Spiritual training – Seishin teki kyoyo
- Know yourself, your needs and desires
- Know the nature, environment and the universe
- Understand the importance of destiny
- Be in harmony with the nature and society (harmony)
- Understand others and have empathy (heart)
- See and observe your environment (eye)
- Love yourself and others (love)
Tai Jutsu –
Combat Training. Fighting with no weapons
– Punching, kicking, blocking
– Close fighting, grappling, submission holds and escape holds
– Silent movement, leaping, falling, rolling and tumbling
Staff fighting (Using Bo (Long stick))
Throwing blades- Throwing shuriken stars
– Spear fighting. The ninja trained with the spears commonly used by the samurai as follow:
Te-yari – A short spear
Naga-yari – A long spear
Tetsu-yari – A metal spear
Sanbon-yari – A three bladed spear
Kama-yari – A spear with an additional half moon blade
Naginatajutsu (Spear with a katana ending/Polearm)
– Chain and sickle weapon
– Fire and explosives
– Disguise Techniques . The ninja were trained to be able to impersonated at least 7 different characters as a monk, a samurai, a merchant, a craftsmen, a farmer, a performer and an ordinary peasant. The ninja used to carry at least 2 costumes with them.
– Sneaking in and stealth techniques
– The correct timing
– Locating the weakest point
– Locating the weakest staff
– Using an object for distraction
– The way of concealing the sounds
– Water skills
– Strategy. The ninja were trained to think strategically. Not only defeating one enemy but also how to overcome a group and sometimes how to defeat the enemy without fighting (acting politically etc.).
– Espionage. The ninja studied the techniques of how to gain trust and how not to look or act suspicious.
– Escape techniques
– Survival skills. Surving in the wild, hunting and gathering skills, tracking skills.
The Training of Ninja
The way ninjas trained vary based on the school, clan and ryuha. Also not all ninjas had to go through the 18 different kind of training mentioned above. For example, many ninjas did not own a horse as historically only samurais were publicly allowed to ride a horse. We categorized the techinues into these four groups
Survival techniques: Ninja had to know how to survive in the wild. They were experts in meteorology and botanics and they trained for physical strength to endure hardships in nature.
Stealth Techniques: Some famous ninjutsu school puts special emphasis on how to quietly sneak in castles and then kidnap the target person or free a hostage.
Disguise Techniques: The ninjas were the masters of disguise. It was said that each ninja could transform into 7 different characters at any time. Their outfit most of the time had different colors inside and outside. They also wore protective chainwear kusari underneath the outfit as they did not want to stand out.
Poisons, explosives and weapons: Ninjas were usually hired as a spy not assassins. However, they knew how to make explosives and use various weapons to defend themselves. For example they often used flaming arrows to create a fire in castles when there is a dry wind. In this way they could easily sneak in a castle.
Ninja Survival Techniques
Since the ninja could not own horses and did not carry swords unlike the samurai, they had to run so fast in order to survive. Some ninjas could run more than 50km in one day. They trained up in the mountains to have larger lungs.
The ninja had to quietly wait hours and hours on the rooftop or a basement of a house they are trying to sneak in. They had to learn to hold their breath for a long period and to breathe silently. During their practice, the ninja would put a feather on the tip of the nose and make sure it does not fall off when they are breathing with a shut mouth.The ninja also learned how to control their breath by holding it first for short durations (e.g. 15 seconds) and then gradually increasing that duration to 2-3 minutes). You can also search for Jim Hoff technique for this.
- Not being detected was one of the most important things for the ninja. That’s why they did not smoke and eat spicy food before missions. They always took herbal showers in order to not to have any bad body odor that can alert the enemy.
- Ninjas mostly ate red beans and black rice believing that black food made them healthier. Ninjas ate lots of vegetables and carried cookies that are made of dried red bean paste.
- Ninjas usually did not wear a black outfit in order to not stand out. Their preferred color was navy blue, the least visible color in the dark.
- Ninjas were mostly farmers, the influence of farming can be seen on most of their weapons, particularly the sickle and chain and the ninja knife kunai.
- Ninjas were expected to weigh less than 60 kgs, not because they may cause the roofs they are running on to collapse but being lighter and nimble helped them spend less time looking for food and run faster.
