Ninjitsu is an ancient body of spiritual and martial arts teachings designed for feudal Japanese spies and assassins. Practitioners, famously called Ninjas, developed the art in remote and mountainous areas of Japan to combat the Samurai landlords that rose to power about a millennia ago.

Ninjitsu is an ancient body of spiritual and martial arts teachings designed for feudal Japanese spies and assassins. Practitioners, famously called Ninjas, developed the art in remote and mountainous areas of Japan to combat the Samurai landlords that rose to power about a millennia ago.

Although Ninjas closely guarded their training techniques and philosophies, the Ninjitsu style is said to be a rejection of the way of the Samurai, which involved adherence to a strict code of honor. Ninjas were rumored to be ruthless, cunning and stealthy killers who would stop at nothing to defeat their opponents. As the reputation of Ninjas grew in the countryside, the peasantry escalated the notoriety of the Ninja’s prowess, attributing them with supernatural powers.

The name Ninjitsu can be translated to art of stealth. Ninjas typically limited their attire to dark blue or black clothing and usually conducted their missions during the night. Although many Ninjas were skilled warriors, their abilities were often exaggerated to include flying and the ability to predict future events.

Ninjitsu was banned in Japan from the 17th century; however, in the modern day, nine fighting systems, eight of which stem from Ninjitsu, have been incorporated into a single school called Bujinkan. Modern day Bujinkan seekers study Ninpo, or the “silent step,” techniques which include survival strategies, improvisation and unarmed, close contact fighting.

Essence of Ninjutsu

Other extant traditional martial arts such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō-ryū contain some aspects of ninjutsu in their curriculum, but are not ninjutsu schools per se. Also several other schools of ninjutsu purportedly exist, some of which claim to be traced back to Japanese origins.

The essence of all Martial Arts and military strategies is self
protection and the prevention of danger. Ninjutsu epitomizes the
fullest concept of self-protection through martial training in that
the Ninja art deals with the protection of not only the physical body,but the mind and spirit as well.

The way of the Ninja is the way of enduring, surviving, and prevailing over all that would destroy one.More than merely delivering strikes and slashes, and deeper in significance than the simple out-witting of an enemy; Ninjutsu is the way off attaining that which we need while making the world a better place.

The skill of the Ninja is the art of winning. In the beginning study
of any combative art, proper motivation is crucial. Without the proper frame of mind, continuous exposure to fighting techniques can lead to ruin instead of self-development. But this fact is not different from any other beneficial practice in life carried to extremes.

Medical science is dedicated to the betterment of health and the relief of suffering, and yet the misuse of drugs and the exultation of the physician’s skills can lead people to a state where an individual’s health is no longer within his or her personal control. A nutritious well-balanced diet works to keep a person alive, vital, and healthy, but grossly over-eating, over-drinking, or taking in too many chemicals is a sure way to poison the body.

Governments are established to oversee the harmonious inter-working of all parts of society, but when the rulers become greedy, hungry for power, or lacking in wisdom, the country is subjected to needless wars, disorder or civil and economic chaos.

A religion, when based on faith developed through experience, a broad and questing mind, and unflagging pursuit of universal understanding,
is of inspiration and comfort to people. Once a religion loses its original focus, however, it becomes a deadly thing with which to deceive, control and tax the people through the manipulation of their beliefs and fears.

It is the same with the martial arts. The skills of self- protection, which should provide a feeling of inner peace and security for the martial artist, so often develop without a balance in the personality and lead the lesser martial artist into warped realms of unceasing conflict and competition, which eventually consume him.

If an expert in the fighting arts sincerely pursues the essence of Ninjutsu, devoid of the influence of the ego’s desires, the student will progressively come to realize the ultimate secret for becoming invincible – the attainment of the ‘mind and eyes of god’.

The combatant who would win must be in harmony with the scheme of totality, and must be guided by an intuitive knowledge of
the playing out of fate.

In tune with the providence of heaven and the impartial justice of nature, and following a clear and pure heart full of trust in the inevitable, the Ninja captures the insight that will guide him s
successfully into battle when he must conquer and conceal himself protectively from hostility when he must acquiesce.

The vast universe, beautiful in its coldly impersonal totality, contains all that we call good or bad, all the answers for all the paradoxes we see around us. By opening his eyes and his mind, the Ninja can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so
that in the end there is no such thing as a surprise for the Ninja.

by Toshitsugu Takamatsu 33th Soke of the Togakure Ryu

Brief History

Ninjutsu was developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province of Japan. Throughout history the shinobi have been seen as assassins for hire, and have been associated in the public imagination with other activities which are considered criminal by modern standards. Although thought to have come from Chinese expatriates ninjutsu is believed by its adherents to be of Japanese origin. It is believed to be strongly influenced by the strategic principles of Sun Tzu. Throughout history many different schools (or ryū) were developed which taught their unique version of ninjutsu. An example of these is the Togakure-ryū. This ryū was developed after a defeated samurai warrior called Daisuke Togakure escaped to the region of Iga. Later he came in contact with the warrior-monk Kain Doshi who taught him a new way of viewing life and the means of survival (ninjutsu).

