Lake Norman’s NinjaThis article was originally published in the March 2017 edition of Lake Norman Currents.
Meet Ninja Ed, the lake’s ultimate ninja and obstacle athlete Eduardo Lorenzo loves to hang. And by hang, I don’t mean the “stay in one place while relaxing and taking it easy” definition of the word. In fact, if you tell Ninja Ed to “hang in there,” don’t be surprised if he breaks out in a huge smile then jumps for a bar, beam, tree limb, overhang, flag pole, gutter, basketball goal, soccer crossbar or basically any sort of elevated piece of apparatus, grabs on with one or both hands, and does just that - hang. And don’t be surprised if he does it for a very, very, very long time either, as he is that good. Lorenzo, more commonly known to his friends as Ninja Ed, is an athlete best described as a ninja. His training consists of any and every activity that tests strength, speed and agility, and pushes the body to its limits. Think running, jumping, climbing, swinging and balancing on an extreme scale. Also think gravity-defying leaps from obstacle to obstacle, rope to rings, warped wall to netting - all at heights that would make even the tallest basketball player feel small. That’s what Ninja Ed loves to do. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the New York/New Jersey area, Ninja Ed, 37, spent the majority of the most recent decade on the West Coast of Florida before relocating to Lake Norman in 2015 with his wife, Elizabeth, who just happens to share the same love of ninja training. He coaches at Gold’s Gym in Cornelius. Moving simply to start a new adventure in a new area, they sold their gym in Palmetto, Florida, the state’s first facility operating purely for ninja and obstacle-racing athletes, and found a home in Huntersville, both looking to connect with the lake’s vibrant health and fitness community and introduce a new demographic to their form of athleticism. An American Ninja Warrior takes flight In 2012, as ninja and obstacle racing began to gain a mainstream following, Ninja Ed got “bit by the bug” while watching season 4 of American Ninja Warrior on network television. “I can do that,” Ninja Ed thought to himself. “I’m the type who always, and I mean always, has loved to either climb trees or jump rooftops, so here’s my chance.” He completed the application and submitted a demo tape and was subsequently invited to participate in the Miami qualifier, one of that season’s five to six qualifying cities. But a fall on a balance obstacle not only ended his chances; it also resulted in a fractured heel bone, leaving him unfulfilled and wanting to try again. “When something bad happens, you get back on the horse, and that’s just what I did,” he recalls. “I have done it all my life, and that’s what I teach, too, so after a bit of time off my feet, I went right back to it.” Not only did he compete again in 2014, falling just short of advancing, Ninja Ed was invited to be a course tester for the National Finals in Las Vegas. “It was another amazing step in the journey that I thoroughly appreciate,” Ninja Ed recalls, “but I learned after 2014 that the hardest obstacle by far, because this is a television program first and foremost, is the sitting and waiting. There are some amazing ninjas out there, but who they pick for the show, then how we all come together, wow, that’s a challenge in itself.” If you have seen American Ninja Warrior and are wondering what to make of the obstacles, Ninja Ed says his favorite is the Salmon Ladder (a brutal vertical ascent up what can loosely be described as rungs of a ladder, a test that requires strength, athleticism and technique) and he also favors any and all obstacles that require grip strength. His weakness? Balance, he says. Think moving across a slack line, teeter-totter, or unstable row of stones of small platforms, all while being pressured by time. “When we are training, none of us ever panic,” Ed says. “We fall so much it just becomes second nature. But on the show, it’s different, it’s one and done. One miss, one slip, one mental mistake, and you are out. It’s a ton of pressure to succeed when the cameras are rolling. Even the best ninjas can be humbled from out of nowhere.” Next steps, next leaps Both Ninja Ed and his wife, Elizabeth, have submitted applications for season nine of American Ninja Warrior in 2017, and both are now in holding. From a likely applicant pool of 40,000, fewer than 800 will have the opportunity to challenge the course in one of five city qualifiers. It’s rare that both partners in a married couple are selected, but Ed hopes their story, and dedication to the lifestyle, help them stand out. And speaking of standing out, if 4’ 11 ¾” Elizabeth is selected, she will be the shortest competitor ever to accept the challenge. “My life has been enriched and I have met so many great people through this, not only as an athlete but also as a coach, and for that I feel very lucky and appreciative,” Ninja Ed says candidly. “And working now, too, as a coach, do you know how many people I have seen get off the couch and grow and change their lives and do what they never thought they could do because of this? Do you know how training like this brings hope and happiness even to those who have been athletes most of their lives? “As for me,” he adds, “the world will always be my playground. We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing, and I’ll never stop playing.” So tune in and keep an eye out for Ninja Ed and his wife, Elizabeth, too, as the 2017 American Ninja Warrior qualifying and competition season begins. There’s a strong chance you’ll see one or both of them again on television, but, if not, simply look up wherever you might be standing; Ninja Ed will surely be hanging around.