- If there are dew drops on spider nets, it would be a clear weather
- If there is a large ring around the moon, it is likely to rain
- If the mountains seem close, it is likely to rain
- If the stars are twinkling, the next day will be rainy
- If it is cloudy but not windy, it is not going to rain (fall season only)
- Ninjas also often set a fire to ablaze the enemy territory. It is very important to know when there will be a smooth dry wind called the “foehn effect” to accelerate the fire. The ninjas used kites in the morning to predict the dry wind in the afternoon.
- The ninja often observed birds. If the birds suddenly changed rotations from certain trees that meant there may be humans. On the opposite side, if the birds are freely flying over a castle , that meant there were not many soldiers.
Did you know? Ninjas could tell the time by just looking at cats’ eyes. Since the ninja had to hide and wait for the enemy sometimes for days, they developed a method to tell time by looking at the eyes of the stray cats. If the cats’ eye pupils were big and round, it meant it is morning or evening. If the pupil is sharp and thin, the time was around noon.
Mental Strength Training
The ninja often practiced slow breathing and meditation to calm down and focus. Ninja had to learn how to keep focus from the start to finish. Many people are focused only at the beginning of any given task but later they lose their focus and at the end most people get bored. People also lose focus when the weather is intense (heavy rain, heavy wind, extreme heat, etc.). Ninja never loses the focus or gets bored until the end. They practiced mindfulness: focusing on only the present time and sensing every little movements including bugs and birds near them.
Kuji Kiri Hand signs. Also seen in the manga series Naruto, the ninja have strange hand signals which are believed to help a person to calm down but still be alert. A recent study showed that doing some of these hand signs really helped people relieve stress. The history of ninja is traced back to China where meditation and hypnosis were famous. These signs may have roots in the ancient China.
Ninja Disguise Techniques
The ninja often wore large straw hats and were able to transform into 7 different characters such as priest, komuso, merchant, acrobat, musician farmer and warrior. The 7 disguises of ninja is called shichihoude in Japanese.
The ninja also of course never wore black uniform as they were spies and they wanted to blend in by wearing casual clothes. The black ninja uniform first appeared in the James Bond Movie “You only live Twice” filmed in 1967.
Some ninjas particularly liked pretending to be a komuso which is a flute player who belonged to a temple. The komuso wore huge basket hats that covered their full head which helped them meditate. But the ninja used this as a disguise and used the flute as a blow pipe to target the enemy.
Ninja Stealth Techniques
Ninja Walk (Shinobi Aruki)
- Ninjas had to be very quiet when walking and often trained by walking on the sand and gravel to test their silent and trace-less walking skills.
- Ninja lowered the body to the ground by bending their knees. Standing meant they were more likely to be spotted.
- They walked simultaneously. The ninja moved both right foot and arm, followed by the left.
- A ninja stepped on the floor by the outer edges of the feet. It helped reduce the sound. Other major stealth walking techniques required to step first by the tiptoe or heel. The ninja used to step on by the outer sides of the feet first.
It is said that before the ninja were sent to the mission they had to walk on a huge Japanese wrinkled paper called washi and even if a slightest sound came out. They were not sent to the mission.
There are also nightingale floors in many Japanese temples and castles. These floors make the squeaking sound and they are made to protect from intruders who sneak in at night. But the ninjas knew how to walk on these floors without any sounds.
Basic Ninja Stealth Techniques
- Distract the enemy (creating sounds in the opposite direction, modern-day phone call)
- Reduce light and visibility for the enemy (active at night without the moonlight, turn the lights off)
- Observe and take advantage of the weak points of the enemy (pretend as if you are weak and seeking help)
- Conceal sounds (animal companion or sounds)
- Conceal traces (walking on a piece of cloth)
Ninja Memory Training
A ninja had to remember all the detailed information they acquired on a mission for weeks or sometimes months. To achieve these, they developed a few techniques to easily remember things:
- Numbers associated with body parts: Each body part represents a number from 0 to 9 (1 eyes, 2 nose , 3 mouth, 4 throat, 5 elbow, 6 hair, …). This made it easier for ninja to remember any particular number (e.g. 431=throat-mouth-eyes)
- Scars on the body: This may sound painful, but the ninja used to lightly carve the important info on their skin by using sharp objects like shuriken.
