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Friday, October 30, 2015


Article by Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway

"Compared to other forms of Japanese martial arts, ninjutsu makes use of the forces of nature and strategy, to bring about a devastating method or form of fighting. The Ninja has to have greater skill and ability; a ninja must have confidence that his bujutsu is superior to ALL others". - Fujita Seiko

There are numerous debates concerning ninjutsu over the internet by purists, historical researchers and fraudulent authorities regarding accuracy, authenticity, and lineages of the ninja. Biased opinions abound.

Most people who say they love ninjutsu are only pretending. With an industrial-strength, soul-killing, reflexively ironic emptiness, online discussions of the ninja seems to have fallen into the clutches of the shallow and the callous, fit only to be an object of rhetoric, debates of legitimacy, and mockery.

Every “self ordianed” authority, on the subject of the Ninja, wants to be a YouTube star. In love with the sound of their own voice and their own image. Most of these types of videos are not good examples and frequently there are more bad ones than good. The skill level of these individuals isn’t quite up to par for the most part. Sometimes even camera tricks are used to make themselves appear faster than they really are. Larping, recreating, and reconstructing Ninjutsu techniques are prevalent and not impressive save only to the novice.

Ninjutsu is not some sort of Stunt or sleight of hand magic trick. It isn’t  some sort of psychic phenomenon that has slipped out of another realm,

The Kanji of “Nin” in ninjutsu means to endure physical or mental stresses. One meaning of ninjutsu is a set of techniques for enduring. Having the ability to maintains one’s discipline and focus under the most brutal and challenging of conditions and circumstances. This is the essence of Ninjutsu.

On one end of Ninjutsu is bujutsu or martial arts and the other is zen. However Ninjutsu is neither bujutsu nor zen. It is simply itself, ninjutsu. It is a method of forging physical and mental strength. At its foundation lies a combination of intense perseverance and intense effort; A method of intense physical and spiritual conditioning. This is the secret knowledge that lies within ninjutsu.

The underlying principal is to craft a unified body and mind that is not lacking in forging.  A body and mind that possesses the ability to function despite having to endure extreme conditions while dedicating an extreme amount of effort to overcoming obstacles and situations.

The Mastery of ninjutsu and the challenge of freely carrying it out in a real situation cant be done by anyone other than one whose mind and body are of EXCEPTIONAL quality. CLEARLY ninjutsu must be both presented and understood as a methodology by which the physical realm and mental realm are disciplined in unison.

 “to be a ninja a man had to have the necessary mental and physical qualifications. The quality of complete self-possession was a primary essential, and next to mental acumen came agility of body and strength of physique. After the proper mental and physical qualifications then came the necessary training, which was long and arduous” - Gingetsu Itoh

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Article by Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway

Koka/Kōga-ryū (Koka is sometimes transliterated as Koga or Kouga) is generally related to an ancient school of ninjutsu. The  Koga region was one of the regions that were the birthplace of ninjutsu. Historical records state that certain individuals or families from the Koga region were noted for possessing specific skills and were employed to apply those and other skills.

The term Koga was not originally the name of a ryuha or style of ninjutsu but rather it referred to the region of Japan from which it originated from. For example,  “a Koka  Samurai" is a general term for a group of warriors who lived in Koka since the heian period (8th-12th century), which coincides with the rise of the  warrior class in the middle of the Heian Period after the collapse of manorial system owing to bad policy by the government.

It was during the age of civil wars (15th-16th century) that they exercised their power and became famous as Koka Samurai or Samurai from Koka/Koga. Their other names were Koka/Kouga sho samurai, Kouga Sho , Koka shoushi, koga shu, Koga hai, Koka/Kouga mono, Kouga shinobi no-hei, Kouga soshi, Koka gumi  and so on.

During the 10th century in the year 939 Mochizuki Saburo Kameie the son of the governor of Shinano Province (near Nagano) served as a samurai on the side of the emperor in the Tairo No Masakado Rebellion. Taira No Masakado was a samurai who led a rebellion against the central government of Kyoto .  Mochizuki was given an area of land called Kogagun in virtue of his performance in the battle against Masakado.  Mochizuki Saburo changed his name to Koga Oni No Kami Kameie. However, it was his son Oni No Kami Ieshika, who studied Genjutsu and Shinobi no jutsu under Tatsumaki Hoshi, that was the founder of Koga Ryu.

"The people of Iga and Koka had never had a shugo governor and each clan was self-governing; they constructed small castles in each estate independently and had free rein. As having no shugo or a lord, there was not a governor to oversee them. There were numerous instances of them fighting with each other to take away the other’s land. Therefore, their main concentration was set on battles, each morning and every evening, and their life revolved around armament and defence." – Bansenshukai

“Near Kyoto in Iga province and in Koga [district of province] Omi there were many jizamurai, after Onin years (1467-1477) they organized their own bands (to) and fought during the day and during the night, they also stealed and robbed. Many of them became masters in their art of espionage (kancho-no jutsu), after this feudal lords (daimyo) of all clans began to hire such jijamurai. The usual practice was to hire them as spies (shinobi). And they were named Iga-mono - Men from Iga - and Koga-mono - Men from Koga” - Buke myomokusho

Koka had many Ji-Zamurai, provincial samurai who engaged in agriculture during peace time. The ji-samurai, also known as kokujin, were lords of smaller rural domains in feudal Japan. They often used their relatively small plots of land for intensive and diversified forms of agriculture. They sought to be as productive and self-sufficient as possible, hoping to gain wealth and power. Independent and strongly attached to their land, many kokujin formed leagues for common defense called ikki, and took part in the agrarian uprisings of the 16th and 17th centuries as well as quite a number of earlier events.

 In Japanese history, “Ikki” referred to uprising groups of low ranking samurai, farmers, and monks that were against the Japanese daimyō in Japan. (An ikki is an alliance formed for the purpose of military security against invaders, mainly from the feudal lords.) This belief fostered a democratic spirit among the population by negating all differences arising from economic or social class and stressing the equality of all people.

Beginning in the Onin era (1467 – 1469) Both Iga and Koga formed different factions and there were numerous instances of them fighting with each other to take over each other’s lands. Their main concentration was set on battles and their life revolved around armament and defense. This included infiltration therefore the skills associated with this became highly refined. Spying, navigating through precipitous mountains and valleys, path finding, attacking each other and perfecting the art of reconnaissance.

The koka Samurais never served a lord nor given a stipend like the samurais did in later ages. They were clans owning their own lands going to war if requested and returning after the war to engage in farming and agriculture. They never had a shugo Governor, each clan was self governing. Some of the clans served a feudal lord, but lived independently in its territory.

Near the end of the Muromachi period, (also known as the Muromachi era, the Ashikaga era, or the Ashikaga period is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1337 to 1573.) while the town of Kōka was under the jurisdiction of the Rokkaku (lit. "hexagon") clan, it was a kind of autonomous municipality composed of peasant unions, then called sō (). All important decisions in the municipality were made by a majority vote from the union representatives, this kind of system was uncommon for the period in question.

