Training of the Ninja

Ninja by Birth

In earlier times you could not learn the profession of a Ninja, you became a Ninja by birth and died a Ninja. From early childhood, the toddler’s limbs were disjointed, creating the conditions that would later enable the Ninja to free himself from bondage. Even the young children of a Ninja learned to be aware of their surroundings. As they grew up, they were trained in the secret arts of their Ryū.

Training as a Child

By the age of five or six, their childhood games began to take the form of exercise. They learned to train their balance and dexterity in a playful way. Balancing on thin poles that were hung higher and higher, they learned to twist, jump, sit and bend without losing their weight. They ran over mossy planks to train their balance or jumped over low bushes. Or they walked on geta (wooden shoes) over ice surfaces.

From the age of nine, physical condition and flexibility were trained. The children practiced rolls, jumps, and yoga-like movements. They learned to endure the bitter cold, to endure prolonged fasts, to breathe imperceptibly, and to harden themselves against torture.

Combat Training

As they got older, they practiced hitting and kicking against bundles of straw.

They learned the fundamental basic techniques of unarmed combat, and later the basics of sword fighting and staff fighting.

As teenagers, they learned the use of their Ryū’s special weapons. Blade throwing, hidden weapons, rope, and chain techniques were trained.

Body Training

They practiced swimming and underwater tactics and learned how to use nature to get information or hide. They spent countless hours lingering in tight spaces or hanging from trees, honing their patience, endurance, and resilience.

They learned to move quietly and run great distances, jumping from tree to tree and roof to roof. Ninja should have been able to cover the 560 kilometers between Edo and Osaka in just three days. While that sounds like an exaggeration, Hatsumi insists that 110 kilometers a day were nothing out of the ordinary for a Ninja.

What mattered most to the Ninja was speed, which allowed him to react at lightning speed.

They later studied acting and psychology. By observing themselves and others, they learned to understand the human psyche and to use mental weaknesses and limitations to their advantage.

They also learned how to make medicine and drugs, break into buildings, climb walls, hang from ceilings and lie under floors.

They learned how to tie up an enemy, how to successfully escape, and how to create maps.

Mental Training

In addition to physical training, mental development was of enormous importance. The body is only able to achieve incredible things in connection with the mind. One method of harnessing the mental powers was meditation and breathing. Breathing was calming and helped to banish disturbing thoughts. Calmness, perseverance, and conquering fear were decisive for the fight. Free from thoughts of victory or loss, the Ninja became capable of victory. The Ninja’s will was resolute, clear, and calm like a lake reflecting the moonlight on its surface. His actions were natural-relaxed. So he was able to defeat several attackers at the same time.

They learned kuji in, magical finger signs with which they could attune themselves to the course of events and thus bring about changes. There were 81 finger signs in total. The Ninja used various elements of shugendō, mikkyō, and tantric teachings. Kuji kiri was used to restore a Ninja’s confidence, to give them inner strength, or to help them in dangerous situations. Through the kuji kiri, Ninja were said to be able to sense hostility, heighten perception, and awaken in humans the instincts of wild animals.

Ninja also used saiminjutsu, the art of hypnosis. Through their mental powers, the Ninja were able to solve any task.

Text: Stefan Imhoff