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The kanji for "ninja".
The kanji for "ninja".
Also known as Ninjitsu, Ninpō, Shinobi-jutsu
Hardness Non-competitive
Country of origin Japan Japan
Creator Ninja
Parenthood Military Tactics

Ninjutsu (忍術?) sometimes used interchangeably with the modern term ninpō (忍法?)[1] is the strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare and espionage purportedly practiced by the shinobi (commonly known outside of Japan as ninja).[2][page needed] Ninjutsu was more an art of tricks than a martial art.[3] Ninjutsu was a separate discipline in some traditional Japanese schools, which integrated study of more conventional martial arts (taijutsu) along with shurikenjutsu, kenjutsu, sojutsu, bōjutsu and others.[4]

While there are several styles of modern ninjutsu, the historical lineage of these styles is disputed.[citation needed] Some schools claim to be the only legitimate heir of the art, but ninjutsu is not centralized like modernized martial arts such as judo or karate.[citation needed] Togakure-ryū claims to be the oldest recorded form of ninjutsu, and claims to have survived past the 16th century.[citation needed]


Main article: Ninja

Spying in Japan dates as far back as Prince Shōtoku (572–622), although the origins of the Ninja date much earlier.[5] According to Shōninki, the first open usage of ninjutsu during a military campaign was in the Genpei War, when Minamoto no Kuro Yoshitsune chose warriors to serve as shinobi during a battle;[citation needed] this manuscript goes on to say that, during the Kenmu era, Kusunoki Masashige used ninjutsu frequently. According to footnotes in this manuscript, the Genpei War lasted from 1180 to 1185, and the Kenmu Restoration occurred between 1333 and 1336.[6][page needed] Ninjutsu was developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province and Kōka, Shiga of Japan.[citation needed]

Throughout history, the shinobi were assassins, scouts and spies who were hired mostly by territorial lords known as the Daimyo. They conducted operations that the samurai were forbidden to partake in.[7] Shinobi are mainly noted for their use of stealth and deception. Throughout history many different schools (ryū) have taught their unique versions of ninjutsu.[citation needed] An example of these is the Togakure-ryū, which was developed after a defeated samurai warrior called Daisuke Togakure escaped to the region of Iga. He later came in contact with the warrior monk Kain Doshi, who taught him a new way of viewing life and the means of survival (ninjutsu).[8]

Ninjutsu was developed as a collection of fundamental survivalist techniques in the warring state of feudal Japan.[citation needed] The ninja used their art to ensure their survival in a time of violent political turmoil.[citation needed] Ninjutsu included methods of gathering information, and techniques of non-detection, avoidance, and misdirection.[citation needed] Ninjutsu involved training in free running, disguise, escape, concealment, archery, and medicine.[9][page needed] Skills relating to espionage and assassination were highly useful to warring factions in feudal Japan.[citation needed] At some point the skills of espionage became known collectively as ninjutsu, and the people who specialized in these tasks were called shinobi no mono.[citation needed]

The eighteen skills[edit]

According to Bujinkan members, Ninja Jūhakkei ("the eighteen disciplines") were first stated in the scrolls of Togakure-ryū and became definitive for all ninjutsu schools.[citation needed] Ninja jūhakkei was often studied along with Bugei jūhappan (the "eighteen samurai fighting art skills").[citation needed]

The 18 disciplines are:[10]

Ninjutsu as depicted in a 19th-century sketch
  1. Bajutsuhorsemanship
  2. Bōjutsustick and staff techniques
  3. Bōryaku – tactics
  4. Chi-mongeography
  5. Chōhōespionage
  6. Hensōjutsu – disguise and impersonation
  7. Intonjutsu – escaping and concealment
  8. Kayakujutsupyrotechnics
  9. Kenjutsusword techniques
  10. Kusarigamajutsukusarigama techniques
  11. Naginatajutsunaginata techniques
  12. Seishinteki kyōyō – spiritual refinement
  13. Shinobi-iri – stealth and infiltration
  14. Shurikenjutsu – throwing weapons techniques
  15. Sōjutsuspear techniques
  16. Sui-ren – water training
  17. Taijutsu – unarmed combat
  18. Tenmonmeteorology

Weapons and equipment[edit]

The following tools may not be exclusive to the ninja, but they are commonly associated with the practice of ninjutsu.

