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Engineer by day, ninja by night

By Dustin Q. Diaz, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Public Affairs | Aug. 22, 2016

West Bethesda, Md. —

When "American Ninja Warrior" (ANW) returns to the air Aug. 22, it will be partly thanks to the efforts of one of Carderock Division's own.

Adam Grossman is a naval engineer with the Wastewater Management Branch (Code 633) of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. That's his day job. But he's also a course tester and a participant in the television show and obstacle course-based athletic competition he calls a "real-life video game." The show first caught his interest in its initial Japanese incarnation, "Sasuke," about a decade ago.

"I was channel surfing with my dad one day, saw it and thought, 'That's really neat!'" Grossman said. "I started watching it and became enthralled with it. That's how a lot of the guys I know who have been on the show for a while started, too."

"Sasuke" was and is filmed in Japan with Japanese competitors and English subtitles for American viewers. In 2007, the now-defunct G4 Network began airing a show called "American Ninja Challenge" in which Americans competed to qualify for "Sasuke," which led to today's ANW. Grossman watched them all, and for ANW's third season in 2011, he decided to pull the trigger and send in a submission video to the producers.

"I flew out to Los Angeles and competed," Grossman said. "I didn't make it past the qualifiers, but it was a really cool experience."

But it wouldn't be Grossman's last experience with the show. He's been involved in the ANW subculture since, training at gyms featuring obstacles in the style of the show, competing in the National Ninja League and participating in the show. He was selected five seasons in a row, qualifying for the competition in Las Vegas for four of those, and his season five run aired on television and included a full personality profile.

"I was very happy with how it all turned out," Grossman said. "Most of the other times, the extent of my air time on the show has been as one of the competitors they show highlights of after commercial breaks. That time, I got the full treatment. I was watching it and I remembered when I started watching the show on TV years earlier, and suddenly realized, 'Okay! Now I have a profile on here!' So that was definitely really cool how it all came together like that.'"

Grossman, originally from Baltimore, was a sprinter, competing in high school, college and beyond. He said that chapter in his life was coming to an end, but he has always been athletic and wanted to remain active when ANW came along. He said he worked hard to constantly improve his times in sprinting and ANW gives him renewed challenge and satisfaction in progression.

"With track and field, my best times were all in college, so when I ran after college it was frustrating putting in all this time and not seeing improvements in my time any more," Grossman said. "Here, because there are so many facets of challenge, there's always things to learn, things to improve on, [and] positive feedback. I like that a lot."

Grossman said he tries to bring that mindset to his work, too.

"With the practice of engineering, you're always a student of the discipline," he said. "You're never going to know everything, obviously. It's important to have the attitude that you know very little and there's always more to learn. I try to have that attitude, and I try to use that to expand my knowledge and expand my learning as much as possible. I feel there's value in what we do and I like to always learn as much as I can to apply it for good, to help the Sailors and the environment."

This year, Grossman is not a competitor on the show due to its increased popularity making it harder to be selected, but even so, he's found a way to participate and even improve. He worked as a course tester during show tapings in Philadelphia and Las Vegas, doing "dirty shots" where he was filmed running the Stage 1 course for footage that may air on the show. And he continues to meet new milestones in his ANW career, having completed the Stage 1 course during testing for the first time.

"The producers needed testers to establish time limits," Grossman said. "People were afraid to come forward so I said, 'Put me in. I'll do this, I'll start us off.' I volunteered myself and got right through everything on the first try, and then even a second time. It was so satisfying; the feeling I had beating it there was the same as if I'd beaten it in competition. I got through one obstacle, the next obstacle, another, then pretty soon I realized I was at the last obstacle and then finished it, and I thought 'Wow, I just got through that whole thing.'"

Grossman said his goals in ANW are to continue competing and eventually get back on the show. The eighth season of "
American Ninja Warrior" resumes Aug. 22 on NBC.