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Saturday, November 15, 2014


“Do not limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as you mind lets you. What you believe, you can achieve.”

Due to the extreme nature of the missions that a ninja of feudal Japan were called upon to perform, being a Ninja  required a level of physical and mental fitness that bordered on the phenomenal due to the extreme nature of the missions. The ninja of old were the perfect all around athletes.   These shadow warriors lived a rugged and often Spartan like existence from a young age. An existence that allowed them to develop physical skills that modern Olympic athletes and Elite military organizations today would be envious of. 

Physically the ninja of old Japan trained extensively using body weight types of exercises. Physical and functional fitness, plus speed and endurance, as well as combat readiness were important to the ninja. For fitness there is no better way of building an athletic, fully functional and toned physique than your own body weight as the resistance.  Flexibility enhancement, Strength and Conditioning as well as Aerobic and Anaerobic cardiovascular development were physical enhancements that ninja needed to survive.

Many martial arts schools use body-weight exercises and calisthenics but only as part of a warm up before class.  However if you utilize Body-weight exercises as a full blown workout the benefits can be immeasurable.  Many body-weight exercises can be progressed or regressed to meet the individual's need. This progression/regression strategy allows nearly all levels of fitness to participate. Regardless of your present physical condition you can start your physical training program at any time and if you want to, you can take it to a point where you are as fit as a NINJA.

Body-weight exercises when performed vigorously and with variety can benefit both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination. Body-weight training offers excellent and numerous benefits that range from keeping the body slim to preventing heart problems and other disease.  

Basic movements, such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats, can be modified by altering the leverage and weight distribution of your body to meet any level of conditioning.

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds take a 30 second rest and move to the next exercise for 3 sets of each. The forth set will be a superset-flow from one exercise to the next no rest period between exercises. You can increase or decrease the number of sets depending on your own level of fitness as well as modify the exercises. You can also add an additional superset or more if needed. Remember no rest between exercises or sets with the superset. 

To strengthen you arms more, and the muscles around your collar bone, do some pushups. These are the simplest yet the hardest workout to do because of the work it takes to push yourself off the ground.
1. Lay on your stomach, then place your hands so your fingers face forwards, and they are just beside your ribcage.
2. Push until your arms are fully extended, then lower yourself so your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle.
3. Hold that position for 5 seconds, then push back up. Repeat this as many times as you can. Don’t forget to breathe exhale on the way up inhale on the way down. Perform as many as possible within 30 seconds and repeat.

Another simple but hard exercise is the classic sit up/crunch.
1. Lay on your back with your knee bent at 90 degrees, and your feet flat on the floor.
2. Put your right hand on your left shoulder, and your left hand on your right shoulder.
3. Hold onto them tight, as you use your abs to pull your shoulders towards your knees. Do this motion slowly, and then hold the upright position for 5 seconds.
4. Slowly lower yourself so your shoulders are back on the ground. Do these as many times as you can in 30 seconds and repeat.

1. Stand with feet together and do a lunge with the right foot.
2. Jump straight up and while in the air switch the legs landing in a lunge with the opposite foot forward.
Repeat and continue switching legs at a moderate pace to get the full effect of the lunge. Do this for thirty seconds then rest thirty seconds and repeat.

Burpess are a great finisher of any type of work out and should be added to your workouts. Few exercises hit as many muscle groups and deliver as intense a cardiovascular workout. After performing 10, no matter how fresh you are, you will be breathing heavily.
1. Begin in a standing position. Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground.
2. Kick your feet back, while keeping your arms extended.
3. Then do a push up
4.  After the completion of the push up immediately return your feet to the squat position.
5. Jump up from the squat position.

Remember God gave us only one body and we owe it to ourselves mentally physically and spiritually to treat our bodies like a temple. Take advantage of the body that God gave you and condition it to be as strong and healthy as you can possibly make it. For the best results possible it is important that you maintain a proper diet, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest in addition to an exercise program. Consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

Friday, November 14, 2014


“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” – M.L. King

Nov. 19 2012 will be two years since Prof. Duncan passed away and this upcoming week will be filled with reflection and remembrance and great sadness that he is no longer here. 

First off I want to say that out of the years I knew Prof. Duncan he relayed a lot of stories personally to me. I honestly believe that outside of the Duncan family I know more about O’ Sensei Duncan than quite possibly anyone else.  Since Prof. Duncan’s passing there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about him. So, it really bothers me personally when I see things repeated on the internet that quite frankly I know to be not true and are in stark contrast to what I personally know and was told. 

