New Korematsu teacher is an American Ninja Warrior

By From page B1 | July 27, 2014

Alex Kane27W

Alex Kane of Davis is competing is part of the "American Ninja Warrior" competition. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Alex Kane is an unimposing 30-year-old Davis High graduate who has just returned home to teach fourth grade at Korematsu Elementary.

The UC Santa Barbara graduate and his wife Megan have an almost-3-year-old son, Oliver, and another little Kane is due next month.

A former skateboarder, the personable teacher still surfs, rock-climbs and loves hitting the playgrounds with his kid.

While teaching for most of the past four years in Oakland, Kane’s religious workout ethic put him in the best physical condition of his already active life.

To make a long story short, Kane’s training confidant Andre Phennig suggested that Kane submit an audition tape for a television series called “American Ninja Warrior.” Kane recruited some of his students, and his clever video was appealing — plus, he showed some pretty ninja-like hops in the preview.

Before he knew it, he was invited to Los Angeles for a qualification round. Surviving most of the grueling obstacle course, Kane found himself on his way to the show’s finals in Las Vegas.

Now, fans will have to see if the former Blue Devil will be named the American Ninja Warrior.

“(The tape) I submitted originally had some physical feats and you get to talk a little about yourself,” Kane told The Enterprise. “(The production company) said they got 4,000 videos this year … 102 of us got to Venice” (a beach community in Los Angeles).

Fifteen moved on to Las Vegas for last month’s taping of the show, which will air Aug. 11 and 18 on NBC.

“I was surprised at getting in at all,” Kane explained about his first experience in Venice. “Then after that first night, I thought ‘Wow! That was great.’ I didn’t expect that to happen (advancing to the next round in Venice).

“So the second night I was just having fun … kinda taking my time.”

When co-host Jenn Brown chatted with Kane in a televised interview after the second round, she asked him, “How was that?”

” ‘It was fun,’ I told her. ‘I’m looking forward to next year,’ ” the new Davis school teacher replied. “Then she said, ‘Well, you should know you’re going to Vegas!’ ”

While Kane talked a little off the record about the Las Vegas shooting, he said he was sworn to secrecy about how he fared against the 90 other national finalists: “Folks will just have to watch.”

“American Ninja Warrior,” a clone of Japan’s 30-year-old series “Sasuke,” puts the fittest of obstacle-course challengers through a four-stage test that emulates a journey across the Orient’s Mount Midoriyama. Tasks with names like Cannonball Alley and Rumbling Dice are designed to discourage even the strongest, most courageous contestants.

The winner of this sixth season will pocket $500,000.

(Spoiler alert: Kane didn’t drive a Bentley to his interview with The Enterprise.)

“I was happy with my performance,” said Kane, adding that it was terrific to have his parents (Karen and David), brother Ben, Megan and his in-laws (Diane and John Soto) among many friends in the finals’ audience.

But now it’s back to reality: school, family and someday soon a health-related business with Megan.

“With kids, you have to move back to Davis,” Kane explains. “It’s like the best place ever for kids.”

Oliver and Dad can be seen at playgrounds throughout the city, both hitting jungle gyms or monkey bars hard.

“I’m trying to make movement an everyday part of what I do — like when I do P.E. with my students at school,” says the reconstituted Davisite. “Playing around at the playground when I go with my son, I’m probably on the play structure as much as he is.

“But I’ve met a few parents that do that, too, so we’ve been working out little challenges for each other.”

In the Kane family, obstacles have become part of the fabric:

“Oliver is now setting up blocks and pillows in the house. He’ll run through, then jump over something, then (pose), shouting — ‘American Ninja Warrior!’ ”

Kane knows exercise augments classroom instruction and he believes using physics and math to chart movement and gains in reaching new heights and lengths can add to the fun of learning.

“I’d like to develop some sort of curriculum that uses obstacle courses, physical movement to teach science, calculus,” Kane continues. “Get your brain working with your body. I think the kids would love it.”

Kane is plotting a map of playgrounds in Davis, surveying different obstacles people could attempt. There might be a class in that effort, he adds.

All of this attention to physical fitness comes with the support and inspiration of wife Megan, a restorative exercise specialist. The pair are developing what they hope will be a new business: Revolution Movement (www.revolutionmovement.net).

“She’s been a big influence for me,” says the hopeful Ninja Warrior. “Restorative health is all about body health and alignment, full-body awareness and movement.”

But with school starting next month and the baby coming, the business is something that may not move forward immediately.

So, through all this, has Oliver become a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan? Don’t forget that new ninja movie is due out this week.

“My mom calls all this American Warrior-stuff Ninja Turtles,” Alex says with a laugh. “But I don’t think Oliver knows anything about the Turtles yet. But my favorite? Michelangelo … the orange one.”

Depending upon how Las Vegas went, maybe the next film with Mikey, Donatello, Rafael and Leonardo will feature their human friend Alex Kane.

Notes: Alex was once so good on his skateboard that he earned sponsorship by Ground Zero. When he and his brother hit the road to see the world right after high school, Alex strapped that board to his back and found the sidewalks and piazzas much to his liking. Later, Kane had the chance to surf El Salvador, Mexico and Tasmania (during the Down Under winter with snow on the beach). He’s looking forward to hitting the Northern California breakers once the fall and winter swells show up. Meanwhile, locals probably will get a glimpse of Kane at Rocknasium, the Central Park playground or in his new digs at Korematsu Elementary School. 

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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