Ninjutsu was developed as a collection of fundamental survivalist techniques in the warring state of feudal Japan. The ninja clans used their art to ensure their survival in a time of violent political turmoil. It also included methods of gathering information, non-detection, avoidance, and misdirection techniques. Ninjutsu can also involve training in disguise, escape, concealment, archery, medicine, explosives, and poisons.

Although the popular view is that ninjutsu is the art of secrecy or stealth, actual practitioners consider it to mean the art of enduring – enduring all of life’s hardships. The word nin carries both these meanings. To avoid misunderstandings, “ninjutsu” should just refer to a specific branch of Japanese martial arts, unless it is being used in a historical sense.

18 Ninjutsu Skills (Ninja Jūhakkei)

According to Bujinkan members, the eighteen disciplines (jūhakkei < jūhachi-kei) were first stated in the scrolls of Togakure-ryū and they became definitive for all ninjutsu schools, providing a complete training of the warrior in various fighting arts and complementary disciplines.

Ninja jūhakkei was often studied along with Bugei Jūhappan (the “18 samurai fighting art skills”). Though some of them are the same, the techniques of each discipline were used with different approaches by both samurai and ninja.

The 18 disciplines are:

  1. Seishin-teki kyōyō (spiritual refinement)
  2. Taijutsu (unarmed combat, using one’s body as the only weapon)
  3. Kenjutsu (sword fighting)
  4. Bōjutsu (stick and staff fighting)
  5. Shurikenjutsu (throwing shuriken)
  6. Sōjutsu (spear fighting)
  7. Naginatajutsu (naginata fighting)
  8. Kusarigamajutsu (kusarigama fighting)
  9. Kayakujutsu (pyrotechnics and explosives)
  10. Hensōjutsu (disguise and impersonation)
  11. Shinobi-iri (stealth and entering methods)
  12. Bajutsu (horsemanship)
  13. Sui-ren (water training)
  14. Bōryaku (military strategy)
  15. Chōhō (espionage)
  16. Intonjutsu (escaping and concealment)
  17. Tenmon (meteorology)
  18. Chi-mon (geography)

In recent times the espionage techniques of ninjutsu are rarely focused on, since they serve little purpose to the bulk of modern populations, and tend to attract negative publicity and students with unrealistic expectations.

Schools of Ninjutsu

  • Bujinkan Organization headed by Masaaki Hatsumi is an organization frequently accepted as teaching mainstream ninjutsu. However Hatsumi has stated that he has modified the art of traditional ninjutsu to better suit modern ways. Hatsumi’s Bujinkan Dōjō consists of nine separate schools of traditional Japanese martial arts, only three of which contain ninjutsu teachings. According to the Bujinkan, Hatsumi is the inheritor of nine ryu (schools) some of which are Ninjutsu. He is considered by many to be the foremost authority on Ninjutsu, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, and Shinkentaijutsu. He also claims to hold the Densho (scrolls) of the ancient schools and can trace his lineage 34 generations however the authenticity of his claims have often been called into question. Hatsumi learned a variety of martial arts skills from Toshitsugu Takamatsu.
  • Genbukan World Ninpo Bugei Federation headed by Shoto Tanemura, who stopped training with Hatsumi in 1984 after achieving several Menkyo Kaiden in Bujinkan arts. He created the organization in order to maintain the ancient Ninja tradition that is changing rapidly to adapt to the modern world.
  • Jinenkan Organization headed by Sōke Fumio Manaka, who held several Menkyo Kaiden in Bujinkan schools but stopped training with Hatsumi in 1996 to found the Jinenkan. The Art focuses in harmonizing oneself with the natural flow of the elements.
  • The AKBAN Organization uses the Bujinkan curriculum the way it was used when Doron Navon, the first foreign Bujinkan shihan, studied under Hatsumi. Israel was one of the first places where Bujinkan ninjutsu was practiced outside Japan, with Doron Navon pioneering it there in 1974. Doron Navon no longer practices Bujinkan ninjutsu.
  • The Quest Centers headed by Stephen K. Hayes who studied under Masaaki Hatsumi and is the person who first brought ninjutsu to America, founding the first ninjutsu dojo in the Western Hemisphere in Atlanta, Georgia, in the mid-70s. Mr. Hayes relocated to Ohio around 1980, where he continued to teach the art for a number of years. He now teaches a Westernized system, To-Shin Do.
  • The Jizaikan organization headed by Thomas “Jotoshi” Maienza who studied under the Bujinkan Ninjutsu tradition with many influential practitioners of the art and was also head of the Quest Centers for a time and producer of many of Stephen Hayes works. He also trained in Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu amongst other disciplines. His schools study under both ninja and samurai martial arts traditions creating a unique martial art branch of ninjutsu called Jizaikan Aiki Ninjutsu.
  • Some smaller schools claim to have survived as well. One example, The Fuma Ryu, claims to date back from as far as the Sengoku period and that it is much more traditional in its teachings. These claims are felt to be highly skeptical and doubted by many in the Bujinkan. This school is headed by Harunaka Hoshino.
  • Jonin Ryu Ninjutsu is a newer school, founded in 2006, that blends Ninjutsu with other arts in their pre sports eras. It is based in Palo Alto, California. The school is headed by Michael Bruce.

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