Wednesday, 6 October 2010

To Become the Ninja..

Okay, so today after our 3rd lesson with Jusin Wyatt on character design, I felt it was time to move onto some of my character work, and delve right into the research behind what it is to be a 'Ninja'. I read up on the subject, and went in deep, rangin from everything such as weapons, to tatics, almost feeling like I was in training myself lol.

So here's what I found out about the Ninja:

A Ninja/Shinobi was a covert agent/mercenary of Feudal Japan, that specialized in unorthodox arts of war.
Essentially, Ninja were stealth soliders/mercenaries hired by Daimyo's (powerful terratorial lords)

Roles Of The Ninja

Espionage  - Information
Sabotage - Arson
Infiltration - Buildings/Social
Assassaination - Figureheads
Open Combat - In Certain Situations

Countermeasure's taken to prevent the activites of the Ninja include constructed traps/tripwires/alarmbells, concealed weapons in floorboards/lavatory, winding labrynthine routes in castles, blindspots/holes in walls for surveillance,' nightingale' floors (suspended on hinges for noise when stepped on), gravel in the grounds, and segregated buildings to prevent whole compounds burning down.

In modern times, the required skills of a Ninja as become known as Ninjutsu, but not nescissarily tied under one sigle discipline beforehand. Modern misconceptions have identified ninjutsu as a form of combat art, but historically, ninjutsu largely covered Espionage and Survival skills


Covert Warfare
Survival/Scouting Techniques
Long Distance Running
Stealth Methods
Profession Knowledge


The Ninja never did not always work solo, Teamwork techniques were vital in situations, scaling walls by creating a 'Human Platform', on one another's back and assiting inviduals to gain higher ground. Deception in infiltration an army with numbers, and attacking their own colours cuases confusion and breaks ranks.
Most ninjutsu techniques recorded in scrolls and manuals revolve around ways to avoid detection, and methods of escape. These techniques were loosely grouped under corresponding natural elements. Some examples are:

Hitsuke - The practice of distracting guards by starting a fire away from the ninja's planned point of entry. Falls under "fire techniques" (katon-no-jutsu)

Tanuki-gakure - The practice of climbing a tree and camouflaging oneself within the foliage. Falls under "wood techniques" (mokuton-no-jutsu)

Ukigusa-gakure - The practice of throwing duckweed over water in order to conceal underwater movement. Falls under "water techniques" (suiton-no-jutsu)
Uzura-gakure - The practice of curling into a ball and remaining motionless in order to appear like a stone. Falls under "earth techniques" (doton-no-jutsu)


Ninja made use of a range of disguises, some of the more notable forms:
Fortune Tellers
Ronin (Masterless Samurai)  


Ninjas utilized a large variety of tools and weaponry, some of which were commonly known, but others were more specialized. Most were tools used in the infiltration of castles. They owned a wide range of specialized equipment including:

Climbing equipment
Extending spears
Rocket-propelled arrows
Small collapsible boats


Although Ninja are reknowned for appearing clad in black garms, there is no written evidence that this is infact true, although artisticly early drawn references show them appearing like this to portray there 'Invisiblity'.

Clothing used were simmilar to the Samurai, however loose garments were tucked into either the trousers, or a belt. The Tengui (Cloth used in Martial Arts) had many functions, and could be used to form a belt, assit in climbing, or cover the face.

A number of tools known to be used by the Ninja for Infiltration and Espionage:

Grappling Hook
Kunai (Weapon/Climbing Pin)
Mizogumo (Wooden Water Shoes to distribute weight)

Despite the large array of tools available to the ninja, the Bansenshukai warns one not to be overburdened with equipment, stating 'a successful ninja is one who uses but one tool for multiple tasks'.


