The development of the Bujinkan (around half a million practitioners worldwide), has brought many good students, but also bad ones in our training halls. These individuals, not knowing history, believe in the ninja “super powers” as depicted in lowlevel American movies, Mangas, or comics. This is because of them, that our art has been badly judged for many years since the eighties. Now that the ninja boom is over, some true practitioners are appearing. But the spread of ninja myths and legends on the Internet is beginning to recreate the once gone “ninja dream”. It’s like believing that Santa Claus lives at the north pole! When I began training, the ninja boom was just beginning. I remember reading the few books available at the time. It seemed magic. I don’t recall believing in these fantastic stories I was reading, but it definitely kept me training.
Today the ninja boom is gone and the huge development of the Bujinkan worldwide has replaced the dream of the past by something less “sexy”, but definitely more interesting. The bujinkan as taught by our Sōke, Hatsumi Masaaki, is a deep, physical and philosophical system that abandoned the ninja dream, and let it vanish in the shadows. But is this ninja dream really gone?
Everyday on Facebook, I see more people spreading the same fantasies that were common in the eighties. The Internet is not helping the dreamers to step down. In fact, I sometimes have the feeling that the world is going back in time. This enthusiasm for ninja magic around our art, is hardly based on historical facts. The people of Iga and Koga (southern part of Iga) (1) were regular human beings. They were not calling themselves ninja! They were living in a remote mountainous area, outside of Japan’s main stream. They had developed a kind of “Republic”, with their own economic, religious, and political system inherited from the T’ang dynasty in China. Their language had not been influenced by neighboring communities. When Oda Nobunaga and his army, “offered” the Iga community to join his unification process, they refused categorically, fought the invaders, and kicked them out. Because Iga is a plateau surrounded by high mountains, it was pretty much isolated from the rest of Japan. The people didn’t need a real army, as technically they had no enemies. In Iga there were no samurai, only jizamurai (2). The jizamurai would go to fight only when necessity would arise. The trained armies of Nobunaga came back a few years later. This time, they were too strong for Iga. The Iga warriors adapted their fighting skills and developed guerilla warfare. The war lasted about 10 years and is remembered, by historians, as the “Iga no Ran”, the war of Iga (3). Close to be defeated, the families of Iga flew out of the region and spread all over the country, bringing with them their warfare knowledge.
Instead of becoming a “ninja”, please try to become a true human being. As Sensei said “ninpō is not made in Japan, it is made in human”.
Thank you to Patricio “El Pato” for his collaboration. No animals were injured during the photo shooting.