Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ninjas Are Misunderstood

I don't know much about Ninjas or Ninjutsu. But what little I do know is different to that of popular culture. The knowledge I do possess comes from a friend who practiced Ninjutsu and a book called  'The way of the Ninja - Secret Techniques', by Masaaki Hatsumi.

Popular Culture recognises Ninjas as people who were outcasts of society. People who trained in deadly martial techniques for the purpose of assassination. I however prefer to believe what I have discovered from my own research and what my friend (who has first hand experience in Ninjutsu) tells me. He says that the Ninjas were originally Samurai. They trained at the Samurai academies and were the best of the best. The Shoguns however, were afraid that these Samurai had the potential to overthrow them. And so they got all the other Samurai to turn on the most skilled Samurai in the academies, and try to assassinate them and their families. My friend asked me after telling me this "Who are the bad guys now?". These now rogue Samurai who were once the feudal Japan's elite were now sought refuge in isolated areas in Japan like mountains I'm guessing. The society they served now rejected them, so they decided or were forced to serve themselves.

They understood the formal limitations of the systematic Samurai, and thus adapted a formless mentality for their martial techniques to outwit the Samurai. This is why some people don't consider Ninjutsu as Martial Art; because not much is recorded and formalised. But I see that to be formless is to be free and to express one's self spontaneously; as is the principle of the universe - change. And that is what my friend said he was taught while attending a Ninjutsu school, never to do the same thing twice. Always doing something different to avoid becoming predictable. This is why Ninjutsu is said to be an art of innumerable variations and to reveal the true spiritual significance of the Martial Arts.

We can not be completely certain what actually happened in history. However from what I have learned from 'The Way of the Ninja - Secret Techniques', I think the whole Ninja way is closer to the truth than most of the expressions coming from Japan. To assist your understanding of this, I have transcribed the first paragraph of this book below:

"A Ninja was someone whose very existence expressed the spirit of budō. He would protect himself with techniques not of assassination but rather of sensation and an acute awareness of his natural surroundings. He would avoid unnecessary conflict, and even when armed with a blade, would find a way to win without staining it. These are the true techniques of Ninjutsu, and the art that Ninja persistently trained. Ninja exercised endurance throughout their secretive lives in order to protect their families, their clans, and their country. Their harsh training endowed them with a tough but pliant spirit, and martial skills suitable for coping with any situation, together with a sense of awareness that had universal application."

I feel that people have been misled by popular culture and the media. So I hope that by me sharing my knowledge on Ninjutsu will help you to see the Ninja in a different way than the falsity of popular culture and the media; and will bring some clarity to a topic of misunderstanding and confusion. From my small amount of exposure, the Ninja were closer to the true way than most of the expressions present today. Perhaps they were even closer than the Samurai, as the Ninja were self expressive, and didn't limit themselves to cultural tradition (way) or the rules of the authoritarian Shoguns, as the Samurai did.

Thank You for reading my blog.


  1. Haha. Sifu Freddie Lee might not like the Ninjas very much. But based on what you wrote, I say that a Ninja is a hidden Martial Artist. He is talented but nobody knows that he is. There are Ninjas everywhere. They are not assassins. They might be working in a grocery store, they might be lawyers, military soldiers. I hope I did not misunderstood you but this is what I get from what you wrote.

    1. It's all good Kang!. You understood the message that I am trying to get across quite well. I have come to realise that true martial artists are hidden, like the Ninja. In all of my experience the Ninja have only been associated with the word 'assassination' in pop-culture and the media such as the Hollywood movie 'The Last Samurai'.

      The term 'Ninja' means 'invisible man', which makes sense to me because they had low profiles, like many true martial artists today. The term Ninjutsu means 'invisible technique'. My friend showed me techniques he learned in his Ninjutsu school. They are very simple and effective, but also very sneaky. An ordinary person would not even notice many of the techniques being executed.

    2. That's what makes a Ninja powerful. The fact that his technique is very simple and sneaky puts the Ninja one step if not more step ahead of the average person. Speaking of media, the word "media" comes from the Greek goddess Media. One of her methods were cunning, trickery. The media will always try its best to trick people to believe a lie. Media=collections of lies. So all we can do to it is laugh at its lies.

    3. Thanks for sharing that info. The more we know about the history of a words meaning (etymology), the greater our understanding of the world will be. The English term 'Martial Art' refers to Mars, the Roman god of war. So this implies that a Martial Artist is warlike, which we know is not the truth. Martial Art cannot be accurately expressed with English. It can however be represented through our actions.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Great man. But what I've learnt about ninja is that a samurai was walking in the forest one day and he encountered a mystic monk/priest(Chinese). The chinese priest/monk ask if the samurai is ready to learn a new form of combat, which combine body and spirt, and which will allow him to move freely without being detected. The so the priest taught the samurai the art of stealth which is translated as Ninjutsu (nin meaning stealth and jutsu meaning art). I watched a documentary of this which is where I got my insight from and that documentary was astonishing to me, especially when they talked about ninjas being clairvoyant (ability to see the future events/moment), which may me want to train in a way that the ninja's do to develop clairvoyance (which is through meditation I think?)

  4. All labels will inevitably be thoroughly corrupted, it cannot be prevented. The true Way just cannot be labeled. As soon as you call it Tao, it is not the Tao. I see we shall create our own labels and not be limited by those of the past. We shall build upon our own reputation with the labels that we choose to represent.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.