Rialto science teacher takes on American Ninja Warrior

Who needs Isaac Newton when you have Keita Kashiwagi?

Courtesy Photo/American Ninja Warrior Keita Kashiwagi, a teacher at Jehue Middle School, competed in the sixth season of American Ninja Warrior. Kashiwagi is known by students as the "Teaching Ninja."

Courtesy Photo/American Ninja Warrior
Keita Kashiwagi, a teacher at Jehue Middle School, competed in the sixth season of American Ninja Warrior. Kashiwagi is known by students as the “Teaching Ninja.”

That was the question announcers raised as 39-year-old Kashiwagi, of Rancho Cucamonga, moved through obstacle courses at the Venice Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior’s sixth-season.

The opener aired May 26 on NBC and can be viewed on nbc.com.

“You have to be swift, smart, agile and silent,” Kashiwagi says of his approach, which he also instills through daily teachings.

But it wasn’t just Kashiwagi’s wall scaling abilities that stood out from the rest of the 3,000-plus who sent in video submissions to even be considered for the show.

IECN Photo/ Yazmin Alvarez Keita Kashiwagi turned a hallway at Jehue Middle School into a makeshift ninja training facility to use for practice after school.

IECN Photo/ Yazmin Alvarez
Keita Kashiwagi turned a hallway at Jehue Middle School into a makeshift ninja training facility to use for practice after school.

It was his actual display of physics in the classroom that caught attention.

For 12 years, Kashiwagi has entertained thousands of students at Jehue Middle School through science.

In fact, he’s known as the “Teaching Ninja” who’s ninja training facility is set up everywhere.

“It’s ninja science,” said a group of students

IECN Photo by Yazmin Alvarez Keita Kashiwagi's students offered a helping hand in supporting their teacher's ninja ways.

IECN Photo by Yazmin Alvarez
Keita Kashiwagi’s students offered a helping hand in supporting their teacher’s ninja ways.

Scaling and bouncing off of walls at home and on the Rialto campus, Kashiwagi turned the hallway leading to his classroom into a makeshift ninja training station.

He set up pieces of plywood against the wall and used them to leap-off from, imitating one of the first obstacle courses used on the show–the Quintuple Steps.

“It takes ninja science to make it through,” said a group of students as they watched Kashiwagi train. “We use what we learn in the classroom to figure out how he does it.”

And after months of ninja training with help and support of students and staff, Kashiwagi gave a heart-racing display of obstacle course physics during the show’s Venice Qualifier in March.

Students, Jehue staff and colleagues cheered Kashiwagi on in the stands as he lunged over the dreaded five steps in about six seconds and hurdled successfully through the rest of the sixth-season obstacles–which hosts touted to be one of the most difficult courses in American Ninja Warrior history.

Kashiwagi made it to the semi-final round, but advanced no further.

An athlete by nature, Kashiwagi saw “Ninja Warrior” as an opportunity to show off his natural “ninja-like skills”. Skills he developed as a child, he said.

“This is the stuff I grew up on,” he said, thinking back to watching the original Japanese show with his parents. “I was jumping out of trees and over cars when I was 16.”

“Ninja Warrior” was right up his alley, he said.

And although he didn’t didn’t earn the warrior title on the show, he proved to be Jehue’s Ninja Warrior.

Still, he hopes to inspire his students and those watching to go for their dreams.

“If anything, I hope they’d get some sort of life lesson out of seeing me do this, he said. “Even when you’re old, you should always do something new.”

But his students, especially 14-year-old Francisco Zapata, soaked-in an even more valuable lesson from his ninja physics.

“Never quit. Never give up and keep trying.”

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