One of the “stories” I hear is that Donn Draeger taught Ninjutsu to Prof. Duncan.  He always maintained to me that his relationship with Draeger was from his days involved with Judo in the United States Marine corp.  Prof. Duncan had studied and trained under Ernie Cates an officer in the U.S. Marine corp from 1957 to 1959 learning Judo, Jujitsu and Knife. At this time Donn Draeger was with the Shufu Yondanshikai.

A lot of so called Koga ryu grand masters have dropped Prof. Duncan’s name giving the impression that they were speaking on sensei Duncan’s behalf or trying to insinuate and give the impression that Prof. Duncan was a part of their cause. In all honesty Prof. Duncan had nothing to do with them. Even some of the people who formerly trained under Prof. Duncan have said and done some things that have quite frankly left me scratching my head.  I see people on the net dropping his name just to lend some sort of credence to themselves or their own personal agenda who didn’t even know Prof. Duncan.

As an example, most recently someone on facebook took it upon himself to add Gregory Duncan’s picture  to half a dozen “Koga ryu Masters” in a collage implying that Gregory Duncan was in league with the others in the collage and even implied that Gregory Duncan was teaching Fujita Seiko’s koga ryu Wada Ha. Both implications were completely inaccurate. Gregory has nothing to do with these people in the collage or the person who put this collage together nor had Gregory ever spoken with this individual. Most importantly Gregory has never claimed to teach Koga ryu Wada Ha.

Even a few members and former members of the Way of the Winds system have said and done some things that have quite frankly left me somewhat bewildered.   So, I am going to share my own perspective of the Way of the Winds martial art system. Part of The Way of the Winds system MAY have a very unique and intriguing modern history going back to WWII thru Naraki Hara who MAY well have been trained at The Nakano spy school.  The potential POSSIBILTY of this, at least in my mind, is a extremely fascinating and intriguing one.

Hara Sensei was born into a samurai family in the year 1919 from the information that I have been able to gather from different sources he trained under Okuyama Ryuho in Aiki Jujutsu and Hakko ryu Jujutsu. Hara taught Aiki jujutsu, Hakko ryu Jujutsu,  Taiho Jutsu and created Nippon Goshindo Kempo.( I have also heard it referred to as Goshindo Karate and Goshindo Kempo jujutsu.)  According to several people there just wasn’t a weapon that Hara sensei wasn’t an expert at. He seemed to have a vast knowledge of not only several different arts but several styles within these arts as well.  By all accounts Hara Sensei was a hard physical man who was an excellent martial artist whose executions of techniques were brutal and effective. 

 The Imperial Japanese Army command became dead set on developing on shortest terms at Nakano a system of Killing Techniques, a close quarter combat system that would put the enemy out of commission quickly and efficiently. Hard, fast, powerful BLOWS and KICKS to vulnerable areas.  A primary Killing method of unarmed or minimally armed combat for battlefield use especially for the nature of covert operations. Get IN and get the JOB DONE WITH as quickly and brutally as possible! The soldiers of the Japanese Army were trained in Karate and Judo or at least the basics, however the Japanese Command felt this was not enough.The main principles that guided Japanese Military Combatives were HAYAI-SATSUJIN (or KOROSHI) the idea of the immediate or sudden KILL and  ICHIGEKI-HISSATSU  the idea of ONE ATTACK – ONE LIFE.

Naraki Hara’s Goshindo (Way of Self Defense) MAY be a surviving VARIATION of the self defense system he learned at Nakano. According to students of several instructors who trained under Hara Sensei in Goshindo Kempo and Hakko ryu Jujutsu, Naraki Hara had relayed to some that he served in WWII and was trained at the Rikugun Nakano Gakko, the Imperial Japanese Army’s elite espionage training facility.  I believe that Prof.  Duncan whole heartedly believed in this as he whole heartedly believed in his instructor Naraki Hara. This to me is an extremely more interesting and as mentioned before a very unique possible history of Prof. Duncan’s Way of the Winds System, therefore  a more modern military history than an ancient Koga ryu ninjutsu lineage or even a Japanese Budo.

In June of 2012, a story broke out of Japan about the curriculum taught at Nakano.  Military records were discovered shedding some light on what was taught at Nakano. These documents revealed that Ninjutsu amoung other subjects were part of Nakano’s curriculum. I believe Naraki Hara may very well have thought of himself as a modern Ninja during his days as a young and enthusiastic Nakano recruit.

As a former Military policeman in the Army,  I was young and enthusiastic going thru basic training and A.I.T.  I still remember my training, the people I trained with and under.  During my training as an MP, I was taught the history of the United States Army Military Police Corp. We were told of battles in which the MPs had vital roles in. I remember having a sense of connection and kindredship with the men who served as MPs before I was even born. To this day, I feel a connection to my MP brothers and sisters who came before and even after me.

