‘Island Ninja’ trains gymnastics students to be American Ninja Warriors

Published 9:32 am Friday, November 29, 2019

The Island Ninja came to Elizabethton Tuesday evening, giving students at Heart of Tennessee Gymnastics the chance to learn how to be as strong and tough as a real Island Ninja, no matter how exhausting or overwhelming the experience may be.

Grant McCartney, one of American Ninja Warrior’s most recognizable athletes, said he was there to put on some camps for the students there.

“I am here teaching different skill sets,” McCartney said.

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These skills, he said, include balance, strength, concentration and balance.

McCartney, a Knoxville native, said he wants to promote American Ninja Warrior in more places like Elizabethton.

“I want to promote how they can get involved,” McCartney said. “I want an outlet for kids to be physically active.”

Students who participated in the two camps Tuesday evening got to do some of the physical challenges McCartney does on the show, including a zip line and a pull bar challenge where the contestant has to throw the bar, and their bodies, up a series of notches in a kind of ladder.

He said watching the students work hard to achieve these tasks is worth it because of the excitement on the students’ faces.

“It makes what I get to do in Tennessee eight times more fun,” he said. “You can hear the cheering of the kids.”

McCartney said he provided the camps Tuesday at no charge.

“I want to promote Ninja as a whole,” he said. “Ninja is an all-encompassing sport.”

He also took some time after the camps were over to sign T-shirts and take pictures with star-struck students, and while this fame makes it easier to promote the Ninja lifestyle, he said it does have drawbacks.

“I compete at a very high level,” McCartney said. “It can cause a little exclusivity.”

To counter this tendency, he said putting in the effort to become a ninja is just as important as the act itself.

“You just have to want to be a Ninja,” he said. “You are a Ninja the first day you try.”

While he was there, he also promoted his Ninjafest, a summer camp taking place next summer in Crossville, Tenn.

“I always love the summer experience,” McCartney said.

For more information on his programs, summer camp or otherwise, check out McCartney’s social media accounts by searching for @islandninja on all platforms.

Heart of Tennessee Gymnastics is located at 300 Cherokee Park Drive in Elizabethton, behind the DMV.