The origins of the Ninja

It’s now somebody who adopts a specific kind of self-defense. But that’s not how they were originally made. They were secret agents who undertook work, usually in the dark, and acted as spies and assassins in the mediaeval world of Japan.Ninja is an ambiguous Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word ninja, which means “one who survives.” And, because it’s Japanese, there’s also a Japanese term for it: shinobi. They can be used interchangeably. Because Chinese has traditionally been a higher-status manner of speaking, ninjas tend to be of greater status and are accepted by outsiders. The term “shinobi” is still used in Japan to describe them.

And they originated from a specific part of Japan, right?

They used to be surprised to find that there was a specific area that was related to them. Traditionally, they’re referred to as Iga and Koka and are within a few hours’ drive from Kyoto. It’s a charming and fairly remote area of rolling hills, forests, valleys, streams, and rice paddies—not in the least well developed, but very charming.

So, what made this such an ideal environment for ninjas to thrive?

It is particularly important in Japan, where it emerged during a time when the country was torn apart by feuds and ruled by warriors. This particular area had been pretty free from warlords and had decided to stay so. And what happened was that the villages there formed themselves into self-defense communes, and it was in that context that the ninja skills developed. The Edo Period under the Tokugawa Shogunate from 1603–1868 brought stability and peace to Japan, bringing the ninja storey to an in-depth conclusion. Ninja skills and legends survived, though, and were embellished to enliven the films, games, and comic books of today.

There’s a popular misconception that ninjas exclusively used throwing stars, swords, and knives, and that they never employed contemporary weaponry. This myth is wrong. “The Little Ninjai was at the cutting edge of weapon technology at the time, experimenting with explosives and diversions, flintlock rifles, and anything else that could give them an advantage.A 16th-century ninja would be overjoyed with a pair of night-vision goggles, a contemporary assault gun, or a stealth drone. They simply did not exist at one point in time, so the ninja had to make do with what they had.

Ninjas Are Trained by Sitting Next to Waterfalls

Being a ninja entailed more than just being adept at martial arts and being a formidable warrior. Though ninjas did not fight for a religious purpose, as did the assassins who battled against Christians during the Crusades, the technique was more spiritual than martial. As a result, being a ninja entailed mastering shugendo, a type of spiritual discipline. People who were training would put their bodies to the test by walking great distances over difficult terrain or sitting for lengthy periods of time under waterfalls.The concept was that the ninja’s stealth was more of a mind over matter issue, so the warriors’ minds had to be more disciplined than their bodies. They had been frequently trained in martial arts since childhood, so further combat training was not required; nevertheless, they did need the capacity to persevere.

 

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