History & Origins

Collectively referred to as Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu these combat arts are made up of both samurai ryūha and ninja ryūha which have evolved in Japan from early medieval times through the fuedal era and have been handed down through the generations in practice and scroll.

Based in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, the Bujinkan began as a small local association but its discovery in the late 1970's by Western martial arts enthusiasts led to the Bujinkan's introduction to the international community.

The nine ryūha of the bujinkan include three schools mainly associated with the shonobi or ninja of the Iga and Koga (Koka) regions of feudal Japan. Contrary to popular belief the shinobi-no-mona (ninja) of the Iga/Koga regions came from all classes - peasant, noble & samurai - and the schools contain techniques commonly associated with both the ninja and samurai.

In addition to unarmed combat (taijutsu), students of the bujinkan train with weapons including ken (sword), bō (staff), yari (spear), naginata (halbred), shuriken (throwing blades) and kusarigama (sickle and chain).



What is Ninjutsu?

Ninjutsu is a system of combat arts that comprises part of the bujinkan ryūha.

Ninjutsu (sometimes used interchangeably with the term ninpō) is the system of martial ats practiced by the shinobi (also commonly known as the ninja) who lived in the Iga and Koga regions of feudal Japan. The first traces of the ninjutsu art can be traced back to the Chinese influence on Japan with references to Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' appearing in medieval Japanese texts. It must be remembered that ninjutsu is one of Japan's Classical Martial Arts, meaning its origin and function was to defend, attack, maim or kill an opponent. Its form was passed down through generations but only in pockets of rural japan. Knowedge appears to have been kept within families and little is known of its uses until the 15th -16th centuries when the ninja were employed to infiltrate the enemy forts.

Aside from the confrontational aspect of ninjutsu, it is renouned for its clandestine characteristics. In the 1980's the 'ninja' became a popular character in Western media depicted as sword-wielding, shadow assassin, dressed all-in-black - a master of invisibility. However, the origins of the ninja is quite different.

The ninja, or shinobi-no-mono, was a clandestine operative. He adopted the local dress, or that of a travelling monk or sales-man. This guise allowed him (or her) to move about during the day and to interact with locals without raising suspicion. The 15th Century japanese text "Shoninki" describes various techniqies and deceptive practices used by the shinobi to infiltrate a community to feed back information to his 'employer'.

The idea that ninjutsu developed as a combat art against the samauri is merely a myth, or a plausible inaccuracy to fill a gap in historical research. The people of the Iga and Koga regions of central Japan saw themselves as independent of the military run state. Battles for territory were common and amongst the inhabitants of Iga and Koga appeared a group of people with a special skill-set. They were masters of infiltration. Skills which had been quietly developed and passed-down for over 500 years amongst a small group became infamous but those endowed with these skills were not just peasants, they also included nobles and samauri (e.g. Hatori Hanzo).

The shinobi were hired as "wet-boys" to attack castles and armies under the cover of darkness. Entry could be gained via a sheer cliff face beneath the castle or by crossing a moat. The shinobi would pass undetected through the castle eliminating any threats encountered before creating an entrance for the approaching enemy army.

Ultimately, the skills of ninjutsu were so essential to conducting warfare that some samurai began to practice their techniques, as well incorporating ninjutsu into their formal schools of martial arts.

To avoid misunderstandings, "ninjutsu" should just refer to a specific branch of Japanese martial arts, unless it is being used in a historical sense.


How many schools are associated with Ninjutsu?

Eighteen disciplines were first stated in the scrolls of the Togakure-ryu and they became definitive for all ninjutsu schools, providing a complete training of the warrior in various fighting arts and complementary disciplines.

Ninja juhakkei was often studied along with Bugei Juhappan (the "18 samurai fighting art skills"). Though some of them are the same, the techniques of each discipline were used with different approaches by both samurai and ninja.


The 18 disciplines are:

1. Seishin-teki kyoyo (spiritual refinement)

2. Taijutsu (unarmed combat, using one's body as the only weapon)

3. Kenjutsu (sword fighting)

4. Bojutsu (stick and staff fighting)

5. Shurikenjutsu (throwing shuriken)

6. Sojutsu (spear fighting)

7. Naginatajutsu (naginata fighting)

8. Kusarigamajutsu (kusarigama fighting)

9. Kayakujutsu (pyrotechnics and explosives)

10. Hensojutsu (disguise and impersonation)

11. Shinobi-iri (stealth and entering methods)

12. Bajutsu (horsemanship)

13. Sui-ren (water training)

14. Boryaku (military strategy)

15. Choho (espionage)

16. Intonjutsu (escaping and concealment)

17. Tenmon (meteorology)

18. Chi-mon (geography)