A brief History of Ninjutsu

Buddhist Temples came under attack during periods of religious and political upheaval. The art of the ninja ( ninjutsu ) was developed as the clans defended their temples.

For more than a thousand years countless ninja clans existed in the mountains. They had a great variety of techniques and motivations.

In 1581 Nobunaga attacked the ninja clans in Iga with overwhelming numbers. The clans were nearly wiped out, man, woman and child.

A few clans took Tokugawa shogunate jobs and taught some of the skills to some agencies. The remaining clans continued to train in secret. Some, possibly because of opportunity only trained in taijutsu ( the unarmed form ).

In the early 1900s / late 1800s the attitude about the teaching of martial arts relaxed. The art of jujutsu was developed from taijutsu ( systemized in 1532. Some claim that jujutsu is taijutsu, but their paths have diverged ). Judo was developed as a sport from jujutsu in 1882 and similarly aikido from jujutsu in 1927.

These sports were more readily accepted and so became known first.

It wasn't until the 1980s that ninjutsu was openly taught and spread around the world.

A Chronology:

Records regarding the history of the ninja go back as far as 2300 BC

In south central Japan a small collection of clans dedicated themselves to seeking enlightenment. The central teaching coming from T'ang China and the Tantric lore of Tibet.

c600BC Ninja helped restore peace to Yamato province for Emperor Jimmu ( the first emperor ), as well as helping to suppress the Ainu.

In Iga and Koga ninjutsu was refined and perfected by over seventy families, each with their own methods and ideals.

Priests counselled the emperor and troops were dispatched to eliminate these clans.

562+ The Mononobe and Nakatomi succeeded in spreading hostility against Buddhism when, following the arrival of a Buddhist statue, disease spread among the Japanese. The epidemic was spoken of as a sign of the anger of the Shinto gods. The Soga temple at the palace was burned down.

593 Religious and political upheaval.

594 Shotoku converts Suiko to Buddhism. Buddhism becomes the state religion and is called upon to protect the Japanese nation.

622 Prince Regent Shotoku died, a struggled developed over whether Buddhism or Shintoism should be the state religion.

637 En no Gyoja ( a worrier monk ) established the mountain dojo of the Togakure shungenja practitioners.

805 Tendai introduced to Japan by Saicho

900+ The now militarized aristocracy began to take over in the provinces.

1024 to 1074 perfection of ninjutsu

Daisuke Togakure established the foundations of Togakure ryu.

1181 to 1184 Heike troops invaded the Joshinetsu Plateau.

Heike rules Japan.

13th to 17th centuries countless ninja clans operated with varied sophistication and motives.

1331 - 1335 Ninja raised an army in support of the Court of Yoshino. They joined the armies of Nawa, Kusunoki & Kitabatake.

c1450 to c1615 Age of the Country at War.

1487 -1488 Ninja disrupted the Ashikaga Army.

1504 Ninja joined the army of Sekita.

1542 the first firearms land in Japan on the island of Tanegashima, with shipwrecked Portuguese.

1561 shinobi-no-mono of Iga helped Nagamasa capture Futo castle.

1562 Men from Koga shu ( supplied by Tomo Sukesada ) helped Tokugawa Ieyasu capture Kaminojo castle.

1579 to 1581 Iga Rebellion.

1579 Nobunaga sent a huge army of samurai to attack Iga, his son Katsuyori in charge. They were defeated.

1581 Nobunaga led a force against Iga from six directions, employing a scorched earth policy, with assistance from Fuckuchi Iyo and Mimisu Iyajiro of Koga. They outnumbered the defenders by more than 10 to 1. Men, women and children were slaughtered.

1582 Oda Nobunaga's army attacked Momochi Sandayu in the battle of Tensho Iga. Nobunaga was murdered later that day.

Ieyasu Tokugawa, Nobunaga's successor, came to an agreement with Hanzo Hattori, a ninja leader of Iga. 200 men from Iga commanded by Hattori and 100 men from Koga were taken into Ieyasu's service.

The remaining clans took their art underground.

1585 Ieyasu took 16 sohei ( warrior Buddhist monks ) into his service. These Negoro-gumi were particularly skilled with firearms. He recruited 9 more in 1586.

1603 Ieyasu Tokugawa became Shogun. Iga ninja guarded the innermost parts of Edo castle and Koga ninja guarded the great outer gate.

1614 Ieyasu Tokugawa laid siege to Toyotomi Hideyori's Osaka fortress. Iga ninja commanded by Hattori Masanari and Koga ninja commanded by Yamaoka Kagetsuge as well as sharpshooters from Suruga were among the besiegers.

1637 Christianity banned. Foreigners ban from entering Japan and Japanese from leaving.

1638 Shimabara Rebellion, christians and farmers rose up against Matsukura. Koga ninja were part of Tokugawa's siege of Hara castle.

Hanzo Hattori's ninja became a secret force and spies for the shogunate. Over the next two centuries these clans become little more than gardeners and security guards.

1853 Tokugawa ninja Yasusuke Sawamura boarded Commodore Perry's ship and searched for information to reveal the commodore's intent.

1854-1859 Iga ninja assisted the Royalists Army and operated against the Tokugawa bodyguard.

1863 some ninja joined the Tenchugumi, who failed to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate.

1886 ninja fought with Royalists against loyalists of the Tokugawa shogunate.


Ninjutsu, History and Tradition by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi 1981

The Grandmaster's Book of Ninja Training by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi 1988

Essence of Ninjutsu, The Nine Traditions by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi 1988

The Way of the Ninja Secret Techniques by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi 2004

Japanese Sword Fighting, Secrets of the Samurai by Dr Masaaki Hatsumi 2005

Ninja, Spirit of the Shadow Warrior by Stephen K Hayes 1980

Ninja, Warriorways of Enlightenment by Stephen K Hayes 1981

The Ninja and their Secret Fighting Art by Stephen K Hayes 1981

Ninja, Warrior Paths of Togakure by Stephen K Hayes 1983

Ninja by Stephen Turnbull 1992

Martial Arts by Peter Lewis 1987

Japan, Buddhism and Warlords, to the Kamakura http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h07japan.htm


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