Was Ninjutsu EVER Effective?

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by Stealthy, Apr 29, 2011.

  1. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    Unfortunately for many the sad truth is, so called "modern attacks" are not modern at all and unless "modern science" can be debunked and it can be proven that hundreds of years ago humans did not come with two arms and two legs as they do now then the fact remains that "street fights" have remained essentially unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

    Granted over the course of history the choices of weapons have undergone minor refinements like the advent of iron instead of bronze culminating with a particularly game changing inclusion of firearms.

    To assume that Feudal Ninja somehow faced attacks different to what are found on the streets today is sheer fantasy.

    The fact remains if you walked into a public drinking hole at any time in Earths history and got in a fight you would be greeted with exactly the same techniques that you would find today as human bodies have not discernably changed.

    In fact to assume fighters trained in Ninjutsu techniques somehow now face problems which they did not in Feudal Japan is to assume that they ONLY ever fought Samurai, which if it is the truth is rather bizarre and ultimately a waste of learning how to fight as, well lets face it, that is to assume you are spending years learning how to fight but still have less ability than some random street brawler out for a night of heavy drinking.

    Where a martial arts club/specialty would fit in historically(as they should today) is as an entity/group which possessed the ability to train it's members to the point of actually being able to fight off not just common thugs but also preferrably some of the more advanced threats as well. Which according to popular pulp fiction for the Ninja would entail Samurai(who for arguments sake are assumed to be elite fighters with highly advanced systems of combat).

    Since there are SO many clubs allegedly altering techniques to make Ninjutsu "work" on the streets today leads me to ponder if my belief in Ninjutsu is a fantasy or is it just that the heart of the art truly is lost.

    So which is it, was Ninjutsu a truly effective fighting system of which the majority of practitioners today are no longer privy to, or has Ninjutsu never been effective, with the Scrolls written by people that would get hammered by any random street brawler, kung fu student or MMA fighter?

    For the record I am not an X-kan fan boy,it is not my intention to put clubs practicing the "modernization" of their art in disrepute(as I am a firm advocate of modernization) but rather this is a calling to ALL schools to come clean with your beliefs. "Do you believe in your hearts that Ninjutsu did work?" if so what has gone wrong?

    With Respect,
    Anonymous.
     
     
     
     
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  2. The Last Legionary

    The Last Legionary All warfare is based on deception.<br><b>nemo malu

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    You are correct. Today, just like on the battlefields of 17th century Japan, battles were 1 on 1, with everyone in jeans and tee shirts. Those pictures of people wearing armor, and swinging long swords? All an invention of Hollywood.

    That is why every ninja preferred the smooth action of the 357 to the more common 38.

    Exactly. There is no difference at all between a group of heavily armored and armed Samurai, and a group of Hells Angels, other than the Angels horses make cool "Vroom Vroom" sounds, rather than whinny.

    And in each one of those public drinking holes, there would be a fat guy named Norm who has a reserved seat.

    This is true, because today just like then, one regularly runs into heavily armed military troops on the streets, and must hide in the shadows or face being turned into noodle slaw. If fact, the movements to disarm a soldier with an Uzi are the exact same movements used to disarm someone with a sword.

    You left out Mongols, a common problem on the West Coast I hear.

    No. Please, continue. Better yet, you should seek out some Samurai at a watering hole and see how well your skillz work. They may be in disguise though.

    Well, if I though you were serious for a moment, I'd point out the 400 year+ history, numerous actual historical records, and so on. But I don't, so I will say "Nope". Stuff never worked. Was all a boogeyman tale that short Japanese mothers would use to scare their kids if they wouldn't eat their rice balls and tuna.

    Dumb *** trolls would be my guess. Next.
     
  3. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    Okay. Next.
     
  4. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    You're right. It's a complete fantasy, move along. Hombu is crowded enough as it is.
     
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  5. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    I didn't say whether I think it is a fantasy or not, in fact I think I said I did believe that Ninjutsu worked and I ponder if I may be dreaming in assuming that because with all the in-fighting and carry-on within the Ninjutsu community around modernizing it and thus far the complete lack of anyone standing forward and actually proving it's worth for all the world to see, it is fair for some people to assume that it does not work unless you modify it.

    So no I am not saying Ninjutsu never worked, I am not even saying it doesn't work today. I am saying it has not been shown publicly to work today without altering it.

