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Why should I study ninjutsu?

The Ninja Boom

During the 1980's, you couldn't help but be exposed to ninjutsu, or as it was often then transliterated, ninjitsu. Rumors flew about a secret art training black-clad assassins who would disappear in a cloud of smoke, ninja throwing stars embedded into ruthless samurai, and the illegal back-room teaching that allowed the art to grow. This was, of course, pure fantasy.

Who Were the Ninja

Peasants, ronin, and samurai alike learned ninjutsu, and their reasons for fighting were varied. Two of the most famous schools were Iga Ryu and Koga Ryu, which were the Ryu of many famous historical and literary ninja -- Otomo no Hosohito (believed to be an originator of the Koga Ninja), Hattori Hanzo Yasunaga (One of the Three Great Iga Jonin, retainer of the Tokugawa clan, and writer of Ninpiden), Hattori Hanzo Masanari (Son of Yasunaga, called Oni-Hanzo, or "Devil Hanzo")... Even many ninja currently famous from such cartoons as Naruto originally appeared in literature as Koga Ryu or Iga Ryu (Such as Sarutobi Sasuke, originally appearing in Sanada Juyushi, "The Sanada Ten Braves Story").

It is believed that the fundamental differences between the Iga and Koga were not so bloody as rumored in legends. The Iga ninja consisted of Jonin, Chunin, and Gennin (Upper Man, Middle Man, and Low Man, respectively), and would dispatch ninja to both sides of the same battle so long as they were paid. The Koga, however, were rumored to fight for principles, and would never join a battle they did not believe in.

How is Ninjutsu Practical Today?

In an age of high-tech firearms, UAVs, and mechanized infantry, it can be hard to see the merits of practicing arts that were developed hundreds of years ago. Our ninjutsu comes from Togakure Ryu, from the Tokagushi region of Iga, and the techniques learned from that school are mostly about escaping, about surviving. Surrounded by bushi (warriors, samurai, guards), the ninja, armed mostly with inferior quality weapons, had to be able to rely on his wits to escape -- and a well-trained, well-prepared mind (the part of you that knows to act, not the brain) is always the most powerful weapon in ninjutsu.

Today, dealing with criminals, rowdy bar patrons, attackers, the lack of preparation is tantamount to resigning yourself to their violent will. Ninjutsu teaches you to be prepared for the worst, and cheat your way to safety. Ninjutsu is not about hurting your enemy, but about you surviving to return home to your family who loves you, who depends on you.

The head is just another part of the body, and we must learn to overcome the tendency to make distinction between the brain and the other internal organs of the body. The body knows how to move if we let it, and it does not require active mental control to respond properly in a threatening situation. The student of ninjutsu works to eliminate the unwieldy process of first mechanically thinking through a response before actually carrying it out. This naturalness of movement results from learning how all the functions work in coordination and balance with each other.

-Hatsumi Masaaki, Soke, Togakure-Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu

 

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