Cultural opposites of the samurai, the ninja were mountain mystics and farmers that because of territorial wars were forced to develop an art of combat to protect themselves and provide security for their families. As Japan entered its war-torn feudal period, from the late 13th century to the early 17th century ninjutsu the "art of stealing in" grew very sophisticated in the cloak and dagger arts. Children born into the Iga and Koga systems, both powerful ninja clans, were trained early as spies and continued their craft for life. A ninja concealed his name and objectives to the point of death. The ninja in his art ninjutsu not only studied all of the traditional samurai weapons, but also had to be adept at using the special weapons of his trade, among them shuriken, kama, caltrops, rope ladders, smoke bombs and a variety of poisons. His physical training was intense and varied, enabling him to scale walls, remain under water for several minutes, or even feign death convincingly.
Because of his constant training which began in early childhood, the ninja could walk farther, run faster, jump higher, and swim longer and faster than the normal man. Out of necessity, the ninja was a superb escape artist, who could manipulate his joints to slip out of the most complicated knots. His ability to disappear into the scenery and his ingenious use of storms, fog, and darkness gave rise to legends claiming the ninja could become invisible. It was because of this talent that ninjutsu has also been described as "the art of invisibility". The ninja were also great actors and masters of disguise, a priest one day, a carpenter the next, and an enemy solider the day after that.
Ninja were often sent to gather information, track enemy movements, and mislead the enemy. If necessary ninja would sneak into an enemy camp set it a blaze, poison the water supply, or assassinate the enemy general. The ninja would do whatever it took to win.
More to come on the ninja.
last update: 8/25/00