The Ultimate Beastmaster

Ok boys and girls.. What do you get when you cross American Ninja Warriors with the Olympics? You get The Ultimate Beastmaster, a new show available only on Netflix. Premiering on February 24th, this show came across my radar so I decided to see what it was all about and share my findings with you all. One of the first things I noticed was that Sylvester Stallone is the executive producer of the show. Hmm, why does this not give me confidence?

Basically we have contestants from 6 countries, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico. South Korea and The United States. But wait, there’s more.. the show has 6, count’em 6, county-specific versions, each with their own hosts. So not only do we as the US audience have the US hosts, Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, but we snippets of the host from the other 5 countries, Anderson Silva and Rafinha Bastos (Brazil); Seo Kyung Suk and Park Kyeong Rim (South Korea); Ines Sainz and Luis Ernesto Franco (Mexico); Hans Sarpei and Luke Mockridge (Germany); and Sayaka Akimoto and Yuji Kondo (Japan.)

There are 4 levels of the course within the “Beast.” And yes, the course from the outside looks like a giant chinese mechanized dragon. The contestants move thorough the levels by finishing among the top at each level. Level 1 starts with 12 contestants (2 per country) and the top 8 finishers move onto Level 2. The top 5 contestants from level 2 move onto level 3, also known as the Energy Pyramid. And the top 2 contestants from that level move onto the final level 4, known as the The Power Source. With all scores wiped out at this level, the person that scores the most points during this level wins the title of Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster’s from each episode meet in the season finale in the hopes of becoming “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

The athletes come from various sports; triathletes, rock climbers, gymnast, military, an NFL player, parkour athletes, who I would think would excel on this type of course, crossfit instructors, Olympic swimmer Ed Moses from the 2000 Summer Olympics where he won a gold and silver medal (and at the age of 35, one of the oldest contestants on the show), and yes, even an Obstacle Course Racer, Shaun Provost, seen in episode 1.

The first thing I DID NOT like about the show is the fact they they released all 10 episodes at one time. Really Netflix, while that may be good for shows such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, it does not seem like a smart move to give viewers the ability to skip all 9 episodes and get right to the season finale.

I have never been a fan of the American Ninja Warrior shows, finding them a bit too cheesy for me. But the Ultimate Beastmaster is cheesier than the Hickory Farms kiosk at the mall during Christmas. The host do nothing for the show other than to act as glorified national cheerleaders. And having 6 different hosts teams (yes, we see all 6 of the county host teams at various times throughout the show) just added to it. And to have the water colored red and called “beast blood.” Seriously!

Another thing that irked me was that during some of the shows, some of the contestants who started later in the flow of  the 1st level knew they had enough points to advance so they purposely failed an obstacle. While this may seem like a strategy for keeping healthy for the other levels, I felt like as an audience member I was being cheated in some way. I mean just imagine if an Olympic runner started to walk during a race because he know that the other contestants had fallen down and gotten hurt and he/she they did not have to push themselves.

But there were some things I did like; the design of the obstacles themselves; challenging at first and getting progressively harder at each level. And a contestant could get “Point Thrusters” along the course, each worth 10 additional point, so this could add to their point lead which came in handy if they failed the last obstacle on each level. One of my fav obstacles in the show was the “Mag Wall.” Basically a climbing wall, but some of the holds are attached magnetically and subject to “falling” off the wall, thus dropping the contestant or making it harder for the contestant to complete the wall. Another fav of mine is the “Prism Strike” on level 3. Here the competitors must hold onto the rope handle as it swings through a curved track. And if they are good enough, they can snag some points at the Point Thruster along the track.

Was the show worth watching all 10 episodes? NO! I felt that I wasted the first 9 hours I spent watching the show leading up to the final. You really do not form a relationship with any of the contestants while watching the show. And despite my earlier comment about Netflix making all 10 episodes available at once, if you are interested in the show, watch episode 10; you see all the obstacles and only have to endure it for 60 minutes.

If you are a Netflix member, you can watch the show here.

All images courtesy of Netflix.

Matt Iseman/Jeff Cain

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Matt Iseman and Jeff Cain

Episode 183 – Matt Iseman and Jeff Cain.

Matt and Matt talk about stand up comedy in LA, how Iseman got to American Ninja Warrior, and new stuff for the Ninjas in 2016.

Matt and Jeff talk OCR old days, Barkley Fall Classic, and Jeff’s non profit, For Those Who Would.

Today’s show is sponsored by:

BoneFrog Challenge – ORM10 gets you $10 off all 2016 races.

Epic Series – Use code ORM20 for 20%off June 11 in San Diego, CA.

Liquid Run – Code ORM25 gets you $25 off admission.

