Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by GHETTO NINJA, Mar 22, 2010.
in japan or anywhere else ?
(I honestly can't believe I'm answering this one.....)
To begin with, Ninjutsu and Ninja are purely, strictly, and exclusively a Japanese phenomenon, so "anywhere else" is out of the question.
Now, as to the possibility of a "ninja clan" still existing, that is so remote as to be non-existant. One of the main reasons is that the old clan structure no longer exists, with corporations taking their role in todays society. If you are asking if particular old Ryu still exist, well, a few have survived and are encompassed within the Bujinkan, Genbukan and Jinenkan organisations, although not as individual ryu-ha themselves in the same way that Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinryu and others have (note: even this claim is not without controversy. However, it is the only source for Ninjutsu Ryu-ha that have any form of verifiable histories).
A few years ago a few gentlemen appeared claiming to teach a form of Koga Ryu, known as Banda-ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, under the title Banke Shinobinoden (Ban Family Transmissions of Shinobi [Ninja] Arts), headed by Jinichi Kawakami. They did a demonstration and lecture/question and answer seminar a little while back, and although they caused a few to question whether or not they were genuine, most supporters used the comments by Meik Skoss to back them up. Unfortunately, most of what Meik said was little more than "well, I can't really say that it isn't an authentically transmitted body of knowledge", but he was very short of saying that it was in any way a verifiable Ninjutsu lineage. In fact, most of what he agreed with seemed to be that they said they would have no way of demonstrating a history, or would consider themselves a koryu (Meik's area of expertise, specialising in his own traditions, most notably Toda-ha Buko Ryu. He is not an expert on all old systems, nor Ninjutsu, and would be one of the first to tell you that himself).
So the short answer is no. There is a tiny possibility that a tradition may have escaped to survive, however with the large numbers of people that have sought systems out over the last 50 years or so, coming up with nothing at all, indicates that they have not survived. And I hold little hope for any (authentic systems) suddenly coming out of the woodwork.
To expand on Chris' reply: this also means that any western 'ninjutsu' system which does not trace back to Takamatsu sensei is not ninjutsu at all. It may be a good system and maybe the people in it could kick my ***, but it's not ninjutsu at all, any more than Cyrillic is Japanese because its graphs are made of squiggly lines.
Various western systems call themselves ninjutsu and mention a secret Japanese ninja master that noone ever heard of, nevermind that their systems do not look like ninjutsu at all. Again. That does not mean they are worthless as fighting systems. It just means that it's not ninjutsu. The 'ninja' aspect was probably tacked on for marketing reasons.
Originally, ninjutsu systems were kept secret, for insiders only. It's only been since the last decades that the remaining systems have been exposed to the outside world. So for any of these western systems to be legit, their founders would have had to come into contact with a ninjutsu master and recognized him as such (extremely unlikely) been accepted as a student (even more unlikely) and made it through the harsh training (probably not). He should have been fluent in Japanese as well, and lived in Japan for the many years required to complete training. In other words: probably not.
If you want to get some more understanding on why this is so unlikely, you should read 'Fujita Seiko, the last koga ninja'.
It is a very cheap book, but really good reading material for people wanting to learn more about ninjutsu.
About as likely as the story of Bloodsport being real and no touch KOs actually working.
Well I think others have done the lineage push issue, to answer your question however I'll ask one of my own. What is a "clan" & what were the "ninja..?"
1. (Social Science / Anthropology & Ethnology) a group of people interrelated by ancestry or marriage
2. (Social Science / Anthropology & Ethnology) a group of families with a common surname and a common ancestor, acknowledging the same leader, esp among the Scots and the Irish
3. a group of people united by common characteristics, aims, or interests [from Scottish Gaelic clann family, descendants, from Latin planta sprout, plant1]
Now the term "ninja" is a bit different because historically the term is used pretty loosly but we'll use this...
ninja or nin·jas A member of a class of 14th-century Japanese mercenary agents who were trained in the martial arts and hired for covert operations such as assassination and sabotage.
So is it possible for a group of related families to have maintained family association from the 14th century until now? Sure families in the America have done so since before their was an America and some in Europe can go back longer. Well if these people are still acting as spies, assassins, mercenaries and sabotage agents it only seems plausable that they would.