The Sengoku period (1467 – c. 1603) is a period in Japanese history marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict. The Sengoku Period marks a century of warfare in Japan, during the latter half of which the largest and most powerful landholding magnates Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu struggled for dominance, sometimes allied together, sometimes dramatically opposed, until at last Tokugawa Ieyasu was named Shogun in 1603, following his decisive victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, and Japan was united once again

Koka Samurais fought many brave battles in which they showed their tactics of surprise attack that is a mystery of ninjutsu. In the Tokugawa period there were no wars, they served only as ninja. That is why the koka samurai have been regarded only as ninja afterwards.They were famous for their bravery. The most significant battles in which they displayed their bravery were:

The battle of Chokyu 1487: 1st year of Chokyo
 The first occasion in which the presence of the "ninja" was widely reported was the "magari no jin (Battle of Magari, an old town in Shiga prefecture)" in first year of Chokyo period (1487). It was the conflict of Ashikaga Yoshinao, the 9th shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, who attempted to subjugate Sasaki Rokkaku (the ruler of the southern part of Shiga) who had disobeyed his orders. Throughout this conflict which lasted for about 3 years until Ashikaga Yoshinao died, the "Koga ninja" defended the clan of Sasaki, support that received nationwide approval.

Sasaki Rokkaku of Ōmi Province, using Kannonji Castle as a base, started to steadily build up military might. He made light of commands from the Ashikaga shogunate, and eventually began to ignore the shogunate altogether. In 1487, General Ashikaga Yoshihisa brought with him an army to stamp out this rebellion, and a battle between Ashikaga and Rokkaku’s camps ensued. Ashikaga mobilized daimyo from several provinces against the castle of Kannonji, the headquarters of the Rokkaku; as a result, Rokkaku Masayori and Rokkaku Takayori (Masayori's son) were forced to flee to the castle of Kōka. The factual accuracy of their escape is debated and it is likely that they gave up the town to avoid a direct confrontation instead.

Ashikaga then moved his base to Anshiyoji of Kurita District and attacked the castle of Kōka. Kōka fell, but the Rokkaku duo escaped again and ordered the Kōka warriors who followed them to mount a heavy resistance against Ashikaga using guerrilla warfare. Exploiting their geographical advantage in the mountains, the Kōka warriors launched a wide range of surprise attacks against Ashikaga’s forces, and tormented them by using fire and smoke on Ashikaga’s camp during the night. The guerrilla warfare prevented a final showdown, until Ashikaga died in battle in 1489, ending the three-year conflict and sparing the lives of the Rokkaku duo.

The elusive and effective guerrilla warfare used by the Kōka warriors became well known throughout the whole country. This also marked the first time that the ninja of Kōka were drafted as a regular army by their lord. Previously, they were only mercenaries and it was not uncommon to have warriors from Kōka on both sides of a battle. As a result of this victory, the local samurai in the 53 families who participated in this battle were called "the 53 families of Kōka".

The Battle of Entoku 1491: 3rd year of Entoku
Ashikaga Yoshitane defeats Rokkaku Takayori. He is then later defeated by the Hosokawa at Shogakuji and is forced to flee to the Western Chugoku region.

The Battle of Eisei 1510:  7th year of Eisei

The battle of Eiroku 1560: 3rd year of Eiroku
In the third year of Eiroku (1560), at the battle of Okehazama, Oda Nobunaga destroyed Imagawa Yoshimoto, and his name became known throughout the realm.  Nobunaga  was a powerful samurai  and feudal ruler who sought a life of continous military cconquest. 

“In 1562, Tokugawa Ieyasu employed a group of eighty Kōga ninja, led by Tomo Sukesada. They were tasked to raid a castle outpost in Kaminojo from the Udono family. The castle in Kaminojo was in a very good strategic position on a formidable precipice and difficult for opposing armies to capture. Ieyasu would have suffered great losses to take it conventionally.

On the night of the 15th day of the third month Tomo Sukesada leading his Koga ninja infiltrated NagaMochi’s castle setting fire to the towers killing the castle's defenders. (Nagamochi was the military administrator responsible for maintaining defenses and protecting the castle's lands, these castle leaders or captains were either top-ranking samurai officials ar advisors in service to the daimyo of feudal Japan).

During the night attack on Nagamochi’s castle the Koga Ninja had killed 200 men in the garrison. Nagamochi had fled next to the Gomado or "Hall of Prayers".  Sukesada killed Nagamochi and cut off his head as he lay prostrate.” – Mikawa Go Fudoki

The battle of Genki 1570: 1st year of Genki.

Rokkaku Yoshisuke had seen his territory invaded by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 and hired a koga ninja by the name of Sugitani Zenjubo, whose specialty was sharpshooting with a long barreled arquebus (rifle). Sugitani laid in wait for Nobunaga and as he crossed the Chigusa pass between Omi and Mino provinces Sugitani fired two shots (it is presumed that he used two seperate guns). Both shots struck home but they were absorbed by Nobunaga's armor. Sugitani was able to escape to the mountains, however, four years later he was captured and tortured to death.
Oda Nobunaga finally decided they were too dangerous and crushed Iga in a punitive expedition in 1581. Legend has it that surviving ninja dispersed to all parts of Japan after their defeat. Wherever they went, their usefulness was soon at an end.

Understandably Oda Nobunaga looked at the ninja and only saw a threat, however, Tokugawa Ieyasu saw an opportunity, and soon he had a group of Koga ninja in his employ. They participated in the battle of Sekigahara. They worked for Tokugawa again in 1614-15, during the campaigns against the last Toyotomi heir, and one last time in 1638 against the Christian daimyo of Kyushu in the Shimabara Rebellion, in both cases operating in their traditional role as masters of seige warfare.

The battle of Fushimi 1600: fifth year of Keicho:
In 1600 the Koga rescued lord Tokugawa from an assassination attempt by rival Ninja. They made a dummy of Lord Tokugawa, filled it with explosives, and placed it in Tokugawa's carriage. Then, acting as personal escort, they made it known that Tokugawa was on the move through enemy territory. This diversionary tactic succeeded, giving the real carriage with Tokugawa precious time to escape.
When Tokugawa Ieyasu fought for power in Japan, the Fushimi castle near Kyoto was occupied.
 They had to defend themselves against the armies in the west long enough for the Tokugawa army to regroup for the fight in Seki Ga Hara in the east. There were 400 Samurai from Koga Ryu who were called into action and aided with the defense of Fushimi Castle. Some of the ninja were in the castle, while the others terrorized and harrased the enemy outside with different kinds of raids. About 100 of the Koga ninja were killed in the battle.

Ieyasu already had great repect for the Koga ninja since thier attack on Kaminojo in 1562. However the service of the koga ninja at Fushimi far surpassed that of the attack on Kaminojo. About 100 of the Koga ninja had been killed in the battle at Fushimi Castle, and after the successful conclusion of the Sekigahara campaign, Ieyasu held a memorial service commemorating the dead.

In the Tokugawa Period  (1603 and 1868) in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional Daimyo. This period was a very peaceful time without any big civil wars they could not display their abilities as samurai, but most of them passed their life engaging in agriculture.  A part of them served the Tokugawa as Ninja  and were called Koka Gumi ( gumi means clan/group). In Tokyo there is a district called Kogai Cho which comes from Koga and Iga.  53 groups of Koka gumi served the lord of Kishiwada, whose descendants remain in Koka in Shiga prefecture today.

Around 1634, although the "Koga ninja" refused initially to emigrate from the land, which had been inherited from their ancestors, after several requests from the shoguns who succeeded Tokugawa Ieyasu, they also agreed to move to Edo and organized the "Koga Hyakunin-gumi (Company of 100 Ninja of Koga)".  Koga ninja were assigned to guarding the castle’s outer gate as well as serving as a police force. Some reports also state that the ninja worked as spies for the shoguns, reporting on the activities of domain lords throughout Japan.