Show Notes:

Matt Iseman tweets a lot.

For Those Who Would Website.

Jeff on Episode #6 way back in July 23, 2012.

Jeff’s Obstacle Racers Prayer blog post.

You can use the player below to listen or use the iTunes or Stitcher buttons at the top of this post.

Goliathon – A New Contender in OCR? (Race Review)

Whether you are planning to be a ninja or a spartan, Goliathon is an event you don’t want to miss for either conquest. Being one of the newest and, quite honestly, hardest events I have participated in, I find this event to be one of the most incredibly challenging and entertaining. Goliathon is an event that brings a different take to obstacle course racing and ninja training events. Its mission is to raise money for Charity Water: a non-profit that funds projects to distribute easier and more efficient means of sanitary water conditions all over the world. To date, they have raised over $60,000 and for this event alone, approximately $25,000.

Over the course of four miles, I had to take on twelve obstacles, each with three tiers of difficulty.  Many kinds of people attended the event. Some were elite OCR runners who you may see at a Spartan or Battlefrog event while others were beginners who do these kinds of events for fun or with family and friends. We also have our “Davids” who have completed all twelve obstacles at the G3 (expert level). We were also lucky enough to have some American Ninja Warriors and past “Davids” attending such as Captain NBC (Jamie Rahn) and Jedi Markowski.

Davids of Goliathon V

After interviewing one of the twelve co-founders of Goliathon, Doug Horton, I found out a little bit about the history of the event. The event initially took off in April 2014 and brought in 550 people. They had set the event for April and November but decided to keep the dates closer to warmer weather in May and October of each year going forward. Doug and a few of his pals had done a few obstacle races like Spartan and Tough Mudder and, as part of their training, they decided to start building obstacles in their backyards. They actually decided to make them harder and more complex than what you would see on course. After a while, they got the idea that they could create their very own obstacle race.  Doug also stated that almost every week, the bunch would have a meeting to discuss what the next steps would be in developing the race. The direction of the obstacle building was done by Paul Stone, a co-founder of Goliathon and the owner of the company, Emerald Windows.  Eventually, they came up with the idea of tiered obstacles (G1, G2, G3) from easiest to hardest respectively. It took a lot of imagination, creativity and hard work to make these obstacles. Thanks to Paul and the rest of the co-founders, we had a terrific event.  Considering that Pinnacle Parkour, a ninja training academy where people go to work on obstacles you may see on American Ninja Warrior, is in the same neck of the woods, people like Jamie Rahn and Jedi Markowski were also able to build the PPK Ninja Killer obstacle that you can see in the video posted further below.

Goliathon V Start.

Just to give an example, one of the obstacles had you climb a rope. For G1, the rope was knotted and the bell was about halfway up the full length of the obstacle whereas G3 you had to climb an unknotted rope with a 45-pound chain draped on your shoulders and once you reached the top, you had to hit the bell with the chain…the point being that it was a lot harder than the average obstacle. That was just a taste of the range of obstacle difficulty but I will get to that later on.

Slippery Wall Money Scruffy Mudders

Another cool topic they had discussed was a “Try the Obstacle Day” approximately one month prior to the event. On these days, you would have local athletes and staff helping you through the obstacles so you get a chance to practice on them…something that you can’t do on race day as one of the rules is that if you fail on your first try on any level, you do not get a band that signifies points that would be tallied at the end of the race. On these practice days, they normally get about a hundred to two-hundred people.

Now on to my personal review.

All in all, this was an amazing experience. This was the fifth event to date dubbing it “Goliathon V”.  Me and my team, Scruffy Mudders, were hyped up to get through this event with the best score possible. I will say it was a little different for me as I am used to running hard through the course but as this was an untimed event, we took our time and it probably took us close to 4 hours to causally walk/jog to each obstacle. One of the first obstacles was a 40 to 80 pound water jug carry around a closed loop. It wasn’t as hard as you would think but the fact that you had to balance the two 40-pound jugs on a metal bar and avoid touching them to the ground was something that made it a little trickier. Next up was the Slippery Wall Monkey obstacle as we had to basically rock climb from one floating wall to another and get though a bunch of monkey bars. Unfortunately, I slipped off the last one before getting to the end which cost me a band. We had a rope climb with varying difficulties but I picked the G3 one which required climbing up a rope unassisted with a chain draped on my shoulders. From there, we approached Circus Maximus 2.0 which was kind of like being at a circus as you had to swing from ring to bungee to ring to more bungees to rope swing over a trench of water to the finishing platform.  This was definitely one of the hardest obstacles. Only a few people from our team made it through to get the G3 band. We got to the PPK Ninja Killer obstacle that had some ANW crew there to help people get through it. This was definitely one of the more advanced obstacles to take on in G3. I actually decided to do the G2 version as it looked a smidge easier. The Ninja Killer is three slanted boards that you have to jump on and stay on without touching the floor to a bunch of platforms where you have to balance on to a rig that depending on your level would have different obstacles on it. One of my favorite obstacles was the Hangman obstacle that had you climb up an 8-foot wall and swing about 5 ropes to devil steps. If you have a chance, look up Goliathon on Youtube as every year this obstacle varies in how it is set up. I can talk all day about how awesome the obstacles but I can leave that to you.