    So I ask why? Is it because the essence has been lost? Is it because in its current form it is merely a clever shroud to keep all but the inner circle out? Is it because Ninjutsu is in fact NOT a workable system that can accomodate all possible weapon combinations and variations of attacks without altering it from its core? Or dare I say any one of the infinite possibilities I have yet to entertain?
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  6. Benevolentbob

    Benevolentbob Orange Belt

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    I don't have any training in ninjutsu so you'll have to take what I say with a rather large grain of salt. I do however have a strong interest in the subject and have read books by Hatsumi and Tanemura, several history books relating to the subject, and I have watched many videos online. Oh and I've been lurking around here for a little over a year or so now. Essentially the conclusion I've come to is that yes Ninjutsu was and is an effective form of combat. However, I would never want to learn it from a modern day instructor, especially here in the states. The quality of the instructors out there seems to be almost universally bad. Even high ranking and highly respected instructors look like they wouldn't do well in a real confrontation. Sometimes I'll see someone who can perform the techniques fairly well and even do some very clean looking taijutsu but I still have to call into question if they could ever really use it when it counted. When I watch people practice the techniques it just comes across as scripted and most of the time it looks like uke just gives it to them. The randori videos I find are mostly embarrassing. Like I said I haven't trained in ninjutsu so I can't know for sure but there just has to be a level of reality lacking in today's training for things to be this way. I really feel that if they trained differently and held higher standards of instruction we would see the quality of practitioners rise alongside the reputation of the art.
     
  7. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    If you would want to learn the original, unmodified forms, then you'd have to go with Genbukan or Jinenkan. I am in Genbukan, and we learn the techniques and forms as they were transmitted in the original arts.

    However, there are important differences between what was realistic then and what is realistic now.

    In feudal Japan, actual ninja -if they had to fight- would probably face armed and armoured opponents; Not unarmed unarmoured persons. This has several implications what those opponents would try to do to you. Another difference is that if it came to fighting, it didn't matter what you did or what anyone saw, as long as you managed to get out. Anyone being attacked and defending himself today would face a police inquiry where their actions would be judged on their lawfulness and force level. And there are more issues.

    So while the art itself is still as effective today as it was then, we live in a different time with different restrictions and different context. If you teach the art for modern scenarios, you pretty much have to take all those things into account to make it suitable for todays use.
     
  8. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    Thanks for your insight Bruno, I suppose what I am getting at is that while a Ninja in Feudal Japan would have faced some techniques unique to their place and time they would have also faced problems which remain constant today.

    A brawl in a Sake Den would still involve dealing with threats from unarmed unarmored semi-trained adversaries as it does today. The use of edged weapons be they pocket knives or broken pieces of pottery still remains essentially the same and as such the passage of time has left some threats intact. Also, getting caught by the local constabulary would have had repercussions just as it does today.

    I find the idea that a Feudal Ninja was capable of dealing with a highly trained expert in combat armed to the teeth but was incapable of fending off a random and essentially untrained but battle hardened street fighter in a sushi bar, unlikely.

    I find it equally unlikely that the Ninja of old had two completely different systems of fighting one of which was never passed on.

    As such I find it highly unlikely that any modern iteration of Ninjutsu incapable of holding its own against moderately trained enemies is an accurate representation of the same fighting systems employed by Ninja in Feudal Japan.

    While I can appreciate that many techniques, flavors and styles may be accurate renditions of techniques employed in the past, if they do not work then it is likely that the framework is incomplete.

    Since these are merely some observations which do not tell a story but rather raise a few questions, I ask "if we truly believe the Ninja of old were the force to be reckoned with we feel in our hearts they were, then why is it that it doesn't seem to work anymore? where have we gone wrong? what is missing?"
     
  9. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Right. There's a lot of problems with this entire post, as most of it's basis is frankly wrong. Let's take it apart, shall we?



    This is the single biggest misconception I have come across in old-style martial art training. While the "two arm, two legs" thing is fine, it's very much besides the point. You get closer in the next section, but then completely miss reality again after that.

    Street fights now are actually radically different to the way they were even 50 or so years ago, 450 years ago and in a completely different country, and it was even more the case. Oh, and the idea that the body shape hasn't changed is actually wrong as well, so you know, most of all when it comes to the Japanese (which is fairly relevant here).



    "Minor refinements"? Really? Wow, are you out of your depth here.... And, to clarify, the weapons used are not the only, or even greatest influence on different attack methods.



    For you to say things like "the Feudal Ninja... faced attacks... on the streets" shows a gigantic gap in what these arts teach, the historical reality of ninja/ninjutsu, and far more. You have a fair amount more research and study to do before you're even close to getting some understanding here.



    No, you wouldn't.