The Shimbara revolt 1637: 14th year of Kan ei  Shim-Bara no Ran
 One of the last times the Koga ninja were active in a battle was at Shima-Bara No Ran, when Christian samurais rebelled and occupied the Hara castle in Shimabara province on Kyushu. Ten ninjas from Koga Ryu were sent by Izumo Kami Nobutsuna to gather information for the Shogun’s samurais to prepare an attack against the castle.

They were led by Mochizuki Heidayu, 63 years old and Akutagawa Kiyouemon, 60 years old, both veterans from the battle at Sekigahara. The others from Koga were:

Iwane Kanbei, 56 years old
Kamogai Kanuemon, 56 years old
Tomei Gohei, 53 years old
Iwani Kanbei, 45 years old
Natsumi Kakunosuke, 41 years old
Mochizuki Yoemon ,33 years old
Akutagawa Shichirobei, 25 years old
Yamanaka Jutayu, 24 years old.

They arrived on the 4th of January 1638, and their first assignment was to create a map of the area around the castle. Only 15 days later, they sent a detailed map of the castle and the forces protecting it to Edo and the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu.

It is also said that the ninjas from Koga, or Ongyo No Mono (hidden persons) as they were also called, infiltrated the castle each night without problem. The 21st of January they stole food from the castle, which did not make it easier for the enemy since they already had very little food. They also managed to get some secret passwords.

January 27th, five Koga ninjas managed to get into the castle disguised as soldiers. They were Mochizuki Yoemon, Arakawa Shichirobei, Natsume Kakano-Suke, Yamanaka Jutayu and Tomo Gohei. The troops outside the castle fired with their rifles, and the enemy in the castle automatically blew out all the torches so they wouldn't draw more fire to them. Later that night, when the guards began to relax, the ninja could easily climb over the walls in the protection of the darkness.

Arakawa got careless and fell down in a hole. He got immediate help from Mochizuki. But because of the noise, the guards lit the torches again, and they was spotted. Mochizuki and Arakawa both ran right through the troops, snatched one of the Christian flags on the way, and got shot at. All five managed to escape, but both Mochizuki and Arakawa got wounded. When the castle was attacked the 24th of February, the Koga ninjas served as an office of connections between the two troops.

The lack of major warfare throughout the Edo Period (from about 1600 onwards) meant that there was little demand for the services of ninja. Once the Shimabara Rebellion had been crushed, there was no large-scale armed conflict until the mid-nineteenth century.

However the Koga Samurai/ninja may have distinguished themselves on the field in battles, they did not claim it themselves. In the 16th century when the Asais fought against the Sasakis, the koka samurai were urged to join the Asais in exchange for the share of the territory but they rejected the offer firmly as they were debted to the Sasakis.

The Koka Samurai majored and specialized in fighting against heavy odds which produced the art of Ninjutsu and its proper weapons. It is of course neccesay to give a sudden attack to fight against heavy odds.  They were bold and adventurous enough to give a sudden attack in such type fighting. Seeking salvation by taking a desperate step was their way of fighting.

Koka samurais were proud of fighting for the sake of justice which is said to be the fundamental attitude for each samurai. Such an attitude was very significant when they supported the emperor during the period of the northern and southern dynasties. They had a strong sense of justice. It may not be an exaggeration to saythat Kouga samurais had learned loyalty, courtesy, bravery, faithfulness, frugality and so forth, which are regarded to be the samurais requirements.

The subsequent fixed status and hereditary social system under the Tokugawa shogunate did not favor the continuation of the "ninja" skills, which declined and ultimately disappeared as the generations advanced. The Ninja continued to serve the shogunate until the eighteenth century, when Tokugawa Yoshimune (the eighth Tokugawa shogun) dismissed all ninja from his service, and replaced them. This seems to mark the end of the ninja era, as there are no reliable accounts of ninja activities after this date.

During the war between the  shogun and Oda Nobunaga , a koga ninja Tanimura Yozen, settled in Echigo Nagaoka  which is now part of Niigata Prefecture.  Yozen’s descendant, Tanimura Ihachiro headed the Koga ninja for many years. Ihachiro revealed many ninjutsu techniques to a writer by the name of Itoh Gingetsu. (note: most websites mistakenly uses the name Tanemura, which is incorrect)

Itoh Gingetsu (October 21, 1871-1944), was born Itoh Ginji on October 21st in the Fourth Year of the Meiji Emperor. Itoh was a reporter for the Yorozu Morning Paper , he wrote articles in news papers and magazines and has published  books on ninjutsu such as Ninjutsu to Yojutsu (1909), Ninjutsu No Gokui (1917), Ninjutsu to Kankinjutsu (1923) and Gendajin No Ninjutsu (1937). He was an acknowledged expert on Ninjutsu in those days in Japan. Itoh died at the age of 73.

The last Soke of Kōga-ryū was 14th headmaster Fujita Seiko (1898-1966). Fujita was born in Tokyo, and studied Kōga-ryū Wada Ha (Kōga-ryū Ninjutsu) with his grandfather Fujita Shintazaemon, 13th Soke of the Kōga-ryū. During World War II, Fujita taught ninjutsu and Nanban Satto ryu Kenpo in the Army Academy of Nakano (Rikugun Nakano Gakkō) and served in assignments for the Japanese Imperial Government. He died of cirrhosis of the liver on January 4th 1966.
In his own autobiography Doronron : Saigo no Ninja  The last ninja  October 1958 , Fujita Seiko categorically states that he has not and will not teach anyone Ninjutsu and would not pass on the school.  In his book he recounted how his grandfather had passed on the secrets of his family Koga Ryu Wada Ha system to him. Fujita’s family name used to be Wada, and so the art they passed down in the family was called Koga-ryu, Wada- ha. In his book Fujita Seiko also made it quite clear that he DID NOT pass on his Family’s Koga ryu Wada Ha Ninjutsu to ANY of his students or colleagues.

Four years later in 1963, two men, Watatani Kiyoshi and Yamada Tadashi were gathering information for a book, The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, an Encyclopedia of Martial art schools, a catalog of Koryū Bujutsu (old schools) and Gendai Budō (new schools) of Japanese martial arts (budo). It is composed both of active and inactive schools, chronicled over the lifetimes of the authors.

Watatani and Yamada collected data on thousands of different ryuha from throughout Japanese
history, and created this approximately 1000 page incredible resource. For each ryuha there is a list of weapons used by the ryuha, detailed tree charts showing the lineage and branching of the ryu, as well as connections to other ryuha it may have had. For ryuha where a great deal of data is available, there are also lengthy entries describing the ryuha and notable events and people concerned with it.

Due to the meticulousness of their cataloging, formatting style and methods used in creating the book it has become the standard academic reference for anyone doing research into the field. The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten is Japan's official "Martial Arts Directory," a publication that is considered the authority in all matters of Japanese martial arts.

 The entry of Fujita's information for the Koga Ryu Wada Ha, which appears on the top of page 273 of The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten  is as follows: "This ryu is one of the 53 Koga families. Moreover, this ryuha is one of the Minamiyama Rokke of only 6 families, and nobody knows this ryuha." Watatani then attributes the quote to "Fujita Seiko, 1963."

