THEY HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE DARK SIDE OF THE SAMURAI:
MERCILESS KILLERS, EXPERTS IN THE MOST DEADLY MARTIAL ARTS, COMMITTED TO THE DARKEST VOWS OF HONOUR,
IS IT SO?
You know them from the movies. You have seen them using weapons that have never existed in reality, wearing uniforms that they have never actually worn, performing outrageous exaggerations in unrealistic scenes. All these have nothing to do with the true spirit of the ninja warriors and their ancient martial art and philosophy: Ninjutsu or Ninpo. Because reality, my friends, outdoes the movies.
“This is the way to become invisible.
Just become a small piece of the night.
Go with the wind and the shadows.
Do what you have to do, free from all feelings,
so that no soul will feel and no heart will hear.”
Shadows and Past
Ninjutsu’s tradition has its roots 2.000 years before our time. It is described as the art of the “secret penetration” or as the art of being invisible, act invisibly.
The Ninjas acted as secret agents during the Japanese Medieval Times (13th – 17th century). Their bases were the Iga and Koga counties. They belonged to the equivalent “gangs” of those two counties and to the schools that bloomed in the golden age of ninjutsu (1.192 – 1.333) which were 25. Their action ended round 1.550, when Japan was united under Hydejoshi Tojutori. The “gangs” were persecuted; many leaders and teachers were exterminated, while others were forced to flee.
Ninjas were specialized –just like today agents- in sabotage, spying, arson, kidnap and blackmailing methods. At the same time, they had developed a respectable philosophy for life, approaching more and more the knowledge of the universe. Their “culture” bloomed during the restless years of the Japanese civil war, by serving various feudal lords who sought influence and power.
“You must know that the skies were created to shape the five element forms.
One form is the mirror of the others. All are the same. All. Each piece is a universe for itself.
Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and the powers of the great vacuum exist in everything.
For someone to know the order of the universe is the same
as to understand the particularities of nature
and the tendencies of people”.
The ninjas’ training started almost simultaneously with their birth. In their childhood they became knowledgeable about the use of all weapons and tools of ninpo; they spent their days and nights climbing up trees, crossing rivers or covering tirelessly long distances. Their practice also included stamina without breathing underwater, climbing walls and several other obstacles. Great emphasis was given to the physical training as a sort of a game.
During their adolescence, they studied the production of drug substances, remedies, and poisons, as well as powerful explosives. They also learned about methods and recipes of healthy and dynamic diet.
A Spartan kind of education prepared them for the difficulties in their future lives. They had to stand freezing cold, be on a strict diet for long periods of time and stay still for hours in a hiding place. A new ninja breathed silently, eliminated his shadow and was capable of walking up to 100 klm in a day. He would practise in several different strategies of action and escaping, even in bearing tortures. They transformed themselves in super athletes, perfect war machines and resourceful secret agents.
The same way they trained their bodies, they prepared their spirits and their souls. They had to stay calm even when being under the greatest danger and in a few moments to take crucial decisions. They practised to expand their senses and to develop a discriminating “psychological eye”. As their instinct is concerned, they had succeeded in using it in a superhuman level. A great part in their survival was their ability to choose not to think whenever they wished, but mostly in battle. The thought control that was taught with self-concentration methods was the main characteristic of their mental education. It is amazing that they were taught siai-minjitsu, which the hypnosis method derives from.
A ninja would carry more weapons than any other kind of warrior, at any time in history. In these are not only included traditional weapons such as the sword, the javelin or the bow and arrows, but also blow darts, knives, exploding poisons, even bars of bamboo that hid chains or hurled acid liquids. The most known from the cinema are the metal “stars”, the shuriken.
They practised on their throw until they could hit targets of the size of a today penny. Their weapons usually had the form of tools, so that they would not draw suspicion, at the frequent at that time, controls. It is known that ninjas always had double identities in their everyday life by practising simultaneously a certain profession. So, it was no wonder if a farmer reaped his opponents with his reaping hook so well as he reaped his ears of wheat, or if a fisherman’s net was used in ambushes so perfectly as in the sea.
Ahead of their time was their knowledge of explosives, since they made smoke bombs, mines, exploding arrows, hand grenades that stroke the opponents blind and many times did the trick for the disappearance of the ninjas.
The black-dressed warriors gave great consideration to the organization and to the equipment of a mission plus to the ensuring of their subsequent escape. They were skilled to cross rivers with the aid of patterned manufactures such as leather bags, barrels or improvised life-vests. For climbing they had invented several different kinds of ladders, ropes and hooks. They also adjusted metal makings with sharp edges on their hands and feet that would allow them to overcome any obstacle they found in their way like “human flies”.
Their outfit was black, since they usually acted at night. Their jackets included a lot of pockets, specially made to take the relevant weapons. On their faces wore masks, while their trousers were so wide like skirts, with supports over their tibia. The uniform hosted cases for food and a sack with climbing equipment, writing material and medicine. The sword was carried on their back for greater ease in movements. In the wintertime, in order to keep themselves warm, they carried the doka, a small metal bottle used internally for burning coals, which was also used for arsons. Anyone can comprehend that a ninja was a kind of chameleon, ready to respond to all conditions in a fight, having a large variety of weapons and accessories. Many times these were not enough; the tactics and their strategy were the ones that brought victory.
There were six basic rules that guaranteed the success of their secret missions. Anonymity, reconnaissance of the enemy targets, collection of top-secret information, deception of the opponent, recognition of the tactics that the enemy used and concealment of the methods that they themselves used.
Another secret of their success was their persistence to anonymity or as they said themselves “no art–no name”. It is known that in case of their capture, they hacked their face to pieces with a knife, so that they wouldn’t be recognized, that is why there are very few historically famous “ninja heroes”. It only took them their cunningness and the surprise in order to exterminate the enemy. They had perfect acting skills, they had utter knowledge of the make-up art, and they even used “diabolic” masks to scare the enemy. They exploited the superstition of those years in the best way, spreading panic to the opponents. They escaped from ambushes by mimicking cries of animals; they easily disguised themselves as a beggar, as a troubadour, as a merchant or as a samurai of the time. It is typical the saying: “The easiest way for someone to penetrate into a castle is to be invited over for a meal by its houselord”.
It is obvious that the ninja spying was a remarkable art, and this was centuries before the appearance of the first secret agents in the West.
“A ninja earns the regulation by expanding his senses:
sees that everything changes and that reality is subject to time,
approaches lies like being the truth and the truth like lies.
So he is never surprised.
There are times that power becomes weakness, laughter becomes power, white becomes black, and the Innocence Wisdom”.
The art of Ninjutsu was not born to serve spying or to create murderers. The ninja’s life, which is to utterly fulfill his duty and his inclination to personal perfectionism make a bright example even for these days.
In his life there was no space for mediocrity or hesitation. From his birth until his death he sought the physical and spiritual perfection. He created a character and a personality sharp like arrows, which in the bow of the lord he served, transformed into the perfect weapons. And who may say who the good is and who the evil is, in a country that at that time was rent by civil war?
Ninjutsu is a way of life, that -as the today leader and master of the art Masaaki Hatsumi says- wants to have a heart “clear as a diamond”. “The aristocrats of the martial arts”, “the last knights without armour” did not die out in the 16th century in Japan, but they still pass on the pacifying truth even today…
“It’s a brave discovery, when someone suddenly feels, that the heart of soul is the wisest priest to consult”.