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The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art

The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art

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The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art

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193 página
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Dec 20, 2011


Look past the legends and learn about the REAL ninjas of feudal Japan with this entertaining, illustrated ninjutsu guide.

Ninjutsu, the least understood of the Japanese martial arts, is an ancient fighting style emphasizing natural movement, responsiveness to adversaries, and absolute practicality. In feudal Japan, ninja were feared for their skill in espionage and, particularly, assassination. Masters of weaponry, stealth, and martial techniques, ninja were credited with supernatural powers because of the near-invincibility of their unique and deadly art.

In The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art, Black Belt Hall of Fame member, Stephen K. Hayes, reveals the secrets that lead to the perception of the ninja as warriors of almost sorcerous skill—the art of invisibility, special tools and weapons, and psychological training enabling the ninja to gain advantage in any situation.

Chapters include:
  • Perspective—Origin; Organization; Training; At the Height of Power; The Decline; Ninjutsu in the Modern World
  • Search for the Ninja
  • Unarmed Combat—The Ninja Fists; Fighting Postures; Other Factors
  • Weaponry—Chains and Cords; Sticks and Staffs; Canes with Concealed Weapons; The Ninja Sword; Throwing Blades
  • The Way of Invisibility—Sense Deception; Phantom Steps; Reconnaissance; Blending with the Night; Attacking the Eyes; The Art of Disguise
  • Shadow Warriors—Espionage; Commando Tactics
  • The Realm of the Spirit—Psychological Warfare; The Force of the Killer; The Great Harmony
Dec 20, 2011

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The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art - Stephen K. Hayes



List of Illustrations


1 Perspective




At the Height of Power

The Decline

Ninjutsu in the Modern World

2 Search for the Ninja

3 Unarmed Combat

The Ninja Fists

Fighting Postures

Other Factors

4 Weaponry

Chains and Cords

Sticks and Staffs

Canes with Concealed Weapons

The Ninja Sword

Throwing Blades

5. The Way of Invisibility

Sense Deception

Phantom Steps


Blending with the Night

Attacking the Eyes

The Art of Disguise

6. Shadow Warriors


Commando Tactics

7. The Realm of the Spirit

Psychological Warfare

The Force of the Killer

The Great Harmony



Note: Page numbers correspond to the print edition.

21. Boshi-ken


Having spent one-third of my life practicing the Asian fighting arts, I was honored to be the first American ever accepted as a personal student by the headmaster of the last historically unbroken ninjutsu tradition in Japan. After my initial training sessions in the moonlit Japanese countryside, my feelings of being honored changed to a growing realization that I had at last found the ultimate fighting art and philosophical system for me.

In the winter of 1978, in the midst of my several years in Japan, I began writing this, my first book, documenting the original teachings of these ancient and undiluted warrior ways. All these decades later, I am still proud of this book. It continues to shine valuable illumination on this so often misunderstood martial art.

I must express my gratitude to Masaaki Hatsumi, thirty-fourth headmaster of the Togakure-ryu ninja tradition, for giving me exactly what I wanted those decades ago. I sought answers unheard of in the greater martial arts world I had deliberately left behind. I became part of the ninja dojo when there were just dozens of people training, years before this book and my others made Masaaki Hatsumi world famous and brought thousands of eager students to his door. What I wanted was the lore of the ninja and their secret fighting art. I was rewarded with knowledge impossible to find in the mainstream martial arts. My teacher granted that to me, though more often than not I had to steal his knowledge; I was shown a path and then challenged to figure out the secrets for myself if I could.

My thanks go out to the staff of the Iga-Ueno Ninja Museum for information on the military aspects of Iga Ryu ninjutsu. They were there for me in the years long before Iga-Ueno became a popular attraction for tourists. I appreciate their allowing me to photograph their displays and reproduce them in this book.

I also wish to thank Rumiko Urata for her long hours of assistance in translating obscure Japanese documents. Who would have guessed in the late 1970s that she would become my bride, and we would celebrate daughters and then grandchildren as the years unfolded?