In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun in 1964, Fujita made it clear of his intentions to be the last ninja of Koga Ryu Wada Ha. Fujita said that the art would die with him (“Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult” Stephen Turnbull, pg. 144). In Donn Draeger's book  "Asian Comprehensive Fighting Arts: Bushido - The Way of the Warrior" the author referred to Fujita Seiko as the last Ninja to have been in service of the Japanese government.

The 1978 revision of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten states that Fujita Seiko was the last soke of this ryuha and it was one of 6 ryu that belonged to the Minamiyama Rokke, maybe 6 strong families or an organization and that nobody knows this ryuha today.

An additional entry on the bottom of page 921 of the BRD, that is entered as "Wada Ryu," and which is said to be the same as Koga Ryu Wada Ha. The entry mentions that a Wada Iga Morishinori founded the ryu, [and that] Fujita Seiko is a descendent of Wada Iga Morishinori. The entry provides a very compelling piece of evidence that the Koga Ryu Wada Ha was transmitted through Fujita's family, and coincides with the evidence that he was soke of the last Koga ninja tradition.

In October of 2007 a story ran about a retiree who found a family tie to ninjutsu in koka.  According to the article, Toshinobu Watanabe, a 70 year old former chemist for Mitsubishi, had recently retired to his ancestral home of Koka in Shiga Prefecture. Watanabe had discovered some old documents inside a family warehouse, documents proving his great grandfather was a ninja adviser to one of Japan's top daimyos. Watanabe had no inkling whatsoever that his family had ninja ties. Even within the Watanabe family, the ninja line was kept secret. There are some instructors today who claim a historical connection or lineage to Koga Ryu however they cannot show any evidence to back up this claim.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Article by Barron Shepherd

Artwork by David Conway

Hattori "The Devil" Hanzo was said to have begun training at the age of eight, and became a full fledged ninja at age twelve, and was known as a master ninja at the age of eighteen.

Hattori (Masanari) Hanzo, the son of a ninja and samurai born, was without a doubt the most famous ‘ninja’ in history. He was a vassal and samurai in the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and was a major driving force in Ieyasu becoming the shogun and ruler of all Japan. He was born and raised in Mikawa Province, the son of Hattori Yasunaga (Hattori Hanzo 1st) a true Iga no Mono and a true ninja and Ninja Leader of the Hattori clan. Yasunaga was from Chigachi in Iga and moved to serve the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiharu. Later he went to Mikawa to serve the Tokugawa clan.

 The prefecture or province of Iga at this time was an independent domain, a self governing body of mountain families who are believed to be Ninja families free from national control. This independent system ran its own samurai class and thus an Iga no mono could have been both a ninja by trade or skill and also a samurai by birth or achievement. ( Iga was a separate state external to Japanese central rule up until the Iranki wars, that was the defeat of the Iga clans by Oda Nobunaga, Iga was a separate state external to Japanese central rule.)

Hattori Hanzo II began to make a name for himself while in the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was a General in the Oda Clan.  It is said that Hattori Hanzo II was a master in the martial arts and that he distinguished himself in the arts of swordsmanship and spearsmanship, and  is said to have been an outstanding tactician general.

“At the age of sixteen Hanzo led a strike team of sixty ninja as they breached the massive stone walls of an enemy castle, and delivered the coup de grace to its master with his own hands.”- Ninja Attack!- by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt

By the time he was sixteen, he had already proven himself, serving in battles for the Oda Clan, where he earned the nicknames, “Hanzo the Ghost”, and “Devil Hanzo”, because of the fearless tactics he displayed in his operations.  Hattori “the Devil” Hanzo was a person to be feared and respected. It is said that he was like a devil in his abilities and was feared by all for his prowess and capabilities. Part ninja, samurai, a general and a killer a product of the best his generation could offer.

Hanzo Hattori and his Iga Ninjas, the “Men of Iga”, were recruited to spy on the enemies of Tokugawa, as well as perform assassinations, reconnaissance and sabotage. He had ninja operatives working undercover as ronin warriors in the castles of many of the Tokugawa’s enemies. Hanzo and his Iga Ninja were so effective that many people give Hanzo much credit for Tokugawa’s rise to power.

“Hanzo led 11 ninja from the Iga prefecture on a daring night raid of Mikawa Udo Castle.  Later he participated in the Enshu Kakegawa Castle attack, the wars at Anegawa, Kosakai, Takatenjin, Mikatgahara and Nagashino. Hanzo’s heroics in these wars kept the Tokugawa clan intact and made a famous place for himself in Ninja history.” – Ninpo Ninjutsu by Tadashi Yamashita

Siege of Kaminogō Castle

The Siege of Kaminogō Castle was a battle during the Sengoku period (16th century) of Japan. Hattori Hanzo who was 16 at the time took part in a night-time attack on Udo Castle and made a successful hostage rescue of Tokagawa's daughters in Kaminogō Castle in 1562. Hanzo acts of leadership and courage formed the cornerstone of a lifelong friendship Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Siege of Kakegawa

The 1569 siege of Kakegawa was one of many battles fought by the Imagawa clan against various invaders during Japan's Sengoku period. Imagawa Ujizane, the son of the late Imagawa Yoshimoto, held Kakegawa castle at the time that it was besieged by Hattori Hanzo under the command of Tokugawa Ieyasu. After a long battle, negotiations began, and Ujizane agreed to surrender the castle in return for the support of Ieyasu in regaining his former territory in Suruga province.

 Hanzo fought valiantly at the Battle of Anagawa in 1570 and Mikatagahara (1572).

Battle of Anegawa

The Sengoku period Battle of Anegawa (姉川の戦い Ane-gawa no Tatakai?) (30 July 1570) came as a reaction to Oda Nobunaga’s sieges of the castles of Odani and Yokoyama, which belonged to the Azai and Asakura clans.  It occurred near Lake Biwa in Ōmi Province, Japan, between the allied forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, against the combined forces of the Azai and Asakura clans.

 As warriors rushed forth from the castles, the battle turned into a melee fought in the middle of the shallow river. For a time, Nobunaga’s forces fought the Azai, while the Tokugawa warriors fought the Asakura a short distance upstream.  It is notable as the first battle that involved the alliance between Nobunaga and Ieyasu, liberated the Oda clan from its unbalanced alliance with the Azai, and saw Nobunaga's prodigious use of firearms.

Battle of Mikatagahara

The Battle of Mikatagahara (三方ヶ原の戦い Mikatagahara no tatakai?) (January 25, 1573; Tōtōmi Province, Japan) was one of the most famous battles of Takeda Shingen's campaigns, and one of the best demonstrations of his cavalry-based tactics. It was also one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's worst defeats, and complete disaster was only narrowly averted.

 After the first day of fighting Tokugawa's army had been overwhelmed, and the enemy was preparing to make their final assault on the Oda Clan positions.  In the night, a small band of Tokugawa ninja led by Hattori Hanzo attacked the Takeda camp, throwing the vanguard of the Takeda army into confusion. Uncertain of the remaining strength of the Tokugawa forces, and worried that reinforcements from Oda Nobunaga and/or Uesugi Kenshin were on their way, Takeda Shingen decided to withdraw.

First Tenshō Iga War and Second Tenshō Iga War

During the Tenshō Iga War Hanzo planned a brillant defence of the ninja homeland in Iga province in 1579 against Oda Nobukatsu the second son of Oda Nobunaga and fought a valiant but ultimately a hopeless effort to prevent the Iga province from being eliminated by forces under the personal command of Nobunaga himself in 1581.

