Course Formats

At this point you should have a general familiarity with the various course formats found at ninja competitions.

In this section we will take a deeper look at the specific rules and regulations governing each of these formats. Additionally, we will include some coaching tips or strategies for each format. Let’s get started!

Flow Course

This format is sometimes referred to as the “one and done” format because the athlete’s progress is only tracked till their first missed obstacle. In this format there is significant emphasis placed on the athletes ability to adapt their abilities and complete new obstacles on their first attempt. Here is how it works:

Athletes will receive one point for each obstacle they successfully complete.

Once the athlete comes in contact with something not in play while attempting an obstacle the ref will mark them as having failed to complete that obstacle.

At this point, the athletes score will reflect the time registered for their last completed obstacle.

As long as there is time remaining, athletes may continue to attempt obstacles. However, no additional progress for the athlete will be recorded.

All athletes in the competition will be sorted by the most completed obstacles in the least amount of time.

Flow Course Strategies

There are a few strategies athletes or coaches may execute when faced with the Flow Course format. Must of these strategies revolve around the crux point. Let’s start by defining a crux point:

Crux Point

The term crux point comes from Rock Climbing. In climbing the term refers to hardest part of a climbing route or project. In ninja, the term crux point is often used to describe the obstacle on the course with the highest fail percentage.

Today we will focus on two of the most popular strategies: Racing to the Crux and Pacing to the Crux.

Racing to the Crux

In the Flow Format athletes are evaluated by the most obstacles in the least time. If all athletes in a competition fail the crux point, the athlete who made it there fastest will win. Therefore, it’s a common strategy for the athlete to get to the crux point as quickly as they can. This will give them the best possible positioning if they are unable to clear the crux. However, this strategy has the downside of fatiguing the athlete. It is common to see the athlete rest after racing to the crux to recover some of their energy but typically athletes will have exhausted more energy then if they paced themselves to the crux point.

Pacing to the Crux

Athletes who feel confident in their ability to clear a crux may pace themselves through the obstacles leading into the crux. This slower approach will put them in a poor position if they are unable to clear the crux. However, this strategy consumes less energy and often puts the athlete in the best position to successfully complete the crux obstacle.

Full Course

Full Course scoring places an emphasis on the athletes performance on each obstacle in a course. This format evaluates athletes based on the obstacles they complete and how fast the athlete was able to complete them.

The winner of Full Course competitions will be the athlete who completed the most difficult obstacles. This is determined by the individual difficulty points an athlete gains by completing obstacles.

When multiple athletes complete the same obstacles the Full Course scoring breaks ties by evaluating who averaged the best time placements across all obstacles.

Let’s take a deeper look at how the scoring works.

Difficulty Points

Each obstacle will have it’s own difficulty points. Difficulty points can vary between 0 and 11 points. More difficult obstacles will yield higher difficulty points.

Difficulty points are objectively determined by how many athletes cleared an obstacle.

When more athletes clear an obstacle the points awarded for that obstacle become less.

When less athletes clear an obstacle the difficulty points reflect by increasing.

This style of dynamic scoring may seem confusing at first. However, experienced coaches will quickly identify which obstacles are the most challenging for athletes and therefore will likely yield the most difficulty points.

It’s important to dynamically assign difficulty points when evaluating an athletes performance across an entire course. Difficulty points provide the ability to evaluate two when multiple athletes clear the same number of obstacles but they each clear different obstacles. Difficulty points will objectively determine which obstacles were more challenging for the field at that competition.

Difficulty Points Math

Full Course scoring using a simple equation to objectively evaluate the difficulty of obstacles. We’ll list the equation below but the math is less important then the concept driving it. It’s important to have an objective method for determining which obstacle should be placed higher when comparing two different obstacles.

1 + ( 10 * {The Fail Percentage of the Obstacle} )

Note: Athletes who failed to attempt an obstacle will not be factored into the fail percentage calculation. Not considering athletes who were unable to reach later obstacles incentivizes athletes to focus on each obstacle in the course. Skipping obstacles will yield margin rewards. When only one athlete attempts and clears an obstacle the difficulty score will be the lowest possible. Additionally, opting to skip or automatically fail an obstacle will drive up difficulty points for other athletes.

Difficulty Score

An athlete’s difficulty score is the sum of all the difficulty points awarded throughout their course run.

The athletes with the highest overall difficulty score will have the best placements in the competition results.

Note: It is impossible to have a higher difficulty score then an athlete who cleared all obstacles in a Full Course.

In a moment we will discuss Time Scores and address how the scoring handles when multiple athletes have the same Overall Difficulty Scores. But first, we wanted to introduce the most common Full Course Strategy. Overall Difficulty Score is the most important factor in Full Course Scoring. Time Scores are only considered when there is a tie between two or more obstacles. Therefore, most experienced coaches and athletes will place a strong emphasis on the successfully completing every obstacle the athlete can.

