Transcript: As promised in my last video, this present piece will revolve around the 13th chapter of Sun Tzu’s Art of War and its relation to ninjutsu. To begin, I first want to advise anyone out there who has been actively training in so called “ninjutsu” dojos and/or those who have a genuine interest in the deeper secrets of the art you must know that the study of Sun Tzu’s 13th chapter, if not the whole of the text, is indispensable to your understanding of what a shinobi agent was all about. But don’t take my word for it, consult the historical figure of Chikamatsu Shigenori who studied ninjutsu (then called shinobi-no-jutsu) with masters of both Iga and Koka lineages during the 18th century. What does Shigenori say of the centrality Sun tzu’s 13th chapter holds in relation to ninjutsu? He says in the preface to the Yokan Denkai that Master Kimura of Iga with whom he studied, considered the 13th chapter to be source material for the highly recondite aspects of ninjutsu. Master Yorihide of Iga with whom Shigenori had also trained likewise regarded this chapter of Sun Tu’s text to be of greatest import to the art of the shinobi. In fact, these masters assert more or less that skills such as the creation of Yo-nin disguises, deception, secret means of scaling walls, and navigating rivers are actually very shallow derivatives of ninjutsu and even go so far as to claim the only text one must thoroughly understand to retain the fundamentals of deep ninjutsu is the Art of War. So, when we have two lineal masters of ninjutsu coming forward to regard Sun Tzu’s text with such high acclaim, going so far as to say its contents are the predication of deep ninjutsu, we must ask ourselves, what does this chapter contain? The title of the chapter is “the use of spies”. The title alone presages much about the profession of a ninja. At this time I am not going to be covering the full content of the 13th chapter as this video is intended as an introductory “lesson” for those interested in the deeper secrets of ninjutsu but do not know how to go about instructing yourselves. I advise that you get a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War and begin studying it.
I trust the grappling hooks sold by Ti-EDC with my life, as I have put myself in situations which depended on their reliability and strength, and they endured. The below video is an unsponsored review of their grappling hook products.
Historically, nusubito (or common thieves) were regarded as expert in certain elements of ninjutsu (i.e. infiltration, stealing, scamming, etc.). Studying ninjutsu for modern applications then, requires that we learn from the ways of thieves. By studying thieves, we can enhance our awareness of security -its bypasses and strengths- and can better understand the mechanisms of criminal behavior. In the vid. below, armed burglars display a small few of their tactics for invading homes.
Notice how the intruders operate as a unit. Two of the three men take watch positions as the third kicks in the door. Two of the intruders are armed and all of them are wearing clothing that appears normal for the area they are thieving in. One has even gone so far as to wear a large rucksack which might serve to convince someone that he is simply a hiker looking for directions. Once the door is knocked in, one of the men stands watch while the other two burglarize the residence. These home invaders operated as a unit, implying that they are experienced.
The next vid. exhibits a two man team. One stands watch while the other kicks the door in. Goes to show that deadbolts don’t hold up against a well placed kick. What would have happened if someone answered the door? Answer: The invaders would probably have a pre-concocted story for the occupant and come back at a later time. If they are more aggressive, then violence could be expected. For this reason, I answer my door with tools nearby. The samurai of old would position their weapons by the entrances to main living areas for somewhat the same reason. Should an assault occur the weapon he was skilled with would be close at hand. Again, I want to draw particular attention to how easy it is for these criminals to knock a door in. As one of my relatives used to say, “Locks only keep honest people out”. In other words, do not rely on your deadbolt keeping intruders out. Bar the doors and windows, or reinforce them. You can also lay traps within (non-lethal of course) that will make them cautious or think twice about continuing with the burglary. For example, you could use Ashi Garami.
This last vid. consists of interviews with seasoned home-invaders. Well worth a watch.
In 1588 the powerful Toyotomi Hideyoshi set upon Japanese society the “sword hunt” edict, which mandated the requisitioning of swords and armor from the common people. Hideyoshi, using religious allusions to impel them to do their part in bringing a long peace to Japan, announced that the metal from the confiscated swords would be contributed to the creation of a monolithic statue of Buddha, thus implying the commoner could absolve a bit of negative karma by following the order (Mason & Caiger 1997 p179). This campaign to disarm the population proved successful, and from then on a clear distinction between nobility and the peasantry was evinced. Samurai could carry the sword, while farmers and the lowly could not.
