Similar to SASUKE one hundred competitors are given the chance to attempt the First Stage (KUNOICHI) a course that primarily test's one's speed, balance, and dexterity. The goal is to reach the finish buzzer at the end of the course in order to move onto the Second Stage (KUNOICHI). If a competitor ever comes in contact with the water under each obstacle, or goes off of the course, she is disqualified. While KUNOICHI is normally an exact mold of SASUKE but for women, the 8th competition changed the way the show ran. The rules were drastically altered, becoming a race between four women to capture the two flags at the end of the course. If a competitor did not claim a flag within the alloted time, they were disqualified, unless their whole group failed, sending them to the Repechange.
Around eight participants clear stage one in each tournament, a number slightly lower than SASUKE's success rate; however in the 1st KUNOICHI tournament, only two people cleared the first stage, a feat only seen otherwise in SASUKE 19. Unlike SASUKE the producers were trying to make the course relatively easy. Following Nagano Makoto's kanzenseiha in SASUKE 17 producers tried to make SASUKE's first stage unbeatable. Despite the poor results of the first two KUNOICHI tournaments, it eventually got on it's feet, seeing fourteen people clear stage one in the 3rd competition. The KUNOICHI first stage continued to have a steady amount of clears until KUNOICHI 7. While it was very similar to SASUKE 19 with many high profile competitors and All-Stars failing stage one, it managed to have four women clear it.
In this competition, four competitors run the first stage at once, with the first two to complete advancing to stage two. If only one competitor completes the stage the other three are eliminated. If no one completes the stage all competitors compete in an extra stage where the first person to capture the flag moves on.