'Jungle gym for adults' trains new generation of 'ninjas' in Clackamas County

With features like the spider wall, the cliffhanger and cannonball alley, Milwaukie's UrbanWarrior is no ordinary gym.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jonah Elliott swings on the tilting frame at Urban Warrior, an indoor obstacle course gym on Southeast King Road in Milwaukie.The indoor obstacle course is "adventure training, so we want you to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's a little scary; it was designed that way," said Jonah Elliott, co-owner of UrbanWarrior.

"It's difficult without being dangerous. We say anyone from age 6 to 76 can come in and be active," added co-owner Kris Dunlap.

The gym, located in Wichita Town Center next to the bottle drop on King Road, opened in July.

It is one of a kind, said Elliott and Dunlap, who designed and built the courses themselves, basing the workouts on obstacle-course training.

The two men have been friends since their days at Beaverton High School, and when they started doing obstacle-course races, they realized there was no place to train.

"There was a gap in the market, and we always wanted to open a business together," Dunlap said.

The pair figured they would get into the fitness business, but realized their gym had to be special to set it apart.

"There is no book on how to do this," Elliott said, and so they did extensive research on how to design a gym that challenges participants but at the same time develops self-confidence.

Dunlap and Elliott looked at five locations before settling on the King Road site. They wanted to be in Clackamas County, since both live in Happy Valley.

They are really pleased with the location, noting that people often come in from the bottle drop to ask them about the gym, Elliott said.

"That wasn't planned," Dunlap added.

'American Ninja Warrior'

The two men designed UrbanWarrior to look like the set of "American Ninja Warrior," an obstacle-course competition series on NBC.

"Four people who have been on season nine train here, and a couple of our trainers have applied for the next season" of the show, Dunlap said.

"We have fantastic reviews from the people who were on season nine. They like our modular format that will allow us to change up the obstacles on a regular basis," Elliott said.

"The ninja community is very encouraging."

Dunlap's favorite obstacle at UrbanWarrior is the double salmon ladder.

"It is the hardest thing in here because of the mental aspect. It is visually interesting to watch someone do it — the skill it takes is so impressive," he said.

"You can develop that mental grit. It's exciting when people have success and trust themselves," Elliott added.

His favorite feature is the wingnut, which is the newest obstacle on the television show.

"It takes fortitude to launch yourself from one part of the obstacle to another. It takes a leap of faith; everybody freaks out the first time they see it," Elliott said.

'Jungle gym for adults'

Milwaukie resident Eric Clark was the first person to join UrbanWarrior, and he said what he likes best about the gym is the camaraderie.

"There are great people and a fun atmosphere — it's like a jungle gym for adults," he said.

His favorite obstacle on the course is cannonball alley.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Jonah Elliott and Kris Dunlap, co-owners of Urban Warrior, designed and built the obstacle courses to focus on adventure training and confidence building."It takes hand-eye coordination and muscle strength. It engages all the body to help keep you in the right atmosphere to make the obstacle work," Clark said.

People trying to master cannonball alley have to leap up and grab spheres overhead, then jump to a disk that spins, and finally jump to another set of spheres, Clark said.

"Eric is the perfect example — he didn't have the upper-body strength [when he joined], but he did some strength and endurance classes and within two weeks he could do all of phase two and most of phase three of cannonball alley," Elliott said.

"When that switch happens, it's magic. We see people pushing themselves harder and faster — they are so enthusiastic.

"It's all about excitement, adventure and having fun. As a byproduct, you get in great shape."


UrbanWarrior has flexible options for signing up; memberships, drop-ins and punch passes are all available, and no one is locked into a contract.

"We exclusively focus on strength and endurance and confidence building," Elliott said, adding that the gym has five trainers who teach classes.

"We also host private events and team-building events. Cross-fitters come in as groups, and it's fun to see the camaraderie. We want to fan that flame always," he said.

Elliott has both personal and group fitness certifications and is an obstacle-course specialist.

Dunlap joined the Army at 18 and went through confidence-building courses as part of basic training. He was a Portland police officer for 10 years and then spent 15 years in the banking world.

"The real world prepared us for this business. With Jonah's marketing and design background, we both bring great experience that the other doesn't have," Dunlap said.

"It's so rewarding to challenge people every day. With my military experience and his fitness training, this is perfect for us."

Get fit

What: UrbanWarrior, an indoor obstacle-training course

Where: 6104 S.E. King Road, Milwaukie

When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily


Contacts: Call 503-305-6222, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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