Michigan ninja warrior has message for people suffering from depression and debilitating anxiety

‘I think it’s ok not to be ok means like, you should know that it’s ok to have issues and it’s ok to talk about them,’

Be prepared to be wowed by feats of physical magic as a Downriver teenager hurls himself through the air performing super human displays of strength during NBC's American Ninja Warrior Monday night.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Be prepared to be wowed by feats of physical magic as a Downriver teenager hurls himself through the air performing super human displays of strength during NBC’s American Ninja Warrior Monday night.

I think there was a song written many years ago about the 15-year-old from Riverview. It went something like, ‘that dearing young man with the greatest of ease, flew threw the air.’ Now the song says something about flying trapeze, except for Ethan Gardulski.

You’d need to exchange the word trapeze for whatever the NBC show American Ninja Warrior designs that are crazy and absolutely impossible pieces of apparatus because he nailed it last night on the qualifiers.

Seen in the video player above is Gardulski at Gripz Gym in Southfield, a gym designed for people whose superpowers are hidden beneath the veneer of being ordinary.

Except he is no ordinary athlete; he is an outrageously talented athlete who’s performing with a platform that it’s ok not to be ok.

“I think it’s ok not to be ok means like, you should know that it’s ok to have issues and it’s ok to talk about them,” said Gardulski.

Gardulski suffered from depression and debilitating anxiety. His parents say he was teased and bullied relentlessly in school.

“He struggled in middle school to a point where we pulled him out,” said his mother, Claire Gardulski. " In the eighth grade, he went back into a public school. Things were going ok, then COVID hit.”

Ethan Gardulski’s parents actually welcomed the isolation of remote learning because of COVID. Still, this prowess actually popped out before COVID four short years ago.

Gardulski was looking for a way to get away from his tormentors and met another lanky, unassuming Michigander named Phil Scott, who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome and also wowed the crowds with his American Ninja Warrior-styled ability.

“It’s been so great to see him grow up into the young man that he has become,” said Scott. “I remember when he first came into the gym; he was very much like me when I was his age. Very shy and very quiet.”

“It’s not just about your pure strength; it’s about how well you can throw yourself through the air with your body weight,” Ethan Gardulski said.

You can watch Gardulski problem solving and thinking on his feet and with his fingers in the video player above.

That help comes from being a friend and ninja coach to Gardulski.

“I like to really think about each obstacle individually and break them down while also running through the course a couple of times,” Ethan Gardulski said.

And in case you were wondering, he advanced to the semi-finals.


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.