However, the skills would basicly be useless unless said "clan" were in a position to use them enough to be important and more then as a historic tradition. If they did exist they would most likely have a face like that of the organized crime "families" like the Yakuza in Japan; who have made claims to being "ninjas." Course I can claim to be a leprechaun; but that doesn't mean I have a pot of gold anywhere. Like the Irish, Russians, Chinese, Sicilian & Mexican organized crime "families" it makes perfects since for them to do some "cross border trade" or board a plane somewhere.
How much you choose to believe that is up to you, I mean we are talking about professional liars, murderers and thieves so why would you believe to begin with..? If memory serves me Chris is 100% even Takamatsu was accused of being a fake and his lineage never totally varified. However, I'm from the as long as it works camp; where nothing else matter to me "as long as it works." The thing you have to be careful about is defining the application of the art from the "dogma" around the art & remember; possible is not always probible...
Hmm, I'm not sure I agree with the definition of "ninja" you have found there. Although there has been a popular image in the media of ninja being assassins and so forth, being the antithesis of samurai, hired to the highest bidder to do that which the samurai code of honour forbade them from doing, etc, most historical research actually goes against this. Similar to saying that Native Americans were scalping savages, really, as that practice was actually begun by French bounty hunters to stop them lying about the number of "savages" they had killed, the image has stuck where it was not really deserved.
In fact, it is thought that many who were later identified as ninja were actually samurai, either acting in a way that was not "normal" for a samurai, or a samurai who was deposed in some way (on the losing side of a battle, for instance), and followed a particular life philosophy. We once had a student who asked me after class if it was true that all ninja were rapists, I told him that that was a negative story, basically propaganda designed to turn people against practitioners of ninjutsu, and if it was true, why on earth would he want to be a member of a group like that? Interestingly, he never came back to class. Now, I don't think he wanted to be a rapist, but he also couldn't handle having his false beliefs challenged.
By the same token, I would be very hesitant to refer to ninja in the same way as criminal organisations such as the Yakuza, Mafia etc, in the same way that I would not refer to the historical ninja as "the special forces of their day, like the SAS", which I hear way too often.
I would also challenge the date, only the 14th century is listed, although the traditions in some cases go from the 12 century, others in the 17th, and completely in between. So the referenced link is somewhat lacking, at the list.
As for families continuing through the generations, well, that is what I was refering to when I mentioned ryu-ha such as Katori Shinto Ryu, which is in it's 20th generation now, still held by the same family (the Iizasa family). But when it comes to the ninja traditions, well, they were always far more practical by nature, and when that practicality was lost, it seems that most heads of the various systems simply stopped passing them down, destroying their scrolls and so forth in the process. It should be noted that other traditions suffered the same fate, many skills of hojojutsu were lost when the skills lost their usage, sometimes turning into skills for creating crafts and so on, or just lost completely. Same for armour manufacture. The Edo Jidai, a period of extended peace, was great, but it did lead to the loss of quite a lot of martial skills. With the samurai, this was minimised by the ideal that all samurai should keep their martial skills sharp, but when the samurai were abolished in about 1877, that ended other arts. Finally, when the Occupying US Forces after WWII banned all martial arts, a number of masters destroyed their scrolls, losing more knowledge again, particularly here in the skill of sword smithing (but that is another topic entirely). But the point is that it has not been an easy path for any art to survive, so what is left is what we know about (for the most part).
Yes, Takamatsu's traditions had/have question marks over them, as did Fujita Seiko's claim of the last head of the Wada-ha Koga Ryu tradition. But they are the best candidates for being historical traditions, and have not been disproven, although to follow their histories, more than a little faith is required.
When it comes to "as long as it works, nothing else matters" ideal, well, I actually have problems with that. I would actually suggest that if that is all you are interested in, ninjutsu is not for you. Yes, it can be eminently practical, however it needs adaptation for that to happen. And there is a lot of material that are in no way practical on any level (in regards to a street fight). I mean, really, how often do you meet someone with a spear when you are armed with a sword, hmm? A part of wanting to train ninjutsu has to have some sense of the history, and a desire to preserve the traditions, same as with any koryu-style tradition. But that's my view.
It was either that the definition as someone who practices ninjutsu, which opens the clan issue up to family owned dojos and a few more.
It was no different then the Knights of Feudal Europe claiming live by the Code of Chivalry yet practiced similar guerrilla & commando skill sets. I prefer to ninjutsu as a aspect of bujutsu in general; the shadow side pun intended. A defeated samurai could easily turn "ronin" & train several peasants in "ninjutsu" which is more common to guerrilla warfare or commando styled unconventional warfare then anime black clad assassins.
