The Legal Ramifications of Attaining Skill in Ninjutsu

This post is for Informational Purposes Only

If you are familiar with my perspective on ninjutsu, you know that “ninjutsu” dojos can teach only a diluted form of the dark art. The reason is rather simple. Among the sundry skills of a shinobi are activities that certainly would be considered highly illegal (i.e. arson, how to decapitate someone, how to carry the head, breaking and entering, manufacturing explosives, assassination, etc.).

For a business dojo then, to operate in compliance with the law, certain shinobi skillsets must be omitted from the publicly available curriculum. Dojo owners can’t have their students wandering around the country surveying public officials, they can’t show their students how to break into a residence, compound, or castle, and they most certainly can’t exhibit to their students proven methods of conducting psychological operations against a state or how to burn an entire village to the ground. These obscurities of ninjutsu cannot, will not, be disseminated via any contemporary training method of a dojo that operates within the confines of the law. Period.

But on the contrary, I am sure some of you might be thinking that learning the darker aspects of ninjutsu while maintaining a law-abiding dojo is achievable, if only the training is modified to respect the laws. If this is your line of thought, then prepare yourself for a reality check.

Realism Makes Good Training

Practicing skills, under realistic conditions, is about the only way to ensure that what you learn is transferable to a real-world scenario. Any lesser substitute will only prepare your confidence, which is bound to be shattered once you come face to face with an enemy that reacts, responds, and attacks in a manner nothing like what you have experienced in your dojo.

This principle is applicable to training in anything. If you want real skill with using a fire-extinguisher, you are going to have to taste the smoke and feel the lick of flames as you spray the fire down. If you want to get good at riding a bike, the training wheels have to come off. If you want to learn to parachute, at some point you are going to have to jump out of the plane.

Learning ninjutsu then, requires a similar degree of reality that cannot be found in a dojo.

But what if?

What if you had a means of training in all the sub-disciplines of ninjutsu? What would be illegal, and what might you be able to pass off as a legitimately law-abiding activity?

Legal Ramifications of Training in Ninjutsu: A Few Examples

To begin we must first delineate which aspects of ninjutsu we want to assess for their functional import to modern society. Because we do not dwell in feudal Japan, some specific traditions of ninjutsu adjuncts must be discarded as they have no modern parallel (speaking regional Japanese dialects for instance).

Using ninjutsu realistically means to apply it to our temporal context. Realistically, you will not find yourself in a situation requiring that you speak a dozen different Japanese dialects, but you may have to pick a lock or fake an illness. Peruse your texts, watch some videos, and talk to your teacher. Ask yourself what ninjutsu skills you would really like to learn and compile a list. After you have done that, you may begin assessing what you can legally learn, and what would be illegal to learn, and how you can learn it.

Today I will focus on a few of my favorite ninjutsu sub-disciplines:  lockpicking, taijutsu (body movement/ techniques), shadow surveillance (following a target), and ka-jutsu (art of making fires and incendiaries).

Lockpicking: This skill can be learned legally. You must purchase or manufacture the required equipment (i.e. picks, bolt-cutters, tensioners, locks, etc.) and have a place to position the locks to simulate a real-world situation that requires you to bypass the lock. If you have a willing friend, you can opt to take turns infiltrating a room that has a door fitted with a lock. The legal line blurs once you begin picking locks that do not belong to you. I started practicing lock-picking with a pair of Smith and Wesson handcuffs and a variety of cheap padlocks. Locksmithing in general is a vast discipline that will require much research and effort on your part to gain any appreciable skill.

Taijutsu: Taijutsu can essentially mean any technique of the body executed with agility and finesse be it for defense, offense, or general movement. I like to run up walls and get onto buildings. For the most part taijutsu is legal and is going to comprise the bulk of what is encountered in modern ninjutsu dojos. To train taijutsu, attend a dojo or identify the specific techniques you want to learn. I have taught myself back-flips and wall-runs (the former is not functional but looks cool) by using trees. If you want to learn how to break someone’s neck, you will be pushing legal boundaries and safety unless you attend a dojo.

Shadow Surveillance: Following around people you don’t know on foot is called stalking and, if caught, can bring on legal consequences. Unfortunately, this is the only way to get good at foot surveillance unless you have a friend who has agreed to allow you to pursue him/her from time to time without their knowledge.

Ka-jutsu: for the most part this art is illegal to learn. In the US, the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol Tabacco Firearms and Explosives) enforces laws against manufacturing your own explosives, fireworks, incendiaries, etc. without a proper licence. Deploying any of the above is highly illegal, therefore realistic training is not possible (why do you want to burn down a village?). However, ninjutsu manuals are replete with recipes for legitimate shinobi fire-devices and you may be able to find a few you can construct legally, though, once again, tactical use of them is likely illegal.

I hope this post gets you thinking about why so much is omitted from modern “ninjutsu” dojos.




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