Circus Maximus 2.0 Grant.

If you go onto their site, they have a bunch of videos with tips on how to get through all of them.

Moving forward, I would love to see the company evolve while also keeping the mission of helping people’s lives. Goliathon is also a qualifier for OCR World Championships and will have their next event October 1st, 2016. If you sign up by May 31st, you can get the early bird special using the code SUPER.

PROS: Great cause, great obstacles, reliable staff, festival was enjoyable.

CONS: Only have one chance for a band at each obstacle (doesn’t mean you can’t still play on it if there isn’t a line of people)


All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.

Vertical “Gainz” – OCR in the climbing gym

I’ve seen you, wearing your Spartan Race or TM Finisher tee, white socks loosely sagging out of your ill-fitting rental shoes as you thrutch and claw your way up some jug-haul, attempting pull-up after pull-up, believing in your mind that you’re one step away from becoming the next American Ninja Warrior…

(Bolded terms are defined below)


Although this is a (slight) exaggeration, many obstacle course racers have been flocking to climbing gyms in an attempt to improve their grip-strength, widen their repertoire of movement skills, and raise their “bad-ass” quotient*. And yes, a few are thinking it’ll prepare them for American Ninja Warrior**.  Aside from the latter it’s true that climbing skills are an excellent addition to an obstacle course racer’s toolbox. The kinesthetic awareness, core strength, and improved grip that result from climbing will improve your ability on just about any obstacle – not just the obvious one such as Spartan’s Z-wall, but also the Tyrolean traverse, wall and rope climbs, “Herc” Hoist, Spartan Rig, monkey bars, and even a bucket or jerry-can carry.

Since I’ve been teaching climbing technique for the past few years I figured that I would put together a précis on how to maximize your gains while not coming across like a total amateur in the gym. In climbing we call beginners “gumbys,” it’s a phase everyone goes through, but hopefully this advice will speed up your transition to becoming an experienced “rope gun.”

First, don’t whine ceaselessly about how afraid of heights you are. Everyone is afraid of heights. That fear is the product of millions of years of evolution and it kept your ancestors from waltzing off cliffs. That fear/rush is what makes climbing exciting. Your fear will never go completely away, but as you learn to trust the equipment, your belayer, and your skills you will learn to accept the fear and, eventually, even enjoy it.

On your first visit you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to work boulder problems (the short walls with pads under them) or learn how to belay and climb routes. Realize that the easiest boulder problems start around an advanced-beginner level of route difficulty – so expect to flail and fail if you start there. In a nutshell bouldering will increase upper body and contact strength, while climbing the longer routes will foster the development of endurance in your grip and is more conducive to learning proper technique. If you’re going to hit the climbing gym on a regular basis the best possible scenario would be to do both. However, if you choose to try both just remember to take off your harness and chalk bag before bouldering, they’re not really necessary and look silly.

The next thing to do if you’re planning on being a regular is to buy your own gear. Have shoes properly fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing. Don’t believe the hype and get a pair of $200 shoes that require a crowbar to force your foot into; you don’t need them and won’t for a couple of years at least. Choose a comfortable harness and pick up a chalk bag that, unless you’re 14, isn’t shaped like a stuffed animal.

At this phase in your climbing career the fastest route (see what I did there?) to be a better climber is to climb; the more frequently the better. Climbing involves a very specific set of physical skills so, in general, other types of exercise don’t transfer to improved climbing ability. Also, notice all those strength training apparatuses at the back of the climbing gym—things like campus rungs and finger boards? Stay away from them! Until the tendons in your fingers, elbow and forearms mature, which occurs more slowly than the muscles, they can be a fast track to injury, especially if used incorrectly.

Routes start with your hands on the start hold(s). They finish when you reach the top and “match” both hands on the finish hold or top of the wall surface. Do not smack the taped X on the wall – that screams gumby!

Familiarize yourself with the grading systems (YDS for routes and V-scale for bouldering) and chose your projects appropriately. Try to pick routes where you can make moves only using the holds that are “on” (i.e., taped or colored) for that route. If you can hardly make any moves at that grade choose an easier route.

