The legendary ninjas have captured the hearts, minds, and fantasies of people all over the world. Feared and celebrated for their mysterious ways, their abilities are the stuff of fairy tales – disappearing into puffs of smoke, blinding their enemies with hidden bombs, and incredible combat feats such as holding off enemies many times their number. Many of these feats have been exaggerated, however, along with the reputation of the ninjas as a whole. Let’s take a look at the reality behind ninjas.
The ninjas were warriors who worked for the Feudal-era Japanese government. During that era , ninjas were demonized: they were classified as “dishonorable” martial artists because of their underhanded and stealthy training and techniques.
These martial artists were known for being adaptable to every situation. They used a variety of concealed or improvised weapons in order to attack. They were trained for survival in case of war. Besides that, ninjas had chemical knowledge to create explosives and in many cases, they worked as spies and saboteurs . In these situations they would wear camouflage clothing to blend in among the peasants and environment.
Every mission that ninjas worked in took place under total secrecy. Because of that, when a strange crime related to the Japanese government took place, everybody suspected that ninjas were involved.
Due to the secrecy surrounding the history and exploits of historical ninjas , the stories that have told about them have been exaggerated over time. Some people think their ideology was totally contrary to the comparatively honorable samurai, who didn’t want to be involved in dishonorable “crimes” and taint their reputation.
Not all the information has been lost, however, and indeed the direct teachings of the ninjas themselves haven’t completely died out, though it’s close. We have previously taken a look at the last of the ninjas, Jinichi Kawakami. Kawakami claims to be the last person to whom the teachings of ninjutsu have been directly handed down. According to him, the main activity of the ninjas was to spy on their enemies, and to perform logistical duties on the battlefield. Indeed they were skilled in poison and explosive creation, but also in medicine and endurance.
Today what little physical evidence that remains of the ninjas now rests in museums, such as the Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum, at which Kawakami serves as honorary director. Here we find traces of the truth behind ninjas. Some of their weapons like the smoke bomb and the shuriken are on display, verifying the stories of their hidden implements.
But whether or not the ninjas were as awesome as pop culture claims, there’s no doubt that these skilled martial artists were some of the finest warriors of their times. For this, they warrant the highest respect.