Marine and American Ninja Competitor Shares Lessons Learned

Marine and American Ninja Competitor Shares Lessons Learned

Sgt Jason Cantu, fiscal chief, Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy, stands tall after climbing the warp wall at the Combat Center's American Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course. Cantu trains at the Combat Center's West Gym and various obstacle courses on base. Photo by LCpl Connor Hancock.

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (August 19, 2015) – Growing up in Mercedes, Texas, I looked up to my uncle and my cousin who were both Marines. 

When I signed up at age 17, I wasn't concerned with which MOS I was going to get assigned to. I just knew I wanted to become a Marine. 

I signed up for the contract management option and started my Marine Corps career as a warehouse clerk. Now I'm the fiscal chief for the Sergeant's Course on base, but am looking forward to go into recruiting.

I've always been into sports. I appreciate the competitiveness of them. In high school I played on the golf team. I enjoy playing golf to relax with my friends and socialize.

My wife and I wanted to keep our kids off the couch, so I coach basketball, soccer and t-ball with my six year-old son. I have a daughter who is three years old and I stay active with her by taking her to the parks on base. 

I play sports all the time, but I never expected to be a competitor on American Ninja Warrior. How I got onto the show was random. I came into work one day and my friend wanted to submit a video application. It was nothing serious; we just submitted a video for fun. 

A couple months later, the show called me and said they wanted me on a military edition episode. I was fortunate enough to get selected out of 50,000 applicants.  In May 2015, I went out to compete against U.S. soldiers, sailors, and coastguardsmen. At the qualifying round I placed 15 out of 109 competitors.

I didn't think much of it until I got there. I could have trained more but I just went out there and had fun. I was lucky to get as far as I did with little to no training besides going to the gym.

I failed on the warped wall and kind of beat myself up about it because it's usually one of the easiest obstacles for me. My goal for next year is to build myself a warped wall to practice on.

Some of the obstacles are pretty easy, but if you think about it too long you'll psyche yourself out.

When you're out there competing, you have so much adrenaline and it's easy to fatigue early. It's important to practice on a regular basis so you can get the muscle memory down. I've found doing these obstacles without much practice can be a shock to your body. 

You have to push through the pain, but having friends and family watching helps a lot. My son looks up to me being a ninja warrior and we setup obstacles around the house for fun.

Maintaining my health is important. I go to the gym at least five times a week and make sure I'm eating the best foods so I'm able to replenish myself with the right nutrients.

As far as the Marine Corps goes, I'll be going to Basic Recruiter's Course in October.  Being stationed here at the [Staff Noncommissioned Officers] Academy has helped me out tremendously. It's helped me with getting my career started by meeting great Marines and receiving good advice from mentors. 

I have been fortunate to be able to have a good relationship with the instructors here and attend their classes. 

Wherever I go next, my family and I will make the best of it. I just hope there will be a ninja warrior course nearby.

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