How to Become a Ninja
“Once you learn how to be a ninja, no force on this Earth can withstand your fury.”
I’m quoting myself there. I was going to try to be funny and follow that direction for the rest of this page.
After looking at how many other funny ninja how to’s there are online, I decided there aren’t enough real guides to becoming a ninja on the Internet.
So I’m going to give you a serious online how to guide for studying ninjutsu and learning what it is to be a ninja. Besides, if I’m serious, that should keep masked men in black from slipping through the perimeter of my compound and slicing my throat as I scream in terror.
You’ve probably only seen movies and tv shows where ninjas are depicted as either teams of cravenly assassins or noble warriors somewhat resembling the samurai warrior in skill and ethics. Neither of those are exactly true.
What Is a Ninja?
The ninja, also known as “shinobi”, were covert agents during the Feudal Age of Japan (roughly from the years 1185 to 1868) who used infiltration techniques for sabotage, espionage and assassination in the internecine strife of Japanese feudal life. The ninja were the special forces of their day, employed for tactics that samurai were ill-suited towards. Samurai tended to look down on the ninja for these underhanded tactics.
Ninjutsu techniques probably were taught possibly as early as the 12th century, though they really did not become known to the Japanese until the strife of the 14th and 15th centuries.
The famous Iga and Koga ninja clans rose to prominence in these times, as these two neighboring ninja groups emerged from their mountain training grounds in modern-day Shiga Prefecture to hire themselves out as mercenaries for one side or the other in the wars.
What Did Ninjas Do?
These ninjas hired themselves out in the years between 1485 and 1581, when the forces of Oda Nobunaga invaded Iga territory and wiped them out as an organized clan. The Iga and Koga had been respected allies before the wars, but 80 Koga ninja had joined forced with Tokugawa in 1560, and their raid on an Iga castle led to years of conflicts, when it was said no Iga or Koga met without their being a fight. This strife weakened the two powerful ninja groups and helped lead to their downfall.
Ironically, Iga Clan ninjas, including Hattori Hanzo, would later serve as the Tokugawa’s bodyguard. Tokugawa won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and esablished the Shogunate, which would hold power (instead of the Emperor) until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The Meiji Restoration ended the feudal age of Japan and ushered in the modernization of the Japanese industries, military and society.
Despite laws against carrying swords, the legends of ninja warriors continued to grow in Modern Japan. In the 20th century, ninjutsu schools formed, though what it means to be a ninja in modern society is hotly debated by different practitioners. I’ll let you settle that for yourself.
For the time being, here’s the best way to go about becoming a ninja master yourself.
Read About Ninjitsu
Buy a book about Ninjitsu to learn about the tradition. Examples of ninja books include Ninjitsu: History and Tradition or The Way of the Ninja: Secret Techniques, both by Masaaki Hatsumi. The first book will give you the ninja background and history. The second delves more into the techniques, truths and wisdom of Ninjitsu.
If you don’t happen to like Masaka Hatsumi’s philosophies or writing style, you can read Ninjutsu: The Secret Art of the Ninja by Simon Yeo, which discusses the long history of ninja warriors, training advice, body movement, balance and pressure points. Another option is Ninpo Ninjutsu: The Complete History and Training Guide by Tadashi Yamashita.
Watch Ninja Videos
Go to a website like Martial Arts Training Videos and buy some videos that show specific ninja skills and training techniques. This will give you visual assistance in designing your own training techniques. Of course, you’ll eventually want to learn ninjutsu from a ninja master.
Ninja Training Academies
For those who are truly dedicated to ninjutsu, there are ninja training schools such as Bujinkan Martial Arts, which is where Masaaki Hatsumi is Soke (grandmaster). There are several in Japan, though you are less likely to find them in the United States or North America. Still, there are online ninja training schools, where you can get direct instruction.
Being a Ninja
I’m not sure what you’ll do, once you become a ninja. But if you want to know how to be a ninja, you’ll need to study about ninja ethos, ninja history and ninja training. Then you’ll need to train your body and mind in the techniques that have prevailed for centuries.