Deaf Ninja Warrior Kyle Schulze

Known as the “Deaf Ninja,” Kyle Schulze reached the national finals of American Ninja Warrior, a high-intensity obstacle course competition that tests competitors’ agility, upper-body strength, grip, climbing, leaping, balance, and coordination skills. 

How does American Ninja Warrior work?

Since the show’s debut in 2009, only two competitors – both experienced rock climbers – have managed to fully complete the grueling course and claim the grand prize, which now stands at $1 million. 

The last remaining “Ninja Standing” at the end of the competition takes home $100,000. Over the years, the number of applicants has steadily increased from around 1,000 in the first season to 777,000 in the ninth. In each regional qualifier, 100 contestants are selected to participate. 

They then advance to the city-qualifier course, which features six obstacle courses. At the nationals, there are ten obstacle courses. The top 15 competitors who complete the city finals course in the fastest time progress to the nationals.

Kyle Schulze’s Journey

After competing on the NBC show from seasons 9 to 16,  Schulze finally achieved victory by hitting the buzzer for the first time. In previous seasons, he had repeatedly fallen short, ending his qualifier runs without hitting the buzzer and losing his chance to compete.

Due to congenital nerve damage, Schulze grew up attending a variety of schools, often as the only deaf student in his class. He graduated from Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago.

Not surprisingly, he was an active participant in a wide range of sports, including baseball, soccer, karate, swimming, dance, lacrosse, wrestling, track, volleyball, cross country, and Ultimate Frisbee, among others. 

He proved to be a quick learner when it came to sports. Schulze also rock climbed for 8 years and competed in obstacle course races (OCR), which eventually led him to take up Ninja training starting in Fall 2016.

Schulze’s Deaf Ninja Debut

The “Deaf Ninja” made his American Ninja Warrior debut in Kansas City. He was the first known Deaf contestant on the show. While at the next round in Indianapolis, he took the opportunity to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to his fellow Ninja competitors, utilizing Facebook and Instagram to educate viewers. 

However, Schulze was unprepared for the overwhelming response and attention that followed. In 2017, his initial goal was simply to progress as far as possible on the course, but he fell short of the finals. Undeterred, Schulze returned in 2018 and made history by becoming the first Deaf competitor to reach the national finals.

Kyle Schulze Now

Schulze, who is now a motivational speaker, has traveled to schools and camps, sharing his powerful story with Deaf children and adults. He recounts being “denied the opportunity to shine and show my potential” and growing up “constantly pushed down and pushed aside, without a Deaf role model.” 

Now, as a role model himself, Schulze is determined to “make a positive change.” In his website biography, the Ninja Warrior competitor shared, “Being a Ninja Warrior isn’t just about glory and winning. I want to use my experiences to motivate and inspire others to focus their energy and be the best versions of themselves.” 

He also expressed his enjoyment in “helping to raise awareness of deaf culture” and his aspiration to be “a positive role model” throughout his journey.

Learn more from the ninja himself in this interview from the Daily Moth!

Until next time, ta ta! 😄🤟🏻

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