Sensory Training and the Art of Intelligence

I will now speak to you on the fundamentals of a shinobi’s art of intelligence. Source material for the following discussion includes the Yokan Denkai and Yokan Rigen manuals of ninjutsu written by Chikamatsu Shigenori. Also included are some of my own practices and thoughts on the art of intelligence and how it may prove useful to self-protection.

In my last video I explained why Sun Tzu’s writing on the Use of Spies was so fundamental to ninjutsu. Shinobi were first and foremost spies and therefore we should expect anyone who is attempting to recreate, discuss, or practice ninjutsu in accordance with what is verifiably true, to exhibit knowledge of  the art of intelligence as it is called today.

The art of intelligence has ancient roots. Veritably the most essential element to any successful military campaign, espionage and its fruits have has been embraced by multitudes of cultures and is still essential to military affairs today. It may be surmised that even prior to the teachings of Sun Tzu, spying on the affairs of others was practiced in the preservation of power or in facilitating an attempt to wrest power away from perceived enemies.

You can imagine the activities of these proto-spies, skulking around to eavesdrop on conversations that might produce vital information, but unfortunately imagination is all we have to animate a great many spies  who will never be known to human history…for  they dealt in the trade of secrets. Likewise with the shinobi, it will never be known just how many of them existed, or how it is exactly that they lived.

However, it is known that spies have existed and still do exist, also it is known that in the distant past they developed their methods of gathering intelligence under the constraints of their human senses and relatively inferior technology. Unlike the spies of the 21st century, shinobi did not have cameras or satellites, and so again their modes of intelligence work were confined to creativity and the human sensorium.

A shinobi, needed to have good senses and a robust memory, for it was through these characteristics that information would be recorded and transmitted to the interested party. Fortunately, the human senses can be trained, and I imagine shinobi had their own particular methods of sharpening them. But as tempting as the digression into this avenue of inquiry is, let us stick to the essentials of spying. All that we need to know now is that espionage in the past required acute senses and a good memory for the acquisition of select information.

Now, just what kind of information did the shinobi gather? Well, anything about the enemy disposition could have proved to be valuable. The Yokan Denkai places emphasis on retrieving details of the political situation circumscribing the enemy and their system of justice having to do with rewards and punishments, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of everything, including their fortifications, military command, military behavior and customs, and how many troops are stationed in a given area. There is a wide assortment of other information that ninjutsu manuals advise a shinobi to target, too many to list at this time.

Let me stop here and point out another component to good intelligence gathering. Implicit to the practice of gaining information on the enemy is secrecy, obviously. If a spy is not familiar with deceiving the enemy as to his presence, then he will not live long once he has been found out. This is where human creativity kicks in. The sundry details of ninjutsu dealing with Yonin disguises and In-nin infiltration techniques, as well as listening devices, lockpicking techniques, creeping around on rooftops, and moving beneath the still waters of a moat revolve around this fundamental intelligence principle, to be secret and to deceive.

In understanding this, we can see now that ninjutsu itself has at its core the principle of secrecy in gathering intelligence, and it is around this principle that ninjutsu seems to have developed.

The same principles intrinsic to ninjutsu are found within the details of modern intelligence modalities, and due to the timeless nature of these principles, we can still apply them to our lives today with a bit of creativity.

Why should we incorporate the art of intelligence into our own system of self-protection or preparedness skillset? Because according to Sun Tzu, we may be sure to defeat our enemy only with the fulfillment of two conditions: knowing ourselves and knowing the enemy. Introspection and self-assessment in relation to the abilities of others can help us fulfill the first condition. The second condition can only be fulfilled if we understand and apply the art of intelligence.

One caveat here. Do not fall into the tendency to see your enemy through your eyes alone. It is just as important to your strategy that you see yourself from the enemy’s point of view- through the enemy’s eyes, for he may be studying you without your knowledge. In this respect, one can see how every bit of information you publicly divulge about yourself can be used against you if your enemy has the know-how. Social engineers offer prime examples of this and if you do not know what a social engineer is, I advise you look up the term.

Anyway, applying the principles of ninjutsu to a modern context requires creativity and common sense of the times. It would not be wise, for instance to emulate the dress of a shinobi in Yo-nin get-up while trying to gain entrance to some place of informational interest. As entertaining as this sight would be, it offers no value to your self-protection.

Now that we have covered the theoretical, I will now give you the practical content. These are not authentic ninjutsu exercises. They are exercises that you can use to develop your senses.

Sensory Training: Attire Identifiers

This exercise is all about developing short-term memory as it is applied to retaining a picture of what a person is wearing. Find a place to people watch. Enter the area and begin observing the people around you. Be sure not to make it obvious that you are watching them. You can opt to wear sunglasses or a rimmed hat to conceal the fixation of your eyes if you wish. When you are ready, select a random person and briefly scan over their manner of dress. After a few seconds, look away and try to hold the image in your mind as long as possible. You will notice that the image becomes more and more distorted in your minds eye as time goes by. With practice, you will accustom your mind to holding the image for longer periods until you are ultimately capable of scanning a person and remembering hours later exactly what they are wearing. How detailed can you get? Is the person wearing a watch, or necklace? How is the hair styled? What is the person doing? You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by entering an area, selecting three or more people, briefly scanning them over, and then leaving. Afterwards write down everything you remember.

Sensory Training: Candle Meditation

Get a candle and place it a few feet from where you intend to sit. Light the candle, dim the lights, and assume a comfortable meditation posture of your choice. Focus your concentration on the flame. Notice its size, colors, and movements. Relax your breathing. At varying intervals, take a mental snapshot of the candle and hold it in your mind’s eye as long as possible before returning to the stare. Continue as long as you like.


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