Composite and articulated weapons

  • Kusarigama - kama linked to a weight, either by a long rope or chain.
  • Kyoketsu-shoge - hooked rope-dart, featuring a metal ring on the opposite end.
  • - 3' (Han Bō), 4', 5' (Jō) and 6' (Rokushakubō) wooden pole techniques.
  • Kusari-fundo, also known as manriki or manriki-gusari - a chain and weight weapon.

Fistload weapons

  • Kakute - rings resembling modern wedding bands with concealed, often poison-tipped spines, typically worn by kunoichi and enabling ninja to quietly strangle enemies with the pointed ends against the neck or throat.
  • Shobo - a jabbing or piercing weapon, similar in shape to kubotan and yawara, but often featuring a center grip ring.
  • Shuriken - various small hand held weapons including "throwing stars" that could be used to stab, slash or they could be thrown.
  • Bo-Shuriken - spike shaped projectiles thrown straight into target. Can improvise with steel pens or large nails, any spike shaped object.
  • Kubotan - or "hand stick". Used mainly for pressure points, subduing opponents.
  • Tekko - an earlier version of brass knuckles.
  • Tessen - a folding fan with an iron frame. It could be used to club or cut and slash the enemy.
  • Jitte - A weapon similar to the sai.

Modified tool weapons

  • Kunai - multi-purpose tool.
  • Shikoro - used as a tool for opening doors and stabbing or slashing.

Projectile weapons

  • Fukiya - Japanese blowgun, typically firing poison darts.
  • Makibishi/tetsubishi - the Japanese type of caltrop.
  • Shuriken - various small hand held weapons including throwing stars and throwing darts that could be used to stab, slash or thrown at the enemy.
  • Yumi and Ya - traditional Japanese bow and arrow.
  • Bo-hiya - fire arrow.
  • Tekagi-shuko and Neko-te - hand "claw" weapons.
  • Chakrams - disk like projectiles like boomerangs.

Staffs and polearms

  • Hanbō, , , and Tambō - various sized staff weapons.
  • Yari - traditional Japanese spear that's similar to the naginata.
  • Nagamaki - pole arm with roughly equal length blade and handle.
  • Naginata - traditional Japanese pole-arm used by women and samurai.


  • Katana - a long curved and single-edged sword, more commonly used by samurai or ninja who disguised themselves as samurai.
  • Wakizashi - short sword that can be hidden on the ninja's body, also a backup weapon.
  • Ninjatō - an edged weapon used by ninja as swords. Ninjato can be stolen katana from samurai or forged by ninja themselves with varying lengths. There's some doubt as to whether or not ninja actually used such swords.
  • Tantō - dagger.
  • Kaiken (dagger) - Similar to the tantō.
  • Bokken - traditional wooden sword use in Japanese martial arts typically modeled off of katanas.
  • Shinai - bamboo sword used in kendo.

Stealth tools

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation: An ... - Google йМХЦХ. p. 163. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  2. ^ Hayes, Stephen K. (1990). The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art (1st printing 1981, 17th printing. ed.). Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle. ISBN 0-8048-1656-5. 
  3. ^ "Japan's ninjas heading for extinction - BBC News". 2012-11-23. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  4. ^ Мхмдгъ: Анебне Хяйсяярбн - Юкейяеи Цнпашкеб - Google Ймхцх. 2013-11-21. p. 20. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  5. ^ "History of the Ninja". Retrieved 2015-06-22. 
  6. ^ Masazumi, Natori; Mazuer, Axel; Graham, Jon E. (2010). Shoninki: The Secret Teachings of the Ninja: The 17th-Century Manual on the Art of Concealment (1st U.S. ed.). Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books. ISBN 9781594776670. 
  7. ^ Shinobi-Do Ninjutsu. "History of the Ninja | Martial Arts and Ninjutsu Classes in Macomb". 42.716876;-82.820974: Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  8. ^ Hayes, Stephen K. (1990). The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art (1st printing 1981, 17th printing. ed.). Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle. pp. 18–21. ISBN 0-8048-1656-5. 
  9. ^ Hatsumi, Masaaki (1981). Ninjutsu, History and Tradition. Hollywood, Calif.: Unique Publications. ISBN 9780865680272. 
  10. ^ World of Martial Arts ! - Robert HILL - Google Books. p. 62. Retrieved 2015-06-22. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]