- Hidden paper notes in bamboo sandals: To look normal, the ninja often wore sandals made out of bamboo leaves. After writing the notes on tiny pieces of paper, they used to roll it tightly and attach it to their sandal as if it was a bamboo straw.
Ninjas and Infiltration
- When guarding a castle, the enemy guardians have 2 groups, one with the lantern and a few minutes later a group without the lantern. The purpose is to trick the spies who may be waiting for the guardians.
- When infiltrating a castle, a ninja often waits for the natural sounds (such as the sound of the temple bell or sound of thunderstorm, etc.) before moving
- In the past, when the ninja infiltrated a large house they often carried a fake love letter to the maid of the house. Historically, all big houses had a house maid and if the ninja were caught, they pretended to be the lover of the maid. They said, we are here to give this love letter to the maid of this house.
- One technique the ninja used when they got caught was to name one of the generals on the opposite sides as a traitor assistant. They picked a general who may be suspected of collaborating with the enemy. They often believed the ninja and released them by asking the ninja to be the double agent.
- During the night missions, the ninja used “horagai” or the conch shells to send signals via sound as they can not use any visible signals to communicate in the dark.
- A tactic to distract the enemy is starting a false conversation with an imaginary ninja. When being chased by the enemy the ninja pretends that there is another ninja and yells him to move to the certain direction. While the enemy tries to move that direction, the ninja advances to the opposite direction.
- Ninjas often use the “soft noise” test by throwing small stones on the floor or whispering towards the guards softly. If there is no reaction from the guards, that means it is safe. Another test is the “blowpipe powder” test. The ninja blows some powder in to the room and if the person inside pretending to be sleeping, he/she would start itching. If there is no itching, that means the person is genuinely sleeping.
- Ninja used the “hikinawa” long pulling rope by just leaving one end of the rope at the entrance point to find their way back when exiting from the same place in the dark.
- Ninja had a kunai knife which was used by farmers as a digging tool. The ninja often used it to dig holes under the fences.
- When infiltrating a house or a castle, Ninja used to wear silent sandals that did not make any noise and did not leave any trace as they had soft soles underneath.
Some Additional Ninja Training Facts
- Most of what is known about ninja and ninjutsu are criticized for being fiction because the ninjas were spies who did not leave written records behind them. While there are hundreds of black and white photos of samurais from the 1800s, there is no verified ninja photo from the 1800s. What we know about the ninjas today are mostly the word of mouth.
- The concept of ninja became popular in the Western World when James Bond fought against a group of ninja in the 1967 movie titled “You Only Live Twice.”
- The shuriken (ninja star) were rarely used as the ninja cannot carry many of them as these were heavy and made noises. It made more sense to use it as a knife. Occasionally the ninja threw them in opposing directions to distract the enemy.
- Many Japanese castles and temples have a kind of floor called nightingale floor, the ones that squeak one someone steps on. Those floors were made to hear the silent ninjas who raided castles in the middle of the night. No matter how light the intruder is, the nightingale floor makes the chirping sound (e.g. the floors at the Nijo Castle).
- For silent walking the ninja trained by walking on a large piece of rice paper and they were not sent on a mission if they could not walk without any sound.
- One of the less known weapons of the ninja is the egg-shells. After making a hole underneath, they filled them with either gunpowder, ash or irritating chemicals. The ninja threw the chemical-filled at their targets to either distract attention or gain time to escape.
If the ninja did not know in which room the target person was, they used to make fake animal sounds outside and wait for the target person to come out for the curiosity and then locate that person.
Ninja often used cryptography. One of the common ways was to replace each letter with numbers (e.g. a:1, b:2, c:3…f:6..) or using a morse code.
When the ninja had to cross a river with a strong stream, the best swimming ninja used to swim against the stream and tie a long rope around a tree on the other side and then the rest of the group used to cross the river easily by holding the rope.
In order to capture the enemy without harming them, the ninja used the leather bullets and blow pipes.
The ninja often used the metsubushi toxic powders to disorient ant catch the enemy. They often used arsenic or crushed blister beetles wrapped in a handkerchief. It is important to stand aside after throwing the handkerchief ball around the target and cover the face to not get affected. The target starts coughing and vomiting and the ninja makes the move to arrest the enemy.
The Skills of Ninja
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