One of first times Tristin Martin attempted to mimic the feats she saw on TV in “American Ninja Warrior,” it was by dangling and leaping from a wood beam in the basement of her family’s home.
As Tristin remembers it, she would leap from the beam down onto the nearby futon. Each time she landed, she’d yell up the stairs “I’m OK!” to keep her parents from investigating the thudding sound coming from downstairs.
Tristin’s mom Nichole Martin — who had put the kibosh on leaping from the beam to the futon below — would then come down to see Tristin hanging from the beam upside down, reading a book. At the time, Tristin was 6 years old.
The now-9-year-old Tristin excels at “ninja,” a sport closely resembling the competition many have seen on TV, where competitors race to navigate — or complete — an obstacle course. It’s a sport that prioritizes quickness, strength and agility, but is above all else, very fun.
And as part of International Ninja Day on Sunday, Tristin and Nichole are hoping to introduce more kids to the sport at their open gym while also fundraising for a meaningful cause to them.
Tristin, who is dyslexic, is trying to raise $1,000 for the Michigan Dyslexia Institute (MDI), which provides a number of services for people with dyslexia in Michigan, including Camp Starlight, a summer camp for children with dyslexia. As of Wednesday evening, Tristin had raised more than $700 via a fundraiser on Facebook.
The open gym, put on by Spartan Ninja Warrior which is part of Spartan Dance and Fit Center, will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5, with specific time slots for age groups. The event is free, and parents just need to RSVP with Nichole prior to the event (contact information is included at the bottom of this article).
“All kinds of kids can do this,” Nichole said. “Any age can do it.”
That was true of Tristin, who began when she was 6 years old. In the three-plus years since, she’s become nearly as quick flinging herself from obstacle to obstacle as she is walking.
During a class on Wednesday evening, Tristin joins a group of other kids, of varying experience and ability. Some of the kids are just back for the first time after a long break due to Covid. Still, they all attack the course with fervor.
With a parent standing by to time each run, Nichole asks Tristin to pick out the final route they’ll take.
“1-2-3-4-5-6-7-12,” Tristin says, listing numbers that correspond to portions of the gym setup at Spartan Dance and Fit.
The gym was originally much smaller, with just one structure to dangle from. It has since grown to be nearly three times as big, with multiple structures and a series of other obstacles.
The route Tristin chose on Wednesday — 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-12 — starts the group at the back corner, where they’ll proceed through a series of quicker, smaller obstacles. Then, they transition to one of the overhead structures, where they need to jump and catch a large “fidget spinner” as Tristin calls it. From the fidget spinner, the ninjas are supposed to swing and catch a bar that’s slightly canted down, resembling an upside-down Y. After that, they finish on the original rack, swinging from a bar to leap, catch and hang from a small, rubber shape.
To varying degrees, the kids finish this course in about 50 seconds. Some inevitably fall short of a leap and tumble on to the mats below, only to pop up and rush to the next challenge.
Once the session ends, around 8:30 p.m., and the other kids have left, Tristin and Nichole remain. After Tristin demonstrated how close she is to completing a long, swinging leap from bar to bar, she and Nichole briefly discussed how getting into ninja led to notable improvements in school for Tristin, specifically.
While they talk, Nichole sits on one of the pads on the ground. Tristin is sitting atop the ladder that hangs horizontally from the overhead rig, hands caked with chalk dust, sipping on a drink from Jimmy Johns. Nichole gets Tristin to explain how one of her teachers in school is going to give out a spelling test where some of the words will be made-up gibberish, to try and show the other kids what it might be like when Tristin — or anyone with dyslexia — tries to take a spelling test. Tristin gets to pronounce the gibberish words for the class, too.
Eventually, Nichole says it’s time to get going. There’s school in the morning, plus Tristin is starting basketball season, and will keep doing ninja all the while, Sunday included.
Open Gym Info
To RSVP for the open gym on Sunday, Dec. 5, call Nichole Martin at 508-274-4771.
The time slots and corresponding age groups are as follows:
- Ages 5-through-7: 10:00-10:55 a.m., 11:00-11:55 a.m., 12:00-12:55 p.m.
- Ages 8-through-11: 1:00-1:55 p.m., 2:00-2:55 p.m., 3:00-3:55 p.m.
- Ages 12-and-up: 4:00-4:55 p.m., 5:00-5:55 p.m., 6:00-6:55 p.m.