    Different cultures (and at different times in history) had different cultural preferences for combat and attack. A modern street assault simply does not resemble an old Japanese attack. There is a different preference with regard to grappling or striking, lead or rear hand as power-dominant, the types of weapons encountered, the clothing worn, the cultural and social stigma or expectations, and so on.

    In terms of "human bodies have not discernably changed", let's look at that. In European swordsmanship, such as fencing, one of the major aspects is the lunge. However, this is not a common attack or action in Japanese sword arts. Now, the lunge is a particularly powerful long range attack, so why is it not found in Japanese arts? Well, simply speaking, Japanese bodies tended towards much longer torsos, and shorter legs and arms, than their Western counterparts, and a lunge relies on the reach of your legs (primarily), as well as your arms. So it was not really a good attack for them.... because their bodies were discernably different.

    If we combine that with Japanese blade work being based around slicing and cutting, and more Western blade work being more reliant on thrusting actions, that culturally leads towards different attacking and fighting methods. And really, placing a martial art (designed with a battlefield in mind) and then trying to place it in a bar-room brawl situation is, once more, completely misunderstanding the very first thing about the context of the art itself, which once more makes your entire argument moot.



    Once again, you show a complete lack of understanding here. So let's clear a few things up for you.

    Ninjutsu (as an art/skill set) is a range of strategies, tactics, and methods based around espionage, scouting, sabotage, infiltration, and information gathering. It really has nothing to do with fighting on any level there. These skills would often be learnt by those regarded or classed as samurai (yes, ninja were samurai in far more cases than not), who trained as professional warriors, not as street brawlers. Their job was to go into battle, and they trained accordingly, not to "defend themselves in a bar". Ask yourself, is it "rather bizarre and ultimately a waste of learning how to fight" by joining the army? That's really the context you should look at the fighting aspect here.



    Who says? You're buying into the idea that all martial arts produce the same all-purpose skill set, which, in reality, is never the case. Every single art is geared up for a particular use, or environment/situation, not an across-the-board aspect. And forget the pulp fiction definitions, that one is way out as well. the term "samurai" could just as easily apply to a sandal bearer as a highly skilled general, and anywhere in between. There is no reality in your entire paragraph there, so you know.



    Well, there's a lot of fantasy, or imagined understanding in this post of yours, and very little reality, so take that as it is.



    Wow, I really don't know where to start with how completely off base that entire paragraph is.... Ninjutsu is an espionage skill set, not a fighting skill set (there were martial skill sets associated with the Ninja as well, or more accurately, the Bushi of the Iga and Koga regions, but that's a little different), and the associated fighting systems were (and are) highly effective in their context. But if that context changes, then the art needs to be adapted, so changing it for modern attacks (as well as modern legal systems, modern social conditioning and expectations, modern context, modern weaponry, and so on) is perfectly valid and what is required for it to be a modern self defence system. I've seen street brawlers and kung fu students get hammered just as easily as anyone else, and MMA fighters are far from immune from danger (a case of a fighter and his friend beign killed on the Mexican border comes sadly to mind). Again, it's all context, the MMA guy will be in his element in a ring, and yes those skills can translate quite nicely, but that doesn't make them unbeatable, or even the best at something like self defence.



    What has gone wrong? Nothing. You just don't seem to understand the realities of what you're discussing here. To recap:

    Yes, fighting and assault methods have changed quite drastically, and are radically different today in the West than in old Japan.

    Yes, human bodies have changed in ways that affect the combative preferences.

    You are not aware of what Ninjutsu is, in context.

    You are not aware of old-style Japanese martial arts, in context.

    You are not aware of the reasons things are done the way they are, in context.

    You have made consistently bad and false analogies here which have no place in any argument.

    Your initial question and belief is based on knowing, frankly, nothing about what you're asking about, and your belief is completely flawed from the outset.

    For the record, though, "realistic training" is not something that is always found in these arts, but it should be determined what realistic training actually is (it is very different in a modern or traditional context).

    If you're going to start your time here with something like this, please have the decency to have something to stand behind. Your profile lists your "primary art and ranking" as Ninjutsu, with no rank or experience listed, and your training states that you "once did a pushup". Then you sign this "Anonymous". Frankly, this combined with your way off base post gives you no credibility at all, and may have you labeled a troll very quickly. Perhaps you could visit the "Meet and Greet" section and clear this up?
     
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  10. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    Thank you for clearing that up.
     
  11. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Not a problem, let's keep it going then.

    To preface this, I'm going to suggest not making assumptions about situations you have no idea of. Let's see if I can demonstrate.

