The Art of the Ninja: Ninjutsu

Back in the early Eighties, several low-budget Ninja movies were produced creating what is known in the martial arts community as the “Ninja Boom of the Eighties.”

Seemingly overnight, there was a ninja “master” on every street corner wearing a black karate uniform with the mandatory ninja mask. This is the nature of things. When The Karate Kid movie came out, karate became the big thing. Presently the UFC is the popular thing, so now everywhere you look there is an MMA gym with expert wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, and muay thai coaches.

Now a new ninja movie has come out. I doubt there will be a resurgence of ninja movies on such a scale as what happened 25-30 years ago, but I do think a short spike in interest on what the ninja and their art really was will happen. Well, if you’re reading this, then I guess that’s true…

Still, after all the efforts to educate the public on what the true ninja and ninjutsu was like, the ninja have been portrayed in movies the same way for more than thirty years. So, I would like to shed some light on a few of the common misconceptions about the ancient ninja and ninjutsu. After all, I became interested in martial arts all those years ago because of a cheesy ninja movie!

Myth: The Ninja & Samurai were sworn enemies.

False. This would be like saying that the US Navy and the SEAL teams are sworn enemies. The ninja in most cases were in fact, samurai. They simply performed special operations from time to time.

Myth: The Ninja were evil assassins.

False. This would be like saying that our Marine Corp snipers are evil assassins. The ninja did occasionally perform an assassination, but these instances were rare. Espionage was the more common special operation performed, gathering intelligence on enemy strengths, battle plans, etc. Again, spies are a necessity of warfare. And of course they would also fight in open battle as samurai. It’s the movies that vilify the ninja.

Myth: The Ninja did not follow the Bushido code of honor like their Samurai counterparts.

True. But the Samurai didn’t follow the Bushido either. War is hell. The goal is to survive. This happened on many levels: “dirty” fighting tactics, spies and double agents, political alliances and betrayals. No different from any other warfare in human history. The idea of Bushido came much later in history, during peacetime.

Myth: People who practice Ninjutsu are Ninja.

False. People who practice ninjutsu practice ninjutsu. They practice the methods and skills of the ancient ninja, but they are not ninja. This would be like saying that someone who learns to shoot a gun skillfully is a soldier or a cop. Not so. The ninja performed a certain job in a certain period of history. Many of the skills are passed on in the various Bujinkan dojo around the world, but those people are not ninja. If you want to do the job of the ancient ninja and spy and sneak around, my advice would be to train hard and try to gain entrance into one of the US Special Forces groups: SEALs, Green Berets, Delta Force. Or try employment in one of our intelligence agencies. There is much more to ninjutsu than sneaking around playing hide and seek.

Myth: The Bujinkan, Genbukan, Jinenkan, Toshindo, and others are valid places to study ninjutsu.

False. The Bujinkan is the only legitimate place to study ninjutsu. Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi is the only Soke of the nine ancient schools or Ryu-ha that are taught in the Bujinkan curriculum. The Genbukan, Jinenkan, and Toshindo are offshoots of the Bujinkan. All others are frauds. Period. Do your homework.

The Bujinkan is made up of nine ancient schools, six of which are samurai traditions and the remaining three are ninja traditions. The nine traditions are:

Gyokko-ryu (a samurai school)
Koto-ryu (a samurai school)
Togakure-ryu (a ninja school)
Shinden Fudo-ryu (a samurai school)
Kukishinden-ryu (a samurai school)
Takagi Yoshin-ryu (a samurai school)
Gikan-ryu (a samurai school not taught openly)
Gyokushin-ryu (a ninja school not taught openly)
Kumogakure-ryu (a ninja school not taught openly)

I do not know why Hatsumi-soke has not taught the last three schools on the list openly. You would have to ask someone in Japan.

So what is true Ninjutsu?

True ninjutsu is about never giving up. It’s about persevering to the very end. How devoted you are to your own training will determine where your limits are and how far you’re willing to push them. Not just in combat, but in life as well. These are qualities that everyone can benefit from.

In combat, ninjutsu is about deception. The opponent thinks you are attacking low, but you attack high. At the highest levels, the opponent doesn’t know how to attack you or how to defend against your attacks. This is more difficult than it sounds and requires a lot of dedicated training. The combat techniques are highly effective.

Ninjutsu is about increasing your awareness to an extraordinary level so that you can use the things that most people overlook to your advantage. Again, not just in combat, but in life as well. The ability to tell how someone is feeling. Reading body language. Knowing the right words to say to get that promotion at work. Knowing when to be behind the scenes and remain hidden. Anything really…

Because the Bujinkan has both ninja and samurai traditions, the term “budo taijutsu” is more commonly used to describe the actual martial art. Ninjutsu or nin-po is at the heart of budo taijutsu and is the driving force.

Above all else, ninjutsu/budo taijutsu is performed in the spirit of selfless service! Enduring the hardships so that others may enjoy a better life. This is one of the reasons the organization is called the Bujinkan. Continued below…

Kanji for “Bujin” or divine warrior

Bujinkan is roughly translated as “divine warrior house.” A place to train ourselves to become better human beings, to serve something greater than ourselves: our family, our community, our State, our Nation, our World and so on! This is where the true richness and beauty of this art lies.

That beauty cannot be described in words, but must be experienced in training. If you would like to catch a glimpse of that beauty, contact us!

4 thoughts on “The Art of the Ninja: Ninjutsu”

  1. I, like you, was influenced to join MA’s because of cheesy action flicks. Mine was a combination of Might Morphon Power Rangers, Sidekicks with Chuck Norris, and finally seeing The Octagon with Chuck yet again.

    There are many myths guys of things which people believe to be true ninjutsu, yea even true martial arts. True budo as Soke offers is not something that you can find just anywhere, One must seek it out. If you’re in the Birmingham area there are plenty of good sensei who can offer you the trainnig that you seek.

  2. i am a boy of 15 years old and want to
    to be a ninja am in Africa but want to
    study martial art and want to learn the
    way of a ninja please if you can help
    me then email me…

  3. @Johnson,

    I recommend that you do a google search for Bujinkan in your area. That’s about as much help as I can give you. Good luck!


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