Ninjas have become the property of Hollywood films, black clad martial arts experts who sneak through action films as either cannon fodder or undefeatable protagonist, with almost no middle ground, but the reality is a little different.
In celebration of .Ninja day, here is a brief history for all of our ninja aficionados:
The first documented use of Ninjas in battle was during the Gempei War (1180-1185) which was a struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate in 1192.
Rumors persist of the use of highly skilled spies before then, and as with all such rumors they have persisted since.
Ninjitsu as an art was built around a methodology of survival in any circumstance and adaptability to any situation. Several separate schools emerged, some led by Samurai who specialized in stealthy warfare but it was during the 15th-17th centuries in the period of Sengoku that much of the modern understanding of the art is based.
The area around the village of Kōga in the Iga Privince of Feudal Japan saw a lot of mercenaries and spies becoming active, and actively employed by the warring parties of the time. These mercenaries and spies are the basis upon the legends of the Ninja or Shinobi as the later military trained practitioners became known were born.
Over the years as the nation of Japan became unified by the Tokugawa Shogunate and certainly by the time of the Meiji Restoration the stories of the Kōga Ninja became myths and things of fable.
The question is, are they still?
Writer and Bujinkan Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi would say that Ninjas and at least nine schools of practice, which are coincidentally the schools that make up the Bujinkan System did indeed survive.
Not everyone accepts the claims, but Masaaki Hatsumi is not alone in making them. Jinichi Kawakami a 65 year old engineer states that he inherited the Koga style as a boy, taught by a travelling peddler named Masado Ishida and is now the 21st and final head of the Banke Shinobinoden or, to take a few liberties with translation the Ban Family Ninja School.
Unlike Masaaaki Hatsumi who has made an international business of his claims to be the inheritor of mysterious and ancient scrolls (called mokuroku) instructing him in the Bujinkan Arts, Jinishi Kawakami has stated that he will not choose a successor, which under the old laws of tradition means that the style and school of Koga would technically cease to continue, despite his students continued practice of it.
Whether these claims have any merit is a matter for historians and academics as the modern art of Gendai or Western Ninjitsu will continue regardless of the continued existence of the historical schools.
Very similar in practice to the ancient samurai arts of Ju Jutsu (Unarmed fighting), Ken Jutsu (Sword Fighting) and many others practiced by the soldiers of that time, the modern art of Ninjitsu continues to grow and spread throughout the western world, and there’s even now a .ninja domain name available if you happen to own a school of Ninjitsu or want to host a website that’s somehow ninja related.
Why not grab yourself an unusual domain to promote your martial arts school or celebrate the historical complexity of the ancient Ninja from Midphase.com!
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