to go before my 3rd ninja initiation. My self-talk shifted and I began to warm up with some very gentle Qigong. And that’s when the world started to spin and the wave of nausea washed over my body.

The terror was absolute. I was spiritually on my knees. There were no moves left to make.

All was lost.

I totally gave up control… and then something washed over me. For a brief moment my ego – the illusion that I am separate from everything around me – vanished without a trace.

Complete Surrender

Complete spiritual surrender, exactly what had saved me from my drug addiction all those years ago, and then again when I herniated a disc in my neck snowboarding. Always at the last moment, right as I’m caught in the jaws of defeat, something descends upon me the moment I totally give up control.

Complete and utter surrender to what is… something truly mysterious that can’t be described nor taught, emerging spontaneously as if it had a will of it’s own. It was not a thought, nor a concept. It was a gift from above: salvation.

Through the gateway of surrender, a profound shift began. The self-talk faded to the background effortlessly, and I started to listen to my body, following its lead. My training took over. While my mind continued to spin itself in circles, my body grabbed the steering wheel. Slowly, and humbly, I began to merge with the energy, move with it, and channel it… instead of being consumed by it.

Ritualist Demon Purification

Similar to the Maori Haka, the Dragon Gate Tai Chi lineage also has a ritualistic war dance to expel the vicious inner demons of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety… to invoke one’s human mythology and claims one’s rightful place in the universe.

Using the eyes, tongue, facial muscles, chanting, and slapping, I summoned all of my life force, and then I was condensed into a single point of light, much like a laser: focused excitement that is weightless yet penetrating.

ritualist demon purification qigong - american ninja warrior - jonathan angelilli - season 9 - traindeep.com

I may look calm in this photo, but the struggle is very real… and very beautiful.


And yes, I’d practiced this before, and hell no, it hadn’t had such a powerful effect . That’s why the discomfort and pressure of embracing the impossible is essential; you need a crucible of chaos to forge one’s spirit. Crisis is crucial for real self-mastery and spiritual growth; it’s not all peace, positive thoughts, and Instagram inspiration porn 🙂

If you don’t dare beyond your own self-imposed limitations, you’ll never find out what you’re truly capable of.

Committing to the impossible is essential to being human. There were no guarantees for our ancestors, no modern conveniences; they were forced to grow wildly resilient to survive the harshness of the natural world. And I was re-claiming that ancestral inheritance. How grateful I am to my teacher and the unbroken chain of 21 masters who have passed down the teachings of our lineage, maintaining their integrity for the last eight hundred years.

As my consciousness expanded a spiritually transcendent experience began to take hold.

I was making all kinds of loud noises and “crazy” faces as I approached (outwardly) the stairs of the course and (inwardly) the gateway to mystery. I clung to my Qigong practice like a new born baby holding onto its mother for dear life. Not because I wanted to, and not even because I had to, but rather, because in that moment that was all that existed. My body and mind unified and pure presence was all that was left as I crossed the threshold and entered the “dragon’s mouth”.

Beyond oblivion, I passed into the “land of pure spirit” WITH awareness, as I had done only twice before – the first time, after fasting alone for 5 nights in the high desert of New Mexico on my vision quest, and the other, upon witnessing the birth of my daughter Emma.

No Mind. No Body. No Audience. Pure Focus.

It felt like entering pitch black darkness totally naked.  My identity dissolved. And then a small inner light appeared “oh my hand just went there”… and then another light “oh, I just made it to the last floating step” like being in a lucid dream where you are totally aware but not at all in-control of the story unfolding.  The more I gave up control, the more wild the dream became, and paradoxically, the more alive and awake I felt.

Merging with the void, I made it passed the first obstacle.

And the second.

And the third.

I started to hear a noise coming from far away, like hearing an ancient chant drift across a valley from some other distant mountain top.

Eternity passed me by in the blink of an eye, and then I realized the noise was the audience cheering… they were with me! I was dancing with my demons, and the audience had decided to come along for the ride.

I was in total shock.

By totally taking care of myself and being 100% present to what was right in front of me,  I had simultaneously taken care of the crowd and pulled them into my sacred dance. 

Then I completed the fourth obstacle.

And then the fifth. 

