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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

A platform for change: Bethel’s American Ninja Warrior


Senior Ben Martin competes on American Ninja Warrior, allowing him to raise awareness for international adoption. 

By Makenzi Johnson

The smell of rubber and sweat hangs in the air as the sounds of grunting and clanging metal as students lift weights float through the Wellness Center. Ben Martin grabs a hurdle and places it in an open spot on the gym floor. Taking a few steps back, he breaks into a run at the hurdle. At the last second, Martin launches into a front flip over the hurdle, landing back on his feet. 

Martin, a senior communications and media production major, never intended to get involved with American Ninja Warrior. As a junior in high school, Martin would spend his free time doing parkour outside the school, but that was the extent of any obstacles. He then started working at a local ninja gym instead of staying at his neighborhood Culver’s. 

“I wasn’t really interested in the sport aspect of it,” Martin said. “I just wanted a job that wasn’t flipping burgers.” 

He hosted birthday parties and taught classes at the ninja gym, so he thought he should be more familiar with the obstacles at the course. His journey with American Ninja Warrior began there. 

Martin flips while training in the Bethel Wellness Center. | Photo by Andrew Wittenburg.

These relationships are a key part of why Martin loves what he does, as they help him stay focused and encouraged as he trains. Martin claims that one of the biggest misconceptions about competing on ANW is that only grip strength is needed so someone does not fall from the rope swing, salmon ladder, monkey peg and more — but Martin says it’s not all just grip work. It’s also high intensity workouts, weight lifting, rock climbing and more. Mental training is another crucial aspect of the process, and Martin has found the community has been a great help in staying focused and passionate. 

“Minnesota is kind of known as the land of 10,000 Ninjas. There’s a big community here.”

– Ben Martin

“Minnesota is kind of known as the land of 10,000 Ninjas. There’s a big community here… You would think that they’re kind of out for themselves, but everyone cheers each other on. Everyone coaches each other during their own runs,” Martin said. 

The largest reason Martin puts in the countless hours of training amongst being a full-time student is to use his platform for something greater. As an international adoptee from Korea, Martin knows firsthand the struggles some adoptees face growing up in America.

“I think a lot of times there’s that kind of ‘not feeling like you belong anywhere’ vibe,” Martin said. “I never felt like I was Korean because I didn’t speak it. I didn’t really recognize any of the foods, the culture or tradition.” 

 Martin knew what it was like to not fit in and this is not uncommon for adoptees. 

“The early years of being an international adoptee can be quite treacherous,” Martin said. 

But Martin has found his community among American Ninja Warriors. From flipping burgers on a grill in the back of a Culver’s kitchen to flipping onto the black ANW platform on television, Martin has been able to use his experience as an international adoptee to raise awareness on a national stage.

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