With this in mind looking at Naraki Hara as a young recruit training at Nakano learning espionage and covert warfare I for one can certainly understand and find it very logical that any Nakano trainee would liken themselves to and feel a connection to the Ninja, especially with the addition of Fujita Seiko teaching Ninjutsu at Nakano.  I also very easily relate that this concept would be a source of epsirit de corp and great pride among those young Nakano trainees.  I certainly find it understandable and logical that Prof. Duncan and others who trained under Naraki Hara would grasp this concept as well.

Lastly and most importantly, I had to ask myself; would this mean that there is a historical lineage to Koga ryu ninjutsu or Fujita Seiko or even a Japanese Budo?  No. Simply put, from everything that I can determine from military history books written on the subject of the Nakano spy school the training and curriculum was synthesized and experimented with at Nakano so I would NOT consider it a budo or a martial art, I would say rather that it was a military systemized form of close quarter combat training which included Hand to Hand combat and Knife.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014



Want to get in shape like a NINJA? The answer is simple, you train like one.

Let’s get NINJAFIT©

Physically the Ninja trained extensively using bodyweight type of exercises.  They walked on felled trees and logs to develop balance, hung from the branches of a tree by his hands to develop strength, muscle endurance, mental toughness and combat fatique. Special training in climbing developed strength, flexibility and endurance in the arms and legs. Jumping, running, swimming were all part of the ninja’s training regimen to develop strength, stamina, endurance, balance, agility, and coordination. The physical skills needed to carry out their missions.

Bodyweight movements do offer a lot of the benefits that other forms of resistance training can't match. They are super-efficient workouts. High output bodyweight training yield fantastic fitness gains in very short workout durations . It is easy to transition from one exercise to the next because there is no equipment to use in bodyweight workouts. Shorter rest times mean it’s easy to quickly boost heart rate and burn some serious calories.

Bodyweight exercises are easily modified to challenge any fitness level. Adding extra repetitions, performing the exercises faster or super-slow, and perfecting form are a few ways to make even the simplest exercise more challenging.

Body weight exercises combine cardio and strength training. Performing a minute of burpees in between strength Bodyweight exercises such as push ups will keep the heart pumping while still encouraging muscle and strength development .  Try adding a few quick sets of these amped-up burpees into any workout routine for FAST FAT BURNING!

Improved core strength. The "core" is more than just abs, twenty-nine muscles make up the human core, and many simple bodyweight movements can be used to engage all of them. Such exercises improve core strength for better posture and improved athletic performance.

 Increase flexibility. Bodyweight training for strength and flexibility can go hand-in-hand. Completing bodyweight exercises through a full range of motion is a great way to ensure joints are moving freely, can lead to improved posture, and might even reduce the chance of exercise-related injury.

 Better balance. A regular bodyweight squat can be ramped up by swapping it for a single-leg squat. Super-functional exercises like a single leg squat can improve balance through increased body awareness and control.

There are countless  variations  of the type of exercises that can spice up any workout routine. Working with a variety of exercises not only relieves potential workout boredom, it can also
help break through exercise plateaus to spark further fitness progress.

Bodyweight exercises get results partly because they often involve numerous joints and muscles that are engaged in each move. Exercises such as push-ups, lunges, and chin-ups have been shown to be extremely effective for strength gains and performance improvements. The results from bodyweight training are amplified even more because of the core strength they develop. Improved core strength gained through bodyweight training translates into improved strength gains throughout the entire body. Bodyweight training can actually be an effective option for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Take advantage of the body that God gave you and condition it to be as strong and healthy as you can possibly make it.  For the best results it is important to maintain proper diet and nutrition in addition to an exercise program. Consult your physician before starting any exercise program or regimen.

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’!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014


Rooted in Togakure ryu ninjutsu, American Ninjutsu is recognized as having proof of an American founder with legitimate ninjutsu training.  A unique marital art, similar to its predecessor from Japan, American Ninjutsu evolved to accommodate the culture and needs of 21st Century America.  The schools currently recognized globally as teaching American Ninjutsu are Robert Bussey’s schools and affiliated students.

The person responsible for what would be coined as American Ninjutsu, Mr. Robert Bussey, was one of the first two men to bring the art of the ninja to the United States from Japan. Having trained in japan under the tutelage of Shihan Toshiro Nagato, Mr. Bussey received his instructor license from Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, 34th successor to the Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu tradition.

 In 1979, Bussey brought his training experience back to America and pioneered a concept that revolutionized how the American people viewed Ninjutsu.  The Ninja was associated with an ultimate warrior, capable of explosive skills, intellect, and diverse fighting ability. Bussey’s insights and interpretation of ninjutsu was both dynamic and versatile, and, one that he aimed to be effective against any respectable discipline. 

