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 Japan as ninja).[2] 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.[3]

While there is a international martial arts organization representing several styles of modern ninjutsu, the historical lineage of these styles is disputed.[4] 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.


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. 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] Ninjutsu was developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province and Kōka, Shiga of Japan.

Throughout history, the shinobi were assassins, scouts, and spies who were hired mostly by territorial lords known as the daimyo. They conducted operations that 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. 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. 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 free running, disguise, escape, concealment, archery, and medicine.[9] 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 ninjutsu, and the people who specialized in these tasks were called shinobi no mono.

The eighteen skills

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. Ninja jūhakkei was often studied along with Bugei jūhappan (the "eighteen samurai fighting art skills").

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 (chain-sickle) techniques
  11. Naginatajutsunaginata (polearm) 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

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

Composite and articulated weapons

Fistload weapons

Modified tool weapons

Projectile weapons

Staffs and polearms


Stealth tools

See also


  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, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 163. ISBN 9781598842449. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  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. Горбылев, Алексей (2013). Ниндзя: боевое искусство. Litres. p. 20. ISBN 9785457060074. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  4. Skoss, Diane. "Ninjutsu: is it koryu bujutsu?". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  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: Archived from the original on February 13, 2015. 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. Hill, Robert (2010). World of Martial Arts !. p. 62. ISBN 0557016630. Retrieved 5 January 2016.

Further reading

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