    Not as much as you might think... but really, you're covering over a thousand years of history here, how can you generalise so much about these aspects? We're not talking about a twenty year period.

    A brawl in a Sake Den? Really? Who do you think may have been involved? Samurai didn't really socialise with non-Samurai, so the attacks would still be of a particular type, not the same as would be found today. As far as being caught, a small fight today may result in a day or two in jail, in old Japan simply starting to draw your sword in the wrong place is an instant death sentence. Such things tend to change whether or not there was even a likelihood of such events.

    If you read Hagakure, there are a few accounts, and they almost universally are between samurai, and almost universally end in the deaths of everyone involved (typically ordered by the local lord, or the Shogun, depending on the story, if not in the fight itself). Encounters between "untrained" people, peasants, farmers etc, and warriors, such as samurai (who, as said, may have also been classed as ninja, depending on context) were more often the samurai killing the peasant for not bowing low enough... hardly someone likely to attack the warrior in a bar (even if the very rare occasion happened that they were in the same place at the same time, which was incredibly unlikely). Watch Seven Samurai... the way the villagers got the armour and weapons was by stripping it off dead warriors from battles, not by fighting samurai themselves.

    The "battle hardened street fighter in a sushi bar" simply didn't exist, though. And you are still not understanding what a ninja really was here.

    I really don't know where you're getting these ideas from, honestly. What?

    Everything is context. What type of modern enemies? And why would a fighting system from another time and place in history mean that it would be effective without alteration here and now? Context is everything.

    Oh boy, where to start here? First off, the traditional kata (techniques) are more realistically thought of as a series of strategic and tactical lessons, as well as philosophic ones, dressed up as combative methods. The skills from the techniques can be used quite effectively, but not simply cut-and-pasted into a fight. And in terms of the framework not being complete, what is missing is understanding on your part here, not any gap in the methods themselves.

    That is a very long answer.... honestly, the answer revolves around context. Both ancient and modern context needs to be understood, as well as the context of the art, and it's training methods. Frankly, what I feel is missing is understanding, from a great number of people in and out of the arts.

    But I will address one thing here, and it has a fair amount of influence on both your (and others) understanding and impression of ninja/ninjutsu, as well as part of why fighting methods are the way they are today, and that is the media (movies, TV, comics etc).

    For the first time in history, fighting is starting to look very much the same around the world. This is mainly due to the same type of images being used to represent "fighting" in the media (typically a karate/TKD style with possibly some weapons, and different costumes). Due to the prominence of boxing on TV (and live events etc), pretty much everyone these days is familiar with jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts etc.... that was not the case 100 years ago. Wrestling was more familiar in many places, due to travelling carnivals as so on. But these days, everyone knows what a jab looks like... as well as what a roundhouse or side kick looks like, a double leg takedown, and so on (thanks to the rise of MMA over the last 15 years or so). This has shaped the types of attacks you may face.... but that is not the same as meaning you'll face skilled attacks. That point needs to be made as well.

    Incidentally, have you ever seen old-style boxing? With the hands held out almost straight from the hips, palms facing up, and not guarding the head? Thats because boxing originally included a lot of grappling, and other nastier tactics, and that posture was a way to maintain distance so such things couldn't be used against you. These days that posture looks comical, but it was very common and common sense in it's context and day. When the grapping and other tactics were removed under the Marquise of Queensbury rules, the posture started to change to what we see now. And that was only really in the last 100 years or so.

    Your understanding here (asking such things as "if we believe the ninja of old were a force to be reckoned with...") seems to have come completely from these media images as well. That's normal, it's where we all start, but it's also not reality at all. Without understanding what a ninja really was, and what they may have expected to encounter, you really can't make any comments along these lines. This belief is yours, based on your exposure to less-than-authentic sources and images. First thing is to stop thinking what is in the movies is anything to do with the reality, then we can start getting somewhere.
     
  12. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    This answers my question perfectly, thank you.
     
  13. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    All us monkeys dance pretty much the same...always have. IMO our conception of how "ninja..samurai..knights...mongols...roman soldiers...etc, etc,etc" REALLY FOUGHT is all tainted by the media and our fantasies of how we like to think that we are learning the exact same stuff.
     
  14. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    I really don't know that I'd agree with that. To begin with, the idea of "all of us monkeys dance pretty much the same", well, to begin with the monkey dance isn't fighting.... kinda by definition there! Additionally, it being "all the same" these days is something that I addressed at the end of my last post.

    However the "always have" bit I have some trouble with. Even here in Australia, the way a fight would occur, and what may be expected in one, is quite different now than it was in the 40's and 50's (from conversations with men who were in their youth then, to clarify the source). So even within a single culture that doesn't apply. And when we deal with a culture from another place, as well as time, it is even less likely to be the same as encountered today.

