Local parents of two, Amanda and Ziad ‘Zak’ Zakaria are unlike most couples you would meet. Four years ago, the couple applied to the popular TV series of Ninja Warrior and became the show’s first husband and wife team to attempt the extremely challenging series of obstacles. They were already super fit but got stuck into specialised Ninja training in two very different ways.
Due to his busy work commitments as a school vice principal, Ziad Zakharia had precious little time available to train, so he watched every single episode of American Ninja Warrior to study the competitor’s technique.
Wife Amanda, on the other hand trained intensively at a kid’s ninja course at a Melbourne play centre as there was no specialised ninja training centres around at the time.
Amanda finds it amusing that her husband – who is vice principal at Fran Dando Sports Acadamy at Ashwood – got all the way to the end of the course because he had studied the technique. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it as far as her husband ‘Zak’ because although she had the physical strength, she didn’t know the correct techniques.
After competing on the show, Amanda says that they “got a huge bug for all things Ninja”.
Although they did not manage to get all the way to the final of Ninja Warrior, they were determined to continue to perfect their ninja skills. So much so, that they ordered a ‘Warped Wall’ for Christmas that year and put it in their front yard.
From there, the entire front yard was gradually filled with all manner of ninja obstacles. Not just a climbing frame with a mini-tramp, but a full blown course that they trained (and played) on every day. In total, they were able to create 30 obstacles all on their property. “It looks like a steel jungle,” laughs Amanda.
Outdoor gym equipment is not new to the Zakharia kids, 11-year-old Zane and 7-year-old Ariana. Their mum had already converted their backyard into a personal training studio including gym and pool for added water-based training.
Both kids have also become incredibly skilled after the family started their own home business, a mixed martial arts class with boxing, kickboxing and, of course – Ninja.
Since 2017, ‘Ninja’ has become a sport in its own right with the formation of the Ninja Challenge League (NCL) following in the footsteps of the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association (UNAA) in America. In Australia, adults and kids can compete in a national competition called the Ninja Warrior Challenge. The kid’s part of the event called Ninja Kids is entirely dedicated to children and is run within the rules of the UNAA. In this event, kids compete to be the fastest through a gymnastic course, which includes balance and speed obstacles, swinging, tumbling and parkour. The UNAA combined with other Ninja Associations around the world are now lobbying for the sport to become part of the Olympics.
Earlier this year, Amanda and Zak joined forces with fellow Ninja, expert rigger and stuntman Luke Ha to set up their own fully equipped, custom built Ninja training facility. Now that’s big leap from ‘front yard ninja’.