It was a time of great transition. The blood feuds of the Sengoku Jidaii were fading into history, foreigners were being expelled from the country in preservation of culture, and the ways of the shinobi were in senescent decline (like Fall leaves descending into the dim obscurity of a forgotten season).
With the artificial peace of the Edo period well under way, Kiumura Okunosuke Yasutaka, sensei of the Koka Ryu traditions, imparted his predictions of the fate of his ninjutsu to Chikamatsu Shigenori. The conversation entailing these predictions was recorded in the Koka Shinobi no Den Miraiki (1719 AD).
In this document, Kimura portends that the younger generations lineally tied to the Koka would be lulled, by the peace of Edo, into the comforts of an easier life, hence those cultivating skill in ninjutsu would continue to decline in number. Peace was making people soft and complacent while the utility of ninjutsu was being forgotten in the absence of war.
Kimura doesn’t stop there however. He references the vetting process involved in imparting the most secret traditions of Koka ninjutsu to the aspiring student, stating how those running the schools in his time possessed only a partial knowledge of deep ninjutsu. He explains how ninjutsu is ‘indispensable’ to the efforts of warfare, and thereby implies the sanctity of the art and why it must be preserved.
This sensei of the Koka ninja and Chikamatsu Shigenori responded to the peace of Edo by preserving the myriad secrets of the shinobi for future generations. Peace does not last forever, and for this reason those dark implements of war are best left in the attic than relegated to the burn pile.
Mason, H.P. & Caiger, J. G. (1997). A History of Japan. p179
Fukiya, aka the blowgun, is considered to have been a weapon used by the shinobi (according to the Togakure Ryu). A good shot to the carotid arteries with a poison tipped dart would have been the death knell for the oblivious sentinel. While I do not have knowledge of the poisons shinobi would have used for their darts and arrows, it is well established that many plant based compounds have been historically used as poisons for hunting and warfare (for example take curare, an acetylcholine antagonist which paralyzes the respiratory system, inducing suffocation). In the vid. below, I exhibit some angles of my own ‘fukiya’ practice:
In 2015, a U.S. citizen named John T. Booker was issued an indictment following his arrest for planning to terrorize a military installation with an IED (in aid to the objectives of ISIS). In 2016, he plead guilty “to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to destroy government property by fire or explosion.”
Booker, a 20-yr-old at the time, exhibited behaviors that comport with a 7-stage terror attack planning cycle delineated by DHS which consists of the following:
- Target Selection
- Initial Surveillance
- Final Target Selection
- Pre-attack Surveillance
Thankfully, Booker was apprehended and questioned by the FBI before he could execute his attack. Here is a link to the story: http://cjonline.com/news-local/2016-02-03/john-booker-jr-pleads-guilty-terrorism-charges-stemming-2015-fort-riley-bomb
For my readers, I wish to use this case as a lesson for promoting community awareness of ‘deviant conduct’. I want to inform responsible citizens of what to be on the lookout for respecting suspicious behavior indicative of terrorist activities. I am no expert in this field, but a little knowledge goes a long way.
In my book Ninjutsu: Tactics, Principles, and Philosophy, I alluded to the relation between surveillance techniques of the shinobi and those of the criminal bent (including terrorists). In my whole-hearted opinion, the distinction between terrorists and shinobi lay in the correctness of mind outlined by Fujibayashi in the Bansenshukai (i.e. loyalty, sense of justice, etc.). Shinobi may have engaged in deviant activities for the sake of their lord and country, but they were not (so far as I can tell) mindless criminals. Yes, shinobi more or less used elements of the above 7-stage planning process as well. But they, operating in the medieval period, used the process for warfare functions deemed necessary to the survival of lord and state – not the execution of innocents (though history may prove otherwise). So what is my point?
Studying ninjutsu, you can learn at least thing or two about terrorists and how they may operate. Will you be as informed as a modern intelligence operative? No. But the principles of ninjutsu allow one to perceive the basic elements of terroristic/criminal conduct. For example, take the surveillance functions of a shinobi.
Surveillance by a shinobi of a given area was done with his five senses. Once he had infiltrated the enemy’s domain, a map of strike points, tactically advantageous terrain, and troop characteristics was drawn up or memorized and subsequently relayed back to his commander. This intelligence would aid the attack.