His most valuable contribution came in 1582 the warlord Akechi Mitsuhide had just betrayed and assassinated his master, Oda Nobunaga.  At that time Tokugawa along with Hanzo and his other retainers had been staying near Ôsaka when they learned of the assassination. They left  just in time to avoid being captured by Mitsuhide's soldiers but the soldiers pursued.

Since Nobunaga was the leader of Tokugawa’s Clan, Tokugawa’s life was in danger.  Akechi was putting up security checkpoints and sending out roving bands of samurai looking to kill Tokugawa.  Tokugawa appeared to be trapped, alone, and surrounded, with a few hundred miles separating him from his castle in Mikawa Prefecture.  Mikawa was  a long way away, and Mitsuhide’s men would be combing the country side for them.

 Hanzo suggested that they take a route through Iga province, as he had ties with the samurai there. In addition, Ieyasu had sheltered survivors from Nobunaga's bloody invasion of that province in 1580 and those who knew of this would certainly be well disposed to offer assistance.

Honda Tadakatsu sent Hanzo on ahead, and, as hoped, the Iga men agreed not only to guide them along back roads, but also to provide them with an escort.  Hanzo led the future shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to safety in Mikawa Province across Iga territory with the help of remnants of the local Iga ninja clans as well as their one-time rivals in Koga.  The same, however, could not be said for Anayama Beisetsu, a recent Tokugawa addition who had insisted on taking a different route.

Tokugawa was so impressed that he kept two hundred of the ninjas  under the command of Hattori Hanzo.  They were assigned the critical duty of protecting the West Gate of Edo Castle – the gate most susceptible to a surprise attack by enemy forces.  The West entrance to Edo was renamed Hanzo-Mon, and to this day “Hanzo’s Gate” still stands.

“How long can a ninja stay underwater?  Tokugawa asked. “One or two days, Lord. However long you request,” replied Hanzo, who then dived beneath the water. Several hours passed and there was still no sign of him. Leyasu became worried. He and his retainers began calling Hanzo’s name. Then Hanzo rose to the surface with bursting air bubbles. He was not out of breath, but smiling.”

Some stories say Hattori “The Devil” Hanzo lived the last several years of his life as a monk under the name "Sainen" and built the temple Sainenji, which was named after him and mainly built to commemorate Tokugawa Ieyasu's elder son, Nobuyasu.

Nobuyasu was accused of treason and conspiracy by Oda Nobunaga and was then ordered to commit seppuku by his father, Ieyasu. Hanzo was called in to act as the official second to end Nobuyasu's suffering, but he refused to take the sword on the blood of his own lord. Ieyasu valued his loyalty after hearing of Hanzo's ordeal and said, "Even a demon can shed tears."

The head of the Tokugawa Iga ninja and Koga ninja served his lord Tokugawa Ieyasu for all his life. Hattori “The Devil” Hanzo died at the age of 55 some say he died from illness, some say of natural causes. The average life span was 50 years old during this period. There are some stories that tell of him dying in battle. There is even an urban legend that Matsuo Basho, the greatest Haiku poet in Japanese history, was Hattori Hanzo.

To this day, artifacts of Hanzo's legacy remain; the Tokyo Imperial Palace still has a gate called Hanzo Gate, and the Hanzo-mon subway line which runs from central Tokyo to the southwestern suburbs is named after the gate. Hanzo’s remains now rest in the Sainen-ji temple cemetery in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The temple also holds his favorite spears and his ceremonial battle helmet.

“Hattori Hanzo is considered by many to be the most badass ninja to ever live.  His exploits have become the thing of legend in his native land, and all who study the arts of Ninjitsu and Kicking Ass look to Hanzo as the shining example of what it means to be totally awesome” - BADASS - Ben Thompson

Tales of Hattori "The Devil" Hanzo's exploits attribute to his continued prominence in popular culture. As a famous historical figure in one of Japan's greatest periods of samurai culture, Hattori Hanzō has significant cultural resonance.  Many films, specials and series on the life and times of Tokugawa Ieyasu depict the events mentioned above. Hanzo’s life and exploits are fictionalized in manga series, novels, feature films and video games. The actor Sonny Chiba played Hanzo in the series Hattori Hanzô: Kage no Gundan (Shadow Warriors), where Hanzo and his descendants are the main characters. Chiba played several of Hanzo's decendants in the series. Most recently Chiba played a sword smith by the name of Hattori Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino's film "Kill Bill".

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Article by Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway and Lorant Pataki

It seems that the retro image of the Ninja from the 80's has made their way back into the lime light in recent years with block buster movies such as "Batman Begins", "Ninja Assassin", “Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear” which starred Scott Adkins "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" a 2014 computer animated full length feature film, the “G.I. Joe” films that featured the ninja Snake Eyes and his counterpart Storm Shadow. 

This retro image of the black clad assassin is what initially brought me to the art of ninjutsu. Now, it was always known that the image may not be entirely accurate and more Hollywood driven. On the contrary what the image really is and what it stands for is quite more accurate than not.

Even Documentaries on the ancient ninja of Japan depict more often than not, an intimidating vision of a black clad ancient elite special forces operative capable of  demonic like stealth who possess almost super human combat abilities and as master assassins. The ninja are back and are more lethal than ever.

During the late 70’s to the early eighties I was a teenager. My Kenpo instructors were heavy into the ninja boom during the eighties and nineties. My instructors would travel to go to ninjutsu seminars and camps given by people like Stephen Hayes, Ronald Duncan and Robert Bussey. It was always a treat for us in class when they returned to share what they had learned and picked up from these instructors.

The real ninja boom in the United States was brewing back in the '70's. According to Black belt magazine Stephen Hayes, Robert Bussey and Ronald Duncan were responsible for the spread of Ninjutsu in the united states. These men became predominant and highly regarded by the leading martial art magazines.

According to Black belt magazine Ronald Duncan was teaching Ninjutsu in the 60’s and 70’s before the ninja craze hit America. In the 70’s Stephen Hayes and Robert Bussey had traveled to Japan to train with Massaki Hatsumi in Togakure ryu ninjutsu. Hayes had a successful run with several books and videos helped to bring traditional ninjutsu to light. Bussey who had also traveled to train in Japan with Masaaki Hatsumi brought back a more progressive and openly aggressive and modified form of Ninjutsu.

The Ninjutsu world exploded some martial arts schools took up training in ninjutsu as a separate discipline, Bussey, Duncan and Hayes were highly sought after and highly regarded by the leading martial art magazines such as Black belt, Official Karate, Fighting Stars, Ninja Magazine and others. 

The name Ninja has been associated with an ultimate warrior capable of explosive skills, intellect, a wide range of infiltration skill and diverse fighting ability. The Ninja were for all intensive purposes were the forefathers of the special forces operatives and espionage agents used by military forces around the world today. These elite units combine combat skills, stealth, and technology to infiltrate enemy strongholds, gather secret information, and spread disinformation and operate in small units very much like the ninja of feudal Japan.

The word “ninja” is more of a modern term. In Japanese, during feudal Japan, were called shinobi no mono, though in contemporary Japan people will also say "ninja". According to The Oxford English Dictionary, which tracks the emergence of new slang into English, one of the first western uses of the word "ninja" may have been in Ian Fleming's 1964 James Bond novel You Only Live Twice.

