Ninja – also known as shinobi, was a class of warriors who usually originated from lower levels of society. They equaled to our-days spies and were in service of Japanese land lords (daymio) and samurai. Still, they were feared even by those who hired them for certain missions. Ninja were considered professional assassins and mercenaries.
Shinobi-no-mono, which was their original name, used to create secret schools or associations for trainings beginning with 15th century. Their fighting art was called ninjitsu. It offered extraordinary skills and physical powers to its practicer. They even were thought to possess extra natural skills such as flying.
Methods of Fighting
Ninja, actually were very crude warriors! They didn’t have a honor code or any kind of moral rules as samurai did. This made them extremely cruel – they could kill even women and children. This was one of the reasons they were not respected as noble warriors.
Their secret associations were very efficient in wars where they fought for samurai executing the most difficult missions. Many consider the fame of the samurai was due to the ninja spies who used their methods of fighting defeating the enemy from inside, in most of the wars.
Before creation of schools the art of ninja fighting was transmitted from father to son. Later it was inherited by best of the students from their masters (sensei). The first known ninja school was Nakagawa-ryu. It taught ninjitsu. A ninja was trained from a very young age and was taught much more things than a samurai.
A ninja was skilled at swords, spears, bows, throwing knives, tagaki (fist weapon), metallic claws for feet (for climbing or leg hits), etc. He should cope with explosive and poisonous substances and had to possess surviving knowledge. The variety of ninja weapons, attributes and knowledge was much wider than that of a samurai.
A ninja could leave any of his weapons at home, but never left his sword. It was the main weapon of a ninja. A Ninja sword was shorter and straighter than samurai’s katana. It was worn on the back by the left shoulder. Thus the sword was within an easy reach.
Ninja Wearing Apparel
Ninja are remembered to always wear black clothes. It basically made them invisible in the night assuring a perfect ground for their missions. On the battlefield they also put on a light armor, which was designed for protection and still made them move freely.
Their feet were covered by very light shoes which were made of cloth and had leather soles. The big toe was detached. These shoes were called tabi.
Ninja were one of the greatest secret of the Medieval Japan history. Even today there are schools that teach some of the ninja skills. They are more about discipline and physical development than about aggressiveness and lack of moral principles.