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William Paris '93 turns his high school students into ninja warriors

High school students who sign up for a Japanese course with William Paris ’93 are prepared to learn the language. But they might not expect to become “ninja warriors,” walking across high ropes in a demanding obstacle course.

Paris is known for thinking outside of the box when it comes to teaching and his enthusiasm has become infectious.

“It is extremely rewarding to be able to help young people realize their dreams and learn the language that I became interested in at their ages,” he said. “They all want to challenge themselves and are passionate about the culture.”

He teaches at both William Annin Middle School, the only public middle school on the east coast to offer Japanese, and Ridge High School in Bernards Township, N.J.

Each year, the high school classes culminate in a recreation of the popular Japanese-language television show, Sasuke, better known as Ninja Warrior in the United States, during which students race through an obstacle course.

A mental challenge follows the physical one. After completing the demanding course, students are required to answer interview questions entirely in Japanese, a language composed of more than 50,000 characters.

Previously, the events have caught the attention of one of the school’s TV production classes and Read the story.

Japanese culture has been a constant fixture in Paris’ life ever since he first saw the TV miniseries Shogun in 1980. “It was my first exposure to the mysterious feudal spies called ninja. After that, I was hooked.”

Majoring in Japanese and participating in the freshmen CO-OP program at Connecticut College helped inspire Paris’ teaching style. As an undergraduate, he studied abroad in Osaka, Japan, and returned to teach English in the country after he graduated.

“It was instrumental in improving my world language skills,” he said. “I would recommend studying abroad to anyone.”

Paris, who studied with professors like Ikuko Watanabe, Dennis Washburn and Michiya Kawai, said that the Japanese program at Connecticut College was quite rigorous but rewarding. “All of my professors did their best to offer authentic cultural experiences, like dinner parties and an aikido demonstration. They really helped to deepen my interest in Japan.”

A certified instructor in Wing Chun Kung Fu, Paris sees a bit of himself in the eyes of his students, who, like he, are fascinated by ninja. “With all the comics, anime, television shows, films and video games, I think ninja are here to stay.”

-Matt Zientek ’10



December 22, 2009