What is a Ninja?

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Articles, Uncategorized
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The term Ninja or Shinobi (or for women, Kunoichi) comes from ancient Japan. There are various stories about the exploits of famous Ninja, which you can find in books and articles everywhere. It should also be understood that the role of the Ninja has changed over time. In this article I hope to simplify the term for the use of our students in these modern times.

In the old days the Ninja may have been a retired Samurai protecting his family clan, or a body guard for royalty, or a guerrilla warfare soldier. They may have been a spy living in another province keeping tabs on the current government or the head of an extended family of operatives. If we take all of these descriptions and mash them together we come to picture someone who was outside of the regular military caste system of feudal Japan, but also one who was in a protector position, even though they may have also been a farmer, or merchant, or…

Anyone outside of the warrior caste was not allowed to use the weapons of the warriors. Think about the USA if all of a sudden everyone had to give up their guns. What would people do? They would create alternative weapons and tactics for dealing with everything from marauding gangs of thieves to corrupt local warlords. Ninja were essentially the underdogs of Japanese warring history.

Think back to the not-so-long-ago in Vietnam, and the underdogs of that war. The Vietcong had inferior weapons, no armor or planes to speak of, and yet who won that war? They developed “devious” traps out of rope and sticks, bombs made out of whatever they could, dug tunnels to hide in, and if you were on the other side of the struggle you may have thought of them as below you. (After all  they were trying to kill you, but hey, you were trying to kill them, so fair is fair.)

But if you flip the perception to seeing the world from their eyes, you might see your own lives and the lives of your family as being just as important as the US soldiers saw their own. You would fight with whatever you have.

The Ninja from then until now can be seen as a similar people, with a similar philosophy. What would you do if someone stronger came to hurt you or a loved one? What if your government was corrupt to the point where you had to fear for your own safety? What if you lived in an area where the local gang had more say than the police?

It’s this mindset that the new-age Ninja continues as his or her legacy. Good people want peace. But to have peace you have to be strong. Welcome to the world of the modern-day Ninja.


The Japanese kanji (character)  “nin”, which can be translated as “endure” or “persevere”.  The character is a combination of the characters for sword (top half) and heart (bottom half).



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