Friday, February 11, 2011

The Truth About The 'Shadow Warriors'

Japanese culture has produced a lot of great ideas, inventions, and people in history. The country is now one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. Japan may not be constantly fighting itself anymore but one of the most interesting and extremely important things that came out of feudal Japan was the best fighting style of its time, Ninjustu.

The art Ninjutsu is over 1100 years old and early Ninjas or shinobi which is a Japanese mercenary who is trained in the art of stealth. The first of the shinobi assassins was said to be deployed by Prince Shotoku around 600 AD. Then warrior monks came over from China in the early 1200s and trained with early ninjas to form the well known and highly skilled ninjutsu techniques. So all the credit for ninjutsu should not go to the Japanese, but also to Chinese monks.

Ninjas came up almost as an opposing force to the samurai and played a key role in battles and wars throughout feudal Japan. The main difference between the two is that the Samurais had the Bushido code of honor which put respect and loyalty first, but the ninjutsu code was getting the mission done at any cost. Since Samurai were restricted by the Bushido they often hired ninjas to do their dirty work and paid quite a lot to get it done.

There were many different types of ranks in ninjutsu but there were three main types during their most important role in feudal Japan. The highest of these three were the Jonin who were in charge of huge groups of ninjas. The next served as the middle man, who were the managers. They were called Chunin and took orders from the Jonin. Then there were the regular ninjas who did most of the actual killing, spying, and other ninja duties. They were called the Genin.

The Ninjustu schools called the Ryu, were used to train new ninjas before they were put to work and they are even still used today for teaching Neo-Ninjutsu.  In the Ryu they taught the ninjas various techniques. They were generally taught 18 specific skills. The first set of skills did not use weapons of any kind. First was spiritual refinement which meant they had to become spiritually sound. Next they needed to learn unarmed combat techniques, so if they had no access to weapons they were still powerful.

A lot of skills they had to learn were weapons skills. As all warriors of the time they learned to use a sword. Another important weapon was a staff because they were almost always accessible. Training with spears was completely separate from staff training. They were also trained to use a niganata which was similar to a very long sword. A difficult skill to master was the art of throwing weapons especially because ninjas did not even use throwing stars but perhaps the most difficult and dangerous weapon to be skilled in was the kusarigama which was a small stick with a curved blade on the end and a chain with a weight attached to end of the weapon.

Some of the most useful skills for ninjas in tight situations where there environmental skills or use of their surroundings and the best way to get rid of an enemy on your tail is if you have the opportunity blow them up or light them on fire, and pyrotechnics was an important skill to ninjas. Another thing not only for attacking but escaping was water skills using it to drown make them slip or just being able to hide in the water was crucial to ninjas. And they also learned to use horses to attack and just to ride them skillfully.

The most important set of skills that sets ninjas apart from other warriors was there intelligence skills. They were all taught how to use proper tactics in any situation. Something that all ninjas needed was the espionage skills so they could be stealthy during a mission. They all learned how to skillfully enter into places undetected. They also needed to be able to escape as fast as they got in if not faster. They also needed to be somewhat good meteorologists as in they should know the conditions they are working in. They also had to be skilled with direction and geography so they knew where they were going. One of the most lifesaving skills of a ninja was their ability to disguise themselves and impersonate someone else which meant they had to be pretty good actors

One of the most famous ninja stories in Japan is of a samurai who jokingly says to a ninja “I will hire you if you can take my pillow from under my head while I am asleep” so the next morning he wakes up from a thunderstorm and realizes his pillow was gone.

Throughout the long and ongoing history of Ninjutsu many styles and techniques as well as myths have developed. The deployment of the first ninja started a trend that evolved, with the help of a fallen samurai and his friend, into one of the greatest styles of fighting ever taught. Ninjutsu not only affected Japanese history through direct fighting with them, but also changed the world with all of the stories and myths about ninjas that has inspired millions of ideas. And is still one of the best close combat fighting styles as well as majorly influencing books, movies, and the entire world.


  1. One thing I would like to point out that ninjustu Which is some times refereed to as a martial art is honestly not. but rather it was a group of arts that were pulled together to make working in secrecy almost impossible to avoid.