Let’s meet Dylan Mendel Boxer
Welcome internet to the second round of Unaired: Stories of the untold Ninjas. Today we have a personal friend of mine Dylan Mendel Boxer. I had the pleasure of meeting Dylan on my trip to Indianapolis, hours before any ninja related filming. I was in Denver International Airport awaiting my red eye flight to Indy, and I am a people watcher so I noticed Dylan pretty early. It wasn’t a shirt, huge muscles, or an entourage that caught my attention, instead, it was a pair of headphones on his head that were shaped like a pair of cat ears. Now being the nerd I am, I knew what they were and immediately knew what kind of person this guy was, and I like that kind of person. It wasn’t until a few days later after discussing interviews in the park, finding my lost razor, and spending hours in the waiting area that we became pretty fast friends. Dylan like me failed on the third obstacle of Indianapolis: the Pinwheels, but instead of being devastated like I was, he was positive, motivated, and happy he had the opportunity. That’s just who he is: positive to his core, he loves to help, motivate, and encourage those around him to achieve their best. After Indy Dylan and I remained in contact and began to hang out together, train together, and learn together. That’s when I learned some of the Unaired story of Dylan.
Turns out my first impression of Dylan wasn’t wrong: Huge Nerd. Dylan has always been this way even before his dreams of Ninja warrior; he has always loved anime and the art of cosplay (for those who don’t know what that is, it is essentially making elaborate costumes to dress and act like your favorite comic and nerdom characters. Google will help you here). It started as a hobby for him, but as he grew older, his love for the art and the culture developed into a self-proclaimed obsession. He, like many others of our generation, grew up watching the Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing era of anime hit American airways (thanks, Toonami!), and he loved all of the amazing and heroic feats that the characters in the show were capable of. Dylan always wanted to go out and do awesome things himself but Dylan of yore happened to be quite overweight, 50 pounds by his count, and as he said: “I wasn’t a do-er.” He needed to make a change.
Dylan loves the outside world so it only seems natural that his gym of choice is the park. Being a Denver resident he is blessed with the presence of many parks that feature outdoor workout equipment, but notably for Dylan: bars. He loves to work with the various bars you can find at the park: parallel and pull-up. Much like the now famous “Barstarzz,” Dylan and his friends believe that the simple bodyweight exercises can be the best. No need for an expensive bro-filled gym, instead he prefers a run around the park, sprints up hills, hours of jump rope, and endless sets of pullups.
Really that was Dylan’s goal: get fit, look good, and make some sweet cosplay; to his credit, he is wildly successful at it. One look at his social media and you will realize he doesn’t mess around. He has a cosplay for every situation and will make any situation one he can cosplay at. When I asked him if it was his favorite hobby, he laughed and said, “It’s a lot of fun…and it costs a lot of money!”
So Dylan’s mission was accomplished, however, Dylan is the Bard of the Party; he’s loud, charismatic, and wants everyone to succeed with the help of his fanciful support. His best friend of over a decade Dan had been struggling to keep his Ninja Warrior dreams afloat. See Dylan never dreamed of ANW, but when he knew he was now capable of making a run to the mountain top, and knowing his best friend needed a little support, he jumped right in. Dan had been unsuccessfully trying to reach the ANW stage for several seasons and with Dylan now able to try, they figured that they could make a pair of application videos showcasing both their friendship and their rivalry for one another. The theory being that a pair of ninjas with a good rivalry story would be compelling for TV audiences; they could both get invited to the show. Ironically it was Dylan who was invited to the show, for Dylan happened to have quite the story to tell.
It would be an appropriate time to mention that Dylan was in the in the Aurora Century 16 Theater the night of the theater shooting on July 20th, 2012. He wasn’t in theater 9 but Dylan was there to witness the shock, chaos, and horror of the evening. Dylan had long decided to make his journey for other people. His personal journey was losing weight, getting healthy, and becoming his own action hero. Now, with that completed he had the capability to take others on a journey, to go places that those less fortunate were unable; he was going to do this for them. “I want to show that just because you have experienced trauma, you don’t have to be traumatized.” He has since teamed up with the non-profit “Aurora Rise” to help bring relief to the families of the victims from the tragedy. It’s why he wears a shirt bearing “Team Rise” whenever he runs on the show; Dylan is always thinking of others.
This brings us to the spring of 2016, just before Indianapolis. Upon getting invited to the show, Dylan stepped his training up a notch. “I took what I had been doing and just amped it up!” Hitting the bars and the park more and more often, utilizing various ninja grip training tools (nunchucks and cannonballs to be precise), and ramping up his cardio. He arrived into Indianapolis unaware of what obstacles he would face but knowing that this would be one of the most mentally challenging tests of his life. Even so, he was “blown away” by the whole ordeal when it finally came time to hit the stage, and his training came up short. He made it to the obstacle known as the pinwheels, or Pokeball’s as we called it at the time (NERRDDDDDSSSS!), and he was unable to lache across to the second wheel and splashed down below. Dylan was fortunate enough to be featured on the show, however, as he ran the course with his now potentially signature Yarmulke on his head, signifying his Jewish faith. Somehow or another, his Yarmulke survived the journey intact and after running through a literal spin cycle on the rolling log: Dylan was made for TV.
I asked him who his favorite ninja is beside himself and he answered with another nearly unknown ninja: Ruselis Aumeen. Ruselis is an amazing guy from Colorado Springs who goes by the social media moniker of “Blackie Chan” as he ran on ANW in Indianapolis as well as on the first season of “Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge.” Dylan loves him because he is hugely built and an athletically gifted man who carries himself with such confidence, but tempers it with such great humility. Ruselis is a devout Christian man, just like Dylan is a devout Jewish man, but Dylan loves that about them both because they are able to “connect on such a spiritual level.” But most importantly, Ruselis is such a great inspiration, such a kind soul and he brings a wonderful energy to the room, “you don’t feel drained, you feel encouraged.”
Since Indianapolis Dylan has been training in different, diverse locations with more exotic equipment. He has been attending local ninja gyms with the hope of learning the technique for the more complicated obstacles, such as spider climbs and salmon ladders, since “in hindsight, I probably should have gotten some actual ninja training” before attempting the actual show. He spends his free time on his favorite hobby: longboarding. He loves the outside and will gladly pack up a backpack and hit the open road with his board traveling as far as he can, feeling the wind and the sun on his face, as he careens down hills at 25+ miles per hour. He loves the “Roller coaster fear: where you feel like you are in danger but you really aren’t.” He is planning on getting back to the show so he can make it farther than he did before; he always wants to raise the bar and now the bar is set at obstacle three. He would be elated to finish the course but Dylan is a satisfied knowing that he is improving, and can’t wait to show that off. He submitted his application this past December and at the time of this writing he, and so many others from the Denver region are awaiting their phone calls with giddy excitement.
I am honored to have met you, got to know you, and call you my friend. Dylan, for you and for those who you help Rise to the challenge of hardship: I know you’ll make it back, so make it great, and make it fun.
Like what you read? Leave Dylan some words of encouragement in the comments below!
PS: Interview Lightning Round!
Favorite Pet: His best pal! A black lab named Trooper, but if he could have anything it would be a Great White Shark in a James Bond villain-style tank.
Super Power of Choice: Teleporting. He hates paying to travel and he definitely doesn’t like being in vehicles for long periods of time but he loves to experience new places.
Favorite Movie: Princess Bride. He has supposedly seen it over 100 times and the “whole movie is my favorite part.”