In March of 2018, Jason and Lacy Steinberg opened 605 Ninja in Sioux Falls.
While Jason had a background as a personal trainer, Lacy worked for years in youth activity centers.
“He was great at making classes fun and exciting and the fitness side of things, and I was really good at inspiring and getting kids out of their comfort zone,” she said.
After coming across a ninja warrior gym in Minneapolis, Lacy remembered thinking, “This is exactly what kids want to do.”
The couple visited a dozen ninja gyms across the country before bringing that research back home and opening their own space. After a building expansion in 2022, 605 Ninja has over 700 students every week, as well as 50 classes.
“We are primarily ages 6 to 16, but we offer classes from 6 to adult,” she said. “We love when everyone of all ages comes in and tries it out.”
On a snowy day in February, 605’s designer Cailyn Patterson, office manager Kelsey Sutton, and I walked into the larger-than-life gym on 41st street.
After a warm greeting, we were instructed to sign a quick waiver and went over the safety rules. Then Jason walked us through an assortment of warm ups to focus on flexibility and balance: jumping jacks, squats, and wrist and arm stretches.
“The easiest way for me to describe ninja,” he said, “is that it’s primarily upper body when swinging on the obstacles, and lower body when running through the agility obstacles.”
He explained that in a typical class, about 25 kids would be taught by four or five coaches, and they would rotate through different stations. At every station, Jason demonstrated the skill and then encouraged us to try our best and believe in ourselves.
“He makes it look so easy,” said 605’s Sutton.
“Ninja is a solo sport with a huge emphasis on teamwork and community.” -Lacey Steinberg
We attempted swinging from ring to ring, an obstacle course, the famous warped wall, and the aerial silks.
Jason explained the importance of variety in the gym: “We change our obstacles every single week. Every time students come it’s something new.”
While 605’s Patterson skillfully tackled the obstacle course, Sutton bested the 11-foot warped wall, and I spent an especially long time wrapped in the aerial silks.
Types of Classes
These classes are filled with fun obstacles for kids to learn and try new things. Ninja is a mix of upper body and lower body obstacles. They get to train like a real ninja warrior.
In this class students learn how to climb, do beautiful poses, tricks, and routines in the sky. It’s a beautiful art that uses strength, flexibility, and tons of creativity.
Parkour is a very popular thing kids have been doing for decades. In class they run, jump, flip, trick, vault & roll their way through lower body obstacles. It’s like a real life video game.
None of us had any real experience with ninja, and we surprised ourselves with what we were able to do when encouraged.
Lacy and Jason both spoke to this passion for encouragement and coaching: “Teaching a kid to believe in themself and try things no matter what is what I love,” said Lacy.
Jason added that his favorite part was “just seeing what kids are capable of.”
“If you’re even slightly curious, just come do it. A great place to start is open gym.” -Lacey Steinberg
The pair also mentioned that many physical therapists recommend 605 Ninja. Skills learned in ninja can help with agility, balance, and coordination.
“A lot of students come in with motor development issues, like they have weak legs or weak grip strength,” said Lacy. “They come into our program because it’s fun, but they leave with confidence and risk-taking abilities, and pushing themselves way farther than they ever thought.”
Jason competed on season 9 of American Ninja Warrior.
Lacy explained that ninja is a full-fledged sport. At 605 Ninja, kids can come learn and compete–or just play.
“Kids that don’t like sports or don’t thrive in sports thrive here,” said Lacy. “It’s like a real-life video game.”
Parents are also welcomed to watch and cheer their kids on during classes and competitions, and some compete themselves.
“We’re not just for athletes, we’re for kids of all ages and abilities.” -Lacy Steinbeerg
Yet 605 Ninja isn’t just about the sport or the competition. Lacy points out that it’s much more than that. She says they encourage their students to be great teammates and great citizens.
“Some coaches coach ninja,” she said. “We coach life.”
For more information, visit 605NINJA.COM.