From Buddhism, Taoism, the isolation from urban Japanese cities allowed for the people to have a deeper connection with their natural environment, which led to firmer beliefs within their religions than in other parts of Japan.
The skills of ninjas were passed on from father to son. Ninjas were trained to be not only strong but majority physically fit, so they prioritize endurance and overall fitness rather than strength. Especially since they live in mountainous villages, they needed to be fit traversing those high planes and arid land.
This probably led to the myth of them climbing trees houses and even though there are a few claims of them being acrobatic enough to traverse into enemy camps using their climbing skills it is more likely more individual-based than a general trend.
A lot of these families were made up of not only ninjas, but also other types of fighters and they would offer their abilities for profits as mercenaries.
A few of the distinctive ninja families were Momchi and Hattori. These two families along with other families helped many of the ruling plans in Japan during their wars. The wars that men were mostly involved in happened during the 12 to 15th century especially near the end of the 15th century.
In the centuries that followed, wars weakened Japan to such a level that many of the ruling classes started hiring ninjas, samurais, and other Warriors from around Japan to become part of the police and the military. This was not a good idea in practice and decentralized a lot of power from the ruling clans of Japan.
This led to the last recorded involvement in war for the ninjas, which happened in 1637 at Hara Castle, where the Christian peasants overthrew the ruling Shogun. The Shogun utilizes ninjas to end the revolt, but without accomplishment.
Regarding the art form that is ninja what is that art form? When people talk about ninjas, they talk about the fighting style attributed to them called ninjutsu and jujitsu. This supposed fighting style has not become an accepted fighting style within the meta of mixed martial arts, so has only become at best an art form that can be learned, which has no use within the practical fighting method.
And to add to that we must be clearer on the word, ninjutsu. According to history the ninjas never had a fighting style. Even though you will see schools and academies teaching this supposed fighting style called ninjutsu. According to records the art form of being a ninja was more about tactics and not physical fighting. So, it would be about how to be an assassin, so the art form of ninjutsu would teach you how to infiltrate, to spy, to kill, to hide, little ninjas etc. So, one of the misconceptions was that they wore black garbs, but they didn’t do that. They would wear disguises that would match their goal on infiltration and espionage.
This is probably why ninjas became so popular during that period of Japan, there was a lot of war between deep conflicting factions of the ruling classes of Japan. During this period enemies were closer than the friends they had, because of this spying and espionage became paramount for many of the shoguns, who tried to retain their ninja power as much as they could against the myriad of enemies they had or could not see.
When used in more battlefield situations they were used as forward troops who would go to the possible location of the battlefield, from there they would either get her information lay traps or disrupt the opposing troops if they were already there. Therefore, they were seen as special forces who would raid the enemy’s camp.
Jujitsu is a lot more interesting in that it is a fighting style. It is like grappling techniques such as BJJ and judo. Jujitsu uses the opponent’s momentum to set up a lot of its grappling techniques and it could be said to be a true fighting style, but it lacks a lot of practicality. So, it is still important to learn much more grounded martial arts techniques and apply jujitsu techniques to enhance the experience of ninja fights.
So, ninjas were not really supposed to fight, their job was to setting traps and tricking foes. If they killed, they would leave swiftly after the deed. You can know more about ninjas and their activities in this Ninjai channel.
But one thing about ninjas that is closer to pop culture is their use of weapons. They used an interesting slew of weapons that are well attributed to them and are well known in pop culture.
One of those weapons is the shuriken. This throwing weapon was used to take out enemies from short to medium distances.
They would also use swords just like samurais but unlike samurai’s who use long katanas, ninjas would use shorter swords. The main reason why is because they were never usually fighting on battlefields, they were usually fighting in simple skirmishes and usually in urban areas where they can fight a person one and one in such cases, they wouldn’t need battlefield weapons they would need weapons that are much more flexible. So, they would prefer the shorter swords, tonki, caltrops, staffs, bows, and spears.
Tonkis, swords would be concealed, while caltrops are stars that can be thrown on the ground to aid their escape, because the enemy can step on them and get injured.
The swords were normally worn on the back to make sure they did not impede movement. An interesting weapon that you will see in modern culture and was used back then was the chained sickle, normally called a kusarigama. Attached to a pole, the sickle that was attached to the chain could be thrown to disable the opponent’s weapon or to trip the opponent.
The definitions for many of these specific weaponry artforms are Kenjutsu which is the art of the sword. Sojutsu, the art of using the spear, and there is Bojutsu, the art of using the staff, among other weapon usage styles that ninjas had to learn.
