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(Redirected from Ninpo)
The kanji for "ninja"
Also known asNinpō, Shinobi-jutsu
Country of originJapan
ParenthoodMilitary tactics

Ninjutsu (忍術), sometimes used interchangeably with the modern term ninpō (忍法),[1] is the martial art strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare, insurgency tactics and espionage purportedly practised by the ninja.[2][page needed] Ninjutsu was a separate discipline in some traditional Japanese schools, which integrated study of more conventional martial arts (taijutsu) along with shurikenjutsu, kenjutsu, sōjutsu, bōjutsu and others.

While there is an international martial arts organization representing several modern styles of ninjutsu, the historical lineage of these styles is disputed. 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. Togakure-ryū claims to be the oldest recorded form of ninjutsu, and claims to have survived past the 16th century.


Spying in Japan dates as far back as Prince Shōtoku (572–622). 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(ninja) during a battle. This manuscript goes on to say that during the Kenmu era, Kusunoki Masashige frequently used ninjutsu. According to footnotes in this manuscript, the Genpei War lasted from 1180 to 1185, and the Kenmu Restoration occurred between 1333 and 1336.[3][page needed] Ninjutsu proper was most likely developed during the Nanboku-cho period, used by samurai fighting on both sides of the conflict, and was further refined after the Onin War and throughout the Sengoku period, where many rising samurai warlords used ninja to gather intelligence and commit secret raids on their enemies. In the chaos following the Onin War, jizamurai from the Kōka and the Iga Province began to engage in guerilla warfare in order to protect their lands from bandits, rogue yamabushi, and larger samurai forces. The jizamurai that lived in Kōka and Iga were self-sufficient and did not answer to the shugo governors of their lands, in which the local samurai of both regions operated as de facto independent confederacies – the Kōka and Iga ikki – and formed an alliance together which persisted until the conquest of Kōka by Oda Nobunaga in 1574 and the conquest of Iga in 1581.

Throughout history, the shinobi were assassins, scouts, and spies who were hired mostly by territorial lords known as daimyō. Despite being able to assassinate in stealth, the primary role was as spies and scouts. Shinobi are mainly noted for their use of stealth and deception. They would use this to avoid direct confrontation if possible, which enabled them to escape large groups of opposition.

Many different schools (ryū) have taught their unique versions of ninjutsu. An example of this is the Togakure-ryū, which claims to have been 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).[2]: 18–21 

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

Today, the last authentic heir of ninjutsu is Jinichi Kawakami, the 21st head of the Koga Ban family, honorary director of the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, and professor at Mie University, specializing in the research of ninjutsu.[4][5] In 2012, Kawakami chose to be the end of his line of ninjutsu, stating that the art has no practical place in the modern age.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Green, Thomas A.; Svinth, Joseph R. (2011). Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 163. ISBN 9781598842449. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b Hayes, Stephen K. (1990). The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art (17th ed.). Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle. ISBN 0804816565.
  3. ^ 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 ed.). Rochester, Vernmont: Destiny Books. ISBN 9781594776670.
  4. ^ "Study/Circles|Ninja Iga-ryu - Iga-ryu Ninja Museum". Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  5. ^ ""Last Ninja" Becomes University Ninjutsu Professor". Crunchyroll. 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  6. ^ Oi, Mariko (2012-11-23). "BBC News - Japan's ninjas heading for extinction". Retrieved 2013-10-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bertrand, John (2006). "Techniques that made ninjas feared in 15th-century Japan still set the standard for covert ops". Military History. 23 (1): 12–19.
  • Borda, Remigiusz. The Illustrated Ninja Handbook: Hidden Techniques of Ninjutsu. Tokyo–Rutland, Vt.–Singapore: Tuttle, 2014.
  • Callos, Tom. "Notable American Martial Artists", Black Belt Magazine, May 2007, pp. 72–73.
  • DiMarzio, Daniel. A Story of Life, Fate, and Finding the Lost Art of Koka Ninjutsu in Japan, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4357-1208-9
  • Green, T. A. and J. R. Svinth. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2010.
  • Hatsumi, Masaaki. Ninjutsu: History and Tradition, 1981. ISBN 0-86568-027-2
  • Hatsumi, Masaaki. Ninpo: Wisdom for Life, 1998. ISBN 1-58776-206-4, ISBN 0-9727738-0-0
  • Hayes, Stephen K. and Masaaki Hatsumi. Secrets from the Ninja Grandmaster, rev. ed. Boulder, Colo.: Paladin Press, 2003.
  • Hatsumi, Masaaki. Essence of Ninjutsu, 1988. ISBN 0-8092-4724-0
  • Mol, Serge (2008). Invisible Armor: An Introduction to the Esoteric Dimension of Japan's Classical Warrior Arts. Belgium: Eibusha. ISBN 978-90-8133610-9.
  • Mol, Serge (2016). Takeda Shinobi Hiden: Unveiling Takeda Shingen's Secret Ninja Legacy. Eibusha. pp. 1–192. ISBN 978-90-813361-3-0.
  • Toshitora, Yamashiro. Secret Guide to Making Ninja Weapons, Butokukai Press, 1986. ISBN 978-99942-913-1-1
  • Zoughari, Kacem. The Ninja: Ancient Shadow Warriors of Japan, Tuttle Publishing, 2010. ISBN 0-8048-3927-1

External links[edit]