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Ninjutsu Training Myths: Does Ninjutsu Embody the Dark Side of Martial Arts?

Ninjutsu Training Myths: Does Ninjutsu Embody the Dark Side of Martial Arts?

Since authentic ninjutsu training was introduced to the Western world in the late 1970s, many false notions and erroneous impressions have grown up around the legendary shadow warriors known as the ninja. Many of these misconceptions have roots in fact but have developed as falsehoods over the centuries of secrecy that have surrounded the art. Many of the incorrect ideas have grown out of a lack of discrimination between truth and falsehood on the part of moviemakers and book publishers. Also, some of the negative myths are the direct work of those outside the tradition who believed they had reason to fear the authentic ninja legacy.


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The Complete Ninja Collection by Stephen K. Hayes ninjutsu training, ninjutsu history and ninjutsu philosophy book cover.

Ninjutsu Training Myth or Fact? — Ninjutsu is the dark side of the martial arts … the clandestine practice of stealth, intelligence gathering and assassination.

The art of ninjutsu was born of a unique set of cultural, political, religious and economic forces that played themselves out a thousand years ago in Japanese history. History’s authentic ninja were a counterculture society forced into existence by the shifting fortunes of feudal Japanese political and military conflicts.

Contrary to common misconception, the ninja were not unsophisticated and superstitious low-class peasants. The ninja were the descendents of powerful noble warriors who, through the inevitable workings of fate, happened to be allied in support of powerful warlords who ultimately did not succeed in the collection of battles that made up the war for supremacy.

With the defeat of their side’s cause, these noble warriors were forced into lives of exile, dwelling in the mountains stretched of wilderness to the south of the Heian-Kyo (new Kyoto) capital. These original ancestors of the ninja were barred forever from the professions of state administration, trade, military command and public service to which at one time they had successfully devoted their energies.


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As exiles concerned with the rugged demands of survival in a harsh natural environment and a deadly political climate, the ninja families of south-central Japan were forced to alter their tactics and strategies to better suit their precarious status.

In truth, no one wanted to be a ninja; such status was a burden inflicted by fate. The ninja were the “underdogs,” the oppressed hounded by a well-financed and mechanically ruthless government intent on stamping out any and all possible threats to its supremacy and control. Thus, subtle and shadowed means grew to take the place of the bold and forceful ways used by those people holding power.

Because the ninja families’ numbers were so much smaller than those of the ruling powers that worked to eradicate them, intelligence gathering became a vastly more important task than troop drilling. With the very survival of the family at stake, the ninja warriors of Iga were required to devise a whole new approach to warfare, and the motivation behind that approach has been misunderstood for centuries.


About the Author:
Ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1985. He has achieved the rare rank of judan (10th-degree black belt) and was formally ordained in 1991 as a teacher in the 1,200-year-old Japanese esoteric meditation tradition. In 2013, his acclaimed and best-selling series of six Ninja books is being released as a revised and expanded omnibus titled The Complete Ninja Collection by Stephen K. Hayes.


For an in-depth look at the art of ninjutsu, check out our ninjutsu books, DVDs and video downloads!

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10 Responses

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  1. Kent says

    Just wanted to respond to show respect for Hayes Sensei and all his work in this field of study. In this public forum and widely read archives of the Martial Arts community it would be nice to see people who challenge such information to post on here at blackbeltmag.com rather than posturing for a “buy my book” campaign from controversy they try to create.

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  2. Larry says

    The entire Martial Arts community owes much to Hayes Sensei and all of his works. He continues in his seemingly tireless effort to pass on all the knowledge he has gained by mastering his art. Even though I came to Ninjutsu after studying other arts it was Hayes Sensei’s books that allowed me to initially adapt my “traditional” art for combat. His works awoke a drive in me to search for information and history of my other arts and learn the secrets of the still effective combat systems locked within them that had been watered down. Thank you Anshu.

