The secret spies’ assassins in black robes with magical abilities concealed in dark clothes and specialized in unorthodox skills… That’s the initial exposure that most of us have had growing up and watching ninja films. The first time most of us saw ninjas was either from video games, movies or animations. Unfortunately, most of the media representation of the same doesn’t depict a realistic picture.
In essence, the Robin Hood in the English world is similar to the ninja in convectional japan folklore. Primarily, Ninjas were assassins but they did not kill for fun, for the most part, ninjas engaged in warfare as a survival tactic during the feudal time in Japan’s history. “Ninjutsu” translates into Japanese as the “art of stealth.” “Nin” is the Japanese character that has multiple connotations including sufferance, endurance, and perseverance. Ninjutsu is a term that is used to refer to a combination of skills and techniques that are used by Ninjas. Ninjutsu developed over years, though the name appeared years after Ninja lifestyle had begun. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly ninja popped up in Japan, though it is popularly believed that ninja’s dates back to ancient China back in the 15th to 17th century in the period of Sengoku.
Over time conflicting stories have been depicted, though legitimacy over the same is questionable. Perhaps this is because ninjas were masters of secrecy and stealth and also because historical accounts were made by the affluent in the society while the Ninjas were of a lower rank.
Probably ninjas began within a group of “mountain ascetics” who practiced Buddhism and lived in Nara and Kyoto hills. These groups of people had a mixture of secret practices that involved Chinese way of hand fighting, occult superstitions, and vulgar ideas. Most young men were inducted in secret orders and performed magical cures through a mixture of tricks, medicines, and formulas. Ordinarily, most ninjas were not noble; they were mostly farmers and villagers who learned to fight as means to self-preservation. Women were also part of Ninjas, Famously known as the kunoichi, who mostly disguised themselves as dancers infiltrating the enemy castles as concubines and servants. They acted as assassins and spies.
Nonetheless, in subsequent periods, miracles were not enough to save this sect. As such, the priests turned into guerrilla warfare, acquainting themselves in the bujutsu, a martial art technique that combined 18 tactics including the famous karate as means to protect their temples and shrines. Ninjas were categorized depending on their grades that involved the leaders, middle class, and the lowest class. In the period of civil war between the 14th and 16th century, ninjas become increasingly useful during this time. Most were recruited as arsonists, terrorists and raiders.
Unlike the Samurais who had to adhere to specific formalities, the Ninjas were not in any way restricted in their tactics. Though Ninjas are depicted to be dressed in black clothes, in reality, ninjas mostly wore dark blue clothes, nonetheless, as an espionage agent, most ninjas blended their clothes to match that of their targets. They dressed as peddlers, farmers or foot soldiers. Ninjas employed a wide variety of equipment, some of which have been popularized in video games, comic books, and movies.
Ninjas were utilized in several conflicts in Japan, the Nanbukucho Wars around 1336 – 1392, the Onin wars and the civil war and the Sengoku Period. However, in the “Iga Revolt, ninjas who were then seen as a threat to the ruling clan were defeated in open battle and scatter over the county. The power base was definitely defeated though Ninjas did not eminently vanish. Legends of ninjas and skills survive to date; such have been embellished in video games, movies, and comic books