WINNING RUN — St. Albert's Felicity Martin makes her run during the Canadian Ninja League National Finals held Nov. 26 at the Edmonton Expo Centre. JONATHAN MARTIN/Video
St. Albert is now home to one of Canada’s top ninjas.
Muriel Martin Elementary School student Felicity Martin took first in the 6-8 Girls event during the 2023 Canadian Ninja League National Finals held Nov. 26 at the Edmonton Expo Centre. She was one of about 450 athletes who took on obstacle courses to see who was the best at ninja — an emerging sport in Canada where participants navigate and complete obstacles in as short a time as possible.
Martin, 9, said she was super excited when she finished the course, as she was the only athlete to successfully complete all 11 of its obstacles.
“I was like, oh my God, I actually did the whole course,” she said.
Born to ninja
Martin’s mother, Jonina, said Martin started her career as a ninja at nine months when she crawled out of her crib after her parents left its bar down.
“When she was about three years old, I remember asking her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and she said she wanted to be a ninja,” Jonina said.
Martin started her ninja training at Dynamyx Gymnastics, before moving onto Edmonton’s Fitset Ninja two years ago, her mother said. She took part in last year’s nationals in Langley, B.C., placing seventh in her category.
Martin said she prepared for this year’s nationals by doing plenty of practice, balancing her ninja training with her regular soccer games. On competition day, she studied the course layout thoroughly with her father, Jonathan.
The course featured a number of Canadian-themed obstacles, including maple leaves, hockey pucks, and hockey-stick-shaped swinging bars. There were also ziplines, trapezes, midair ledge grabs, and an axe.
Martin’s strong finish in the preliminaries meant she was one of the last to take on the finals — an advantage, Jonathan explained, as it let her see what strategies the other athletes used.
Martin explained how she knew to control her speed going into the axe drop (where competitors swing and grab an axe stuck vertically to a magnet, causing themselves and the axe to drop and snag on a loop), as too much speed would cause her to lose her grip on the axe. She also saw how she could take a shortcut on one segment where you had to slide along several bars using handheld canes if she hurled herself to the finish midway through.
Martin said one of the most difficult obstacles required her to swing from a ring and grab a bar in mid-air, as she started off swinging in the wrong direction. Remembering her training, she pulled herself upward to shed momentum so she could reorient herself.
“After hanging for so long, my hands were just done,” she said, which made the following airborne flings a challenge.
Jonina and Jonathan said ninja is a great sport for kids, as it mixes upper-body training with strategy and resilience.
“It’s a great community,” Jonathan said.
“They all cheer everyone on.”
Martin’s first-place finish earned her a trophy and a chance to compete in the 2024 World Ninja League Championships. Martin said she wasn’t sure if she would compete at worlds next year, but did hope to someday compete on American Ninja Warrior (the inspiration for the sport of ninja).
Martin was one of several St. Albert and Sturgeon County residents who competed at nationals. Sturgeon Composite student Maara Bryson placed third in the 15-17 Girls event, while W.D. Cuts student Maëlle DePape placed eighth in the 13-14 Girls category.
Full results are available at www.canadianninjaleague.org.