Recently a young student came to me and said that his friend who studies Jiu Jitsu made fun of him for training in a “Made up Martial Art.” I snickered, but I could see there were no smiles on my student’s face. He was young in age and young in belt color. He was still uneducated on the long and rich history of the Ninja.
Much of what is known about the ninja comes from television and movies that portray the Ninja as mutated Tae Kwon Do fighting turtles, mystical Lego warriors fighting an army of skeletons or black pajama wearing shadow dwellers who always bring swords to a gun fight. Because of these imaginary stereotypes it is easy to see why the world still believes that Ninja are a made up thing.
I also wrote a previous article that explains how the inability to understand or identify the Ninja in the past worked to their advantage. After all if you can’t label something or prove it is real then how can you fight against it?
The truth is that the Ninja methods of training are a thousand years old. Their roots are in ancient Japan as an esoteric method aimed at protection of self and community through training in intelligence gathering, psychological warfare, strategy, and a full spectrum of physical combat. Ninja were asymmetric warfare experts who operated with the desire to return home safe and healthy after having ensured the safety of their loved ones. Because these warriors were in essence guerrilla fighters, they had to be well versed in many aspects of combat and survival.
Thus some of the skills the Ninja trained in were:
Junan Taiso: Yoga style flexibility
Taijutsu: Unarmed combat (falling, striking, grappling, and choking)
Bojutsu: Staff fighting
Hanbojutsu: Short staff fighting
Ninja Ken-po: Various methods of sword fighting
Tantojutsu: Blade fighting
Shurikenjutsu: Blade Throwing
Kusari-fundo: Chain and Flexible weapon
Teppo: Firearms training
Heiho: Combat strategy
Gotonpo: Use of natural elements for escape
Seishin teki kyoyo: Personal clarity, and understanding of the connection of all things.
As modern Ninja Self Defense practitioners we follow the same methods of training taking into account our modern social and cultural differences. The average person does not carry a sword or ride a horse and laws are different; so in true Ninja fashion some things are adapted to fit today’s society. Skills are taught to the age appropriate audience in our modern schools and therefore first graders do not learn knife fighting and combat strategy because it may be too overwhelming. However, there is enough room in our list of skill sets to train anyone in self-protection.
After explaining a brief history of the Ninja to my student I proceeded to tell him that “the lie is that Ninja Self Defense is a fake martial art only used by characters for entertainment in cartoons and movies. The reality is that it is a thousand year old system adapted for modern life. It is one of the most comprehensive, all encompassing self-protection and personal development programs available to those seeking a real martial art. This art covers the full spectrum of modern protection needs and personal growth. So the next time you talk to someone who doubts the realism of what you study don’t frown, smile and delight in the fact that like a Ninja your power is hidden in plain sight.”
“It doesn’t get any realer than that.”