Like it or not, terrorists survey their targeted territories for the same reason. They gather intelligence, plot, and gather more intelligence to facilitate precise planning for an egregious assault on innocents. Hence, by knowing the principles and functions of surveillance, one can more readily be aroused to the unfolding of suspicious and unordinary conduct (i.e. some shady guy snapping photos of critical infrastructure or delivery personnel who keep showing up at the wrong address but are nevertheless interested in looking around the area, etc.). The unusual conduct may very well be nothing of concern, but an aware public increases the likelihood that someone will see something of import. Be a watchman for your community. If you see something, say something.
Here is a brief list of things to watch for:
-photography in inappropriate areas
-purchase of chemical oxidizers, fertilizers, or other equipment that could be used to construct an IED (powders, metallic containers, fuses) local hardware stores sell potassium perchlorate, KNO3, and sundry other items that seem innocuous but may be used for wrong purposes.
-radical speech and ideals (i.e. calling for the overthrow of government, hate speech directed at certain population groups, religious fanaticism, etc.)
-attempts to purchase or clone access cards or keys to restricted facilities
-deteriorating relationships with loved ones and/or association with known radical groups
-questioning security personnel on the number and location of cameras in an area
This is not at all an exhaustive list. For more info, you can visit the DHS website: https://www.dhs.gov/preventing-terrorism
Take care, stay aware, and seek to be informed. No, terrorism is not something you should panic about, but don’t kid yourself into believing it is non-existent.
“Better watch yourself, you’re about to get fucked up!” This 30-something who had checked me with his bike from behind now peddled in a circle around me.
I didn’t know why this was happening.
I had been walking to work, nonchalantly listening to my Ipod when BAM! I was being accosted by a seemingly deranged man who was now issuing threats of violence. Adrenaline surged. I felt shaky and mildly focused with a bit of anxiety, anger, and fear shadowing the current of the situation. I didn’t know if this guy was on drugs or had confused me with some other hated individual, either way, I knew I had better ready up for an altercation.
I betrayed my confusion to him and replied, “For what reason?” He continued to circle menacingly and croaked back, “Any reason!”
What happened next? He just rode away.
I finished walking to work and notified the police of what had just occurred. I was fine. No injuries, other than those inflicted on my Ipod which had been spurned to the ground when the guy checked me with his bike. The police didn’t apprehend the guy, but it was of no real consequence to me. I was fine and just thankful it wasn’t worse (i.e. what if the guy had a weapon?). This was a wake-up call to the reality that random, unexpected violence can happen anywhere at any time.
Though undoubtedly this was a strange happening, in my book it could not be counted as a street altercation. Still, I wondered whether there were lessons in violence to be salvaged from it. There were:
What I did Wrong
1. Situational awareness error. I was not at all paying attention to my environment. My Ipod was blaring metal. Had it been off or playing at lower volume I may have picked up on the threat before he got close enough to ram me with his bike. Keeping my head on a steady swivel was also an easy and more valuable fix. Visual orientation to what is going on is more important than sound, especially in a gun-fight (so I’m told). I noted the need to be more aware of what is going on around me as well as awareness of what I am doing. Shinobi Fact: Master anything and all that you can. This instruction descends to us down through the centuries from Natori Masazumi. A shinobi would study himself and how his own mind worked in order to understand others, recognize the limitations of oneself, and the gaps intrinsic to one’s psychology.
2. Disturbed inner state. I was overwhelmed with the ambush. My emotions were all over the place. I was angry, anxious, fearful, and compassionate at the same time. This was a really awkward position to be in. I did not have the intense focus necessary to deal with the threat swiftly, nor did I have the tools at the time to resolve the situation with minimal violence. I had briefly thought about rushing the guy to knock him off his bike, but my mind hesitated with numerous ‘what ifs’. Ultimately I proceeded to keep walking and use verbal de-escalation. Looking back, I don’t recall if this was a conscious decision or not. I just asked a question (not yelling but with relative calm). I noted a development of mental focus for situations like this was a worthy investment of my time. I took up meditation and visualization practices. Fear and anxiety are natural in ambush encounters and even mutual altercations, but one should learn to not allow emotions to overwhelm oneself because it will distort thinking and action. Shinobi Fact: Masazumi exalts a serene, calm mind as a benefactor to your reasoning and strategy.
3. Used the same route to work. I walked the same path to work each day of the week. This was a big mistake. For all I know, this man had been accustomed to seeing me on my route and might have even planned an assault. If not, it would have still served me to change up my routine (which I did) and make my presence in the area unpredictable. Had I taken a different route, the situation might not have transpired. Shinobi Fact: A shinobi would travel as many paths in his area as he could to gain meaningful intelligence of the area.
