History of the Ninja – Sun Tzu

(The following excerpt was taken was from the “Real Ninja” book)

Sun Tzu Kanji
Sun Tzu Kanji

The original concept of the ninja was described in “Sun Tzu”, a book on military science, written by “Sun Wu” in approximately 400 B.C. The book was written because of the need for military expertise during the Warring States Period in China, which extended from the end of the 5th century B.C. to the early 3rd century B.C. Many kingdoms rose and declined during these centuries of continual war, which explains the remarkable development of military technology.

The most famous part of the” Sun Tzu” states that, “you should know the enemy and you should know yourself-even if you fight one hundred times, you will win one hundred times.” This expression indicates you must not only collect intelligence regarding your enemy, but you must also collect information about your own warring capability. Even if you feel brave, you should not take on the risk of fighting a superior enemy. Instead, you should form good diplomatic relations with your neighboring kingdoms. Of course, you can wage war against distant kingdoms because the threat to your own kingdom is minimized by distance.

According to the “Sun Tsu”, the first step in preparing for war and survival is gathering intelligence; espionage is an essential intelligence collecting tool and an essential factor in designing a systematic method of warfare.

It is thought that the “Sun Tzu” was hand carried like other Chinese character texts, such as the “Thousand Chinese Characters”, to Japan via immigrants who traveled through the Korean Peninsula and immigrants who traveled the sea currents from Southern China. Therefore, it is undoubtedly true that the Japanese nobility utilized the ideas of “Sun Tzu” during their political power struggles.

Old fashioned warfareThe ninja were fundamentally intelligence spies, not warriors, and carried out most of their activities during peacetime. Even if there were no major wars going on, the rulers always needed to have reliable intelligence because there were always conflicts in the court and among local monarchs. In approximately the 6th century A.D., Japan realized the necessity of developing an integrated governing system. As society developed, politics became more sophisticated and the high-ranking nobles needed information to defeat political enemies and to prevent rebellions. The majority of noble people in Japan during the 6th century were immigrants from China and Korea. Undoubtedly, they knew of the “Sun Tzu”, and must have incorporated some of its concepts on warfare into their political thinking.

These concepts also became the basis for ninja tactics.

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