The ninja has a traceable history that predates most martial arts. The ninja's martial art is not a form of karate. The ninja's martial art is called Ninjutsu, and is different from most other arts. There are nine different schools of Ninjutsu; these are all recognized by the Japanese government as current, active styles of Ninjutsu. These nine schools, or nine ryu, make up what is called the Bujinkan Dojo. History teaches that there were other styles of Ninjutsu but these have faded away. The traditional scrolls of information of most of those styles are now in museums in Japan, because the style no longer has any official leadership or sole Grandmaster.
Our Grandmaster, traditionally known as the Soke, is Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi of Noda City, Japan. He received the scrolls of the nine ryu that make up the Bujinkan school by direct transmission from his teacher, the 33rd generation Soke. Therefore, these styles of Ninjutsu are active schools. He is the 34th generation Soke, or grandmaster, of legendary Togakure ryu Ninjutsu, the oldest form of the ninja arts.
Ninjutsu is not taught for competition. Trophies are not awarded. This is due to the very nature of Ninjutsu. This art is about self-preservation, not sport. It would be very difficult for the practitioner of Ninjutsu to be awarded points in a tournament, because most of his Ninjutsu techniques would induce his disqualification for the use of very dangerous or disabling techniques.
The history that surrounds the ninja is distorted. Indeed, they were feared by almost all people. There are very short historical references indicating that some of the ninjas were spies and assassins. However, this is a stereotype. Just as there are good and bad people, if one member of a family is wicked does this make for a wicked family? There were peaceful ninja. The peaceful ninja lived quietly with his family, perfecting the art in order to protect his family and himself and his country.
Other ninja worked with the samurai. In fact, some of the ninja were established samurai warriors. On the other hand, sometimes the samurai were his enemy. History shows rare instances in which a ninja was hired by a shogun or emperor to gather information, much like today's CIA, or act covertly to achieve a specific goal, much like a military Special Forces unit. For the most part a ninja engaged in his mission alone. Therefore, if he were discovered, the enemy would not be able to trace this lone person's intentions. He could be passed off as a wandering vagrant or even a spy, but they would not know from where he originated. Unfortunately, it is this side of the ninja that has received the most attention.
The ninja is to persevere in the studies of Ninjutsu in order to protect his loved ones, the less fortunate, himself or his country, not to build his ego or achieve a certain financial status or rank. The ninja trains endlessly because he enjoys it.
The ninja, unlike those portrayed on TV, tries to the fullest extent to resolve a dispute without using violence. The ninja will not provoke violence, he will only respond accordingly to it. Ironically, even when a ninja could be provoked into a situation that would justify the use of his skills, he may choose to resolve the situation using means other than self defense.
Ninjutsu is relatively new to America. One reason for this is that the art was not taught commercially, like karate in Japan. The ninja of the older era were considered extremely dangerous. In fact, during Japan's history Ninjutsu was banned at different times.. For example, during World War II, the ninja were not allowed to pursue the art of Ninjutsu due to their secrecy, ability; in addition, the ninja has often been considered to have a “counter-culture” attitude by those with the samurai mentality.
In light of the art's history, it is easy to understand why Ninjutsu was not readily taught to foreigners. Decades ago there were a few brave pioneers that visited Japan in hopes to learn this obscure martial art. They endured very intense Ninjutsu training while some of the Japanese wondered if they would even return after such sessions. Thankfully these Americans and one Israeli paved the way for everyone else. Now, training in Japan is an incredible experience enjoyed by people from all around the world.
Many reasons exist for why the ninja has survived into this present era. The ninja has the trait of adaptability. While the ninja trains in the perfected forms of old, he also trains for his current threat in all types of weather, situations, and environments. He has centuries old defense forms that are effective against knives, guns, and random violence. In Ninjutsu we train with nostalgic weapons of old, while gaining proficiency in modern weaponry and tactics as well.
Because the art of Ninjutsu is so realistic and effective for actual defense, we must make sure that we train only exceptional members of society. This is simply due to the fact that these effective techniques can be used in an inappropriate manner, just as history records. In applying to study this art you will encounter a membership application that will allow an investigative background inquiry.
The training atmosphere of Ninjutsu is different from some styles since it is relaxed. This is more of an appropriate learning atmosphere for this art. Students work at their own pace, feeling comfortable to ask questions. The ranks that an adult can acquire are sent directly from Japan. Spangler Shidoshi can promote a Ninjutsu practitioner into and through the black belt ranks. However, the test for fifth degree black belt (Godan) must be administered by or in the presence of Grandmaster Hatsumi of Japan.
- Shidoshi Shihan Rick Spangler