By Shelley Hill Young
Kyle K’Otic Johnson takes several deep breaths and tells himself, “It’s going to be OK. You got this,” before tackling the obstacle course on NBC’s popular summer show “American Ninja Warrior.”
“I know my limits and I know I can go beyond that,” Kyle says in early May, less than a month before Season 10 of the show premiered on May 30.
It’s Kyle’s second appearance on the show. The first time was on Season 7 in 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Kyle can’t reveal any information about how far he makes it in the regional qualifying round, but he does say that this time around, he went dark on social media while he was in Miami in April for the filming, and he says he had a better support system with him. He took four of his closest friends to cheer him on while he was competing.
In 2015, Kyle says on his second attempt at the obstacle course he debated whether to focus on completing the course or to showboat as some producers suggested, and it threw him off and caused him to fall on the sixth obstacle on the course, the notorious Warped Wall.
“This time around, I went in completely calm and had a lot of fun,” he says.
Kyle says he worked out about twice a week to prepare and focused on practicing his grip strength. “You just need to train your upper body to support your weight.”
No matter how Kyle fares on “American Ninja Warrior,” he will still be Superman to his growing fan base here in Charleston.
Lately, he’s been seen everywhere from the corner of Marion Square on Saturdays to weddings to the runway at Charleston Fashion Week and a George Sink commercial. He dances with a group of seven guys known as The Break Circuit and performs stunts, often dressed in a red Superman-like cape. Kids who were amazed by his ability to leap over people and cars in a single bound began saying he was “like Superman,” so Kyle bought a T-shirt and a cape.
Kyle has been performing around town since he tried out for a talent show at Stall High School, and he caught people’s attention last year doing his most daring stunt: jumping over a speeding Lamborghini for a commercial for attorney George Sink Jr. “Don’t flip out after a car wreck. Call all nines,” Kyle says at the end of the commercial.
Kyle also boasts he has jumped over 13 people at the same time, which he says is a world record, and topped his previous personal record of 11 people. He’s also auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2005 and appeared on MTV’s “My Big Sweet 16” in 2007.
Kyle credits his late sister as the reason he’s such an entertainer. She had congenital CMV infection, cerebral palsy and scoliosis. She was in a wheelchair, couldn’t talk and had frequent seizures. He helped care for her and learned what to do when she had a seizure – and he went out of his way to try to make her happy.
“I enjoy making people smile, and I know that all falls back to my sister,” Kyle says of his sister, who passed away when he was 21. “I spent all day making her smile.”
Kyle spends a Sunday each month working with children with special needs at Velocity Air Sports in North Charleston, helping them have a good time and making them smile. He says he knows what their families are going through. “It’s always such a cool time for me.”
Because of his sister, Kyle says he feels that if you have an ability, you need to pursue it and have that drive to go after your dreams. His dream? To become a stuntman in the movies.
Kyle is clearly fearless. He says he’s not afraid of making mistakes.
“I always tell people, ‘If you fail, then try again.’”