A tiny desk in a space the size of a refrigerator near the entry door of Shinobi Fitness is all Tim Minnick devotes to the administrative side of his business.
The former Bethalto police officer and longtime ninjutsu trainer uses the rest of the 2,000 square feet of the building at 127 W. MacArthur Drive in Cottage Hills to train kids and adults on Ninja Warrior-themed equipment he built himself, including such obstacles as warped walls, grip hangs, quintuple steps and the spinning log.
Minnick, 37, built it after competing in the regional trials for American Ninja Warrior’s sixth season in 2014. He didn’t advance — his demise was an obstacle unfriendly to his knees, which had endured four prior surgeries — but vowed to train more seriously anyway.
“I starting building (obstacles) in my backyard. After that, people wanted to come over to train with me,” Minnick said. “Insurance companies kind of frown on that. I got a business license, picked up extra insurance.”
I decided I’m going to pull the trigger; I’m going to try this full time. I walked away from nine years (as a police officer), from my pension and everything else, left it. On complete faith, left all that.
Tim Minnick, owner of Shinobi Fitness
When a friend suggested Minnick host an event for children, he almost balked. The equipment he’d built was meant for adults. But testing the waters online, he found demand for such an event was there, big time. After locating his current building and filling it with equipment, the event for kids was held. It was a full house.
So Minnick decided to walk away from law enforcement.
“I decided I’m going to pull the trigger; I’m going to try this full time,” Minnick said Thursday evening. “I walked away from nine years (as a police officer), from my pension and everything else, left it. On complete faith, left all that.”
Was it the right choice?
“I believe it was. My heart was in this,” Minnick said. “So much of law enforcement has changed. Used to be when you’re a law enforcement officer, people looked up to you. It’s not the same way anymore. I didn’t like that. I felt I could do more for the community and more for the kids in a positive manner through Ninja Warrior training than I could doing that.”
So much of law enforcement has changed. Used to be when you’re a law enforcement officer, people looked up to you. It’s not the same way anymore. I didn’t like that. I felt I could do more for the community and more for the kids in a positive manner through Ninja Warrior training than I could doing that.
Shinobi was full Thursday night. The 8 p.m. class included kids as young as 11 up to middle-aged men. And ninja training isn’t just a boy thing: Several girls and young women were there, too.
One of the ninjas in training at Thursday’s class was Harrison Dockery, 14, of Edwardsville. Dark-haired and very skinny, he keeps a calm, even demeanor but makes even the most challenging obstacles look easy. Minnick said Harrison was the youngest person he trains with who can scale the 14-foot warped wall, a narrow ramp that looks like a cross section of a bowl at a skate park that’s been tipped onto its side.
“At an early age, he was wrestling and he was climbing things. He would shimmy up the doorways in the house,” Harrison’s dad Chris said. The two watch Ninja Warrior on TV together, and Chris had a hunch Harrison would like to train.
“We started looking for something (like Shinobi) and I showed it to him and said, ‘Let’s go try it.’ Since he’s been here, he just loves it,” Chris said.
It’s is fantastic. You see the show and you always think ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ But it’s a lot harder than it looks and it takes a lot of training.
Harrison Dockery, who trains at Shinobi
“It’s fantastic,” Harrison said. “You see the show and you always think ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ But it’s a lot harder than it looks and it takes a lot of training.”
Chris said he’s glad Minnick opened Shinobi Fitness. He said that in the video-game age, the gym offers a positive, movement-based activity that holds kids’ interests.
“It’s good because they have really young kids all the way up through adults. It’s a good workout for the kids, it’s like a huge indoor jungle gym to them,” he said. “Especially now, it’s good to get kids doing stuff that’s good for them instead of video games and things that aren’t good for them. It’s athletic; it’s fun; it’s different. Especially for the teenagers, it is something that keeps them busy doing something that’s constructive.”
At an early age, he was wrestling and he was climbing things. He would shimmy up the doorways in the house...Since he’s been here, he just loves it
Chris Dockery, father of trainee Harrison Dockery
Minnick said he’s received lots of positive feedback since opening.
“In fact, a month after we got in here we partnered up with Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois. They allowed me to design an official patch to put on their sash,” he said. “We run a Girl Scouts program every month.”
Which is funny. Remember earlier? Minnick was uneasy about training kids at all. He said he didn’t think he’d be good with kids.
“Before this, when I trained martial arts, I never trained anybody younger than 16. Really, I think having a child is what opened it up for me. My daughter is 4 and she can do stuff with me in here. It’s crazy,” Minnick said. “Her being around and me working with her has opened that door for me with kids. Once you have one of your own, it’s like a walk in the park.”
Parents have taken notice.
“It’s a good program. (Minnick) does a great job with the kids,” Chris Dockery said, adding that each week’s classes aren’t attended by the same crowd each time. “I’ve seen a lot of new people come in.”
A constant influx of new people presents Minnick with a problem: He’s only got 2,000 square feet to work with. It gets pretty tight inside the building when as many as 30 trainees are bounding through obstacles.
He said he may have no choice but to search for a bigger space and expand his business.
Want to go?
Shinobi Fitness will have a fundraiser put on by Climb for PTSD, a Fairview Heights-based charity offering mental health and other services for veterans and others who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- What: Climb for PTSD Ninja Warrior Challenge
- When: 9 a.m. Saturday, July 16
- Where: Shinobi Fitness, 127 W. MacArthur Drive in Cottage Hills
Want to try?
Shinobi Fitness, 127 W. MacArthur Drive, Cottage Hills
- Memberships are $50 per month for one class a week or $80 per month for two classes each week. Discounts are offered for families. Shinobi also offers private parties and groups starting at $200.
- If space allows, anyone can drop in on a training session for $15.
- For more information, call Shinobi at 618-960-8463 or visit their website, www.shinobifitness.com.