Legendary warriors from Japan who were able to “disappear” before your eyes. Ninjas have become an integral part of Japanese history and culture. Their skills continue to fascinate people all over the world today! Do you know what they could do? Read on!
Who Were Ninjas and Where Did They Come From?
Ninjas first appeared around the 6th century in Japan during the reign of Empress Suiko. These were highly trained mercenaries and spies for hire. From the 15th century onwards, their activities expanded to include murder, raiding, arson, warfare and others.
This is also where their archetypical image comes from. Most of us imagine ninjas as mysterious figures in black clothing, with only eyes showing. The truth is, however, that ninjas wore whichever clothes helped them blend in with their surroundings. Their priority was ‘invisibility’, or stealth.
Their martial art was called ninjutsu - a Japanese martial art developed for espionage purposes, which uses camouflage, among other things. Ninjas are also popularly associated with legendary abilities, which are often featured in action films.
Here are some skills that ninjas were expected to acquire:
- break through a wall with their hand,
- run across a tightrope,
- make very long jumps,
- be able to use various weapons,
- camouflage themselves so well they become nearly invisible.
The art of ninjutsu, however, was not only about fighting - it had its own philosophy. If ninjas were just cold-blooded killers without any value system, they would probably not have survived as an organization throughout so many centuries. Ninjutsu taught order and provided the sense of meaning. It is based on the religious, political and cultural history of Japan.
Take a look at what a martial arts class might look like in a modern day ninjutsu school.
Excellent Fitness Level Was Not Enough
The art of ninjutsu was originally passed down from father to son and training began early in childhood. Ninjas learned martial arts, athletics, espionage, and even poison mixing. In addition, they had to be able to distract an enemy or climb high walls using a rope with a grappling hook.
They also needed to master an arsenal of various tools and traps. This added to the weight they needed to carry around, while trying not to attract attention of people around them.
Swords And Chain Sickles
Ninjas were famous in combat for their Ninjato swords, optimized for fast swings and powerful strikes. The sword design is based on the samurai katana. The steel blade with an extremely sharp edge was up to 60 cm long. A skilled ninja was able to cut off someone's head with a single strike.
And what if their enemies wore armour? That's why ninjas also used Kusarigama, a traditional Japanese weapon designed for close combat. It looks like a sickle with a chain and a heavy iron weight at the end. This weapon and tool was used for throwing, cutting, or strangling. It was versatile and could be used for various purposes.
Ninjas used the weapon to immobilize the opponent's legs or arms, to disarm them, and to stun the opponent by swinging the weighted chain in a large circle over their head, and then whipping it forward. The sharp sickle could be used to “finish the job”. Their jobs would sometimes get messy.
Watch Out for Throwing Stars
Ninjas also used a range of throwing weapons, most famously the bo-shuriken and throwing stars, sharp like a razor. When throwing the stars, Japanese warriors used the technique of throwing the outstretched hand to achieve maximum power, rotation and speed. If the throwing star hit its target correctly, the opponent stood no chance.
Another popular and very effective weapon in the ninja arsenal was the bamboo blowgun, shooting small darts. The tip of the dart was dipped in lethal poison tetrodoxin, which comes from the poisonous fugu fish. The ninjas placed the dart into the blowgun, aimed and blew through it. A single hit was enough to kill a person.
But what was the most surprising ninja weapon? Black eggs. Black Eggs were hollowed out poultry eggs, painted black, that were filled with glass powder or other blinding substances. Throwing a black egg into the opponent’s face gave ninja a huge advantage. Crushed glass caused increasing pain with every blink, as the tiny pieces of glass found their way into the eyes. Sometimes, black eggs were filled with strong chilli-pepper juice.
Must-Haves for All Ninja Fans
Are you fascinated by the history of ninjas and would you like to try what it's like to wield a ninjato, or decorate your home with a kusarigama? Our shop has a dedicated section for ninja weapons just for people like you! Throwing knives, daggers, boomerangs and other tools. However, we urge you to be extra careful when handling these high quality and sharp replicas!
If you want to learn more about Japanese warriors in more depth, read our article on the Samurai and find out what they have in common with ninjas.
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