Well thats the beauty of it, since ninjutsu in its many forms cannot be 100% varified as tradition then maintaining a tradition of fixed techniques isn't 100% required; your sense of history is more philosophical then literal. I learned a style of Ninjutsu which is "one of the fake ninja systems" but it has a tracable lineage in the modern context to Japan and didn't spread to Canada until the later 1940s-50s. One of my instructors in the system owns and operates several ninjutsu schools commercially; (course he doesn't have ninjutsu on the door) its actually labelled a as jujutsu school.
You don't know you're learning ninjutsu until you reach shodan. We take a completely different approach in that there are two types of traditions; literal historic traditions and philosophical based traditions. Since the philosophy is a reflection of the spirit of the art, why not adapt and change & grow. The study of the history is in more a general context, like looking at the history of the civil war, you don't only examine what the Union or the Confederates did but what all soldiers did. Even if use some the lessons learned, you're not going to come to the battlefield with muskets are you?
Oh and if you scroll to about the bottom you can see a field improvised sword & nunchuku from the SEREs school at Fort Bragg, here is a good example of modern adaptation of concept. And no, I'm not saying ninjas are trained at Fort Bragg. lol
Other services Ron offers: hitting people on the head with a hammer, fighting law enforcement officers, wearing an ankle bracelet on home arrest.
On to the last thing.
Bill, I have a fair amount of respect for you and the way you conduct yourself here for about 98% of the time... but you seem to have been following Draven around posting bits of his history with his real name wherever he posts. A friendly warning here that that is probably not going to be the best thing for you to do. Speaking personally, I disagree with most of his ideas, thoughts, approaches, posts, I think he is overtly violent, and comes from a more-than-suspect training background, but the best thing to do if you disagree is to be better at arguing your side. Even if you don't convince them, you will at least get your side out for others to make up their minds. I just don't want to see you gone for something like this.
Thats true but, even the modern useage was intended to identify a particular type of Bushi, though some bandits were also called ninjas because they were highly skilled.
You get the point of my comparing Bushido to Chilvary they both were romantic notions used to define the samurai & knight respectively, often of which only applied in interaction with other members of their caste.
As for ninjutsu not being a "peasant martial art" I never said it was, I said it could be taught to peasants to form guerrilla-soldiers. Its a simple fact that Samurai & fuedal lords would conscript untrained peasants to bulk their normal firghting forces. Those peasants had no formal training in any martial art and served as cannon fodder, while samurai acted as shock troops, NCOs & Officers.
By your own words
"...the term "ninja" or "ninjutsu" are also relatively recent, so historically the various persons we would refer to as ninja (person who practices ninjutsu) would not refer to themselves in such a way."
"...the displaced samurai (note: not ronin) would not teach ninjutsu. He may teach his understanding of combative methods, and as circumstance dictates, that may evolve into something that we would refer to as ninjutsu, but the displaced samurai certainly wouldn't have been the one teaching it."
With your own statement you condemn your own arguement, you'll note I refered to the whole "ronin" statement with the quotation marks, meaning it wasn't a literal statement & since ninjutsu is a recent development & a samurai could teach bujutsu (which may or may not be refered to as ninjutsu in the modern context) its all just arguing semantics.
What you seem to be talking about to me is organization; that a only the heads of the organization can change or adapt the system. Why? Out of some notion of lineage or out of some corporate model of being a CEO? The problem with that is that the geographical, economical, cultural & ethical limitations of the world were the "koryu approach" was needed are no longer limited. We cannot say that growth must come from the head of the organization alone, thats a why I say historical traditions are dead.
"What is necessary is that the teaching of the principles of the art remains consistant, from one head to the next. And that head decides how it is done. It is not a sense of history that I spoke about, but more a sense of responsibility to see that these teachings are preserved (this is really a koryu approach, to be honest)."
Thats also a corperate approach, so that a CEO can maintain the franchise & that is exactly what its used for today. History & lineage are excuses for maitaining corperate control and a marketting tool. As far as Omoto Ryu, it is not verified in Japan except that there are practicers of the art in Japan.
Only your reference to fighting someone with a spear with a sword, as far as the nunchuku is concerned I train with them as part of ninjutsu training; they were added in back with the popularity of Shotokan early last century before I even studied the art & myself well I've added modern firearms and improvised explosives devises. Instructors in Canada don't have access to those kinds of firearms & nor do those in Japan without going through criminal channels.
