KENMORE, NY- A 7th grader at St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore is known for being one of the smallest kids in his class. But his size isn't holding him back as he's about to unleash his inner ninja in the national spotlight.
11-year-old Charlie Kowalski has no fear.
"I always liked going to the playground and climbing things," he said.
Charlie's mom, Stacie Kowalski, couldn't believe some of his tricks at such a young age.
"He was like a monkey bar genius," she said. "He'd spider climb in our doorways and spider climb up the stairwell. So yeah, it was definitely a skill he possessed early on for sure."
When Charlie was 7-years-old, his mom reached out to Patrick Hall, a contestant on American Ninja Warrior on seasons 5 and 6, who trained adults in a Western New York gym.
"This young kid saw me as a ninja on TV and I was looking at him like, 'look what this kid can do,'" Hall recalled.
So Hall founded his own ninja warrior training gym for kids and teens called Hybrid Ninja Academy. Charlie Kowalski was Hall's very first student. He now trains as many as 4 days a week at the gym in Lancaster.
"Charlie is unbelievably agile and surefooted. He's confident. He's light on his feet. He's very strong. His strength to weight ratio is off the charts," said Hall. As a young man, he's humble, and he's kind, and he's easy to root for. I truly can't think of a better representation of where the sport is going than Charlie Kowalski."
Charlie's so good, he was selected to compete on a brand new TV series called "American Ninja Warrior Junior." Of 10,000 applicants, Charlie said he was one of only 280 to make it on the show. He taped the competition in Los Angeles for 5 days in July and competed against 64 other 11 and 12-year-olds.
"The show was probably the most fun thing I've ever done," Charlie said. "The hardest part about the show was the nerves before you run. So you just had to breathe to get the nerves out of you."
He said balance obstacles are his favorite, and he struggles with obstacles requiring height. At just over 4'6" Charlie is small for his age. But what he lacks in height, he makes up for in determination and grit.
American Ninja Warrior Junior debuts Saturday, October 13, at 7pm on Universal Kids Network.
Charlie continues to train for other local, regional and national ninja competitions including the National Ninja League World Finals in Connecticut in February and the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Alliance tournament finals in May.