Skills Rules & Formats

We learned about some of the differences between courses and skills in an earlier section. Skills differentiate themselves by focusing on a single obstacle type or theme.

Skills feature a wide variety of types and categories that allow course designers to truly test all the various skills and techniques in ninja. Let’s jump in and learn more about the the rules surrounding skills competitions.

Skills competitions are essentially multi-event competitions. Athletes will compete in multiple individual skills events and then receive an overall ranking for the competition based on the sum of their placements from each individual skill. The athlete with the lowest sum of placements in any given division will be the winner of the skills competition.

Currently the rulebook requires competitions feature between 4-12 skills. We recommend having a time limit of 45 seconds or greater for any one skill. Challenge skills, which we will cover momentarily, need longer time limits to allow sufficient time for the athlete to take multiple attempts.

Similar to Course Rules, Skills competitions will also feature a rules walkthrough. During the walkthrough the ref will identify the skills type, category and what is in play for that obstacle.

Athletes must start skills from the designated start platform completely disengaged from any obstacle. Similar to courses the ref will indicate when it is time for the athlete to start the skill using a consistent start signal.

Example: The ref will say out loud “3”, “2”, “1”, “GO!”.

Skills Types

All skills events fit into one of two categories. Flow or Challenge. We already learned about Flow and Challenge courses. Flow and Challenge Skills feature very similar rules and scoring.

Flow Skills Type

Flow Skills score athletes by only registering their progress to their last completed obstacle. Athletes are ranked by the furthest progress in the least amount of time.

Flow skills may or may not have a time limit and athletes run is over when they come in contact with something out of bounds.

Strategies for Flow Skills

Flow Skills typically are designed to test the ability for the athlete to clear an obstacle on an athlete’s first attempt. These skills may have a trick or a technique the athlete needs in order to complete the skill. We recommend paying close attention to the demo athlete. What body mechanics do they use to navigate the obstacle? Watching the demo athlete may unlock the secret technique needed to successfully complete the Flow Skill on your first attempt.

Body Mechanics

The term body mechanics is used in ninja to describe the different positioning or movements an athlete is doing with their body in order an effort to complete an obstacle.

This term is often used to provide additional additional detail to describe a specific technique and is used interchangeably with body positioning.

Challenge Skill Types

Flow Skills place a strong emphasis on athletes completing an obstacle successfully on their first try. Challenge Skills differ by allowing athletes multiple attempts on a single skill. Athletes have unlimited attempts on challenge skills as long as there is time remaining. Similar to challenge courses, all challenge skills must have a time limit. The athletes run will be over when they come in contact with anything out of bounds during an attempt on an obstacle or when their time expires.

Challenge Skills and Courses feature a few key differences. One key difference between the two is obstacles requiring reset. Challenge Courses are allowed obstacles that need to be reset. Courses feature greater time limits and there is often sufficient time for obstacles require reset. Challenge Skills tend to have shorter time limits and could provide a poor experience if a reset was needed.

Another key difference is where the athlete starts their new attempt from. In challenge courses, athletes will restart from the start platform of their missed obstacle. In Challenge skills the athlete is brought back to the original start platform to start their next attempt. Here the athlete will wait for their new countdown to begin their next attempt.

Strategies for Challenge Skills

Challenge skills can vary widely depending on the category the skill is testing. It is difficult to pick a specific strategy before knowing more information regarding the overall theme for the skill. Let’s take a look at some of the different categories of skills to provide more context.

Skills Categories

Skills Categories help to define the objective or goal for any given skill. Both Flow and Challenge Skills can be scored as any of the categories.

Each category focuses on a different goal or objective. The different categories feature slightly different rules and scoring that match the specific talent the skill is attempting to test. Let’s take a look at each of these categories.

Fastest Completion

Fastest Completion skills may be slightly misleading. Athletes competing in this skills category are ranked by furthest progress in least amount of time. However, the emphasis is not always placed on speed. Often these skills are challenging and there is a greater emphasis on how far an athlete can progress through a skill.

Fastest completion skills may only have one active athlete on the skill at any given time. The skill may utilize platforms, touch points or point zones to score athletes. All fastest completion skills must end with a buzzer.

If the fastest completion skill is of the challenge type, each additional attempt will be a fresh start. The number of attempts only factors into scoring when there is a tie for furthest progress and time. When there is a tie the winner will be the athlete who achieved their score in less attempts.

Fastest Completion Strategy

Fastest completion skill strategy may vary depending on the skill type. Let’s look at each type:

Flow type: It is important to place a high emphasis on progressing as far into the skill as possible. Completing more obstacles is important in this skill category.

Challenge type: Athletes may want to start with a conservative approach. Going through the skill once at a safe pace will help lock in a safe time. Going conservative first will help ensure the athlete has at least one solid score on the leaderboard before time expires. Once they’ve achieved a result they are happy with the athlete should use the remaining time to attempt a more aggressive approach to improve their time.

Longest Time

This skill category focuses on the athlete’s endurance. The winner of longest time skills are the athletes who hang in there the longest!

Skills categorized as longest time can score multiple athletes at the same time! This ability can really speed up the efficiency of competitions. However, all athletes must be given the same obstacle and there must be an individual ref for each athlete.

For longest time skills, refs will clarify what is in play for the skill. They will clarify if the obstacle is hands, feet or both. When the athlete(s) start the longest time skill they will engage with the obstacle as long as possible.

There are slight differences in scoring between challenge and flow types of this category so let’s take a look at each:

Flow Skill: The athlete’s scoring will stop when they come in contact with anything out of bounds.

Challenge Skill: The athlete may use additional attempts to increase their overall time as long as there is time remaining.

Longest Time Strategy

Longest time skills are primarily endurance tests. There may be small strategies athletes or coaches may use such as grip position or body mechanics to improve balance. However, these topics go beyond the scope of this training. We recommend focusing on athletes conditioning as a general strategy to improve their performance on longest time skills.

Highest Repetition

Highest Rep is another endurance based skill. This skill category can be applied to obstacles or movements.

We are already familiar with obstacles. Movements could be something as simple as pull ups or push ups.

Let’s take a look at the rules for each of these endurance skills.

In the highest repetition skill category, the referee will rank athletes based on who can do the most repetitions of an obstacle series in the fastest time. The obstacle series can feature touch points, point zones or platforms but does not feature a buzzer.

Highest repetition skills must have a time limit but allow athletes to do as many repetitions as possible within that time limit. Having a buzzer could prevent the athlete from reaching their maximum reps!

Let’s take a look at the slight scoring differences between Flow and Challenge Types in this category:

Flow: Athletes will be scored until they come in contact with something out of bounds.

Challenge: Athletes progress will be scored until their time expires. Additional attempts will increase their overall total. Number of attempts will only come into play in the event multiple athletes are tied for reps and time.

Maximum Reps Strategy

If this the Maximun Reps skills is of the flow type, we recommend focusing on athletes conditioning to improve performance.

If the skill is a challenge skill, the athlete can take two approaches on the skill. They can either go all out on their first attempt and try to maximize the number of reps. This may make subsequent attempts harder. Alternatively, they may strategizes to come off the obstacle after reaching a set number of reps so they can recover before their next attempt. This may allow a stronger second attempt. Both strategies have been used effectively and the best strategy will vary depending on the athlete.


This concludes our training on the skills format. At this point you should know the following material:

  • The difference between Flow and Challenge Types.
  • How challenge skills differ from challenge courses.
  • What the different skills categories are and how they are scored.