A Guide To Training In The Martial Art Of Ninjutsu
You're not going to turn into this guy
There are several reasons why you might decide to start training in ninjutsu and become a ninja.
Firstly because you want to learn to defend yourself and learn how to fight multiple attackers with swords, while eating a bowl of noodles, because self defence is important nowadays.
Secondly because you want to be a badass because you've seen ninjas in films / games/ whatever.
Thirdly.... Hmm.. In fact the first two pretty much cover all of the reasons.
If you want to become a ninja, then you need to train in the martial art of ninjutsu which will teach you the 9 schools, including bone breaking, nerve attacks, weapons training and other such cool sounding things that involve inflicting pain on people.
If you are interested in this then you have to bear in mind, there are a few things to think about when training to become a ninja.
What is / was a ninja?
Ninjas were assassins, spies and mercenaries in Feudal Japan. Basically if you needed a badass, you hired a ninja. They lived without a strict honour code and would go for the victory in the quickest and most effective way.
I guess you could say that if it worked, they would do it, even if was deceitful or downright dirty and unfair. At the time samurais were effectively the Japanese military and the ninja style of fighting did not fit in to their moral code.
They never wore these outfits, although this is what you see in the films
A Samurai would want to fight in an honourable way. A ninja wouldn't care.
If a ninja could distract a Samurai by throwing a dog turd in their face for example, then they'd do that if it gave them the advantage. Honourable? Well not, but often effective.
That is just an example I must stress, I don't believe ancient ninjas went around with dog turds ready to throw at people, but hopefully you get the idea.
The black 'ninja' outfits that people nowadays automatically think of when someone mentions the word ninja weren't worn by real ninjas.
Their role was to not stand out as if they stood out then they would have not been able to carry out any assasinations or do any spying etc. They would have stood out a mile if they had worn those black outfits and in fact the outfit that people think ninjas were instead came from Japanese theatre. The stage hands used to wear them, to blend in with the black background and allow them to move props around etc while the show was going on, so that attention wasn't diverted away from the actors.
In real life ninjas were were normal looking people without outfits, they just wore normal clothes and blended in with the population. Except under it all they were nutcases who were good at killing people.
A black gi, usually worn when training in Ninjutsu / Jiujitsu etc
These are Tabis. Get some if you want to be a ninja!
Oh. But I liked the outfit..
Well you can still wear the outfit if you like. It's the 21st century, you can do what you like!
The outfit that modern day ninjas wear is called a Gi. It's a black martial arts suit which is tough and pretty comfortable to wear and train in. These are usually worn with split toe soft shoes called Tabis.
Tabis are very comforable to wear and help you to break fall, roll and move around nicely so they are worth getting, trainers don't allow as much movement and bare feet inevitable leads to an accident sooner or later. I know someone who trains in Ninjutsu with bare feet and he has repeatedly bent his big toenail back. OOOF, just typing that makes my eyes water. Get Tabis instead!
Anyway there are plenty of grades in Ninjutsu, although the only important ones in my opinion are the first one, which means the end of your white belt, then the black belt grade, which means you have a handle on the basics of the art. In between you have 9th kyu (the first grade) and 1st kyu (the last before black). During this time you wear a green belt.
After that, depending on what flavour of ninjutsu you're training in, you have various grades of black belt, up to 15th Dan believe it or not. Whether the different Dan grades are worthwhile or not is a matter for debate. After your black belt, then if you're any good you will progress upwards, but I personally believe that after you have your black belt then you just train for the enjoyment of training and to improve.
If you chase belts then you are doing the wrong thing. In fact chasing a belt is a daft idea in martial arts generally. If you get graded then great, but there is nothing worse than seeing a feebleton with a black belt, who couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. In fact this takes me to my next point.
Make sure you find a good school
I recommend trying out several schools. If you go to a school then I would always recommend getting involved with the class and having a lesson, rather than just watching. If you watch you really can't get a proper idea of what is going on, get stuck in and see how the other students and teachers are with you to give you a proper idea.
Teachers have different ideas of how to teach. In my opinion then if the teacher of the class is any good, they should be able to train soft or hard, depending on what the student wants, be able to demonstrate techniques clearly and effectively, not take themselves too seriously and overall be very good at their art!
It is natural for most students to test their teachers and the black belts of their new martial arts class to see how good they are. If you want to do this, do it, but don't go in there all guns blazing and swinging away.
If you are training and want to step up the pace a bit then do it with good nature and take it with good nature, as if they are better that means training with them will be worthwhile.
I can kill you with a chopstick
I have been on both sides of the fence on this, so if you're going to do it, if the new class is any good, they should be able to easily defuse any attack or attempt to best them. If they can't, then don't train there, as what's the point of learning from someone who you can beat already?
Ideally the teacher should be able to handle whatever you throw at them without too much effort, and be able to floor you without hurting you. If they can do that great, if they resort to hurting you or can't handle it, thank them and leave.
There are a lot of ninjutsu schools around and a lot of bad teachers. In fact ninjutsu has a pretty bad rep online, although I'm sure if pretty much any of the people that badmouth it and the practitioners went to Japan and trained with some of the top Ninjutsu guys in their dojo, their bad mouthing would quickly turn to bloody mouthing.
Anyway, make sure you do your research and try various schools. If you train with someone good, you should learn how to handle yourself one on one unarmed, against multiple attackers, ground work, and also how to use weapons. Also my favourite sort of training, training unarmed against multiple attackers with weapons.
There are other aspects, such as fighting blindfolded and detecting other people's energy, also known as chi. If your teacher can't do all of these things, find someone who can!
Time for week 2 of ninja class. Fight this guy.
Whatever you do, don't go to one of those classes where you get taught to punch the air, or perform moves on someone who throws an attack then stands there with their arm out. You want to work up to doing live, full speed training against attackers who are throwing multiple attacks at you at full speed.
Of course that isn't lesson one, but you should be doing that after a while. My teacher regularly takes on the whole class at once and can handle it. If yours never does that sort of thing and just shows air punching, then ask yourself whether they can do what they say they can do. Remember a belt doesn't mean much nowadays, actions speak louder than belts as a lot of people have them that don't really deserve them!
Have you ever wanted to be a ninja?
Anyway, this is just a taster of what you need to bear in mind on your path to becoming a ninja. It will take you years of hard training, pain, blood and sometimes tears to become any good.
Hard, but one day when you start being able to disarm people at ease or handle much bigger opponents without much effort, it'll be worth it.
I'll be adding more articles about what is involved on the way, so keep reading, or follow me if you want to find out more.
If you have any comments, then please leave them below. Thanks!