SASUKE (サスケ) Stages
The 1ST Stage is designed to test a competitor's overall athletic ability. Over time repeat competitors condition themselves to pass the stage. Once that happens the Sasuke stage designers will overhaul some of the obstacles to make it more difficult.
One hundred participants are given the opportunity to attempt the First Stage, a course which primarily tests one's speed. The object is to hit the buzzer at the end of the course before the allotted time expires. If a competitor goes out of bounds or comes into contact with the water in any of the pits below the course, he is disqualified.
Typically, 85 to 90 of the 100 original entrants are eliminated in this stage. However, in the 4th competition, a record 37 of the original 100 competitors made it past the first stage. After the 4th, 17th, and 27th competition, the first stage was thoroughly redesigned to be much more difficult and prevent large numbers of people from moving on. In fact, a G4 special inside the making of the 18th Sasuke competition revealed that the redesign of the first stage for the 18th competition was done with the intention of seeing all 100 challengers fail it. This did not happen, however, and that has only spurred the production team on to make this and all stages to follow even harder.
That goal was almost met in the 19th competition, where much to everyone's surprise, only two competitors cleared the first stage (neither of the two being Sasuke All-Stars), a record in Sasuke history. (The only time something similar has happened was in the first Kunoichi, where again, only two competitors cleared the first stage.) Executive producer Ushio Higuchi said in interviews later that even he was surprised at the results, anticipating that around 10 to 12 people would survive in spite of the production team's attempts at making the first stage unbeatable.
The 2ND Stage has traditionally been used to test a competitor's speed, however when the Salmon Ladder obstacle was added in Sasuke 18 upper body strength became important too.
Those with enough skill to complete stage one then take on an even more grueling set of obstacles in stage two. 283 competitors have reached the Second Stage. Like stage one, the obstacles alter throughout the competitions, but all hold to the same principle: if the competitor makes a single mistake they fall into the water below. The obstacles determine the time limit, and it is usually between 50 and 100 seconds.
Unlike the First Stage, which has always required the competitors to hit a buzzer at the end of the course to stop the clock and pass the course, the Second Stage did not have a buzzer at its end until the 8th Competition. Before then, the competitors simply walked through an open gate to stop the clock. From the 8th Competition onward, the buzzer opens the gate. If the competitor busts open the gate without hitting the button, they are disqualified. In addition, the course judges can hold the gates closed if a competitor committed a foul earlier in the Second Stage that would result in their disqualification, such as using the Chain Reaction gloves on the Spider Walk as Mr. "SASUKE" Katsumi Yamada had done in the 12th competition.
On average, 10 to 15 competitors attempt the Second Stage on each competition. A record 37 competitors attempted the Second Stage during the 4th Competition. Also during the 4th Competition, a record 11 competitors cleared the Second Stage. During the 5th Competition, however, only three men made it to the Second Stage due to new, tougher obstacles in the First Stage. In the 19th Competition, neither of the two qualified competitors cleared the circuit (a fall and a timeout on the Salmon Ladder), marking the earliest end of a SASUKE competition.
The 3RD Stage has always been about upper body strength. The obstacles are designed to tax a competitors stamina and only the best are able to defeat it.
In addition the 3RD Stage is so wickedly hard that there is no time limit. If you make it, you make it. If you don't make it...better luck next time!
The third stage has no time limit, allowing contestants to go at their own pace. Contestants are allowed a few seconds of rest between obstacles during which they can apply "sticky spray" to improve their grip. While the first two stages focus on speed and agility, this course almost exclusively tests one's upper body strength and stamina.
Out of over 2,700 total competitors and 283 Second Stage competitors, 139 have attempted the Third Stage. The Third Stage is so grueling that, on average, someone passes it only every other competition. Only 22 individuals have ever passed it, and only four have passed it more than once.
The FINAL Stage is all about endurance. It's a vertical climb which gets higher every time someone beats it. The Sasuke Tower has become the iconic symbol of SASUKE/Ninja Warrior.
To date, the Final Stage has known four forms. Each of these share a single, common goal: to scale the tower and reach the button at the top before time expires. If the competitor does not reach the top platform in time, the rope is cut and the competitor falls (they are caught by a safety line). Starting from the 18th competition, the rope is no longer cut. Reaching the top is referred to as kanzenseiha (完全制覇), translated roughly as "complete domination", and rendered on Ninja Warrior as "total victory". The Final Stage's time limit is between 30 and 45 seconds.
Of all the competitors to attempt to claim victory, only 23 have been admitted to the final stage, and only four of them have gotten there more than once (Akira Omori in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd competitions, Shingo Yamamoto in the 3rd and 7th, Makoto Nagano in the 11th, 12th, 13th, his victory in the 17th competition and in the 23rd competition and Yuuji Urushihara in the 22nd and his victory in the 24th competition and 27). Currently there are only three victors: Kazuhiko Akiyama defeated Sasuke in the 4th Competition, Makoto Nagano in the 17th, and Yuuji Urushihara in the 24th and in the 27th.
The original Final Stage consisted of climbing a 15 meter (49 ft) rope. The contestant must start climbing from a seated position.
The second version of the Final Stage was unveiled in the 7th Competition, when Shingo Yamamoto became the first to attempt it. The height of the tower was increased to 22.5 metres (74 ft). It consists of a 12.5 metres (41 ft) Spider Climb followed by a 10 metres (33 ft) Rope Climb. After 15 seconds, the walls of the Spider Climb spread apart. This ensnared Yordan Yovtchev during the 8th Competition, when he failed to complete the Spider Climb before it began spreading, and fell off the tower.
The third version of the Final Stage was revealed in the 22nd competition, when Yuuji Urushihara was the first to try it. The height of the tower remained mostly the same as the second version of the Final Stage, but two new obstacles are used: a 13 metres (43 ft) "Heavenly Ladder" and a 10 metres (33 ft) "G Rope." The time limit has been increased to 45 seconds, then reduced to 40 seconds in the 23rd competition. Competitors are not dropped due to the Heavenly Ladder being in the way.
The fourth version of the Final Stage was revealed in the 27th competition, when Ryo Matachi was the first to attempt it. The height of the tower was reduced to 20 meters and consisted of a 20 meter (66 ft) Rope Climb similar to the first version of the Final Stage, but with a 5 meter height difference. The time limit stayed at 40 seconds. Unlike the first version of the Final Stage, competitors started at a standing position instead of a seated position.
The prize for completing the Final Stage was ¥2,000,000 (about US$18,618). The prize has now increased to ¥4,000,000 (about US$37,236) since the completion of the 17th tournament. In the 24th tournament a Nissan Fuga was also a prize if anyone could complete the final stage.
Typically, only one or two people make it to the Final Stage, if any make it at all. However, both the 3rd and 24th competitions saw a record 5 competitors attempt the Final Stage. After the 4th competition, though, the Final Stage was only achieved on average every other tournament.