Then I watched as my body ran up the warped wall.

And then I completed the 7th obstacle, the salmon ladder!

I completed the first half of the eighth obstacle, the “Nail Clippers”, and witnessed with calm awareness as all the energy instantly drained out of my body. I fell to the water with a smile in my heart and on my face. The mountain spirit had vanished, and all that was left was a feeling unlike any I’d ever felt before. Baptized in the water, I emerged anew. Reborn.

jonathan angelilli, american ninja warrior, traindeep.com, cleveland city finals, season 9

Oh hey there, all of North America. I feel so grateful this moment was captured and shared.

This video was taken almost a half hour after my run on finals night. The adrenaline was still pumping, which severely inhibited my ability to articulate anything beside “AHHH F_ck!” Warning, don’t watch this if you’re offended by F bombs… for the rest of you, BOMBS away!

It would take 3 full weeks for my nervous system and body to BEGIN to feel normal again.

I can’t believe how terrified I was… and I’ve never felt so alive in my entire life. I’ve never been so proud of myself. Much like my vision quest and the birth of my daughter, the experience was a monumental gift to myself… and I hope, others.

How strange this existence is, with life and death, silent terror and supreme joy, being two sides of the same damn coin.

American Ninja Warrior - TrainDeep.com

I look like I’m possessed!


I fell on the 8th obstacle! As did seventeen out of the nineteen people who made it that far, but the other sixteen got there quicker than me. Had I completed the “Nail Clippers” or just finished the Salmon Ladder one minute faster, I would have been in the top fifteen.

I ended up getting 19th place and missed going to Nationals by a hair. And frankly, I was relieved. I got what I came for. And then some. And now I had another year to train and prepare for what will be an even bigger ordeal: Las Vegas.

Recognizing Success

It was such a tremendously rich – and insanely intense – experience. So much so that I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post ever since. And while making it farther than ever up the mountain is nice, the lesson’s learned along the journey are the real mountain treasure:

  • I made it to City Finals. Holy crap.
  • Walked away with no joint injuries.
  • Anti-fragility power up! I got to confront some of the darkest aspects of my inner psyche, and transcended new levels of fear and anxiety.

And perhaps the greatest success was the feeling of joy I felt when seeing the look of awe, inspiration, and courage when I got to meet some of the young people who had been touched by my “performance”.

This moment makes it all worth it.

This simple moment we shared – the indescribable look that I saw in her eyes – that’s what ninja warrior and life is all about. That, for me and many other ninjas, is more valuable, more beautiful, and more powerful than all the money in the world.

Lessons Learned

  • Tai Chi and my spiritual practice is a big advantage I have over other competitors, many of whom have more experience, athleticism, and strength.
  • A lesson re-learned yet again on an even higher level; fear is the gateway to my higher power.
  • If you truly take care of yourself, you are taking care of others… the separation between the two is just an illusion.

That last one is the most precious treasure of all. As my spiritual teacher once said “If the plane is going down, first you put on your oxygen mask, then you can truly help others!”

Serving others is part of serving yourself, because they’re not really separate! And too many people are “trying to save the world” and only making an even bigger mess because they haven’t saved themselves first. 

“Treat everyone equally, whether they are kings or paupers, old or young. Know that humankind is one body, and individuals are its members. A body is not a whole without its parts.” Hazrati Ibn ‘Arabi  

And that is what I’m doing. By healing myself through American Ninja Warrior, I hope to offer my experience and unique perspective to the next generation of ninjas, and help empower them to overcome life’s greatest obstacles through movement, obstacle training, and spirituality.

Total Victory: I Am Reborn!

Since having competed in Cleveland, I had the awesome privilege of going on the Today Show and demoing an obstacle on LIVE TV… with some of my own personal ninja heroes, and easily one of the most awe inspiring new ninjas from this season, Jimmy Choi, whose tremendous spirit allowed him to take on the course despite having Parkinson’s disease.

