Ninjutsu (忍術) is a collection of techniques originally practiced for espionage purposes. It includes methods of gathering information, non-detection, avoidance, and misdirection techniques. Ninjutsu can also involve training in disguise, escape, concealment, archery, medicine, and explosives.

Practitioners of ninjutsu have been seen as assassins for hire, and have been associated in the public imagination with other activities which are considered criminal by modern standards. Even though it was influenced by Chinese spying techniques and the strategic principles of Sun Tzu, ninjutsu is believed by its adherents to be of Japanese origin. One version is that the basis of ninjutsu was taught to a Japanese household who fled to the mountains after losing a battle. There they mixed with a varied lot of people including the descendants of refugees who had fled China. Later, the skills were developed over 300 years to create ninjutsu.

Although the popular view is that ninjutsu is the art of secrecy or stealth, actual practitioners consider it to mean the art of enduring - enduring all of life's hardships. The character nin carries both these meanings, and others.

In the modern world the word ninjutsu usually refers to a certain system (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu) of self defense, and its offshoots. It is true that ninjutsu has a long and myth-filled history, but today almost anyone is allowed to practice modern ninjutsu. As one makes progress in ninjutsu the system gets more sophisticated, and one might realize that the system contains more than fighting skills. To avoid misunderstandings, "ninjutsu" should just refer to a specific branch of Japanese martial arts, unless it is being used in a historical sense.

18 Ninjutsu Skills (Ninja Juhakkei)Edit

The eighteen disciplines were first stated in the scrolls of Togakure-ryū, and they became definitive for all Ninjutsu schools, providing a complete training of the warrior in various fighting arts and complementary disciplines.

However, Ninja Juhakkei was often studied along with Bugei Juhappan (the 18 Samurai fighting art skills). Though some of them are the same, the techniques of each discipline were used with different approaches by both Samurai and Ninja.

The 18 disciplines are:

  1. Seishin-teki kyōyō (spiritual refinement)
  2. Taijutsu (unarmed combat)
  3. Ninja ken (sword fighting)
  4. Bōjutsu (stick and staff fighting)
  5. Shurikenjutsu (throwing blades)
  6. Sōjutsu (spear fighting)
  7. Naginatajutsu (naginata fighting)
  8. Kusarigamajutsu (chain and sickle weapon)
  9. Kayakujutsu (fire and explosives)
  10. Hensōjutsu (disguise and impersonation)
  11. Shinobi-iri (stealth and entering methods)
  12. Bajutsu (horsemanship)
  13. Sui-ren (water training)
  14. Bōryaku (military strategy)
  15. Chōhō (espionage)
  16. Intonjutsu (escaping and concealment)
  17. Tenmon (meteorology)
  18. Chi-mon (geography)

Schools of ninjutsuEdit

The Bujinkan Dōjō headed by Masaaki Hatsumi is one of three organizations generally accepted as teaching ninjutsu by the Bujinkan's members (under the name Budo Taijutsu). Hatsumi's Bujinkan Dōjō consists of nine separate schools of allegedly traditional Japanese martial arts, only three of which contain ninjutsu teachings. Hatsumi learned a variety of martial arts, including ninjutsu, from Toshitsugu Takamatsu.

There are two other organizations teaching ninjutsu. These are the Genbukan headed by Shoto Tanemura, who left the Bujinkan in 1984, and the Jinenkan headed by Fumio Manaka, who left later. Both had achieved Menkyo Kaiden before leaving due to differences of opinion with regards to the teaching style.

Other extant traditional martial arts such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō-ryū contain some aspects of ninjutsu in their curriculum, but are not ninjutsu schools per se.

The espionage techniques of ninjutsu are rarely focused on in recent times, since they serve little purpose to the bulk of modern populations, and tend to attract negative publicity and students with unrealistic expectations.

Other schoolsEdit

Several other schools of ninjutsu exist, some of which can be traced back to legitimate Japanese origins.

Verified originsEdit

Israel was one of the first places where Bujinkan ninjutsu was practiced outside Japan, with Doron Navon pioneering it there in 1974. The AKBAN organization uses the Bujinkan curriculum the way it was used when Doron Navon, the first foreign Bujinkan shihan, practiced under Hatsumi sensei.

Stephen K. Hayes studied under Masaaki Hatsumi but teaches an Americanized system, To-Shin Do, in his Quest Centers. Stephen Hayes is no longer a member of the Bujinkan.

Glenn Morris studied under Masaaki Hatsumi but founded the Hoshin Roshi Ryu.

Chadwick Minge trained under Shoto Tanemura but founded the "Yamato Dojo" ("Studio City Martial Arts") based in California. 

Brian McCarthy initially trained under Masaaki Hatsumi before leaving to found his own organization (the Bujinkan Brian Dōjō), based in Ireland. Brian McCarthy is no longer a member of the Bujinkan.

Unverified originsEdit

There are several persons and organizations that claim to teach "ninjutsu" whose validity and/or lineage have come under question. While such arts may still be effective, the lack of Japanese lineage authenticity make these arts arguably not ninjutsu.

  • Ashida Kim is an American martial artist that has made unverifiable claims of cross training into ninjutsu, as well as debunked claims of being the last Koga Ryu ninja.
  • Frank Dux, whose master cannot be found and interviewed. His claims of origins are controversial.

Koga-ryu Ninjutsu is believed to have survived into the mid-20th century, apparently having been passed to Fujita Seiko by a relative. Seiko had students, but did not pass on this legacy. Koga-ryu arts are generally considered to be virtually identical to the Iga-ryu arts, but many in the west have tried to capitalize on this "mysterious" legacy. Typically, these sources present themselves as Koga-ryu without the qualifying ha-suffixed variant name that Seiko is said to have practiced. Whether Master Seiko can be considered a ninja is debatable.


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