    I do agree completely that our perceptions (at least initially) of how various groups engaged in fights comes from the media... however when dealing with Japanese arts, the concept of correct transmission from generation to generation does provide a clearer idea of what it was like, and the common attacks found in classical Japanese arts are not like those found in modern assaults. This is why "arts" that are modern creations trying to pass themselves off as old systems stand out so much, they are removed from the source of the contextual culture they are trying to emulate, so what they do makes no sense at all. The "bogus" Ninjutsu groups are classic cases in point.
     
  15. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think your off base there Bruno. Way off base! In the Genbukan and Jinenkan you are learning a line or lines or ryu that were passed on to Tanemura Sensei and Manaka Sensei via Hatsumi Sensei. (irregardless of whom Tanemura later went to train with) Manaka Sensei also verfies this in his book as he gives credit to Hatsumi Sensei! In the Bujinkan people have and are learning the origional unmodified forms as well as henka and variations off the origional kata. While quality in the Genbukan or Jinenkan is higher because they are small organizations in comparison you can find equal or even better quality in the Bujinkan if you know where to look! [​IMG]
     
  16. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    And thats where I find the large ASSUMPTION in all of this. And in the "authenticity" of most trad arts in general.

    You ever play the grade school game of whispering a message from student to student then comparing the original message with the end result?
     
  17. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    I here this arguement alot in the context of religion, but my same answer works here too. While I understand that through the very nature of mankind, some change and distortion of details are expected the main ideas that people consider important will be kept the same. If your way of life depends on the correct transmision of things and you deem it important you will make sure that the key components remain.
     
  18. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Hi Brian,
    my post was not a dig at Bujinkan, I was only pointing out that the way things are taught were different. We learn the techniques exactly as they are taught in the original ryuha. There is no adaptation. We learn what was taught originally. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Bujinkan teaches the same things, but in a different concept. You and many other Bujinkan people say that Bujinkan focuses on the concepts and principles of the arts, rather than the actual techniques. The bujinkan also seems to have much more freedom for individual teachers to add gun / disarm training and other things based on those principles, whereas we tend to stick to the curriculum.

    From that point of view, I think it would be fair to say that if you want to learn the techniques in their original format, Genbukan and Jinenkan, and any koryu which is taught separately like Takagi Yoshin ryu etc. would be a better fit than Bujinkan. Because from what I understood from you and many others, that type of training is unavailable to people in the Bujinkan outside perhaps a happy few in Japan.

    My remark was about the way of teaching, not quality or anything like that. I hope that clears it up.
     
  19. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    That is a fair point.
    However I would point out that that is why Menkyo Kaiden are given out very sparingly and only after many years of personal tuition: to make sure that the one whispering on the message fully understood it before he is allowed to pass it on to the next.
     
  20. Akatombo

    Akatombo White Belt

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    If we come back to the title of the post, the first step is, obviously, to define the meaning of the term ninjutsu. Do we all agree that ninjutsu is a military science? Do we agree that a military science is matter of common sense to consider that was developed by the military men? (with all the preventions and mutatis mutandis, of course)

    Hatsumi Sensei changed the name of his art long time ago. It´s truth that the explanation was not very clear; in fact I´m not sure there is an official explanation. But if we go to his books, we can see that all the 9 schools arrived to him in history through members of the samurai class (or descendants after Meiji). Togakure Daisuke was a samurai, was he not? and so Mizuta sensei, Toda sensei, Mizutani...., Ishitani,...If even the grandfather of Takamatsu sensei -Masamitsu Toda- was of samurai lineage...why some people insist nowadays in the idea of the "ninja" as a different thing of the samurai? Ninja, the "farmers fighting for justice comunist rebels" of the feudal Japan...ja! something the shinobi never was is a rebel against the militarized system which provided his job and proffessional status.

    For people like me, who studies a different school with shinobi no den in its curricula, its very easy to understand that the classic shinobi no mono was not other think but a samurai (servant). But in Takamatsu den schools, you have three schools which say that ninjutsu is a kind of individual fighting system. I think it´s the reason why we can not get a common point of view.

    But, please, I would not like anybody to be offended. To have different points of view is not at all a bad thing.

    So, to answer the question of the post, ninjutsu was a very effective art of strategy, military inteligence, assassination, sabotage,... and the shinobi no samurai used to study -besides-the most effective martial arts he could get access to.

    This is just the poor opinion of a student.123
     

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