Ninja's always made the best use of what they had, hence why there are many different types of weapons(some which have a primary use as a tool), and each having a functionality and praticality in and out of combat. I gathered a list of the weapons Ninja were known for using, as well as any secondary use:

Kaginawa (Grapple Hook) Climbing
Shuriken (Ninja Star)
Kusarigama (Chain & Sickle)
Kunai (Kife/Crowbar/)
Yumi (Bow)
Tekagi-Shuko (Claw)

Interestingly enough, although alot of the weapons above have secondary uses, the one with the most is the Katana, with over several uses beyond normal combat.

In dark places, the scabbard could be extended out of the sword, and used as a long probing device.
The sword could also be laid against the wall, where the ninja could use the Tsuba (Sword Guard) to gain a higher foothold.
The katana could even be used as a device to stun enemies before attacking them, by putting a combination of red pepper, dirt or dust, and iron filings into the area near the top of the scabbard, so that as the sword was drawn the concoction would fly into the enemies eyes, stunning him until a lethal blow could be made.

However there were many other swords around that period that were used, some warriors (Especially Samurai) equiped more than one at a time for different ranges. The Katana (Long), and the Washizaki (Short) was a combination found frequently in more mordern times of Traditonal Japan. All though this was not the only combination between long and short, this paring of opposing sizes in knwon as 'Daisho' (literally meaning large, small).

Legendary Abilites

Superhuman, or Supernatural powers were often associated with the ninja, some legends include:

Multiple Body Splitting
Animal Summoning
Control of the 5 Elements

Kuji Kiri
This is the Nija practise which involves a string of 9 words spoken through chant/incantations, allowing the Ninja to enact Superhuman feats.
The application of this was Kuji Kiri to produce the desired effect was known as 'Cutting'. These intended effects usually range from physical and mental concentration, to more incredible claims, such as rendering an opponent immobile, or even the casting of magical spells.

The art which has derived from the practise proportedly used bu Ninja's, encompassing Martial Arts, Strategy, Tatics, Unconventional Warfer, Guerrilla Warfare, and Espionage.

Here are the 18 Disciplines involved in the study of Ninjutsu:

1.Seishinteki kyōyō (spiritual refinement)

2.Taijutsu (unarmed combat)
3.Kenjutsu (sword techniques)
4.Bōjutsu (stick and staff techniques)
5.Sōjutsu (spear techniques)
6.Naginatajutsu (naginata techniques)
7.Kusarigamajutsu (kusarigama techniques)
8.Shurikenjutsu (throwing weapons techniques)
9.Kayakujutsu (pyrotechnics)
10.Hensōjutsu (disguise and impersonation)
11.Shinobi-iri (stealth and entering methods)
12.Bajutsu (horsemanship)
13.Sui-ren (water training)
14.Bōryaku (tactics)
15.Chōhō (espionage)
16.Intonjutsu (escaping and concealment)
17.Tenmon (meteorology)
18.Chi-mon (geography)

An important peice of text translated 'Sea of Myriad Rivers Merging' and is a collection of Ninja knowledge widely regarded as being written by Fujibayashi Sabuji, Fujibayashi Yasutake, or Fujibayashi Yasuyoshi. Written in 1676, it is a culmination ofPhilosophy, Millitary Strategy, Astrology and Weapons.
The Ninja, using covert methods of waging war, were contrasted with the Samurai who had strict rules about honor and combat

And on that intresting final note, and after 5 hours of intensive research/typing (no lie), I knwo for a fact atht this has really helped me, not only becuase I wrote it twice (notes and post) and known most of the information quite clearly, but also it's really helped develop Excellant idea's in contrast to plot/depth/art driection, as a result from gaining this knowledge

So, I'll be focusing now this week, on gaining more Influence Maps, in correspondance to this information. And I'll create a simmilar post for Samurai Next Week.

Night Everyone :)


  1. Hi Bob,
    great exploration of the Ninja! that should get give you some food for thought. I like the supernatural elements - very typical of saturday morning tv. I would avoid the assassination aspects, for obvious reasons, but with this to draw from, I expect some very interesting characters


    Check this out.