Stephen K. Hayes, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and author of six ninja books, offers his take on the public's perception of ninjutsu vs. the history of its origins.

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.


To uncover the truth behind the legends, pre-order The Complete Ninja Collection by Stephen K. Hayes.

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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To Master the Supreme Philosophy of Enshin Karate, Look to Musashi's Book of Five Rings for Guidance!

In the martial arts, we voluntarily subject ourselves to conflict in a training environment so we can transcend conflict in the real world. After all, we wouldn't knowingly train in a style that makes us weaker or worsens our position. The irony of all this is that we don't want to fight our opponent. We prefer to work with what an opponent gives us to turn the tide in our favor, to resolve the situation effectively and efficiently.The Japanese have a word for this: sabaki. It means to work with energy efficiently. When we train with the sabaki mindset, we receive our opponent's attack, almost as a gift. Doing so requires less physical effort and frees up our mental operating system so it can determine the most efficient solution to the conflict.In this essay, I will present a brief history of sabaki, as well as break down the sabaki method using Miyamoto Musashi's five elements

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The October/November 2020 issue of Black Belt includes a feature titled "The Sai: A Classical Approach to Wielding a Classical Weapon." The author Chris Thomas graciously prepared this video to illustrate the points he makes in the article about this misunderstood kobudo weapon.

Sai jutsu: Classical Application for a Classical Weapon youtu.be

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