The first appearance of a ninja in a popular western work was in 1964 in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel “You only live twice”. In 1967 Fleming’s book was turned into a movie and presented the ninja for the first time to the English speaking world in a way that no book could ever do.

My earliest remembrance of the eighties ninja came about in September of 1980 the TV miniseries Shogun aired and featured a scene of a raid by ninja. In 1981 "Enter The Ninja" starring Sho Kosugi set off the ninja explosion of the 80's which is still with us to this day as evidenced by Snake Eyes in  the “GI Joe” movies, “Elektra” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” all still being around as they were birthed by it.

To this day, the iconic image of the ninja stretched far beyond that of the martial arts into pop culture. In fact, the influence of the image of the ninja on pop culture and martial arts was and still is massive!  Who didn't want to be a ninja back then? How many American teenagers from the 80’s were inspired to train in the martial arts because of Sho Kosugi. How about the 1985 cult classic “American Ninja” starring Michael Dudikoff. I was a young man in the service when I saw that one. Still is one of my favorites albeit a guilty pleasure.

The iconic  image  of the ninja not only determined how most school kids and pretty much everyone here in the west imagined ninja to be but it also motivated students to train harder to become better  at their perspective martial art it didn't matter if it was ninjutsu or karate. The image of the ninja was adopted whole heartedly in the 80's and has since become almost inseparable from mainstream American heroism. Never has there been such a greater force than the blade wielding black clad ninja assassin.

So what’s wrong with the retro image of the ninja or ninjutsu?  Answer: NOT ONE DAMN THING!!!!

Monday, January 12, 2015


We are now into the New Year and the blog continues to grow, expand and evolve.  The blog gets approximately 3000 views a month and over 160,000 views total it is almost as if it has a life of its very own. It lives, it breathes, it finds directions and meanings.  Perhaps it is simply just me as I mature and grow and my outlooks change or expand and evolve that I am able to continue to write. Last and definitely not the not least by any means, I owe it to those who have taken the time to read the blog. Thanks to them the blog seems to have become a force.

Needless to say what I have attempted to share on this blog has definitely rubbed a handful of individuals, whose names really aren't worth mentioning, the wrong way. Quite honestly these individuals' attitudes, criminal records, fraudulent claims of military service and bogus martial art experience really doesn't matter they are just, for all intensive purposes, insignificant. In a word, IRRELEVANT. What they think or feel or say has no effect or influence on me personally, my writing or my training.

The constant student I learn and keep learning so that I may grow and evolve. I don’t claim to be a “Ninja” and I don’t claim to be a “grand master”. Getting a “black belt” was never the goal, being effective was.  The black belts were more of a “byproduct” of my training. My sole pursuit has always been one to better myself, to stay strong in my beliefs and not to “sell out” or sell myself or others short.

My motto is a simple one: Surround yourself with the things that truly bring you joy and train hard so to develop an enduring spirit. Quite simply, I disassociated myself from negativity and from those who are nothing but slaves to their own narcissistic egos.  I just keep the things that truly enrich my spirit close and the hard training just helps to strengthen that resolve of living my life in a correct, positive and fulfilling way.

It goes without saying that the great additions that have not only enriched my life but have enriched this blog is the artwork of David Conway and Lorant Pataki this past year. David did some stuff that was specifically for me and the blog and it has indeed been a thrill to see him come up with the different works of art. Their artwork is a significant contribution to the blog. Their art is just simply outstanding and a joy to have I cannot thank them enough.

So what is coming up on the blog in the New Year? Well more articles on ninjutsu and the ninja of course, more reviews of books and videos.  I will also be sharing some diet and fitness routines solely for the purpose to help others get into better shape. I am 50 years old and follow these very same routines that I will be sharing. These diet and fitness routines will be a great way for anyone regardless of age or fitness level  get in better shape using bodyweight training routines and of course a proper diet. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Article by Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway

Who could forget the 80s, the movies, the music, MTV, the clothes, the big hair and the NINJA.
 “Whatcha talkin’ bout Willis?”  

Yep, the eighties would be the decade of the NINJA.  America was still climbing out of the 70s, the hot trend in movies between Star Wars movies was the NINJA movie. The image of the NINJA was adopted whole heartedly in the 80s by American teenage boys looking for a new martial arts hero. Yep, for those that aren’t old enough to remember it was NINJA! NINJA! NINJA!

My earliest remembrance of the eighties NINJA came about in September of 1980 the TV miniseries Shogun aired and featured a scene of a raid by NINJA. That was what started it all. I went to my local movie theater and saw “The Octagon” in which Chuck Norris fought a clan of NINJA. Boy was there one badass NINJA in that one. Then there was “Enter the NINJA” a Cannon film starring Sho Kosugi. With the success of that film, “Revenge of the NINJA” and “NINJA III: The Domination” soon followed. Who could forget that famous Sho Kosugi NINJA jumping side Kick.  “American NINJA” came next and proved to be the most successful ninja film for the Cannon film group.

By the mid eighties, the media was saturated with NINJA movies, magazines and anything NINJA related.  It seemed almost every month one of the monthly martial arts magazines would feature a NINJA on its cover or NINJA related articles. There were even a series of these magazines which were simply titled (of course) "NINJA". I loved those old NINJA magazines and  who could forget the movie The Last Dragon in which the main character Bruce Leroy dressed up like a NINJA to defeat the evil master Sho’ Nuff’ and his gang. Remember the line when Sho’ Nuff ‘ would ask, “WHO’S THE MASTAH?? And then his gang would reply, SHO’ NUFF’’!!!!”

The NINJA appeared in other mediums as well. On TV there was a pilot movie called “The Last NINJA” and a Tv series which starred Sho Kosugi and Lee Van Clief called “The Master” whose main character Mcalister was….yep you guessed it, a NINJA. A Popular children’s cartoon G.I. Joe went as far as redesigning a major character to cash in on the sudden NINJA craze. That character was Snake eyes. The best selling figures of the Hasbro G.I. Joe line of toys and action figures were Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow which were both, of course, NINJA.

The sheer volume of kids that dressed up as Ninja during Halloween was crazy. It seemed like every kid wanted to be a NINJA. Kawasaki launched it's best selling motorcycle. Can You guess which one it was? The NINJA. Are you getting the jist of the prevalent presence of the NINJA in the eighties yet?

Serving to only fuel the flames of the NINJA craze, arcades everywhere were assaulted with one NINJA game after another. In 1986, “NINJA” was one of the first video games to feature the shadowy assassins. A year later, “The Last NINJA” and “Shinobi” would hit arcades everywhere with “NINJA Gaiden” and “NINJA Warriors” following the year after that.

By the end of the eighties Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles had swept the nation and had become a phenomenon, selling a plethora of VHS tapes, action figures, t-shirts, and video games. NINJA movies were released straight to VHS video.  Sho Kosugi’s quintessential NINJA would continue to kick ass in “Pray for Death” and “9 Deaths of the NINJA” and sequels to American NINJA were a force to be reckoned with in the video rental chain franchises and stores.

The NINJA cut into the 90s with the same intensity. There were 3 big screen Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles movies there was “3 NINJAS” and “Beverly Hills NINJA” By this time we had seen every conceivable manifestation of the NINJA in cartoon, movies, comics, in action novels, in the media, in music, the news and pop culture. There were NINJAS dressed in black, red, blue, yellow, green and don’t forget the NINJAS dressed in camouflage. Even Batman, who had been fighting evildoers since 1939, got a little schooling in the way of the NINJA during the 80’s and 90’s.