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  3. Jeff says

    All one has to do is train five minutes with An-Shu Hayes, Hatsumi-Soke, or any of the senior instructors, and it is painfully apparent that what they teach is the real thing.

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  4. KWood says

    Anyone can deliver a message. For me, the evidence is in (or is not in) the messenger himself.

    Stephen Hayes brought the message of Ninjutsu back in the 1980′s, and from that time his message has never changed. It is also a message that is manifest, 100% in his personal and professional life. Read his books and look at his life, and you will learn a great deal about Ninjutsu. His very life is both the experiment and the result of an interaction between him and his teacher, Hatsumi Masaaki, founder of the Bujinkan dojo in Japan.

    Without issuing challenges themselves, both Hayes and Hatsumi have been challenged many times, in ways far more harsh than a flurry of words on a message board. Can you honestly picture yourself with the courage and self-confidence needed to face the martial arts world of the 1980′s and say, “Hello. I’m Stephen Hayes and I’m here to teach you about Ninjutsu!” Not me.

    The Ninjutsu these men demonstrate has been scrutinized meticulously by legions of very talented, intelligent and critical martial artists. If you go to Japan and train at the hombu dojo you will meet them and see first hand the respect these people have for what they are learning. In dojos around the world you can meet them and they will speak honestly and with great pride of what they have found and experienced.

    There will always be hot-headed youngsters looking for a quick way to make a name for themselves. The young man purporting to know better than Mr. Hayes and his teacher delivers many messages, seemingly (to him at least) of great ‘game changing’ import, but what does he have to show for himself?

    Very little, that I can see, that has anything to do with what I have come to know as Ninjutsu. Very little at all, to tell you the truth.

    Deepest thanks to my teacher, friends, Stephen and Rumiko Hayes and Hatsumi Soke for letting me be a small part of this wonderful adventure!

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  5. billy says

    stephien k hayes i love his video and i do study ninjutsu first degree blackbelt i read ninja magzine in 80 and do understand some of myth was little incerect but the art is still big part my life and some right light on ninjutsu is coming out now but we need more of the ligh light of it still !

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  6. billy says

    stephine k hayes i dont if read your post i still study make your dvd and togakure ryu amd your to shin do i am going try send money to your school i know might watch my youtube channle but also like say your good man and like study with you face to face if you have me

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  7. billy says

    ninja do exist if you studyig ninjutsu or practiser you are ninja you might not have high rank…

    shinobi in all walk of life stevphin k hayes study with hatsumi in the 80s point i am make is i study ninjutsu my self and it good practies i belaevie ninja or shinobi is not Myths
    we got better understand by these word ichigun ichimi

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  8. billy says

    authentic ninjutsu might have lost notes but all have look ninjutsu is the past but shinobi now days beleavie some the scroll not hole and not compleated but that all soki might fake i learn ninjutsu in this way what is writen cant be undone we learn past it and be modlen but still keep authentic ninjutsu a live..

    i do training in togakure ryu ninjutsu an ninpo as authentic ninjutsu part of the training and new thing i might not have all anwsure faith is strong and some Myths can be fact and some cant!

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Kissaki Karate, Ninja Mythology, and Footwork linked to this post on June 30, 2011

    [...] leading ninja, Stephen K Hayes, dispels the notion that the ninjutsu were merely the dark side of Japanese martial arts in Black Belt magazine’s online edition. The popular notion that the ninja were peasants who [...]

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  2. Ninja Camp Offers Students a Chance to Train in the Ancient Art of Japan's Shadow Warrior :: Gaia Gallery linked to this post on October 11, 2011

    [...] for those looking to make sense out of the chaos of life, and to achieve the success they deserve.Sunbury, PA (PRWEB) September 15, 2011 Do Ninja really exist? I mean, aren't they just characters in…nd, to prove it, he's holding his annual Fall Ninja Camp, just as he has done for the past decade [...]

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