TODAY -- American Ninja Warrior on the Plaza -- Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Angelilli, Joseph Moravsky, Matt Iseman, James McGrath, Jimmy Choi, Rachael Goldstein, Jamie Rahn, Allyssa Beird, Carl Fantauzzo, Najee Richardson, Anthony DeFranco and Akbar Gbajabiamila on Monday, July 24, 2017 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC) - Traindeep.com

TODAY — American Ninja Warrior on the Plaza — Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Angelilli, Joseph Moravsky, Matt Iseman, James McGrath, Jimmy Choi, Rachael Goldstein, Jamie Rahn, Allyssa Beird, Carl Fantauzzo, Najee Richardson, Anthony DeFranco and Akbar Gbajabiamila on Monday, July 24, 2017 — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

Jonathan Angelilli - nbc - today show - american ninja warrior - season 9 - traindeep.com

TODAY  Show – Pictured: Jonathan Angelilli on Monday, July 24, 2017 –(Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC)

And while playing on some ninja obstacle in my own back yard was fun, once again the highlight was meeting the fans of the show. Seeing the spark in their eyes when they came to meet us and grab an autograph is yet another thing on this beautiful adventure that I’ll never forget.


Fans of the show who traveled hours on the plane just to meet their personal heroes!

And while I am still – 3 months later – emotionally recovering from my experience, I’ve taken 1st place at a regional competition, 4th place at a National Ninja League competition, and am more committed than ever to building a Ninja Temple of Movement that empowers the next generation of ninjas through movement.

Kids need to engage in risky physical play to develop their full  human potential, especially their ability to assess risk, sharpen their focus, deepen their observational skills, practice perseverance, embody empathy, and create confidence.

And perhaps most importantly, children need opportunities to practice being brave so they can learn to trust themselves.

These are exactly the kinds of skills the world needs right now. And with unprecedented levels of uncertainty facing western civilization, us adults must begin to lead by example.

I could honestly care less about being on TV. Truth be told, I’ve been haunted by dreams of what they’ll show of my run, and how’ll they frame it if they end up show anything at all. More things that I have absolutely no control over!

I alone know what happened out there. Nothing can change that.

I wrote this post to give you a fleeting glimpse from the top of my sacred mountain, to help me process the experience, and to inspire you to follow your heart and embrace the impossible… and to let your fears purify you!

How beautifully sad life is sometimes, to summit a mountain alone, see the glory of the heavens stretching out into eternity, and know that no one (myself included) will ever see that exact same view again.

May we all summon the courage to transcend the challenges of our times and be liberated by the truth!

With the Golden Panther Mountain Spirit,


Jonathan Angelilli

P.S. Thank you so much for reading this post! If you made it this far, maybe you’d like to start from the beginning and read part 1: American Ninja Warrior Quest.

P.P.S THANK YOU Alexandra, Emma, Sifu for being my foundation, and Mich Spring for the beautiful photos. Thank you “American Ninja Warrior” for inspiring the world to face their fears. And thank you to the “Today Show” for having me on the show! And thank you Sean Darling-Hammond for knowing exactly what to say and how to say it right when I needed it the most.

Ninja Warrior Vision Quest Photos

Walk on line base camp.

Happy to be alive.

When it’s not showtime, the obstacles seem easy. When it is showtime, everything changes.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso


The crew that build the set and course are amazingly talented and super bad ass.

Practicing movement in Public Square, two weeks before the day of reckoning. Thank you Miche Spring for the beautiful photos

Walking on is a ninja rite of passage for many of the world’s strongest ninjas.


Every time I see “Chief Wahoo” I feel a deep feeling of pain in my heart.

Foreshadowing: the Lord of Death.



Thank Buddha for this spot, a local indoor farmers market with real food.

Street art.

He got a golden ticket!

Perfectly captures my relationship to pizza – so tantalizing at first, but then leaves a trail of congestion in it’s wake.


Practing Tai Chi at Public Square. Photo: Miche Spring.

i beam gap, american ninja warrior, jonathan angelilli, nbc.com

Making it passed the 5th obstacle on City Finals!

Jonathan Angelilli - American Ninja Warrior - tai chi nyc - traindeep.com - NBC

Holy crap I made it to the 8th obstacle at City FInals!

This beautiful art was waiting for me on my door when I got home.

Holy crap I got paid to be on TV and have a small taste of enlightenment!


Update: Here’s The TV Clip of My Run!

They ended up featuring my run on the show! While it wasn’t my main goal, it’s nice to have a little icing on the cake 🙂

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