The system which came to be known as American Ninjutsu was developed by Mr. Bussey as a specific system, and featured his revisions of older methods to work in more modern fighting scenarios. Feeling that some of the traditional movements were impractical for a reality based martial art he focused his Ninjutsu training on the practical and realistic, while downplaying the antiquated and esoteric aspects of Ninjutsu.

A comprehensive art form in and of itself American ninjutsu embodies a variety of martial arts technique including: taijutsu (unarmed combat), kenjutsu, shurikenjutsu,  tantojutsu, bojutsu, stealth and evasion. Though rooted in Togakure ryu Ninjutsu, American Ninjutsu and Mr. Bussey’s modern practices, concepts, and strategies, were developed to accommodate the culture and needs of the 21st Century.

Robert Bussey disassociated himself from traditional Ninjutsu in 1988 and started Robert Bussey's Warrior International (RBWI). In June of 1997, Robert Bussey retired and disbanded his organization. 

As times change, one must be aware of looming potential threats and  adapt and develop pragmatic countermeasures. – Robert Bussey

Mr. Bussey is currently teaching modern combative skills. Bussey Combatives capitalizes on NATURAL MOVEMENT   teaching individuals how to respond naturally and effectively.

The mission of Robert Bussey and Associates: To empower individuals with education and abilities to improve their confidence and safety in matters relating to self preservation, and in turn, seek to positively impact conditions within our society.

"When a life depends on it"

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.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NINJUTSU: An Ancient Martial Art for the 21st Century

By Barron Shepherd
Artwork by David Conway

Ancient texts and manuscripts such as the Bansenshukai and the Shoninki and others don't pinpoint or isolate a specific form of bujutsu (armed and unarmed combat) that the ninja favored. No style is mentioned. An example of this can be seen with Kenjutsu. In the Bansenshukai, to learn kenjutsu was more important that any particilar style of kenjutsu.

“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

Another ancient text The Shinobi-Hiden speaks of how a ninja is to, not just learn, but specialize in the martial arts needed in order to blend in, or infiltrate, samurai; or groups of samurai. On a night raid, bujutsu would greatly assist with infiltration by silently incapacitating guards.

"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

The bujutsu (armed and unarmed combat) of the ninja for all intent and purposes must have been mission specific, deeply personalised and unique to the ninja using it. There were no governing bodies or Honbu dojo's to regulate and teach nationally accepted techniques and because of this personal interpretations and methods flourished.

“The ninja pretended to withdraw retreating 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. The ninja was waiting and killed him with a single strike.” - Bansenshukai

The Bansenshukai continued to state that this was but one example and that there were many cases other than these and that they were too numerous to mention.

The bujutsu of the ninja did not fit into “rules” or “kata” like other martial arts. The Ninja’s life was one “missions” and “duties” and failure was not an option, it was about infiltration, combat and survival. This was the reason why a style was not favored. Ninja only cared about one main thing, getting the job done.

Bujutsu in itself is a complex matrix of skills. What was the only thing ninja could do with this? The ninja had to manipulate bujutsu (armed and unarmed combat) by extracting, or copying, techniques that already existed in standard bujutsu that best suited their Missions. They modified techniques in standard bujutsu of their times to best suit their Missions. The ninja specialized, or independently developed; their own bujutsu, which were specifically designed for these Missions. It was these factors that make a ninja’s way of fighting different to other systems.

“Thus, as a basis, you should embrace the old ways of the shinobi who served under ancient great generals, but remember NOT only to keep to these ways but to ADAPT them, each dependent on the situation and the moment. Ninjutsu is not locked to the historical. In fact, to adapt is historical.” - Bansenshukai

The ninja improvised for almost 700 years. They were active for almost 700 years if you consider their beginning date to be 1180, as the Shoninki says, until 1868. History teaches us that both the ninja and ninjutsu adapted all through time. A ninja from 1180 was very different to a ninja in 1868. For one, the ninja in 1868 used guns, where his predecessor did not. Their way of fighting was constantly changing and evolving and adapting to the ever changing situations they were in.

“In essence, principles and performance should go together. If you are ignorant about principles, your performance will not mature.” - Bansenshukai

Within Ninjutsu there is the most modern form of self defense techniques. The principles of Ninjutsu will always stay the same, all across time; but the techniques to fulfill the principles will always change. Those who stick only to “historical” ninjutsu are stagnating in the past and their ways will not be appropriate for modern times. They don’t care about being effective in modern times or helping people defend themselves. They have a passion for live action role playing or preserving tradition, and there is nothing wrong with this, but you should not attempt to use these methods for self defence today because even though your principles will never go out of date; your methods have expired, or they have not matured. Some would say “evolved.”