Like a NINJA shuriken between the eyes, you just couldn’t get away from the NINJA, it was NINJA this and NINJA that, the ninja were everywhere, it was pure full tilt NINJA Mania in the 80s and 90s. Music Television’s MTV had interviewed a real American NINJA in a segment entitled “So you want to be a NINJA”. The rock band Blue Oyster Cult released an album called “Club NINJA” which featured the song “Shadow Warrior”. Why even rapper Vanilla Ice came out with “NINJA Rap”:


Yeah I’m rappin’. Are you gettin’ this funky not so subliminal NINJA message that I’m throwin’ down right now? If not I’ll break it down some more. Hittin’ it like shuriken to the forehead, the NINJA were so prevalent on toys, t shirts, lunch boxes, in martial arts, in the media, movies, TV and pop culture that even  a fake NINJA got exposed in The Los Angeles Times.…..SAY WHAT!? ……SHO’ NUFF’!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


By Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway

Throughout the world, the name Ninja has been associated with an ultimate warrior, capable of explosive skills, intellect, and diverse fighting ability. History does indeed tell us who the ninja were and what they did. They acted as covert agents or mercenaries in feudal Japan and specialized in unorthodox warfare. Their functions included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, guerrilla warfare, assassination, and open combat in certain situations.

“Dozens of your allies can be killed by a single shinobi (ninja) if he is used properly. These shinobi can excel, even in combat. One of these warriors is a match for a thousand and they have succeeded in a countless number of incidents. This is as clear as I Ra Ha Ni Ho He To (translated: THIS IS AS CLEAR AS A,B,C.).” – Shinobi Hiden

These covert methods of waging war contrasted with that of the samurai, who observed strict rules about honor and combat. NinJutsu didn’t fit into these rules or ‘kata’ like other bujutsu (martial arts). It was a world in which there were ‘duties’ and ‘missions’, and failures were not accepted.

Simply looking at the documents such as the “Bansenshukai”, the “Shoninki” and the “Shinobi Hiden” limits the understanding of the full range of skills of the ninja. Specific bujutsu (armed and unarmed combat) or martial arts skills along others skills are not mentioned. It was taken for granted that the ninja were already trained or would train themselves in those specific areas.

 “For close combat or sword fighting, there is no way to describe how to do such things at length here. Therefore, just be sure to always train yourself with kenjutsu swordmanship, iai sword-drawing and so on. Tactics always depend on the time and place, thus guidelines are mentioned here for your reference." - Bansenshukai

Principles unified the ninja's approach to bujutsu or the martial arts, not techniques. The ninja improvised a lot, their way was constantly changing and evolving and adapting to the ever changing situations they were in. They would copy techniques from other standardized bujutsu systems that best suited shinobi missions. They would modify techniques to best suit shinobi missions. And last but not least, they would come up with specialized techniques that best suited shinobi missions. This may have included improvisation or techniques that they made up or come up with on the fly during the heat of the moment.

In the Bansenshukai the ninja were directed to embrace the old ways of the shinobi who had served under great generals of the past, and to remember NOT only to keep to the old ways but to “ADAPT” them, each dependent on the situation “AND THE MOMENT”.

 “It is folly to see something as unchangeable and stick to an old method without realizing that things keep changing and are in flux.” – Bansenshukai

Based on the mission, the best strategy was searched, the most appropriate tools built, and the most effective techniques were used. Of course, the “techniques” included ones used for infiltration, stealing, and killing if necessary. The Ninja only cared about one thing and that was completing the mission.

“They travelled in disguise to other territories to judge the situation of the enemy, they would inveigle their way into the midst of the enemy to discover gaps, and enter enemy castles to set them on fire, and carried out assassinations, arriving in secret.”  - Buke Myōmokushō

Nowadays we do have, at hand, translations of historical documents the most famous of which are “Bansenshukai”, “Shinobi Hiden” and “Shoninki”. There are semi-historical documents such as the “Hodo Godai-ki”, a chronicle of the Hojo clan who once ruled Japan as regents to the shogun, the “Shinchoko-ki”, a biography of Oda Nobunaga, the “Iran-ki”, the chronicle of Iga province, “Taiheiki”, “Kanhasshu-roku”, “Matsuo-gunki”, “Intoku Taiheiki”, “Taikoki”, and others.

The references pertaining to bujutsu that are found within these documents when taken accumulatively reveal exactly what role the ninja played in warfare of the time and how effective and well trained they were. When studying these works a definite image of the ninja and ninjutsu is revealed.

“Shinobi-no mono execute different types of espionage work.  Their service is to secretly penetrate to another provinces and find out the real situation in enemy camps, or by mixing with enemy to find out his weak points. Additionally in enemy camps they set fires, and as assassins kill people. These shinobi are used in many cases.

Near Kyoto in Iga province and in Koga [district of province] Omi there were many jizamurai, after Onin years (1467-1477) they organized their own bands (to) and fought during the day and during the night. Many of them became masters in the art of espionage (kancho-no jutsu), after this feudal lords (daimyo) of all clans began to hire such jizamurai.” – Buke Myomokusho

The Sengoku era marked a century of warfare in Japan, during the latter half of which the powerful daimyo Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu struggled for dominance as both allies and as enemies who were dramatically opposed to each other. After a decisive victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu was named Shogun and Japan was united once again.

During this time Ninja activity was at it's peak, Raids, Assassinations, reconnaissance missions and other military operations were recorded Seige Warfare was by far the most often referenced skill of the ninja; infiltrating castles and strongholds, launching a surprise attack on the inhahabitants, causing confusion and chaos from within while the main army would storm the caslte from without.

The ninja would scale the walls of a castle under the cover of night, and then start setting everything in sight on fire. They would blend in with the castle defenders, making it difficult to tell friend from foe, and make it seem like there is a rebellion within the ranks, once chaos ensued inside the castle, the army would lay siege on its walls from without.

A similar strategy with can be seen in the Gunpo Jiyoshu;

“For a night attack, you should use a shinobi no mono for guidance. Though this is a primary requirement, you may sometimes have nobody appropriate for the job. In that case, conduct your attack with the knowledge of the location and footing in mind. If you intend to night attack, you should not exhaust your mind or body too much in a daytime battle. When you see signs of tiredness in the enemy, carry out a night attack. If night attacking in great strength, you should divide your force into three main groups. One is of keki no musha [boisterous warriors], those who raise war cries and make noises with instruments to surprise the enemy. Another group is of shinobi no musha [shinobi warriors], those who exploit any gaps in the enemy’s defense and force themselves forward with the aim to defeat them. The last group is of hyori no musha [tactic warriors], those who move around swiftly among the enemy, especially paying attention to the front or the rear of the enemy’s force.

If you attack as stated above, then the enemy will be misled about the size of your force, often be thrown into confusion, and in the end be defeated.

In the case of attacking sneakily and in a small number—for example, fewer than a hundred people—and with shinobi as guides, one successful way is to have as many people as possible throw hand grenades everywhere, scattering them. Make one or two raids very quickly, taking advantage of their confusion.” - Gunpo Jiyoshu

An account of a night raid can be found in the Mikawa Go Fudoki, a record of the Mikawa Prefecture in Japan. The ninja had dressed like the castle’s defenders sneaked in and the infiltrated castle’s garrison. As the ninjas ran around killing the castle’s defenders, the defenders believed that there were traitors within their own ranks. This attack caused great confusion amoung the castle’s garrison and ended with the assassination of an military administrator.