Note that none of the above mistakes have anything to do with the actual act of inflicting violence on another. The mistakes I made were all mental in nature.
This event aided my self-development by elucidating flaws in my defense disposition. Notable changes in lifestyle I have made which specifically relate to this even include:
1. I scan my surroundings
2. I know an ambush can occur anywhere
3. I carry weapons in case the scaling up of force becomes necessary
4. I know how easily a potential assailant can conceal a weapon and deploy it
5. I am unpredictable in my routines
6. I strive to control my emotions
7. I recognize violence is not always the appropriate solution against violence
8. I train to be more ready for the physiological effects of adrenaline
9. I keep learning about violence
I am thankful to my assailant for giving me these lessons.
What I have observed in modern ‘ninjutsu’ dojos typically constitutes a colorful reanimation of Japanese history (albeit quite dilute in many instances). This claim is not informed by an academic acumen steeped in the real history of Japan, but more a reason which perceives all history and historical imitations as dubious on some level.
There were no photographs, videos, audio recordings back then which could provide we of the modern world an exact representation of what life was like during the period of the ninja. We may recover their tools, clothing, and other artifacts, but are invariably left with scant instruction on how they may have been used (how could they possibly record every stratagem, tool, and its respective use?). We may read their texts, but no translation of an Eastern text can ever reflect the exact consciousness of the writer and language is a limited conduit to reality. We may yield to experts on history and glean some insight as to the nature of ninjutsu, but they did not ‘live’ during those times and are therefore ensnared in the same game of inferring history rather than deducing history.
Can we have correct knowledge on ninjutsu? Yes, to some degree. We can make reasonable assertions, informed by texts and other historical references, that a ninja was, did, such and such. But we must remain skeptical. This said, I will divulge to you that respecting ninjutsu, I am a pragmatist. I do not wish to adopt anything from ‘correct knowledge’ of ninjutsu that I cannot apply to my world. I live in the 21st century, with internet, thugs that tote hand-cannons and rapine about with combustion-engines, and an exceedingly different legal framework which dictates what I can or cannot do in effecting violence against an assailant. I cannot hack people down with a sword, run a clandestine intelligence network (though that would be interesting), or carry IED’s on my person to be used in the service of my province. I am not Japanese, nor do I live in Japan. What then, if anything can I derive from ninjutsu that is useful?
Principles give rise to specifics. From principles, real techniques may be devised for specific circumstances, regardless of time and locality. Principles offer the user flexibility to create his/her own responses to the basic and surreal threats of human existence that the shinobi was bound to encounter (i.e. death at the hands of another, flagrant war, covert operations to deceive the public as well as the enemy, etc.). For example, with the knowledge that shinobi were adept at exploiting structural and human flaws in order to bypass security, we may advance our own security awareness of contemporary flaws of the human sentinel and physical security. Take for instance RFID card readers. There are now devices that are capable of ‘cloning’ an employee ID badge in order to trick the RFID reader, permitting unauthorized access to secure areas. A shinobi living today would not hesitate to learn of things such as this, for it was his job to know how to infiltrate.
Now, I do not claim to practice or teach real ninjutsu (in my text, in person, nor on my website). I claim a right to be informed by the nature of ninjutsu, insomuch that its principles are made evident. Here are a few things I am relatively certain about when it comes to ninjutsu:
- Ninjutsu was cerebral. It was not so much about how well you wielded a weapon, but rather, it was more about how well you could think on your feet.
- Referencing the Bansenshukai, the essence of ninjutsu may be found in ‘Seishin’, or the correctness of mind advised by Fujibayashi himself to be the only thing that distinguishes a ninja from a criminal.
- The above noted correctness of mind evinces the existence within the shinobi of an indomitable will. The will to persevere through ghastly trials, while adhering to this correctness of mind, is an attribute of the shinobi to be considered worthy of admiration.
In my life I do not wear a gi and move about in a dojo as if I am a retainer of some 15th century knowledge. I recognize my disparate relation to the historical past and therefore only emulate, adopt, and use those precepts and principles of ninjutsu that are still applicable to this world. Does this make me a ninja? That depends on who you ask.
What if Fujibayashi, Shigenori, or Natori Masazumi were alive today? How might they judge the character of an individual and deem it reflective of a shinobi? Perhaps this is the question of significance.
