Three Key Arts of Ninjutsu

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

          Most so-called modern Ninja dress up in Halloween Ninja costumes (in Japan some in flashy colors, even shocking pink, but in America most wear black, though some are now camouflage) and practice a form of Jujutsu, thinking that they are practicing the art of Ninjutsu.

          But nothing could be further from the truth.  Real Ninjutsu is training in the principle of stealth, concealment, and patience.  Traditionally the training in real Ninjutsu involved the practice of three specific arts.  To the way of thinking of real Ninjutsu practitioners, those of traditional Japanese Ninjutsusha (as it was phrased by Seiko Fujita), without training in these three arts, a person has not trained in Ninjutsu.



          According to Seiko Fujita, the first art that was taught to the budding Ninjutsuka (another term actually used for Ninja in the past) was Hokojutsu.  This was the art of walking.  This was a very specialized art that began with three aspects of walking; Ayumi ashi, normal walking, Tsuri ashi, following walking (shuffling), and Shinobi ashi, stealth walking.

          From these three methods of walking there were many variations to be used as a scout, or spy, or during guerilla warfare.  These methods were closely guarded secrets of each Ninjutsu school since the footwork could give a warrior an advantage in a fight, if it was unexpected.

          Along with regular training in empty handed combat and weapons, the Ninjutsu practitioner would develop his walking skills for months, being sure to improve balance, fluidity, and grace.  Hokojutsu was a lifetime endeavor, with the Ninjutsusha always seeking to harmonize his Ki with his movement.

          The next aspect of training is also one of the most dynamic and misunderstood forms of practice.



          After walking in the special ways of Ninjutsu, a practitioner's legs would become strong and flexible which would be now further developed through the jumping patterns of Choyakujutsu.

          There were the Roppo, six methods, of jumping developed specifically for Ninjutsu.  These six methods are; Mae Tobi, Ushiro Tobi, Yoko Tobi, Naname Tobi, Haba Tobi, and Taka Tobi, which are respectively; front jump, back jump, side jump, diagonal jump, broad jump, and high jump.

          These jumps are not based on basic physical proficiency, but on the development of Ki directed energy applied to physical movement.  While the jumps can be used in many ways, there are two specific applications that sometimes get overlooked.

          First of all, the high jump was specially applied to another art called Kinoborijutsu, which was the tree climbing art.  Leaps were made to the lower limbs of the tree to enable the practitioner to get into the tree.  When necessary, leaps would be used to propel a person to a higher limb, or even to a tree close by.

          Second the other leaps are applied directly to combat.  They are used for avoiding attacks from assailants and for moving into range to deliver one’s own strikes.

          When practicing the leaps, strength is developed in the legs so that kicks are delivered with more power than for a person who does not practice Choyakujutsu.

          The final art is the epitome of Ninjutsu.



          The core art of Ninjutsu is Onshinjutsu, the shadow body art.  Both of the previous arts were designed to help the Ninjutsuka prepare to perform and practice the methods of the shadow body.  Think of the shadow body as making it so that you assume a level of invisibility.  This is where the concept of the invisible assassin derives.

          But unlike those who think of the fantasy of Ninjutsu, the reality of Onshinjutsu is logical and scientific.  There are aspects of the depths of this art, which are dangerous and so will not be mentioned in this article, but the mastery of this art is what allowed the original Shinobi (spies of ancient Japan mistakenly called Ninja) to perform their jobs so efficiently.

          There are two divisions of Onshinjutsu that the true exponent must study; Tenchijin no Santon and Goton no jutsu.

          Tenchijin no Santon means the three evasions of heaven, earth, and man.  The heaven aspect is how to use the weather and climate in order to evade an enemy.  This idea of evasion is also how to not be seen by an enemy when preparing an ambush.

          Next is earth evasion and this is the study of natural law and physics.  Studying the principles of physics, of how things work and why, gives a person a great advantage in any kind of battle.  Leading a person into unsafe or an untenable position allows you to avoid defeat and gain an advantage over an enemy.

          Finally there is human evasion, but many of these principles are dangerous if used improperly so nothing more will be said about this form.

          Goton no jutsu, five evasions art, could be viewed as part of the earth evasion mentioned above.  The five evasions are based on the five elements and how these can be used to one’s advantage in combat.  Understanding these five elements is an aspect of physics, as is the use of certain aspects of those elements.

          Mokuton no jutsu is wood evasion, learning how to use trees, bushes, and the underbrush.  This is where the tree climbing art comes into play.  Katon no jutsu is fire evasion, using fire, explosions, and signals in combat.  Doton no jutsu is earth evasion, which can mean everything from holes, tunnels, rocks, and other forms of the earth to hide and cover one’s movements.  Kinton no jutsu is the use of metal evasion, which includes caltrops, throwing blades, and any use of metal object, which can be tossed at an opponent.  Finally there is Suiton no jutsu, water evasion that includes devices for breathing underwater, floating on the surface, and hiding in water.



          Real Ninjutsu is the study of deception, which as stated in the Sonshi Heiho (Sun Tzu Art of War) is war.  But it is also the heart of actual combat.  Most people will not understand this since most people only know martial arts from a competitive perspective and thus don’t know the martial arts at all.

          Head to head combat is the realm of primitive people and brutal competitors.  Ninjutsu was developed by very advanced thinkers who used the Art of War as a foundation for developing advanced skills of combat.

          Ninjutsu was for use to avoid going to all out war.  When there was a way to avoid conflict, Ninjutsu was the source of strategy.  Scouts, spies, and commando raids were used to avoid taking armies into battle.  Once war was declared, those same agents were used to shorten the war any way possible.

          While the use of Ninjutsu has an application in modern warfare and would be great for dealing with the type of fighting we are engaged in when dealing with terrorism, Ninjutsu has other benefits.

          Training in Ninjutsu promotes physical fitness on many levels.  Training in the methods of walking, jumping, and shadow body techniques also give us clues on how to use the element of surprise in self defense.



                                       and the NIMPO KEMPO KOBUJUTSU

          Kiyojute Ryu is a system dedicated to the preservation of the real martial arts.  This includes Ninjutsu, which is taught under the martial art Nimpo Kempo Kobujutsu.

          Along with the three arts mentioned above, there are weapons, tools, methods, and facets of training that belong to the traditional Bugei of Japan.  These include arts of disguise, impersonation, and more.

          Many of these arts are little taught outside of Japan, even by Ninjutsu teachers who have trained there.  It is important that the real skills of Ninjutsu be preserved for the future.

          But it must be noted that the real masters of Ninjutsu were Rural Samurai who specialized in guerilla warfare and espionage.  Note that the Ninjutsu of two of the most famous schools of Ninjutsu today derive from the Toda family, a great Samurai family.  Seiko Fujita’s own Ninjutsu came from the Wada family, a Samurai family that served the Tokugawa Shogun.

          Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei teaches Ninjutsu from the perspective of the Samurai code, originally known as Shido, the way of the warrior.  It is a code of honor, loyalty, and compassion.

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