Posts Tagged ‘ninja origins’

Ninja Tools – Gun Powder and Kaginawa

(following excerpts taken from page 55 and 57 of “Real Ninja”)

A gunpowder-like material had already been developed by 1274, when Mongolia attacked Northern Kyushu during the Kamakura shogunate period; the gunpowder-like material had been incorporated into primitive bombs. The ninja used this powder for making signals, bombs, smoke, handguns, mortars, sounds, arson arrows, and mines. Ninja were characteristically spies—not fighters and were surreptitious, always surprising unsuspecting people. Almost all of the attack weapons were for ninja advantage—they were not designed to give their opponent a fair chance.

Kaginawa (hook and rope)
Kaginawa illustration by Hirohisa Oda

Kaginawa – The hook and rope is used for climbing up and down, tying up people, or for locking a sliding door. The strings of the Japanese harp, the “Koto” were often used to make the rope because they were so strong.

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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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Ninjas – Reality vs. Hollywood

(The following excerpt was taken was from the Preface on page 4 of “Real Ninja” book)

The ninja were not super human. Ninja were, in fact, very smart people who had a working knowledge of physics and chemistry. Generally speaking, ninja were not well paid for their espionage and other activities. Ninja activities were kept so secret that there is very little information available on them in standard history books; however, if you read carefully you may come across passages concerning their martial arts and espionage activities. Most of the information found on ninja is related to their prowess in the martial arts; yet their talent and activities extended far beyond the martial arts. The ninja played an important role in many historical incidents; mainly as espionage agents and information gatherers. Even today, collection and analysis of information is considered to be very important among financial and administrative institutions.

The “Real Ninja” book describes the ninja as they actually were, as opposed to the movie industry perspective that emphasizes a narrow range of ninja activities.

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Origins of the term, “Ninja”

Shinobi Kanji - conceal
“Shinobi” – conceal

According to many ninja technique books, called “Ninjyutsu Sho”, the word ninja originates from “shinobi”   which means to “conceal”. A Legend says that the expression “shinobi”, was first used by Prince Shootoku Taishi around the 590’s to the 610’s, as a reference to the covert activities of ninja. It is supposed that the Prince obtained important information from a ninja, named Sakihito Ootoomo, prior to listening to his counselors. It is said that people were impressed by the Prince’s ability to respond to ten or more of his counselor’s questions and request, without hesitation. (excerpt taken from page 6 of “Real Ninja” book)

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"The student of ninjutsu should have an understanding of the history of the ninja, and that is just what one gets with "Real Ninja". I recommend this book for any serious student of ninjutsu." – M. Chesbro (Rainier, Washington)