Over the course of our history, the idea of a ninja has been highly popularized in media as a ninja-star throwing, black-cloaked assassin with acrobatic abilities incomparable to most fighters. The hype around the ninja has made many forget that ninjutsu – the art of combat that is practiced by ninja – runs deeper than simply.

Early Beginnings of Ninja Ninjutsu

ninja ninjutsu

Mention of the word ninjutsu or shinobi go as far back as the Genpei War (1180 to 1185), where it was noted that the 14th century samurai named Kusunoki Masashige was recorded to have used ninjutsu. The term shinobi referred to assassins and spies hired by the lords (also known as daimyos) to carry out operations that most samurai were forbidden to do. They were expected to carry out their missions with deception and stealth, killing targets with a level of espionage.

It was also believed that during the time when many immigrants from China made their way into Japan, Chinese martial art of Kenpo had blended with the various techniques prevalent at the time. As some of these immigrants – warrior monks and military personnel – settled into the mountains of the country, they came across hermits that resided deep inside. During their stay, they discovered these hermits had developed the early beginnings of the ninja persona and techniques. Disconnected from the rest of society, the relationships built between the hermits and the settlers would eventually result in the employment and development of the mysterious ninja assassin.

Disciplines of Ninjutsu

ninja ninjutsu

Out of this political turmoil of feudal Japan, the martial art of ninjutsu was created for the sake of ensuring survival. Ninjutsu focused on teaching techniques of misdirection, avoidance, and non-detection. Those studying ninjutsu trained in a plethora of areas such as archery, disguise, concealment, medicine, and free running. The following are a few of the disciplines to become a highly effective, deadly ninja:

  • Seishin Teki Kyoyo (Spiritual Refinement) – Like many martial arts, the Togakure Ninja placed great importance on developing the inner self. Obtaining deep knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses provided a ninja a form of personal power that no form of physical training could compare to. For this reason, many Togakure ninjas had delved into a level of philosophy, refining their perspective toward life.
  • Tai Jutsu (Unarmed Combat) – Many ninjas may be skilled in armed combat, but to be a proficient fighter, they also learn moves in striking, blocking, grappling, and chokeholds – everything related to unarmed combat. This way, they are capable of fending off enemies, even without a weapon.
  • Ninja Ken (Ninja Sword) – Since ninjas primary tool for fighting was single-edged sword, the ninja were taught techniques on fencing and fast draw. The former referred to sword techniques that allowed practitioners to deal with other armed attackers, while the ladder focused more on the act of drawing and slicing.
  • Bo-Jutsu (Stick and Staff Fighting)  Along with the samurai, ninjas trained in bo-jutsu, the Japanese art of stick fighting. Proficient in both the long and half-staff, ninjas were also equipped with concealed blades that appeared like walking sticks (also known as ninja canes).
  • Shuriken-Jutsu (Throwing Blades) – More famously known in mainstream media as a ninja weapon, the shuriken was a four-point throwing star that many ninjas learned to use, as they were deadly, stealthy weapons for assassinating their opponents. Carried in their pockets, the ninjas would learn how to properly throw these flat stars to effectively pierce their targets.
  • Yari-Jutsu (Spear Fighting) – On top of knowing how to yield a staff, ninjas were also trained in spear fighting. The Togakure Ryu Ninja were specifically taught how to yield a unique type of Kami-Yari (sickle lance) – a spear with a hook at the base. Considering this was over nine feet long (3 feet longer than a long staff), it was not something that could be thrown at their opponent, but proper understanding on how to effectively swing, stab, and use was needed.
  • Kayaku-Jutsu (Fire and Explosives) – Since some targets were harder to assassinate than others, ninjas would be faced with situations where they were unable to directly encounter these individuals. For this reason, they also gained expertise in explosives. This knowledge also was useful in distracting the enemy, since smoke bombs were highly effective in escaping from a scene or clouding opponents field of view.
  • Henso-Jutsu (Disguise and Impersonation) – One of the more important elements of being a ninja was the art of disguise. To truly be a great assassin and eliminate their target without suspicion, ninjas trained in impersonation, learning how to develop and adopt personality characteristics, body language, etc. This involved a level of psychological awareness, since many ninjas required to transform into a completely different person.
  • Shinobi-Iri (Stealth and Entering Methods) – A prominent feat and skill that ninjas had come to be known for were their abilities to stealthily break in and enter to highly guarded locations without being noticed. They learned the art of silent movement, becoming experts at gliding through the floor without being heard.
  • Inton-Jutsu (Escape and Concealment) – Along with knowing how to enter any location virtually undetected, ninjas also were famous for being able to escape without much difficulty. They learned how to use their environment to disappear as if never there in the first place.
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