The Warrior Creed
Wherever I am,
need has a friend.
Whenever I return home,
Everyone is happy I am there.
Traditionally, Ninja learned to
use many different weapons. Many types of swords, spears, staves, throwing
stars, and other equipment were practiced; however, not many weapons
were learned by children. In the early stages of training, children
focused on non-weapon techniques to
learn the basics of Ninjutsu.
In children's ninjutsu classes today, only two weapons are used - the
shuriken and the staff. Let's take a look at these weapons and how they
are used in today's training.
A staff can be any wooden weapon
ranging from 3 - 6 feet in length. In class, the focus of staff training
is learning how to avoid being struck by a staff, rather than learning
how to fight with a staff. Ninja children learn to jump, duck, and roll
away from a staff strike. Being able to avoid a hit from a staff is
much more important than being able to use one. You will most likely
never have a staff with you when having to defend yourself, so rather
than learning to fight with a staff, Ninja learn to defend against one.
The staves used in today's class are made of soft rubber, so it doesn't
hurt if you accidentally get hit.
First and foremost, shuriken are
dangerous! Even though the shuriken used in training are made of soft
rubber, children still wear protective eyeglasses to prevent being hit
in the eyes. Do not do any shuriken training without the
supervision of a qualified Bujinkan Ninjutsu instructor!
Similar to the staff training, children learn to avoid shuriken more
than learning how to throw them. In one game used in class, instructors
throw rubber shuriken at children while they use ninjutsu techniques
such as tobi (jumping techniques) and yoko aruki (sideways
walking) to avoid being hit. Remember, the children are
always wearing protective eyeglasses when training with shuriken. And
every time you get hit with a shuriken, you have to do pushups. What
better way to make sure you don't get hit!
In another game, targets are set up 10 - 15 feet away. Two teams throw
rubber shuriken and try to hit their target. The team with the least
amount of shuriken hitting the target has to do pushups. Learning to
throw shuriken helps to teach hand/eye coordination, but like any weapon,
should only be used when under the supervision of an instructor.
Of all the weapons and equipment
used by the Ninja, they consider the sword to be the most valuable and
important. Ninja sword techniques were very unfamiliar to the samurai,
who relied on a strict code of ethics for fighting with a sword.
According to Ninja GrandMaster Masaaki Hatsumi, Ninja swords are shorter
than the swords used by samurai. The reason for this was that a larger
sword was often too big or heavy, making it difficult for the Ninja
to run quickly or hide in small places. In addition, Ninja swords most
often did not have a straight blade, contrary to popular belief.
Although some Ninja swords have straight blades, most are curved, similar
to the samurai sword.
The saya (sword scabbard), which held the Ninja sword, is often
longer than the sword itself. This allowed the Ninja to hide secret
documents or carry distraction powder. Some times the saya also served
as a breathing tube, for when Ninja had to swim underwater for long
periods of time.
Do you see how important the sword is to the Ninja? Its not just
a weapon; its a survival tool as well.
Children learning sword techniques train using a bokken (wooden
sword). First they learn the basic sword kamae, as well as the basic
blocks and strikes. This familiarizes them with how a sword feels when
being used, and to think of the sword as an extension of their body.
As they get older, they learn to use the sword against other weapons,
such as the bo and jo.
Shuko are most commonly known
as the "climbing claws" used by the Ninja to climb trees and
scale walls. Shuko are metal bands with 4 curved spikes on one side,
which fit over your hands.
Not only did the Ninja use shuko to climb, but they also used shuko
as a weapon against sword attacks. Shuko are extremely dangerous,
and like any weapon, should only be used when under the supervision
of a qualified instructor.