Completing every obstacle the athlete can will result in the most possible difficulty points. Having the highest possible difficulty points will give the athlete the best placement possible. Later we’ll introduce a secondary strategy utilized to account for tie break scenarios.

Time Score

The time it took an athlete to complete any given obstacle is only considered when multiple athletes are tied for overall difficulty score.

Time Scores will evaluate the athletes performance on each obstacle in the Full Course. Evaluating each obstacle individually allows the scoring to objectively place multiple athletes who completed different obstacles.

    Additionally, evaluating individual obstacles helps equalize any time differences between obstacles. The aim of Full Course Scoring is to give a complete picture of an athletes performance across all obstacles in a course. Depending on the course, different individual obstacles may account for more or less of the total course time. Obstacles that occupy more of the total course time have a significant chance of drastically impacting an athletes overall time.

    For Example: Imagine a two obstacle course. One obstacle features a short series( 10 seconds ) of campusing movements. The second obstacle features a longer( 30 seconds ), slower foot dexterity obstacle. The athlete fastest overall athlete will often be the athlete who completed the Slower Obstacle fastest and not the athlete who performed better on both.

    Full Course Scoring seeks to eliminate any biases or favoritism from any individual obstacle and instead focus on the athletes performance across all the obstacles and types featured in throughout a course. Let’s dive into how time scoring achieves this.

    Time Placements

    Athletes will receive a time placement on each individual obstacle in the course based on the time it took the athlete to complete it relative to the competition.

    The athletes time for the current obstacle is tracked from the moment they completed or failed the previous obstacle.

    All athletes who fail an obstacle will receive one placement higher then the slowest athlete who cleared that obstacle.

    Overall Time Score

    Athletes overall time score will be the sum of each of their time placements from all obstacles in the Full Course.

    The overall time score will determine which athlete performed best on average across all obstacles in a course.

    In the event multiple athletes are tied for overall difficulty score, the athlete with the lowest overall time score will receive the better placement.

    Ties for Overall Difficulty and Time Score

    In the event athletes are tied for overall difficulty and time scores, and both athletes cleared the all obstacles in the course:

    The athlete with the fastest overall time in the course will receive the better placement. The fastest overall time is calculated by adding the time it took the athlete to complete each individual obstacle.

    In the event multiple athletes are tied for overall difficulty and time scores, and both athletes did not clear all obstacles in the course.

    The result will end in a true tie.

    Full Course Strategies

    The primary objective for athletes competing in Full Course competitions should always be clear every obstacles the athlete is capable of. This should always result in the highest difficulty score and the best result for the athlete.

    Now that we’ve covered how time scoring works, its important to look at strategies for athlete pacing throughout a full course. Given the roll time scores have in breaking ties, it is important for athletes to maintain an efficient pace on every obstacle. This must be managed effectively to ensure athletes have enough energy to successfully complete every obstacle they can. This pace will vary depending on the athlete and the course.

    In an effort to best communicate which strategies work best for different athletes, we will create a two example athletes to help you process which strategy may work best for your athlete.


    Our All-Star athlete is best in class. They have endurance for days and very few limitations on the course. For this athlete, the best approach on full course is to go all out. There’s a high probability other All-Star athletes will Full Clear the Full Course. When this happens it will come down to timing on each individual obstacle. Therefore, it’s important this athlete move as efficiently as they can throughout the entire course.

    At the end of the competition, review each individual obstacle. Identify which obstacle types of the athlete’s lowest placements. Improving their efficiency on these types will help improve their Full Course Scoring.

    Average Athlete

    Our average athlete is well rounded but has some identifiable strengths and weakness on courses. There are certain obstacles that prove more challenging for this athlete. The best approach for this athlete is to move quickly through obstacles they are proficient with but slow their pace on more challenging obstacles. Slowing the pace will yield two advantageous:

    • Resting before a challenging obstacle will ensure the best chance at success on that obstacle. Remember, obstacle timing is scored individually. Therefore the athlete only stands to gain by resting before a challenging obstacle. Just be mindful of overall time. It’s important to reach all the obstacles in a full course.
    • Resting before a challenging obstacle also ensures the athlete has sufficient energy to complete later obstacles in the course.

    At the end of the competition, identify which obstacle types the athlete missed. Focus on their endurance and technique on these obstacle types to improve their performance at Full Course Competitions.

    Full Course Note:

    This wraps our training on Full Course but we felt it was important to mention that it is possible the athlete with the Fastest Overall Time will not win a Full Course competition. Most of the time the athlete with the fastest overall time is the same athlete performs best across all obstacles and wins the full course competition. However, sometimes the athlete with the fastest overall time does not win the competition. This typically happens when an athlete makes up a significant time on one or two individual obstacles that are considerably longer then the other obstacles in the competition. Since full course scoring evaluates the athletes performance on all obstacles the athlete who performed best on average across all obstacles will still win over the athlete who had the fastest overall time.