A Cinderella Story: Shogun CrossFit

June 26, 2012

Jennifer Tan

As many of Shogun's athletes are active duty service members ... they truly understand the need to be ready for the unknown and unknowable.


Boasting free membership, a team of 16 voluntary trainers and a head coach with a big heart and smile to match, Shogun CrossFit sets a good first impression.

Less than a year old and already seeing more than a hundred athletes a day, the Okinawa-based affiliate will be celebrating its first anniversary in style – by cheering on its team at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.

With no fees, there is no excuse not to be in peak physical condition at the Kadena Air Base. As many of Shogun’s athletes are active duty service members from the United States Air Force, Marine Corps and Army, the men and women who train at Shogun truly understand the need to be ready for the unknown and unknowable.

The programming at Shogun reflects owner Ashley Jensen’s desire to see her athletes prepared for absolutely anything. The programming incorporates a mixture of main site workouts; influence from other affiliates, CrossFit Football, Olympic lifting, CrossFit Endurance and, most recently, the addition of 5/3/1 programming.

Having as many athletes as possible enter the Open was an intention Jensen had from the onset of Shogun CrossFit opening its doors. “I really wanted our athletes to experience some competitive programming, as well as see how they rank and stack against other CrossFitters around the world,” she says. “I didn’t want to compare them to the Rich Fronings, or the Kristan Clevers, but the other average Joes that make up 99 percent of the CrossFit community.”

With 42 registered athletes, Shogun was the largest Open team in Asia. Once the top three men and women were chosen to go to Seoul – a tough, but fair decision for Jensen, based on Open scores and other benchmarks – team Shogun ramped up their training. New standards were set for movements such as box jump heights and wall ball weights and targets, and relatively clean diets were further improved.

Not much different from any other competing team, one might think. However, something that clearly made Shogun stand out from the others during the Asia Regional was the smoothness of their transitions. The ability to communicate effectively with one another in spite of the blistering heat, shouts from the crowds and thumping bass from the speakers was obvious.

“After watching videos from last year, we knew that communication and the rotation of athletes was critical, so we had to come up with a code that allowed us to communicate, no matter how tired or out of breath we were,” Jensen explains. “This was golden and our transitions were seamless. We knew we couldn’t be in that mindset of, ‘Just get one more rep’ because that one more rep may take double the amount of time it would take the fresh athlete to complete it, if not more.”

Team Shogun’s attention to detail paid off and they took first place in four out of the six events over the three grueling days at Kyunghee University. By the end of Event 5, Jensen knew they were headed to California.

“I immediately broke down and cried. So many hours of work went into Shogun CrossFit and the team and it was all validated in that one moment,” Jensen says. “We’ve brought athletes from failing to getting an ‘Outstanding’ in their military fitness tests in only a few months, and helped so many people change their lives … we work out of an abandoned Aircraft Maintenance Facility with minimal equipment, but we did it. It was fun to be the underdog, a real life Cinderella story coming up from nothing in less than a year to earning a spot at the Games.”

While able to train specifically for the six events at the Regional, no such luxury is granted for any Games-bound individual or team, resulting yet again in a shift to the competition preparation currently underway at Shogun. “I think all athletes on our team feel the additional pressure to represent our region to the best of our ability and it shows in our training since the Regionals,” says Michael O’Brien, Level 1 trainer and team member.

Athletes have been focusing on weaknesses and movements not seen during the Open or Regional competitions – General Physical Preparedness being the aim of the game.

Jensen is well aware that the Games are a whole new playing field, yet she is realistically optimistic about the Games. “Our goal is to make it through the second day without being cut,” she says. “Beyond that? Keep winning the Asia Regional.”

With deployment on the horizon for Jensen next year, she leaves behind big shoes to fill.

Post-Games, the gym has plenty to look forward to and work hard for, Jensen says. “I’d love for Shogun CrossFit to be the standard set around the world for Air Force Fitness Centers.”