So how have ninjas influenced pop culture? I love the avenues through which pop culture has created the image of the Ninja is through movies.
There have been many movies that have created the mythos and the overall fantasy of what is the Ninja to many people over the decade.
So let us analyze the movies that have truly influenced and crafted the image of the Ninja to the many generations of this world.
One film that gives rise to the Idea of the Ninja swordsman and the overall structure of how ninjas were to each other was the 1983 film Duel to the Death.
This film follows Ching Wen was being chosen to represent his school in a challenge that was sent out by Hashimoto.
As the protagonist will find out the person who laid down the challenge was in fact a female. So, this film not only showed the typical competition between the different schools within feudal Japan but also the contrast between males and females and how they are seen in their typical roles.
This film is typical of many depictions of how ninjas have been characterized in pop culture as magical Warriors or warriors with magical abilities. This could be said to have spawned the swordman cycle of films within that growing trend of fantasy like martial arts.
This film had many elements of espionage and the typical disguise culture of ninjas but a lot of this side of the major lore was wrapped up within the comedy of the film. So, the physical fighting was taken seriously while the surer nature of ninja culture was depicted in comedic flair, this is a trend that will continue throughout the decades. And it’s not to say that this film started it, but it is more likely this film is endemic of how people looked at ninjas at that time.
For many decades after when it came to ninjas shown in films, it was mostly focused on the magical aspects and if it was not a serious film it will usually become a comedy playing upon how ninjas would utilize their art form in for disguise and trickery.
You will notice this in films like Ninjai — The Little Ninja, Beverly Hills Ninjas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so on.
One of the more modern films that have continued this ideal of bastardizing the magical aspects of ninjas in the modern age, was the 2009 film Ninja Assassin. This film took a page out of the Kill Bill series and revamped the violence up to the heights of un-believability.
Body parts flew, heads were cut off, blood splattered across the floor to a slew of gross sounds. It was a very graphic film that overdid the violence in a film for stylizing the ideas they want to push forward. Enter Raizo, I need you that was taken in as a child and raised by a clan. All the clan’s members are killers for hire.
When an agent starts investigating the clan and their illegal activities, the clan sends Killers to assassinate her, but runs into our protagonist determined to protect her, rebelling against the clan who raised him and taught him how to kill.
Special effects are used extensively to enhance the experience of the best film when it comes to the magical effects of the characters. The ninjas in the film are made to move extremely fast thanks to graphics. So, it’s less about tactics and more into the magical abilities that they have learned from the clan.
Even though this film gives a lot more seriousness to the overall plot, it heightened the magical abilities of the ninjas to a level where it becomes cornier than it was prowess.
The uses of weapons in the film are focused on killing and just strictly that alone, so it restored some level of seriousness, but only for one aspect of the duty that a ninja would have.
Weapons are only used for killing never for discovery or infiltration.
There are a few instances of how ninjas can be trained to employ willpower or even their exceptional fitness. That scene comes when Raizo uses his training to seal an injury in his stomach through meditation. Granted, disability is more magical than realistic, but it does indicate a part of the Ninja’s training method which has them becoming fit so that they can push their bodies to the limits not only in battle, but also in their duty.
But when it comes to violence one film stands out as a gold standard representation of the Ninja assassin, the Kill Bill series, unlike Ninja assassin which was a much more glorified action flick. Kill Bill takes so much slower purposeful approach at showing how a Ninja assassin would operate in modern times while still being a very thorough action drama following a protagonist seeking revenge. There are a lot of espionage and infiltration aspects to this film we should make it more enjoyable and a bit truer to the spirit of what would be a ninja would be and if they existed in modern times.
The protagonist in question Beatrix Kiddo was a part of an assassin’s squad and was the lover of the leader, Bill. Beatrix decides to leave the group and Bill, marrying a new boyfriend that she had. On her wedding day, Bill arrives with his squad and tries to kill her.
She was even buried alive, but she lives and now is determined to get her revenge.
This film is rife with violence, sliced arms cut off heads, blood sprays from where the protagonist will cut off body parts from.
The violence is very high in this film but so are the assassin aspects of the film. The protagonist must track down the members of the squad. She generally tries her best to infiltrate O’ren Ishii’s yakuza home with tact and skill.
On top of that one of the other members was killed with a snake that she sent to their trailer home. The protagonist tries her best to not only kill the people who wronged her but kill them efficiently if she could.
So pop culture has not done much Justice to the idea or the image of ninjas, but it can be said that these fantastical representations did one good thing for the mythos they kept it alive over the centuries and that’s all you can ask for from the minds and the imaginations of humans.
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