I greatly appreciate the friendship and aid of Koyu Tanaka. He so generously helped me get established in my new home in Japan. Many were our late night conversations in my humble little house on the Edo River.

And lastly, a thank you nod to the late Charles E. Tuttle, who signed my original contract for this book. He got me started on this wild, twisted adventure that has been my life since those daring days back in the 1970s.

I should mention that in these pages I have done my best to recall my training and conversations as accurately as possible. The conversations have been translated from Japanese into English, and edited for continuity. I assume responsibility for any mistakes or misinterpretations.



In an era over eight centuries ago, when Japan was composed of many independent feudal states and war was frequent, Daisuke of the Togakure family once suffered heavy losses in battle. Retreating into the mountains, he came upon the teachings of the warrior-priest Kain Doshi. There in the fog-shrouded peaks of Iga Province, Daisuke studied long and hard a new art of combat, new ways to use the body and spirit, a new vision. From this mystic teaching he learned to move freely without being perceived, and how to work his will without action. With the knowledge of these secrets, Daisuke emerged from the mists of Iga the master of a new concept of accomplishment. Thus was born the legend of the shadow warriors of Togakure.

(From a tale of the origin of the Togakure-ryu ninja


Woven into the rich fabric of Japanese cultural, political, and religious history is the story of an incredible art of espionage and individual combat. Its name is ninjutsu 忍術, the art of stealth, the way of invisibility, and its practitioners were the legendary spies and commandos of feudal Japan known as the ninja 忍者. Ninjutsu flourished amid the civil turmoil of the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries. During this period the art was refined into a deadly science, incorporating sophisticated techniques for warfare, intelligence gathering, and spiritual development. When the odds were unfavorable or dishonor threatened, the ninja could be hired to bring victory and restore the harmony of society through espionage or assassination. Often a few black-garbed ninja could do by subtle means what it would have taken hundreds of armored soldiers to accomplish. It was these exploits that gave rise to legends that are still popular in Japan today.

The ninja’s guiding philosophy was to choose the dark, quiet, and subtle method over the bold, active, and forceful. In this way, the natural order of events was disturbed as little as possible. Suggestion took the place of force, deception replaced confrontation, and the adversary was guided into unknowingly doing the ninja’s bidding instead of being crushed in humiliating defeat. This psychological slant characterized ninjutsu, and allowed the ninja to accomplish the most while expending minimum energy and exposing himself to the least amount of danger.

Its practitioners considered ninjutsu to be a comprehensive art for the attainment of their goals, the art of winning. This approach required a graphic visualization of the goal and unswerving commitment to reaching it, all under the guidance of perfect moral judgment. The ninja were commoners, far below the exalted status of the samurai warrior class, and thereby free of the samurai’s rigid code of honor and prescribed way of handling situations. The samurai had to balance the dual considerations of achieving his goal and maintaining the honor and prestige of the family name, whereas the ninja was able to concentrate his energy exclusively on the goal at hand, having no honor or name to protect. Because of this total commitment, the service of the ninja commanded a high price.

Women as well as men were trained in the complex art of ninjutsu. Kunoichi (female ninja) posing as dancers, entertainers, or servants were often used for observation or espionage inside the enemy camp. Many times female assassins were able to gain the confidence of their victims through beauty and charm when other means of attack had proven futile.


Looking back over a thousand years of history, it is difficult to sort out fact from fancy. There is no documentary evidence to support any one theory of the birth of this obscure art. The stories of the superstitious tell of the ninja’s descent from the tengu, terrifying long-nosed demons said to be half man and half crow, and supposedly possessed of the ability to alter the laws of nature and the workings of men’s minds.

2. Ancient documents preserving the lore of the ninja.

3. Scroll depicting a ninja climbing tool.

Probably closer to the actual playing out of history are scrolls indicating that the art had its ultimate source in military men who fled collapsing T’ang China around A.D. 900. When the mainland kingdoms that had employed them fell, generals and commanders such as Ikai, Cho Busho, and Cho Gyokko found themselves hunted men, and so sought sanctuary across the narrow sea on the islands of Japan. Their teachings found

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  • (4/5)
    This is a cool look at ninja history, philosphy and techniques.