ninja

As Heichichiro Okuse says, it was cunning and deception that gave the ninja the edge over their enemies. These traits were emphasized and sharpened during ninjutsu training. The ninja raised espionage to a highly developed art centuries before such training was given to cloak-and-dagger agents in Western countries. There were three main categories of ninjutsu training for espionage: toiri-no-jutsu, or the tactics of sneaking into an enemy's camp; chikairi-no-jutsu, or infiltrating enemy lines after the outbreak of hostilities; and ongyo-jutsu, or the ruses of escape.

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Did the ninja use throwing stars?

The sharp-pointed throwing star was a secret weapon in many samurai schools, but such devices did not become linked to the ninja until the 20th century thanks to comic books and anime. Furthermore, in all the shinobi documents left behind, only one "ninja throwing star" is mentioned, and even then it's in reference to shinobi working in peacetime to apprehend criminals [Cummins].

However, that hasn't stopped filmmakers from having their ninja hurl stars — with deadly results. In reality, unless a star struck a vital spot or was coated with poison, it would not have killed. The weapon's principal use was to distract, slow and injure the enemy.

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In modern culture, the ninja are often portrayed as coldblooded assassins, men and occasionally women garbed in black and armed with samurai swords and throwing stars, agents who appear out of nowhere in the shadows of the night to dispatch their victims without mercy.

They're said to possess magical powers, including invisibility and the ability to walk on water. They're depicted as the owners of physical skills that could give Olympic athletes a run for their money. Once in a while, you even hear a fantastical statement like, "Only a ninja can kill another ninja."

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