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An Introduction Into Ninjutsu
Ninjutsu, known as the “invisible art” takes you into the secret world special forces.
Shinobi warriors (as Ninjutsu practitioners are known inside of Japan) learn eighteen different skill sets, designed for use during times of warfare.
Ninjutsu Training & Techniques
The Shinobi would carry out a wide range of missions, including reconnaissance, espionage and assassination. In order to enable them to do this other supporting crafts were studied, including horsemanship, field survival, disguise techniques and free running.
Of the eighteen skills which a Ninja must develop, six involve weapons training and armed combat. The large number of weapons taught to a Ninja allow him to strike from many different ranges, and in many unexpected ways.
Close Combat Skills
The ninja was trained in over a dozen different hand to hand combat weapons.
Kakute, Shuriken, and Tessen are three examples which could all be used to either strike an opponent, or to creep up upon them, using stealth as part of the attack, using poisoned tips to ensure the targets elimination. The most well-known of these weapons is the throwing star which could be thrown, or used in a stabbing or slashing motion when in close.
A number of longer staff and pole type weapons were used as well. Ranging from the short Hanbo staff to the full length traditional Naginata, these hand to hand weapons were taught to both Ninja and Samurai warrior alike.
Other forms of articulated weapon included the Kusarigama, a weighted chain or rope, spun around the head and thrown out to entangle either the opponents weapon (like their sword or staff) or them themselves, after which the Ninja could rush in and use the Kusarigamas sickle component to finish them off.
It is important to note that whilst most modern Ninjas are depicted carrying a long sword on their back (the Ninjato sword) this was not how the Ninja would normally operate.
Because of their weight and size the ninja would normally carry a smaller weapon until he had reached his target.
He could use for example the shorter, Wakizashi style sword. This would better allow him to use his stealth, creep up upon his target, and use the Wakizashi sword to steal a longer more powerful sword from his target.
A Ninja could for example attack a Samurai, stealing his much longer, more heavyweight Katana sword.
The smallest of the sword class weapons is the Kaiken. This 20 to 25cm long dagger would be worn concealed, most often used within small confined spaces, where a medium range Wakizashi or long-range Katana would be impractical.
Depending upon the mission the Ninja has a range of projectile type weapons that he can use.
For close to mid-range attacks one well-known weapon was the blowpipe. Unlike a traditional Fukiya the Ninja version was only around 50cm in length and would normally be used with poisoned tipped darts.
Mid -range weapons included the Chakram. These razor-sharp, boomerang style discs were made in both steel and brass versions. The smaller steel version (typically 15cm across) could be thrown to around 50 meters away. The brass Chakrams however, thanks to their more efficient design could reach ranges in excess of 100 meters.
The longest range weapon the Ninja had was the Yumi and Ya (the bow and arrow). First seen in prehistoric times the bow and arrow was developed consistently by the Japanese military for over 700 years. Using natural materials, pieces of bamboo were added on to the wooden frame of the Yumi, giving it greater speed, accuracy and range.
Ninjutsu Training & Equipment
The Ninja is most well-known for the Shinobi Shozoku, the black Ninja suit they are most often depicted in. The Ninja suit comprises of a hood to cover the face, a jacket, trousers and leggings. On the feet the Ninja wore black Tabi, similar to sandals. The Ninja’s jacket, similar to a Jiu-Jitsu jacket was equipped with pockets, used to store the weapons and any other devices the Ninja may be carrying as part of their mission.
Wearing the Shozoku during normal training though is rare, and most Ninjutsu practitioners train in either regular shorts and T-shirt, or mixed martial arts style rash guard and shorts. Anything can be worn though as the Ninja (or Shinobi) would most often work undercover, wearing regular civilization attire.
The large number of weapons with which the Ninja was trained means you to have a wide range of weapons to train with. Nearly all types, in a safe form (for example knives and throwing stars made of rubber) can be purchased online quite easily and cheaply, you could even learn two or three at a time, even with a smaller budget.
Three Of The World’s Most Famous Ninjas
Masaaki Hatsumi – Masaaki Hatsumi is both grandmaster and the founder of the Bujinkan Organization. Teaching out of Chiba, Japan he continues the story of how Ninjutsu was originally developed by mountain clans, coming to Japan as exiles of the Tang Dynasty.
He was awarded Instructor Of The Year status by Black Belt Magazine in 1986 and went on to win five other prestigious awards in both the martial arts and the influence they had in more mainstream culture.
Sarutobi Sasuke – Sarutobi Sasuke is a fictional Ninja originally talked about in ancient folklore. He has however made a resurgence in more recent times, becoming part of popular culture by first appearing in children’s books written in the early 1900s.
He now often appears as an adult character in Japanese anime films and as a Manga cartoon character.
Seiko Fujita – Seiko Fujita, born in 1898 is considered by most to be the last true Ninja. He carried out assignments for the Imperial government during both the Taisho and Showa eras.
Teaching strategy during world war two Fujita went on to work for the government as a security specialist and in his later years went on to become an influence upon many of the traditional Japanese martial arts.
Bujinkan – Headed by Masaaki Hatsumi the Bujinkan is an international organization with strong links with both Ninja and Samurai warrior class.
Based in Japan it has a complete Ninja training program, using skills which have been practiced and refined since early Feudal times. Today the organization focuses on one specific set of techniques each year, so that those ancient skills can still be performed by today’s current masters to the same high level as they were when used in ancient times.
To-Shin Do – Unlike the traditional techniques taught by the Bujinkan, the martial art To-Shin Do is a modernized version of Ninjutsu. Created in 1997 by Black Belt Hall of Fame instructor Stephen Hayes, it’s techniques are aimed towards the more modern threats a person may face, in today’s modern society.
Focusing initially upon self-defense techniques, once the practitioner has achieved a higher rank of brown or black belt they may opt to go on study the more advanced techniques, many of which are more in line with the traditional ninjas more lethal, military style role.
Present Day Organizations – Over the last thirty years there have been a number of organizations come and go, this is happening because many are having a difficult time providing evidence for their claimed linage back to the original masters.
Because of this new Ninjutsu organizations have sprung up incorporating the new, more modern training techniques.
Three of these include the Quest Center by Stephen K. Hayes, the Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan school founded in 1996 by Fumio Manaka (a former student of Masaaki Hatsumi) and the Kage No Michi Ninjutsu school, founded in 2005 by former traditional stylist Tafan Hong.