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How To Become A Ninja

Updated on July 17, 2011


Being handed a  nifty costume that is as black as night, and a set of exotic weapons does not qualify you as a Ninja (or more aptly perhaps “Shinobi”). Nor is a ninja a kind of super-hero who keeps his set of moral ethics as keen as his sword. Historically, Ninjas were a sort of one-man navy seal team that were used primarily as scouts and front-line infiltrators. Their job was to steal, report and do a good job of staying hidden, and only occasionally were they allowed to tear stuff up (usually by causing confusion, setting things on fire or just generally annoying the hell out of the opposition).

The first origins of ninjas arise from feudal Japan during the 15th to the 17th century during the Sengoku period. Beyond this, Shinobis have something of a mythical nature, and fittingly, their legacy remains shrouded in a veil of shadow. 

Still Interested? Let's Get Down To Business

Forget the stereotypes

A purported REAL ninja outfit.
A purported REAL ninja outfit.

Training - Foundations

The first real training for Ninjas began during the 15th century when large Samurai families began covert wars, with an emphasis on espionage and sabotage. The emphasis then, lies heavily on being stealthy and deadly.

Firstly, Ninjas were required to be physically fit. And by fit, I mean fit. Ninjas are required to live off the land for extended periods of time, be able to swim,climb, run and survive almost indefinitely. Along with physical prowess and martial arts, Ninjas needed to accumulate knowledge in many different fields such as explosives and medicine.

The martial art of Ninjutsu is commonly held to be the martial art used by Ninjas. Ninjustsu lists a number of useful techniques that Ninjas mastered in order to be able to perform their roles. Some examples, as detailed by wikipedia, as are follows:

  • 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).

Another tactic used by Ninjas is that of disguising themselves in order to pass unobserved. From this standpoint, the idea that a ninja is man dressed in light-fitting black fabric seems a little comical. Remember, subterfuge is the essence of a Ninja, and hoping around in the 21st century in a "Ninja outfit" is not my idea of being inconspicuous.

Ninjutsu (Ninjitsu) techniques

The Blade Of Choice

The Katana
The Katana

Training - Weaponry (Oh, yes!)

Ninjas used a vast array of weapons. The Katana was the blade of choice however, as it served more than just a single purpose. It was easy to carry on the back, it could be held against a wall and used to gain a foothold, and its flat side made it easy to conceal in the darkness. 

Shuriken, an array of deadly projective objects, are also the staple of the Ninja's cultural heritage. Darts, knives, stars and more, were used with deadly precision from a remarkable distance. 

Later on, with the introduction of explosives during the Chinese invasion of Mongolia, Ninjas adapted to this new art form and began to incorporate explosives into their routines (perhaps giving rise to myths about their superhuman powers). 

Beyond this three staples of Ninja weaponry, Shinobis also used other alternative techniques such as land mines, blow darts and other terrifyingly deadly things that still haunt fugitives and special forces to this day. The main thing to realize about ninjas is that while they were flexible in their ability use the right weapon for the right job, they tended to master few weapons to a great degree. 

Training - Tools

Tools are where the geek within truly begins to shine, hence the reason for leaving this section until the last of the training sections. 

Simply put, a Ninja comes equipped. Ropes, grappling hooks, hammers, chisels and even  a collapsible ladder that can be carried on your back. But the creme of them all are the Mizugumo, a pair of wooden shoes that are said to have made Ninjas able to walk on water. Yes, please. 

The list is almost endlessly fun; breathing tubes, small saws, all manners of knives and inflatable skins. Despite all of this however, a notorious ninja manual, the "Bansenshukai" (1677) warns the Ninja not to become overburdened.

"...a successful ninja is one who uses but one tool for multiple tasks"

Becoming a modern-day ninja should not involve subscribing to the current cultural ninja trend. The tools and philosophies are timeless and should be observed (unless you're comic relief at a birthday party). 

Despite the super-hero appeal, the ability to perform magic, handly explosives and threaten "evil-doers" with a mean Katana, there is a downside. Rooted deep within Shinobi philosophy lies humility. In the same way stealth is employed in order to defeat enemies, you're status as a ninja relies on your ego being stealthed as well. You cannot tell people you are a ninja -- for obvious reasons. 

If the lack of fame is palatable for you, feel free and take-up Ninjitsu classes and wrap your head around the "Bansenshukai". Oh, that and send me a pair of water-walking sandals!

Are you less likely to become a ninja now?

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    • profile image

      jakeous 4 years ago

      A little ninjue

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      Kari 4 years ago

      I study ninjutsu and yes it is not easy. There is much more to it trust me.

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      hardik 6 years ago

      I liked it so much that i want to become a ninja.

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 6 years ago from London

      Ha ha! It reminds me of the Eric Van Lustbader series on ninjas; White Ninja, Black Ninja and Red Ninja. I want to read them again ... suddenly. x

    • profile image

      6 years ago


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      dorion 7 years ago

      wright about the rule thing

    • profile image

      cavan 7 years ago

      i love ninjas its the swords

    • TheMMAZone profile image

      TheMMAZone 7 years ago from Kansas

      Hey thooghun, anymore on his subject coming soon? This truly is one of my favorite hubs and I would like to see more like this.

    • steffer profile image

      Stef Verheyen 7 years ago from Belgium (Europe)

      this was a very informative hub about one of my passions. I have done ninjutsu for 6 years, but unfortunatly i had to call it quits because of my job. Still practice the art with a few of my friends though.

    • profile image

      Damien 7 years ago

      That was great! And I'm only 8 years old and its almost my birthday YAY!!! And I still want to be a great ninja when I grow up YYAAAYY!!11!!1

    • profile image

      DoorMattnomore 7 years ago

      Hey thooghun, this was a very informative bit about Ninjas. I think everybody likes the idea of being able to stay hidden in the shadows and kick some butt without being known.

      BUT.."Ninjas are required to live off the land for extended periods of time, be able to swim,climb, run and survive almost indefinitely"... this is something I don't often think about, the reality of it all. Thanks for the info.

    • TheMMAZone profile image

      TheMMAZone 7 years ago from Kansas

      This is a good post I really like your conversational writing style. I watched the mythbusters show about ninjas and they were looking to disprove all the myths from the beginning. There types of test even show their biases.

      Thanks for the post and thumbs up.

    • profile image

      gcnb 7 years ago


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      Anonymous 7 years ago

      I do parkour, and i have a reason for a revenge. I tried being a ninja before but now hopefully im gonna more successful. thanks

    • captainchris profile image

      captainchris 7 years ago

      Great hub on Ninjas! You should see the Mythbuster's sequel to the original Ninja Mythbuster episode.

    • TheMMAZone profile image

      TheMMAZone 8 years ago from Kansas

      Very good use of video, text, and information! Interesting hub!

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 8 years ago

      Graet Hub! I am fasinated by Eastern culture, and enjoy knowing the truth, instead of the hype! Keep up the good work!

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      That should be an interesting Hub, thanks for the hint msorensson ;)

      Thanks for stopping by

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 8 years ago

      Great! Now please write about the Samurais..the traditions and trainings, not the Hollywood version [smiles]