Undoubtedly the shinobi would do the following:
Hierarchy: Learn who holds power over what. He would likely scrutinize big business, the national government, and civil administration down to the local level. Why? Because a shinobi allied himself with the lord (or power magnate) who may have best served his ideals, community, and family as opposed to those that would pollute and denigrate all. Mind you Confucianism was big during the medieval period in China as well as Japan. Collectivist mindsets, such as what “benefits the masses” drove the shinobi in his affairs. He was loyal to those who promised order in the land, and he may even be thought of as one who cherished justice.
Martial Skills: Familiarize himself with modern combat, weaponry, and tactics. He would likely immerse himself in the new “teppo” characterized by machine guns, and long distance snipers. The shinobi may even delve into the art of intelligence as accorded by three letter agencies like the CIA, FBI, and NSA. But even those acting as basic information agents (also shinobi) would not hesitate to familiarize themselves with the internet and other document repositories that might yield valuable secrets. The battles during the Sengoku period were often fought with warriors bearing the significant weight of their armor, thus certain hand-to-hand techniques were necessarily conformed to this context. The shinobi in the 21st century would likely develop or practice a hand-to-hand system centered on modern attire and realities (i.e. he may study MMA, PPCT ‘Pressure Point Control Tactics’, or some other system of physical defense).
Law: Retain an understanding of codes and statutes. The shinobi are recorded to have participated in the apprehension of criminals (see the Bansenshukai). He acted as a bounty hunter and de facto law enforcement officer who was familiar with tactics for dealing with criminals holed up in a structure and even various methods for restraining (binding) the wanted (see the Bansenshukai). A shinobi, then, may have had at least a rudimentary understanding of the law.
Cultural Surveillance: Observe and emulate the culture. Reference after reference we can read how the shinobi was advised to study the province he would be operating in. Not only would he be compelled to learn the local dialect and colloquialisms, but his manners, subjects of conversation, and attire would match (or differ depending on the circumstances) those dwelling in the area. He knew how to remain anonymous by blending in.
Territorial Surveillance: Know the advantages and disadvantages afforded to operations by a given territory. A shinobi functioned in wartime (and peacetime) as a scout. He would typically know the ins and outs of any area he was operating in (see Shinobi Michi Fumiyo no Koto).
General Surveillance: Learn conventional tailing, and video surveillance methods. Some of the most intriguing motifs respecting the ninja include black clad figures who silently stalk their targets. The historical references are clear, a shinobi of the past knew how to tail someone on foot without arousing suspicion, be the setting in broad daylight or at night. A shinobi in the 21st century then, would feel compelled to learn how to use a vehicle for tailing his targets and video assisted surveillance for record keeping.
There is so much more but my fingers are getting tired.
I may add to this in the future, especially if some of you found it worthwhile.
All said, I will leave you with this. There is one particular principle of ninjutsu that is most important for the shinobi of the past as well as those dwelling in the 21st century:
Never give up. Persevere through the fire. No matter what your trials in life are, teach yourself to hold on and be patient through the storm.
You may have heard the adage that goes something like “the more you train in times of peace, the less you will bleed in times of war”.
This phrase connotes the value of preparedness thinking and preemptive action. It can be related back to the historical samurai principles of the Natori Ryu.
Natori Masazumi, the legendary shinobi who passed on the scrolls of Natori Ryu, echoes to the present a principle of samurai conduct that he says is of primary importance for all samurai: Nichiyo Kokorogake.
What is this?
Nichiyo Kokorogake parallels the preparedness adage above. It means to make use of states of ‘order’ by preparing to address inchoate and even flagrant states of ‘disorder’, and when ‘disorder’ or war arises, one should work to swiftly reinstate ‘order’ or peace . The central point here is to not waste one’s time. Prepare so that once an adverse event occurs, you may be better equipped to deal with it quickly.
So how can you apply Nichiyo Kokorogake to everyday life?
Here are a few examples:
– Consume a Good Diet and Exercise! Realizing that your body is literally the means by which you interact with this earth, it behooves you to take care of it so that you can use it well in states of emergency or even war.
– Make a list of potential sources of ‘disorder’ in your own world (i.e. problems at work, earthquakes, floods, terrorism, violent thugs, etc.), then devise a strategy for dealing with the disorder to retain. For example, if you are going on an extensive road-trip, be sure you have a carjack, roadside flares, and other essential equipment for car problems. A less mundane example might be getting kidnapped (if you think this is a possibility) and being able to escape because you learned in advance how to escape restraints, signal for help, etc.
Continue to ponder and apply this principle, and you might not bleed when the going gets tough.