In English, the word ‘ninja’ conjures images of men in black, scaling walls, throwing shurikens and sickles with chains, and disappearing into the night through smoke bombs. Thanks to American pop culture, they are associated with mystery, martial arts, and mutant turtles as well. Modern Japan also mythologises the ninja as a living weapon with uncanny inhuman abilities, an expert of physiology, psychology, toxicology and Taoist theories on food and nutrition. A ninja was a medicine man, military strategist and magician all rolled into one – a feudal lord’s perfect spy, bodyguard and assassin for hire in medieval times.
The etymology of the word denotes the core of that calling: a person of forbearance and fortitude. The Chinese logographic character for ‘nin’ is composed with a blade above the heart; the word meaning endurance, perseverance, stamina – prerequisites for any spiritual endeavour, martial or fine art. A ninja, therefore, is someone who has mastered mental and physical self-discipline, a pro who does not crack under duress or stress.
Train in Style
Ninja Camp by Chōsen is not boot camp though. It’s a week-long retreat in a private villa with luxurious accommodation and a spectrum of professionally designed workouts (depending on the camp – CrossFit, gymnastics, swim training, trail running, Olympic lifting). More relaxing forms of bodywork (yoga and meditation) are integrated to bring the body and mind back into balance. Add in a nutritionist working in tandem with a private chef creating gourmet meals, and that’s six days and seven nights of delicious functional dietary adjustments and lifestyle upgrades. The programme is logistically seamless so one does not have to worry about anything. And the thoughtful training is tailored to fit individual physical abilities, health goals and well-being, so it’s your responsibility to be fully present.
“Participants are gently pushed out of their comfort zones through experiential learning,” says John Stanton, the affable American co-founder of Ninja Camp and Chōsen. Chōsen is named after the Japanese word for challenge, and there are three daily workouts before every meal. In the morning, there is usually a longer, fun adventure activity before breakfast (a light morning snack and coffee with coconut water is available before a big sit-down breakfast later) such as surfing, canyoning, hiking or a parkour class. Before lunch, there’s a range of fitness training like lifting or an intense WOD (that’s Workout of the Day in CrossFit lexicon). And before dinner there’s a milder session of restorative yoga to end. Guests are usually physically spent (in a good way) by dinnertime, since most non-athletes do not normally partake in so much physical exercise. But that will guarantee a good night’s rest, where campers fall into the best deep sleep they’ve ever had.
Chōsen provides unprecedented access to a handpicked network of the best trainers – strength and conditioning professionals, physical and bodywork therapists, life coaches and yogis from around the world. Their athlete-trainers from all are at the forefront of the modern fitness movement, including top CrossFit coach Taylor Rank (second place at the 2012 CrossFit Games Asia Region), Olympian swimmers Michael Klim and Andrew Lauterstein, who are at the top of the game as teachers and push with just the right amount of support for one to shed any self-doubt.
It’s not all non-stop activity. The schedule actually includes quite a lot of purposeful downtime for recovery, and you can either take a nap, have massages, or lounge by the pool with a book from their eclectic Ninja Library (Hermann Hesse, Louise Hay, Proust, Ayn Rand and Eckhart Tolle, to name a few). Quiet time is also set aside for goal setting and mindfulness to reflect on your priorities without the noise of urban hustle and bustle.
You will not be forced to take part in every workout or activity. If a camper feels like sleeping in or taking a break from WODs, they are more than welcome to. Getting sufficient sleep and ample rest is in fact encouraged, as most of us are usually sleep deprived during our hectic urban lives.