The point is that arguing a tradition but claiming adaptation people always return to historical arguements & while I agree that what others have done before us matters & we can learn from them, we should be so limited by the idea of tradition that we blindly follow history. Using the nunchuku as an example; they are easily improvised from material as readily available as shoe laces or a strip of cloth and two sticks, they are very effective at striking and grappling range. However they are left out of one system by the "historical tradition" but are adopted by another of the "philosophical tradition."
This is because I love a good argument, although we have hijacked the thread a bit. Mind you, the OP is now banned, so I don't think it matters too much....
You seem to be missing the point I'm making; take Robert Bussey or even Stephen Hayes both can trace their "ninjutsu" to Takamatsu sensei; however Takamatsu was called a liar & a fraud in his own time. Now Bussey got "defamed" for breaking the "tradition" by starting his own expression of the art & adding from other sources. Years later Hayes did the same thing with Toshindo and the first response was the same treatment as Bussey.
My questions are;
How was that wrong..?
Is it because he improved on what he was taught without Hatsumi permitting it?
At what point does tradition require anyone submits before some "grandmaster" like in a 80s ninja movie?
Is it no longer Karate, if someone incorperates diffent aspects of other MAs to make it more applicatible?
In one aspect you're saying; "Adaptation and growth are all well and good, we do that ourselves." and then contradict yourself with "But really, if you are training with nunchaku and calling it ninjutsu, then you're mistaken. Completely different, developed for completely different reasons, with very different histories and philosophies. When looked at in this light, nunchaku actually have no place within ninjutsu."
What if I feel that my adaption & growth requires expanding the to the use of nunchuku or hell even the AR15 & AK47 I teach as part of my system. As for the "quality control" thats fine for the individual school, I can see wanting to keep out imposters to the specific school, such as having individual certficed instructors in that system however to call it "quality control" for some other school in similar system is just market control.
Ninjutsu is the only art where specific schools claim that no one else use their arts name. I can understand with Gracie Juijitsu since thats a specific school of juijitsu however they don't say no one can use the term juijitsu do they..? Thus we see many Brazilian Juijitsu schools, not all of the Gracie lineage. We have also seen many karate schools which won't be "karate" by your same standard.
To use your McDonalds arguement, the corperation can keep the other franchise resteraunts doing what it wants. They can even keep a anyone else from using the DcDonalds name & logos but they can't stop people from cooking hamburgers because they aren't McDonald's hamburgers. Thats what you're arguing, that "koryu-ninjutsu" is the only "ninjutsu" and no one can have ninjutsu because its not a name brand ninjutsu, course as we both agree the term ninjutsu is more recent distinction between certain aspects of bujutsu based on different philosophies of Bushido.
Ha, I can understand confussion, it's not exactly an easy thing to get around, but we'll see how we go...
Anybody who said Takamatsusensei is a fraud was an ignorant fool. Takamatsusensei was a real human being. Don't get much more real. How can you be a fraud in humbly and respectfully sharing what you love.
Oh but Kukishin Ryu is a Jujutsu Ryu with no ninjutsu listed as part of the system (except for x-kan sites), more so; other besides Takamatsu have been licensed to teach this Ryu-ha and only those derived from Takamatsu came it is a ninjutsu school. More so, Takamatsu was never soke of Kukishin Ryu that was granted to Iwami Nangaku & Takamatsu was allowed to found the sub-school of Kukishinden Ryu. Kumogakure Ryu is another issue as its alledgely derived from the same family which has the debated ryu of Togakure Ryu... I should also point out that the existance of Toda, Shinryuken Masamitsu is a hotly contested issue as well.
You see we have two issue to be overcome;
1) How we define ninjutsu...
You choose to define it as a particluar lineage, but since even the individuals within the lineage used the term retroactively, a jujutsu school kenjutsu school could be considered "ninjutsu" if they used a certain set of tactics. So then "ninjutsu" is application of specific skills and tactics where as a specific school's name or style is the "college" those "lessons" are derived from.
2) The useage of the term...
Well what you're missing is that while some can combined shotokan karate & BJJ and call it "karate." While calling it shotokan would be incorrect useage of the term (on that we agree) however karate it is regardless because it uses a specific set of skills and tactics, however those tactics might well be expanded upon to begin with. So then someone applying a particular skill set can be considered "ninjutsu" without actually being say Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu.
