Ninjutsu (忍術) sometimes used interchangeably with the term ninpō (忍法) is the martial art, strategy, and tactics of unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare practiced by the shinobi (commonly known outside of Japan as ninja).[1] A female ninja is called a kunoichi (especially in fiction).

While there are several styles of modern ninjutsu, not all can be related to the historic practice of ninjutsu in Japan so as to be considered a koryū (a traditional or ancient martial art).[2]


The main character nin (忍) is composed of two greater characters. The upper character ha (刃) means "edge of the sword", and the lower character kokoro (心)means "heart" or "soul". The character 刀 means "sword" or "blade," the character 刃 means "edge of the sword." Together they mean "stealth", "secretness", "endurance", "perseverance", and "patience".[3] Jutsu| means "art" or "technique". | meaning "knowledge", "principle" when found with the prefix "nin" carries the meaning of ninja arts, higher order of ninjutsu. The popular view is that ninjutsu is only about secrecy and stealth. However, practitioners of this knowledge utilize it to endure all of life's hardships.[4]


Ninjutsu was developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province and Kōka, Shiga of Japan. Throughout history the shinobi have been seen as assassins, scouts and spies. They are mainly noted for their use of stealth and deception. They have been associated in the public imagination with activities that are considered criminal by modern standards. Throughout history many different schools (ryū) have taught their unique versions 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).[5]

Ninjutsu was developed as a collection of fundamental survivalist techniques in the warring state of feudal Japan. The ninja used their art to ensure their survival in a time of violent political turmoil. Ninjutsu included methods of gathering information, and techniques of non-detection, avoidance, and misdirection. Ninjutsu can also involve training in disguise, escape, concealment, archery, medicine, explosives, and poisons.[6]

Skills relating to espionage and assassination were highly useful to warring factions in feudal Japan. Because these activities were seen as dishonorable, Japanese warriors hired people who existed below Japan's social classes to perform these tasks. These persons were literally called Template:Nihongo.[7] At some point the skills of espionage became known collectively as ninjutsu, and the people who specialized in these tasks were called shinobi no mono.).[8]

18 Skills

In Japanese "Ninja Jūhakkei" that according to Bujinkan[9] members the eighteen disciplines (jūhakkei < jūhachi-kei) were first stated in the scrolls of Togakure-ryū. Subsequently they became definitive for all ninjutsu schools by providing total training of the warrior in various fighting arts and agarter.

Ninja jūhakkei was often studied along with Bugei Jūhappan (the "18 samurai fighting art skills"). Though some are used in the same way by both samurai and ninja, other techniques were used differently by the two groups.

The 18 disciplines are:[10]

  1. Seishin-teki kyōkō (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 (tactics)
  15. Chōhō (espionage)
  16. Intonjutsu (escaping and concealment)
  17. Tenmon (meteorology)
  18. Chi-mon (geography)

Today the main focus of ninjutsu deals with the techniques relevant to armed and unarmed combat.[11]



Masaaki Hatsumi demonstrating ninjutsu techniques on Mind & Body Moves

See main article Schools of Ninjutsu

While other traditional martial arts such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō-ryū contain some ninjutsu in their curriculum, they are not solely ninjutsu schools. Many schools of ninjutsu purportedly exist, some of which claim to be traced back to Japanese origins though this assertion is controversial.

The Arashikage Martial Arts Academy in San Francisco is one such school.


See also

  • Kunoichi
  • Neo-ninja: a term that refers to modern martial arts schools which claim to teach elements of the historic ninja of Japan, or base their school's philosophy upon traits attributed to the historic ninja of Japan.


  1. Hayes, Stephen. “The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art.” ISBN 0804816565, Tuttle Publishing, 1990
  2. 2.0 2.1 Skoss, Diane (ed.); Beaubien, Ron; Friday, Karl (1999). Ninjutsu: is it koryu bujutsu?. Retrieved on 2007-01-01.
  3. Hayes, Stephen. "The Mystic Arts of the Ninja." 1985: 2
  4. Hayes, Stephen. “The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art.” ISBN 0804816565, Tuttle Publishing, 1990
  5. Hayes, Stephen. “The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art.” ISBN 0804816565, Tuttle Publishing, 1990: 18-21
  6. Hatsumi, Masaaki. “Ninjutsu: History and Tradition.” June 1981
  7. Draeger, Donn F. (1973, 2007). Classical Bujutsu: The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan. Boston, Massachusetts: Weatherhill. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-8348-0233-9. 
  8. Hayes, Stephen. “The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art.” ISBN 0804816565, Tuttle Publishing, 1990
  9. Bujinkan Dojo - Soke Masaaki Hatsumi. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  10. Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. Retrieved on 2008-01-30.
  11. Ninjutsu General Training Information. Retrieved on 2008-01-03.


  • Essence of Ninjutsu by Masaaki Hatsumi (ISBN 0-8092-4724-0)
  • Notable American Martial Artists by Callos, Tom. Black Belt Magazine (May 2007) 72-73
  • Ninjutsu: History and Tradition by Masaaki Hatsumi (ISBN 0-86568-027-2)
  • Ninpo: Wisdom for Life by Masaaki Hatsumi (ISBN 1-58776-206-4 or 0972773800)
  • The Ninja and their Secret Fighting Art by Stephen K. Hayes (ISBN 0-8048-1656-5)
  • Wingspan: Culture-Society-People in Japan, Where Have All the Ninja Gone? by Thomas Dillon (September, 2007 No.459)
  • Historical group image editorial staff compilation by Kuroi Hiroshi optical work (ISBN 978-4-05-604814-8)
  • The Last of the Ninja by Thomas Dillon
  • Secret Guide to Making Ninja Weapons, by Yamashiro Toshitora, Butokukai Press, 1986, ISBN 978-9994291311
  • A Story of Life, Fate, and Finding the Lost Art of Koka Ninjutsu in Japan by Daniel DiMarzio (ISBN 978-1-4357-1208-9)
  • 'Techniques that made ninjas feared in 15th-century Japan still set the standard for covert ops.' Bertrand, John. (2006). 23(1), pp. 12-19. Retrieved on July 11, 2008 from Academic Search Premier database.
  • Secrets from the Ninja Grandmaster (Rev. Ed.). Hayes, Stephen K. and Masaaki Hatsumi. (2003). Boulder, Colorado; Paladin Press.

External links

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