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Sketch of ninja climbing a rope

Ninjas: Invisible Warriors


The art of disappearing into a crowd is more important than standing out, when the occasion calls for it.

Most people know the popular myth of the ninjas as portrayed by Hollywood films: men and women jumping from roof to roof in the darkest hours of the night, slitting throats with the utter precision of their assassin’s techniques. However, the reality behind these myths is significantly more interesting than what the Hollywood idealisation portrays.

The historical heyday of the ninja clans (meaning, practitioners of the martial art known as nijitsu, an art that includes combat and espionage techniques) took place in the seventeenth century, during the Tokugawa era in feudal Japan. This period, also known as the Edo, was the most active one for these clans.

Drawing of ninjas battling

The feudal lords of Japan, like their European counterparts, had at their disposal different combat resources: the shogun, for example, could direct armies with a substantial cavalry, efficient archers and an infantry line willing to do anything. However, as master Sun Tzu taught in his Art of War, we must not overlook the importance of information during times of conflict. And this is precisely where ninjas come into play.

The Ninja art is for the most part concerned with the ability of disappearing from everyone’s sight.

Noticeably, combat was not the ninjas’ quintessential skill. Within this art, the act of combat is merely a way to buy some time and to escape. The worst thing that could ever happen to a ninja was to be captured, since this would undoubtedly entail a long and brutal torture; in truly extreme cases, a ninja would rather turn to suicide than reveal his feudal lord’s secrets.

Watercolor of ninja in black

Nowadays, information is the most important source of power. In addition to their impeccable actions, a warrior wants to know the role he must play every moment and in every situation that he might encounter. Blending in with the crowd or perhaps disappearing into it, standing out and knowing when to conceal himself in the shadows: the ninja art is still alive and its analogy makes itself known, perhaps today more than ever, gliding with faultless agility over a sea of bits.

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