Although the holds bolted to the walls generally approximate the varieties of real rock you’ll encounter outside (except for the ones shaped like dinosaurs or the Buddha) they are made of plastic – don’t call them rocks or grips; they are holds. Here’s a handy guide to some common types.


Good climbers can make hard movement look easy. Don’t be fooled! This PSA is for you those of you who can “lift big”: don’t follow female climbers around the gym jumping onto everything they climb thinking it might be easy. I find nothing more amusing and irritating than watching guys trail my wife around the gym falling off the first move of her warm-up problems.

Good technique isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t particularly intuitive and can be difficult to learn by just watching. It’s mainly about being efficient and adjusting your center of gravity to avoid “barn-dooring” off the wall. It begins with good footwork (edging, pivoting, smearing, switching feet) and then progresses to more advanced moves like back-steps, drop-knees, heel hooks, and flags. Here are some basic moves:


When you climb remember to use your legs to drive you up the wall, instead of scrambling them up after you. Don’t “over-grip” and squeeze more than necessary with your hands. Look down, choose higher feet, and stand up off of them rather than trying to do a “pull-up.” If you become tired try sinking down into a straight-armed stance, loosely hanging off your joints. This will allow the relatively inefficient large muscles in your upper body to recover before the next move. Sometimes it’s easier to attain this stance with only one foot on a hold and the other pressed up against the wall. Having “three points of contact” frees you to more creatively play with your center of gravity.

“Campusing” is a term that means using only your upper body to provide momentum to move between holds. It’s incredibly inefficient in terms of stamina and is used outdoors only in specific situations. You may see more advanced climbers campusing as part of a strength training workout. However, it’s not a substitute for good technique (ditto for dynos between holds). Learn how to use your feet!

After you’ve gone to the gym a few times take a class to learn proper technique. This will prevent bad habits from becoming ingrained and slowing you down later on. Also, be friendly and ask for help from other climbers who look like they know what they’re doing. They will be happy to spray you down with some beta if you’re stuck on a move.

After a few visits you’ll begin to notice an increased awareness of your core and how it can stabilize your body while climbing. Your grip strength will improve as will your ability to “read” the sequences in a route. All of this will not only increase your efficiency and success on obstacles, but it will also allow you to start climbing more difficult and interesting routes.

Eventually you may want to test your skills outdoors on real rock. Being on the sharp-end of the rope or topping out a boulder problem outside are incredibly rewarding. Learning to lead outside takes a lot of additional instruction, but once you can flash 5.9s in the gym consider taking a lead climbing class. If you want to boulder outside all you need is a guidebook and a crashpad and some spotters. Another great way to get a taste of the outdoors is to hire a guide at an outdoor climbing area. With a guide you can spend the day outside climbing safely and getting instruction at whatever level you require.

Most important, remember to have fun! Climbing is an amazing sport with a rich and colorful history. It spans across a wide range of endeavors as diverse as mountaineering, big wall, and multi-pitch trad to gymnastic sport routes and burly “high ball” boulder problems. A wealth of books and websites are available to help you learn more about the sport. For example, Dead Point Magazine is a free e-zine with a great video library that’ll get your palms sweating and itching to send on real rock!

Climb on!

* Obstacle racers are pretty obvious in the gym because they do burpees between routes.

** The successful contestants on American Ninja Warrior with climbing backgrounds are generally 5.13-5.14 climbers (i.e. professional level). If ANW is your goal and you’re banking on climbing skill to get you there then you only have 8-10 years or more of hard training before you begin to approach their level of ability.


Gumby: beginner climber.

Jug-Haul: route with lots of large, easy to use holds.

Thrutch: popping to the next hold as you begin to “barn-door” – evidence of poor technique.

Spray: talking about a climb, can also be excessive boasting about one’s ability.

Beta: insider information about a route (from watching a “Betamax” – anybody remember those?).

Dyno: using momentum to jump to a hold that’s too far to reach.

Flash: doing a route cleanly, no falls, from bottom to top the first time you’re on it.

Crash-pad: portable cushioning for outdoor bouldering.

Send: to complete a route or problem successfully.

About the author:


David Kalal has been stick-clipping bolts and giving bad spots around the world since 1999. For the past few years he’s taught Fight Gravity – a technique class for beginner climbers at The Gravity Vault gyms in New Jersey. He got hooked on OCR in 2010 when he realized that due to his tremendous grip strength he could excel at OCR if only he could learn how to run really fast…and how hard could that be?

Check out the author’s videos if you’re bored at Note that none of them have been recorded in the gym. Please take this to heart and resist the urge to post videos of yourself sending projects on plastic!

Many thanks to Mya at for allowing me to use her wonderful illustrations!