Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photographer / Linda Oldiges
If you’re familiar with NBC’s hit television show “American Ninja Warrior,” you might have an idea of the type of training and exercise it takes to compete in the show’s extreme challenges.
Contestants Michael Silenzi and Jesse Labreck have appeared on the show for nine and seven seasons respectively. They love what they do and are determined to expose others to the passion and positivity that comes with the process.
“I started on the show 10 years ago and that was before there were gyms where you could practice this kind of stuff,” Silenzi says. “I immediately thought it was amazing and I wanted to see this become a new sport. I instantly had the idea that we needed a gym so people could try it out.”
Jeff Piejak had a similar idea and partnered with Silenzi to open the first Ultimate Ninjas gym in Chicago. As they continued to grow, Labreck came on board, and today the three own and manage five gym locations, including their newest at the Hamilton County Sports Complex in Noblesville.
The Noblesville gym looks like what Silenzi calls a “jungle gym on steroids with lots of safety pads,” and it’s attracting all ages to the unique combination of exercise, challenge and fun.
“We have adult fitness classes in the morning, a Little Ninja program for ages 3 to 5, and classes after school for ages 6 to 18,” Silenzi says. “I think initially I wanted to open a gym for selfish reasons. I wanted to train for the show. What I didn’t realize at the time is how many kids would watch the show and become obsessed. The kids want to be ninja warriors and we’re training the next generation for competition.”
Labreck loves watching the students grow and challenge themselves.
“It’s honestly pretty incredible,” Labreck says. “The confidence these kids are building, particularly the ones that might not connect with traditional sports – they really feel empowered. There’s always another goal or obstacle to achieve.”
Silenzi loves the training aspect.
“It’s such a challenge to overcome something you didn’t know you could do,” he says. “There’s a lot of adrenaline, and we’re using our body the way it’s meant to be used by running, jumping, swinging and other physical outlets. It’s like a great workout without it feeling like work.”
In addition, the unique workout complements other sports kids are involved in, from baseball to football, and many students continue participating on the ninja team through high school.
“There’s nothing like it in the area,” Silenzi says. “We watch the kids have fun, get stronger and learn new techniques every single day.”
For those interested in taking their ninja skills to the next level, ninjas as young as 6 to 8 can join a league and compete across the country.
“If you aren’t old enough to get picked for the show, there are several leagues out there to compete against,” Labreck says. “We’ll host our own World League competition in Noblesville this January, giving people the option to compete right now.”
Labreck will appear in an upcoming Valentine’s Day episode of “American Ninja Warrior.” Catch Labreck and Silenzi on previous seasons of the show.
Ultimate Ninjas is located at 9625 East 150th Street in Noblesville. For more information, call 317-473-7480 or visit