16.26) Ninjutsu

Lit. Translation: "Nin" Perseverance/Endurance "jutsu" Techniques (of)


Surrounded by much controversy, today's "ninjutsu" is derived from the
traditional fighting arts associated with the Iga/Koga region of Japan. 
These arts include both "bujutsu" ryuha (martial technique systems) and
"ninjutsu" ryuha, which involve a broad base of training designed to
prepare the practitioner for all possible situations.


The history of ninjutsu is clouded by the very nature of the art itself.
There is little documented history, much of what is known was handed 
down as part of an oral tradition (much like the native american indian) 
and documented by later generations. This has led to a lot of debate 
regarding the authenticity of the lineages claimed by the arts instructors.

Historical records state that certain individuals/families from the
Iga/Koga (modern Mie/Omi) region were noted for possessing specific 
skills and were employed (by samurai) to apply those and other skills. 
These records, which were kept by people both within the region and 
outside of the region, refer to the individuals/families as "Iga/Koga no 
Mono" (Men  of Iga/Koga) and "Iga/Koga no Bushi" (Warriors of Iga/Koga). 
Due to this regions terrain, it was largely unexplored and the people 
living within lived a relatively isolated existence. This enabled them to 
develop perspectives which differed from the "mainstream" society of the 
time, which was under the direct influence of the upper ruling classes. 
When necessary, they successfully used the superstitions of the masses as 
a tool/weapon and became feared and slightly mythologized because of 

In the mid/late 1500's their difference in perspective led to conflict 
with the upper ruling classes and the eventual invasion/destruction of the
villages and communities within the Iga/Koga region. The term "ninja" 
was not in use at this time, but was later introduced in the dramatic
literature of the Tokugawa period (1605-1867). During this period,
ancestral fears became contempt and the stereotypical image ("clans of
assassins and mercenaries who used stealth, assassination, disguises, and
other tricks to do their work") was formed which, to this day, is still
very much the majority opinion.

Over 70 different "ninjutsu ryu" have been catalogued/identified, 
however, the majority of them have died out. Most were developed around 
a series of specific skills and techniques and when the skills of a 
particular  ryu were no longer in demand, the ryu would (usually) fade 
from existence.  The three remaining ninjutsu ryu (Togakure ryu, 
Gyokushin ryu, and  Kumogakure ryu) are encompassed in Dr. Masaaki 
Hatsumi's Bujinkan  Budo Taijutsu system.  These ryu, along with six 
other "bujutsu ryu"  (Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden 
Fudo Ryu, 
Gikan Ryu and Kukishinden Ryu), are taught as a collective body of 
knowledge (see Sub-Styles for other info).

During the "Ninja-boom" of the 80's, instructors of "Ninjutsu" were 
popping out of the woodwork - it was fashionable to wear black. Now 
that the boom is over there are not as many people trying cash in on 
the popularity of this art. However, as with all martial arts, it would 
wise to be very careful about people claiming to be "masters personally 
taught by the Grandmaster in Japan".

How do you verify the authenticity of an instructor? In the case of a
Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu instructor there a few points which one can use.

First: all recognized "instructors" of the Bujinkan Dojo will, in addition
to their Dan grade (black belt), have either a Shidoshi-ho (assistant
teacher - first to fourth Dan) or Shidoshi (teacher - fifth to ninth Dan)
certificate/ licence from Dr Hatsumi. Only people with these certificates
are considered to be qualified to teach his system (a Dan grade alone 
DOES NOT make one a teacher).

Second: in addition to these certificates/licences, all recognized
"instructors" of the Bujinkan Dojo will possess a valid Bujinkan Hombu 
Dojo Shidoshi-kai (Bujinkan Headquarters Dojo Teachers Association) 
for the current year. These cards are issued each year from Dr Hatsumi to 
those recognized as "instructors".

These points will help you if you are looking at training with someone 
from the Bujinkan Dojo. Beyond that, it's a case of "buyer beware".


Terms like "soft/hard", "internal/external", linear/circular" have been
used to describe ninjutsu by many people. Depending upon the perspective 
of the person, it could appear to be any one, all or even none of the 
above.  It is important to remember that the term "ninjutsu" does not 
refer to a specific style, but more to a group of arts, each with a 
different point of view expressed by the different ryu. The physical 
dynamics from one ryu  to another varies - one ryu may focus on 
redirection and avoidance while another may charge in and overwhelm.

To provide some kind of brief description, ninjutsu includes the study of
both unarmed and armed combative techniques, strategy, philosophy, and
history. In many Dojos the area of study is quite comprehensive. The idea
being to become adept at many things, rather than specializing in only one.

The main principles in combat are posture, distance, rythm and flow.  The
practitioner responds to attacks in such a way that they place themselves
in an advantageous position from which an effective response can be
employed. They are taught to use the entire body for every
movement/technique, to provide the most power and leverage. They will 
use the openings created by the opponents movement to implement 
techniques, often causing the opponent to "run in/on to" body weapons.


As was noted above, the areas of study in ninjutsu are diverse. However,
the new student is not taught everything at once.

Training progresses through skills in Taihenjutsu (Body changing skills),
which include falling, rolling, leaping, posture, and avoidance;
Dakentaijutsu (Striking weapons body techniques) using the entire body 
as a striking tool/ weapon - how to apply and how to receive; and 
Jutaijutsu (Supple body techniques) locks, throws, chokes, holds - how to 
apply and how to escape.

In the early stages, weapons training is usually limited to practicing how
to avoid attacks - overcoming any fear of the object and understanding the
dynamics of its use from the perspective of "defending against" (while
unarmed). In the mid and later stages, once a grounding in Taijutsu body
dynamics is in place, practitioners begin studying from the perspective of
"defending with" the various tools/weapons.

In the early stages of training, kata are provided as examples of "what 
can be done here" and "how to move the body to achieve this result". 
However, as the practitioner progresses they are encouraged to explore 
the openings which naturally appear in peoples movements and apply 
techniques based upon the principles contained within the kata. This free
flowing style is one of the most important aspects of ninjutsu training.
Adaptability is one of the main lessons of all of these ryu.

Due to the combative nature of the techniques studied, there are no
tournaments or competitions in Ninjutsu. As tournament fighting has set
rules which compel the competitor to study the techniques allowed within
that framework, this limits not only the kinds of techniques that they
study, but also the way in which they will apply those techniques. The 
way that you train is the way that you fight. Ninjutsu requires that its
practitioners be open to any situation and to be able to adapt their
technique to ensure survival.


There are a number of people claiming to teach "ninjutsu".

Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi has been the recpient of numerous cultural awards 
in recognition of his extra-ordinary knowledge of Japanese martial 
culture.  He is considered by many to be the only source for authentic 
"ninjutsu".  However, as was noted above, the teachings of the three 
ninjutsu ryu  which are part of his Bujinkan system, are not taught 
individually. Rather,  they are taught as part of the collective body of 
knowledge which forms the foundation of his Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu system.

Shoto Tanemura, formerly of the Bujinkan Dojo, formed his own 
organization (Genbukan Dojo) and claimed to be the Grandmaster 
both Iga and Koga Ryu Ninjutsu. He has since formed a number of other 
organizations and is becoming more widely known for his "Samurai Jujutsu" 
tapes (Panther Productions).

The list of names of people claiming to teach "Koga Ryu Nijutsu" is quite
long. The last person to be recognized as part of the Koga Ryu lineage in
Japan was Seiko Fujita. His knowledge of "ninjutsu" died with him - he 
left no successor.