“In 1562, Tokugawa Ieyasu employed a group of eighty Kōga ninja, led by Tomo Sukesada. They were tasked to raid a castle outpost in Kaminojo from the Udono family. The castle in Kaminojo was in a very good strategic position on a formidable precipice and difficult for opposing armies to capture. Ieyasu would have suffered great losses to take it conventionally.

On the night of the 15th day of the third month Tomo Sukesada leading his Koga ninja infiltrated NagaMochi’s castle setting fire to the towers killing the castle's defenders. (Nagamochi was the military administrator responsible for maintaining defenses and protecting the castle's lands, these castle leaders or captains were either top-ranking samurai officials ar advisors in service to the daimyo of feudal Japan).

During the night attack on Nagamochi’s castle the Koga Ninja had killed 200 men in the garrison. Nagamochi had fled next to the Gomado or "Hall of Prayers".  Sukesada killed Nagamochi and cut off his head as he lay prostrate.” – Mikawa Go Fudoki

Another source tells of the ninja going out nearly every night from a castle to frighten and harass the attacking army, without doing any physical damage -- however, the troops had to always be on the alert, and being unable to ever get a good night's sleep, the soldiers were constantly on edge waiting for an attack all night, they were ineffective when the time came to launch an assault on the castle. A degree of this type of psychological warfare can be seen illustrated in the Ōu Eikei Gunki, composed between the 16th and 17th centuries:

“Within Hataya castle there was a glorious shinobi (ninja) whose skill was renowned, and one night he entered the enemy camp secretly. He took the flag from Naoe Kanetsugu's guard ...and returned and stood it on a high place on the front gate of the castle.” - Ōu Eikei Gunki

Assassination is probably what the Ninja is best known for now. The Daimyos of Japan’s Warring States era feared assassination attempts by ninjas, after all their reputations preceded them. They were the “stealers in” who came from out of nowhere and disappeared into shadow. All of the major generals seemed to have an assassin make an attempt on their life at some point or another. One tactic was to lie down on a battlefield, and when your mark rides through, looking at all the dead bodies, the ninja suddenly springs up and attacks.

"It is possible to kill the enemy general with shinobi no jutsu and if this is done the benefit will be immeasurable. There is a secret in shinobi no jutsu on the skills required to kill the enemy's commander In a case where your ninja can kill the enemy general, then it will bring an enormous benefit, as the enemy will submit without fighting" – Bansenshukai

In “Iga and Koka Ninja Skills: The Secret Shinobi Scrolls of Chikamatsu Shigori” we find a reference to techniques used for assassination by ninja.  In article 26 we have Muto Den - The Tradition of No Sword.

“The shinobi is normally presented to the lord in person and has the opportunity to talk in close proximity. It is expected that at such a time the shinobi will not be allowed to wear a sword. However, he may hide a stabbing blade in his clothes or he may snatch the sword that the lord is wearing with the intent to kill him.” – Chikamatsu Shigori

Lord Oda Nobunaga had some close calls with assassination attempts performed by ninja, once being shot twice in the chest, the bullets being stopped by his armor. During this period the matchlock rifle became widely used in Japan, there are accounts of ninja contracted as snipers.

Sugitani Zenjubo, a ninja from koga, was a sharpshooter and his weapon of choice was the arquebus, a long barreled match lock rifle.  Rokkaku Yoshisuke’s territory in Omi province had been invaded by Oda Nobunaga a ruthless conqueror in 1571. Yoshisuke plotted to have Nobunaga assassinated and hired Sugitani Zenjubo. 
Nobunaga was crossing the Chigusa Pass between Omi and Mino provinces. Zenjubo had set up a position and laid in wait for Nobunaga. Zenjubo using two separate rifles he shot twice, both shots hit Nobunaga in the chest but the armor he was wearing protected him. Zenjubo then escaped into the mountains Omi Prefecture.

Zenjubo evaded his enemies for four years before being captured.  Nobunaga had Zenjubo tortured until he confessed and revealed Rokkaku’s assassination plot. The Koga Ninja was executed by hideously torturing him to death. Zenjubo’s torture lasted six days before producing the ninja’s death.

According to a story in the Iran-Ki, when Oda Nobunaga conquered Iga and stopped to rest at aekuni Shrine in Ichinomiya during one of his inspection visits, an Iga ninja by the name of Kai Kido whose real name was Yazaemon Kido along with two other ninjas, Moku Harada of Otowa village and Indai Hangan of Indai village were sent to assassinate him. Kido may have been the ninja with the most skill with a firearm.

As Lord Nobunaga rested in the shrine, the ninja got close, aimed their guns and fired.  Nobunaga known for his luck as well as his skill moved just in time. They missed the intended target but did manage to kill some of his retainers. Nobunaga's people gave chase but the ninja disappeared into the mountains.

Accounts of assassination are found in the Bansenshukai in volume 13 In-Nin III Hiden Infiltration section IV The three methods of escape when the enemy has awoken. The section covered fabricating a conversation to confuse and misdirect the enemy.

“the ninja had stolen into the house and went to the master’s sleeping room, where he saw the master getting ready by the light of the night lantern. The ninja said to him please get out of here and the master thinking it was his guard, did not suspect him in the slightest, at which point the ninja stabbed him to death, extinguished the fire and ran away.” - Bansenshukai

It is interesting to note that the first account of an assassination by ninja mentioned in the Bansenshukai states the ninja carried out his assignment and the death stroke was dealt with a blade while the second account mentions no weapon being used at all quite possibly indicating it was done using a unarmed technique.

 "In older times, someone had a grudge against a low ranking retainer. He intended to kill him and went to the enemy house, where he tried to open the door carefully. The master heard the sound, woke up and got out of the room in secret and moved to the inside of the door that the ninja was opening. The ninja entering noticed this and said to himself, ‘The master has woken so we cannot succeed. Let’s retreat,’ and also replied to himself, ‘OK,’ as if there were in fact two men. He pretended to withdraw by retreating about one ken, and quietly came back to the door and stayed by the wall. The master of the house, not realizing it was a trap, opened the door and came out to catch ‘them’; at that moment the shinobi – who was waiting for him to come out and who was by the door – KILLED HIM WITH A SINGLE STRIKE, and attained his objective. This is the way to take advantage of the enemy’s intention to wait for you and to kill you by surprise. Though there have been so many cases other than these, I cannot mention every one so have put the above two as examples." – Bansenshukai

Bujutsu was indeed valued and prominent amoung the skills of the ninja, we find other references pertaining to the ninja using the martial arts as a disquise to infiltrate the samurai in the “Shonobi Hiden”. The Shinobi Hiden directed that a ninja should “SPECIALIZE” in the martial arts in order to disguise themselves as a Samurai warrior. There is also a mention of an improvised tool the “Iron Machete” and that it should be well forged to be used in place of a sword and thus the blade will be of the most importance.

Indeed there were no other military units that history has seen that were as quite prepared as the ninja were in bujutsu (armed and unarmed combat) and warfare. To dismiss ninjutsu as not being a form or style of Bujutsu or martial art would not be accurate. Their unique and unconventional methods made the bujutsu of the ninja undeniably their own. To quote Hanzo Hattori  “THIS IS AS CLEAR AS A,B,C.”