Local woman to compete on American Ninja Warrior

When Yari Azpeitia-Breunig started ninja training, she never anticipated her hard work would land her on TV.
Ninja Yari
Photo courtesy of Yari Azpeitia-Breunig
"I always thought they (the competitors) were just born this talented. It never even it never crossed my mind, not even once, so now that I am doing this, it's just surreal," says Yari Azpeitia-Breunig on getting the callback for "American Ninja Warrior"

When Yari Azpeitia-Breunig started ninja training as a means of dealing with her postpartum depression, she never anticipated it would land her on the TV show, “American Ninja Warrior.”

“I started ninja two months after having my daughter, as soon as I got cleared, because I went through some depression, and CrossFit just wasn’t doing it for me,” she says. “I wanted to try something different, so I tried ninja and overcoming the tiniest little things led me to be happy, and really helped me through that.”

After her first ninja competition — just four months postpartum — Azpeitia-Breunig discovered that her newfound passion could be much more.

This week, Azpeitia-Breunig is competing in the regional runs for the popular fitness game show. Based on the long running Japanese show “Sasuke,” “American Ninja Warrior” sends competitors on an intense, six obstacle course in hopes of advancing to the next round. The winner of the show receives a cash prize and the title of American Ninja Warrior.

Azpeitia-Breunig first explored fitness in her mid-20s, and has worked as an instructor for just about every type of workout since.

“I didn’t grow up in athletics, I didn’t do any sports growing up … I’m just a normal person that loves ninja,” she says. “When I started as a fitness instructor I taught Turbo Kick, and then spin, then personal training, then I got into coaching CrossFit, and then now ninja.”

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Ninja is different from other types of training, as you can get a workout while jumping between beams, bouncing across bars and tackling fun obstacles. The bonus for Azpeitia-Breunig? She can get the whole family involved.

“Quarantine is the best shape I’ve ever been in,” she says. “Because I was at home with the kids, I would work out with the kids and we would set up obstacle courses in the backyard.”

Azpeitia-Breunig first applied to “American Ninja Warrior” for the last season, but the onset of COVID-19 curtailed production and the cast was slashed in half. This gave Azpeitia-Breunig some extra months of training, and she says she is feeling more confident and ready for this year.

Luckily, she hasn’t had to do it alone. In addition to her supportive group of ninja moms who train together, the other Wisconsinite contestants have been training together every Friday in preparation.

“There are three rookies in the state, but I’m the only new rookie mom, so it’s been so nice that they just been taking me under their wing and helping me mentally,” says Azpeitia-Breunig.

Yari headshot

“I’ve always been very timid, so I feel like it has developed my personality, just knowing that I can even do these things.”

Azpeitia-Breunig encourages folks to take the leap — literally — and give ninja a go. She says it really isn’t as intimidating as it seems. If anything, she says the biggest battle is a mental one.

“I’m not like a superhuman. I’m strong, but it’s because I choose to be strong and I choose to put the time and effort to actually try to be a good ninja,” she says. “Overcoming an obstacle — even a tiny obstacle — led me to be super confident in all aspects of my life.”

Azpeitia-Breunig’s family won’t be in IRL attendance, but will be cheering her on Friday via Zoom call. If she makes it, the next round will be filmed in Los Angeles at the end of April.

“I found my passion now, and better now than later, but I just want to tell people it’s never too late,” she says. “If this happened to me, it can happen to anybody.”

Watch Ninja Yari on “American Ninja Warrior” starting the premiere date of May 31. Follow Yari at @ninja_yari.

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