3) The reality of tradition & name brands...
Thus we come to the issue here; now as I've been intentional in not mentioning, their are 2 types of martial arts as far as lineage goes. Gendai (modern) & Koryu (ancient or old school); of which with each new adaptation becomes more gendai then koryu. I can accept a "modern form" grown out of individual adaptation; I never made any claim to it being a koryu art form in the first place, only that it applied certain skillsets common to the specific tactics described as ninjutsu.
However since "ninjutsu" is a more gendai term then a "koryu" one it makes perfect since for it have gendai expressions. There are gendai forms of jujutsu dedicated to fighting methods more then philosophy, the common distinction between budo & bujutsu, in the world today. Thus gendai ninjutsu seems just as plausable; I'm neither claiming a koryu lineage nor am I aserting a specific "brand name" beyond the one it was taught to me under.
Sorry I don't buy the ninja history thing when those claiming it the most simply don't have it themselves. Instead I see it has more or less as marketing puffery; trying to debase the market competition.
Think of it as this, lineage is fine for proving a lot of things but it doesn't alter the product. I can teach combatives and I can call "guerrilla-combatives" but its still a the end product of "combatives." Now I can't say its "Applegate/Fairbairn Combatives" without having a lineage to show that, but I still have "combatives." Saying I can't call it combatives because I can't trace a lineage to Fairbairn, Applegate or Stykes is a bit childish.
While the Omoto-Ryu as I understand is derived from an older system of "ninjutsu" its still been modernized even before I learned it; to include some weapons from kobudo & techniques from other systems. It makes use the skillsets involving stealth, evasion, survival training, meditation, herbal medicines, various weapons far exceeding koryu school and even into modern firearms training. Yes, the school even deals with aspects of espionage work & even covert warfare and tactics. Is a Koryu system? Nope, but it is still ninjutsu making use of those skillsets.
Bruno has been formulating a reply for a little while now, let's see who gets there first...
I was indeed writing up a reply, going into the more nitpicky angles of the argument. And then I thought to myself: 'why bother'. After all, all arguments have been put on the table.
What usually happens right around the time I was going to reply, is that someone simply refuses to acknowledge the arguments of the others, and the discussion goes round and round, covering the same essentials over and over in slightly different wording.
So I simply closed my browser window and mowed my lawn and spent a couple of hours de-mossing it so that I can start practicing outside now that spring is coming about. That seemed to me a far better use of my time than wasting time on a circular argument.
Some arguments are best just left to drift, ehh!
Seriously Chris did a really nice job in pointing out some very pertinent points.
Simply put you cannot and should not create a style in todays world and call it Ninjutsu. If you do so then you risk permanent ridicule and people will simply never take you seriously!
Thats true Brian, of course you also have to realize that by the standard imposed by that the x-kans are all hypocritical & they have no claim either. Consider that the only varified aspects of Takamatsu's lineage is Takagi Yoshin ryu & Kukishin ryu is independantly varifiable. More so, no one associated with ninjutsu claims them as ninjutsu nor their practicers outside of x-kan claim any connects to ninjutsu. Concerning Toda (the source of Takamatsu's Ninjutsu lineage) there are so many contradicting dates given for the time of his life & death so that he is considered suspect or to have even existed.
Problem with the "koryu arguement" is that no ninjutsu school today is proven as a koryu system, regardless of how many frachise websites argue differently. Just as there are specific gendai jujutsu schools which do not trace themselves to a koryu samurai but still reflect a particular skillset can call itself jujutsu, why can't one do so for ninjutsu?
More so, since the whole existance of Togakure Ryu among other ryu-ha are all hinged on Toda's existance & we are to believe that Takamatsu & it was recorded that Takamatsu made him up as well as Togakure Ryu then it means still no "koryu connection."
Ah, yes the Bujinkan can prove a legitimate history to two jujutsu schools which do not want to be involved in ninjutsu and the only two recognized koryu ninjutsu schools include ninjutsu only as a course in tactics. Like I said its all marketing & trolling or flaming for pointing that out (which I'm amazed hasn't been done yet) only shows that one is trying to defend that position. No ninjutsu school is legitimately koryu though there are koryu systems which have ninjutsu included.
If Ninja are a result of a caste system, then India could have similar peeps.
Separate names with a comma.