Ninjatō

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Ninjatō
Ninto.png
Ninjatō
Type Sword
Place of origin Japan
Specifications
Weight ~0.42 kilograms (0.93 lb)[1]
Length ~48 centimetres (19 in)[1]

The Ninjato (忍者刀 ninjatō?), also known as ninjaken (忍者剣?) or shinobigatana (忍刀?),[2] is the most common name for the sword that the ninja of feudal Japan are portrayed to have carried in movies, on television, and in numerous books written by modern ninjutsu practitioners including Masaaki Hatsumi[3] and Stephen K. Hayes.[4] Replicas of this weapon are also prominently on display in both the Koka Ninja Village Museum in Kōka, Shiga and the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum in Iga, Mie.[5]

Historically, there is no physical evidence for the existence of this "katana like sword legendarily used by ninja",[6] though it is believed that they are based on the design of the wakizashi or chokutō type swords.[1] Dr. Stephen Turnbull, a historian specializing in the military history of Japan indicates of historical ninja: "The most important ninja weapon was his sword. This was the standard Japanese fighting sword or katana...for convenience the ninja would choose a blade that was shorter and straighter than usual".[7]

History[edit]

Because of the lack of any physical evidence or antique swords from the Sengoku period to the Edo period (16th to 19th century) matching the description of the ninjatō,[1] the history of the weapon can only be reliably chronicled from the 20th century onwards.

1964
The Iga-ryū Ninja Museum in Japan, which houses replicas of the sword, is established.[8] That same year, the swords appeared in Shinobi no Mono Kirigakure Saizō (忍びの者 霧隠才蔵) and Shinobi no Mono Zoku Kirigakure Saizō (忍びの者 続・霧隠才蔵), the 4th and 5th entries in the Japanese jidaigeki movie series Shinobi no Mono, released in theaters in Japan.
1973
Ads selling newly manufactured and imported ninja swords appear in the American magazine Black Belt.[9]
1981
Books containing references to the sword written by Masaaki Hatsumi, the founder of the Bujinkan,[3] and Stephen K. Hayes,[4] an American who studied under Hatsumi in 1975,[10] are published.
1983
The first Hollywood film to feature the ninjatō, Revenge of the Ninja, is released in theaters.
1984
The first American television production to feature these swords, The Master, is broadcast on NBC.

Appearance[edit]

Entertainers wielding ninjatō in Edo Wonderland

The ninjatō is typically depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade (similar to that of a shikomizue[11]) with a square guard.[1] Usually of a length "less than 60 cm", the rest of the sword is comparatively "thick, heavy and straight". Hayes suggests that the typical description of the ninjatō could be due to ninja having to forge their own blades from slabs of steel or iron with the cutting edge being ground on a stone, with straight blades being easier to form than the much more refined curved traditional Japanese sword. His second possible reason for ninjatō being described as a staight bladed, rather short sword could be that the ninja were emulating one of the patron Buddhist deities of ninja families, Fudo Myo-oh, who is depicted brandishing a straight bladed short sword similar to a chokutō.[12]

The saya (scabbard) of the ninjatō were often said to have been used for various purposes such as a respiration pipe (snorkel) in underwater activities or for secretly overhearing conversations and as a club.[13][14] The scabbard is also said to have been longer than the blade of the ninjatō in order to hide various objects such as chemicals used to blind pursuers.[15][16]

The tsuba (hand guard) of the ninjato is often described as being larger than average and square instead of the much more common round tsuba. One theory on the ninjatō tsuba size and shape is that it was used as a tool, the sword would be leaned against a wall and ninja would use the tsuba as a step to extend his normal reach, the sword would then be retrieved by pulling it up by the sageo (saya cord).[17][18] Some evidence shows that the tsuba may have been made of leather (to reduce weight) where you could add a wooden block between the saya and tsuba. Along with a spiked bamboo extension that goes at the end of the saya to assist in climbing up the wall.[19]

Although evidence in either side of the debate. What is a most likely the actual appearance of the Ninjatō is that it isn't one type of sword/weapon, but the sword/weapon of opportunity. It is likely that Ninja could come from almost any class of Japanese society. [20]Which means that logically the weapon (or any tool) that they used in their trade was their main sword/weapon of choice. For example, farmers might have used the Kusarigama, given that a sickle (Gama) was used on their farm.[21]

Usage[edit]

Due to the lack of historical evidence regarding the existence of the ninjatō, techniques for usage in a martial context are largely speculative.

When used in film and stage, ninjatō are depicted as being shorter than a katana with a straight blade but they are utilized in a "nearly identical" combat style as the katana.[22]

Books and other written materials have described a number of possible ways to use the sword including "fast draw techniques centered around drawing the sword and cutting as a simultaneous defensive or attacking action",[23] with "a thrust fencing technique",[13] and with a "reverse grip".[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Dorling Kindersley. Knives and Swords. Penguin Books. p. 281. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Peter (1988). Art of the Ninja. Gallery Books. p. 53,122. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Hatsumi, Masaaki (1981). Ninjutsu: History and Tradition. Unique Publications. p. 13,93,102–103. ISBN 00865680272 Check |isbn= value (help). Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Hayes, Stephen K. (1981). The Ninja and their Secret Fighting Art. C.E. Tuttle Co. p. 89. ISBN 9780804813747. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ninja sword
  6. ^ Boughn, Jenn Zuko (2006). Stage combat: fisticuffs, stunts, and swordplay for theater and film. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 192. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (2003). Ninja Ad 1460-1650. Osprey Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-84176-525-9. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ Black Belt Magazine December 1966, p. 20. Photo of ninja sword display in the Iga-Ueno Ninja Museum. Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  9. ^ Black Belt Magazine November 1973, p. 61. Ninja Sword ad. Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Stephen K. Hayes Biography". Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  11. ^ Seishinkai Bujutsu. "Concealed and Trick Weapons". Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  12. ^ Lore of the Shinobi Warrior, Stephen Hayes. Black Belt Communications, Nov 1, 1989P.22
  13. ^ a b Virtual Museum of Traditional Japanese Arts. "Shinobi Gatana ("Ninja" swords)". Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ The Martial Arts Book, Laura Scandiffio, Nicolas Debon, Annick Press, Feb 1, 2003 P.40
  15. ^ Ninjutsu: The Art of Invisibility, Donn F. Draeger, Tuttle Publishing, Mar 15, 1992 P.60
  16. ^ Ninja: The Shadow Warrior, Joel Levy, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., Aug 5, 2008 P.59
  17. ^ Secrets of the Ninja, Ashida Kim, Citadel Press, 1981, P.60
  18. ^ Ninjutsu: The Art of Invisibility, Donn F. Draeger, Tuttle Publishing, Mar 15, 1992, P.60
  19. ^ Reference needed
  20. ^ Reference needed
  21. ^ Reference needed
  22. ^ Boughn, Jenn Zuko (2006). Stage combat: fisticuffs, stunts, and swordplay for theater and film. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 156. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  23. ^ Hatsumi, Masaaki (1981). Ninjutsu: History and Tradition. Unique Publications. p. 13. ISBN 00865680272 Check |isbn= value (help). Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  24. ^ Hayes, Stephen K. (1983). Ninja: Warrior Path of Togakure. Ohara Publications, Inc. pp. 96–97. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 

External links[edit]