After spending seven years in the education sector, Yeung Chung traded his suit and tie for climbing chalk and runners to open Hong Kong’s first obstacle gym, Sasuke Fitness in 2017—along with two other industry veterans, Jackie Wong and Tim Lo.
Since then, the buff trio has—both as a group and individuals—joined countless ninja competitions overseas, including those in Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.
But what truly makes Sasuke Fitness stand out are the self-made obstacles in the gym. From circuit boards (where competitors thrust handles through a rigged course suspended from the ceiling) to the infamous warped wall, there’s always something new at their Quarry Bay studio, which attracts everyone from pre-teens and office workers to protein-packers and slinky supermodel types.
We caught up with Yeung Chung to find out how he and his partners brought the ninja gym trend to Hong Kong.
Where did the idea of a ninja gym come from?
While working together at the last gym, Jackie, Tim and I used to spend our free time designing makeshift obstacles that involved swinging or climbing. So, an obstacle gym seemed like the logical next step when we founded Sasuke Fitness, which translates to “ninja” in Japanese. That was also the name of the original obstacle-challenge reality TV series in Japan that inspired American Ninja Warrior.
What goes into designing the obstacles at Sasuke Fitness?
Jackie is usually the one who designs them, and we try to be as inclusive as possible with a variety of obstacles for people of all capabilities. Sourcing the right materials from suppliers is always a challenge—like the frame for the centre stage in our gym is the same as what’s used in concerts. We may have to make some tweaks here and there when the equipment arrives but it’s basically foolproof.
How does one prepare for a ninja competition?
While some competitions announce their featured obstacles, their order is never revealed. So, we normally review past videos of the competition and try to predict what’s going to come up based on global trends. Most obstacles don’t have international requirements per se; and even if they do, there are too many variables that we can only prepare for by training as much as possible beforehand.
During a competition, your heart is racing and the brain becomes mush so a lot of how we tackle the obstacles is based on intuition and past experience. With time, you start to understand the purpose behind each obstacle and the body part(s) that they’re trying to challenge, and as such, how to best tackle them.
I tend to avoid observing other contestants because they might tackle an obstacle completely differently from me, depending on their skills and strength. For instance, if an obstacle was, in fact, really easy for me but I saw other contestants failing constantly at it, I might stress out about it and also fail.
Do ninja warriors need to have a special diet?
Diets vary between people but the main idea is to drop your fat percentage while still retaining muscle mass and energy so every bit of your body is functional. Jackie, for instance, avoids carbs after 6pm and only has one cheat day per week, but that doesn’t work for me because my muscle weight drops massively and I’d end up too tired to train.
Who is most suitable for ninja training?
People who are into parkour, gymnastics, street workouts and rock climbing definitely have an advantage because they already have mobility, strength and flexibility. However, anyone can give it a shot—except for people with shoulder or back injuries, and those afraid of heights… Although, anything is possible.
How do we get started?
We’d start off by training core muscle strength– which makes up 90% of the game—things like swinging, adding power to the grip and nurturing explosive energy in a short period of time. All classes at Sasuke Fitness are based on a personal-trainer scheme and tailor-made to your level.
Sasuke Fitness, Room 1505, Eastern Centre, 1065 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, +852 3691 8321