Hang, Flip, Swing and Climb @ The Grip Ninja!
By SGHW Staff
Ninja athletes aren’t just found on television! Although NBC’s high-octane obstacles course competition series, American Ninja Warrior, has inspired the growth of a leading fitness craze, it has also sparked the development of southern Utah’s own ninja gym: The Grip Ninja.
Owned by Brian Beckstrand and John Merrihew and located in Washington, Utah, The Grip Ninja provides a series of challenging ninja-type obstacles that allow people of all ages and skill levels to have fun while exercising. The idea behind The Grip is to develop strength and dexterity while conquering “the course.” Participants work core muscles, improve upper body strength, enhance balance, and build confidence and self-esteem while hanging, flipping, swinging, and climbing. “When people come to the gym for the first time, they’re often intimidated and afraid to try the obstacles,” shared Holly Beckstrand, Brian’s wife. “But after they work at it and can finally complete an obstacle, they have this confidence in themselves that they didn’t have before.”
Both Brian and Holly acknowledge that family fitness is a huge motivation behind The Grip Ninja. All seven members of the Beckstrand family love watching American Ninja Warrior (ANW), a television series that features diabolical obstacle courses that competitors attempt to complete in an effort to be crowned champion and take home the $1,000,000 prize. In 2013, the Beckstrand’s oldest son Taye wanted to have a ANW-themed birthday party. Brian transformed the family’s backyard into a ninja course that eventually grew to well over fifty obstacles and attracted both ninja pros and ninja hopefuls alike. For Brian, the biggest benefit he received from creating the backyard gym was the way it brought his family together with a common goal. “American Ninja Warrior was such a door opening for our family,” he said. “It allowed me to spend so much time with my kids and wife. It’s one of the best things as a father—to have your kids look up to you and be proud of you and what you can do.”
Not only did the backyard ninja gym bring the Beckstrand family closer together, it also introduced Brian to co-owner John Merrihew. Like Brian, John is also a fan of ANW. After listening to his wife Mindy wonder aloud if he “could do that,” John decided to try out for the show and was subsequently introduced to Brian by a mutual friend. It was from that introduction that the idea for The Grip was born.
Aside from his love for ANW, John designs, welds, fabricates, and installs ironwork throughout southern Utah. He uses his talents to fabricate all of the steel structures and obstacles at The Grip. which has earned him the nickname Iron Man. John creates The Grip’s obstacles with care and precision, paying incredibly close attention to making them as close to scale as possible to the obstacles you would see on AMW. This expert attention to detail ensures that the obstacles are safe, secure, and fun to use. “I wake up at around 4:30 a.m. every morning and get to The Grip by 5:00 to teach an early morning class,” he said. “Every chance I get, I’m training and teaching people techniques on how to be better ninjas and athletes. I love what I do.”
One of the main goals of The Grip Ninja is to get children and teenagers off of their electronic devices and inspire them to be healthy and active. “We’ve had kids that have come to The Grip and can’t even grab a bar or hang on to it,” Brian explained. “Now, these same kids are swinging and jumping across the monkey bars. It’s little steps that make them better. It’s not about them competing against other kids in the class; it’s about them competing against themselves.
“With The Grip, we’ve been able to inspire and teach kids,” continued Brian. “It’s important for them to know about good sportsmanship and good competition, and I think ANW epitomizes both of those things.”
Brian and Holly’s children are perfect examples of what The Grip Ninja can do for a child’s physical fitness. Just last year, their daughter Baylee (age 9) and son Kai (age 13) were selected to compete on the first season of American Ninja Warrior Junior. But for Kai, it was something he almost missed out on entirely.
In March of 2018, Kai was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Although he could have dropped out of the competition, he continued his training for the show as he learned to cope with the challenges of his illness. He recently won the eleven and twelve-year-old division and took home the grand prize of $15,000. Whether it is a challenging ninja obstacle course or a challenging medical diagnosis, Kai is living proof that no obstacle is too big to overcome.
While the goal at The Grip Ninja is to improve strength, athleticism, and confidence, it is also a place where you can have fun! Kids and parents love The Grip’s birthday parties, and there are daily classes for both children and adults, with open gym times in the evenings. A new addition to the gym will be completed this summer, adding an additional 2,500 square feet. The addition will include a trampoline, an eighteen-foot warped wall, parkour and spartan-style obstacles, and a twelve by twenty-foot foam pit.
“We do this to inspire other women, other men, other parents, and other families that this is a sport for everybody,” said Holly. “I want to motivate people to get off the couch, push their bodies and see what they can do. Come play—and workout—at The Grip Ninja. It will change your life!”