History of Ninjukai
Style One - Ninjukai | Style Two - Ninjutsu

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  It is by no means easy to trace the historical background of the Ninjas, for they did not suddenly appear like the knights of feudal England. It was certainly not a revolution that created the Ninja, but rather an evolution. The Ninja came into existence over a period of hundreds of years, as a natural consequence of the political, religious, and cultural state of affairs that existed in Japan during that period of time. The Chinese ideogram of the word Ninja consists of two separate words:

Nin
Nin - harmony and balance

Ja
Ja - in essence, 'one who practices'


  There are two styles of the Ninja Art being taught today: Ninjukai & Ninjutsu. The two styles base their art on different 'golden ages' of Ninja history. Ninjukai looks to the 8th - 12th Century as the period where the Ninjas most truly live up to the meaning of Ninja as practitioners of harmony - the true naturalists. Ninjutsu on the other hand, looks towards the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603 - 1867) as the Ninja Renaissance, or Golden era of the Ninjas

Style One - Ninjukai
Ninjas Sparring  There are two important factors that need to be understood in the evolution of the Ninjas. The first is that the land surface was extremely mountainous, where nearly 600 mountains top 6000 feet. So, communications were a problem in early Japan. The second factor was the constant political and cultural turbulence that occurred from the 6th century onwards.

  For example, religious turmoil arose when Sino-Buddhism came to Japan in the 6th Century and found itself in direct conflict with the native religion of Shintoism. The two religions fought for the emperor's attention. Monasteries even raised their own armies, called "yamabushi" or warrior-monks, to face challenges from other non-religious factions. The 8th Century onwards saw the rise of powerful landowners and their supporters, called the 'Samurai'. The Imperial Court was dominated by the powerful Fujiwara family; two samurai clans, the Taira and Minamoto became very strong and fought for imperial favours. Their rivalry culminated in the Genpei Wars of 1180.

  To summarise, between the 8th - 12th Century, Japan was in a state of hostility, and there was a constant struggle for power, where everyone seemed to be fighting everyone. The Buddhists were fighting the Shintoists; the monasteries, with their yamabushis, were in turn fighting the samurais over land rights; the Samurais, under various feudal lords, were also fighting among themselves. The Imperial Court itself saw a constant struggle for power.

  A group of people who practiced the Tao, or Zen (before it was integrated into Buddhism), retreated to the mountains where they could live their lives in accord with nature. Nature was their teacher: everything stemmed from nature and therefore one could not attain a state of balance and harmony unless one was in accord with the environment. The mountain region became the environment for the practitioners of the NIN. The fighting style of the Nin-ja was therefore a style that flowed from one's natural movements. Like nature, it has no 'method', for a method is of no use unless it can blend with the situation. An understanding of the environment is therefore even more important than an understanding of the technique itself! Through the study of the Tao, the Ninjas seemed able to allow everything to develop naturally, from a deep understanding of the human body and healing methods (kuatsu) to fighting techniques and spiritual development. Through meditation and contemplation the Ninjas were able to achieve what the warring factions living in the plains below were not able to: a state of harmony and balance. But it must be remembered that most of those living in the plains were not very impressed with what the Ninjas living in the hills were doing. They regarded these "mountain freaks" as a threat to their way of life and system of beliefs. The Ninjas were therefore outlawed during this time.
Ninjas sparring at dusk

  In 1924 Jushin Oshima established the school that came to be known as Ninjukai Taijutsu. He wanted his school to study as closely as possible the way of the Ninjas as practiced in the 8th - 12th Century. Jushin Oshima was a naval captain in the Japanese Imperial Army, and it was his devotion and research that ensured the survival of the art in its present form. Oshima coined the word 'Ninjukai', which alludes to the broader world, or path, of the classical Ninja warrior, full of spiritual and martial values. With the close of the War in Asia in 1945, Ninjukai Taijutsu found itself based in Malaysia, where it had earlier been adopted by the occupying Imperial Forces. This was a blessing, as the art was sheltered from the social conditioning and cultural sterilization that was occurring in Japan under American occupation. All martial styles in Japan succumbed to this American influence (as can be seen by the introduction of katas and competitions in martial arts). In this respect, Ninjukai Taijutsu was left untouched. This is where a retired Imperial Sergeant, Major Akito Yashida (an 8th Dan Grandmaster), took over and trained, and in 1977 passed the Grandmastership to his student, John Ang (now 6th Dan). In 1987, Shihan John Ang moved to Perth and established the Australian headquarters for the Art of Ninjukai Taijutsu, the first dojo for this art to exist outside of Japan and South East Asia.

Style Two - Ninjutsu
Ninja in the camo uniform  Although there are many schools of this style, basically they look mainly to the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603 - 1867) as the 'golden age' of the Ninjas. This era gave rise to a different Ninja warrior. During this period of time, the Ninjas ceased being outlaws and were instead looked upon by society as hired fighters or mercenaries. This was a period of relative peace in Japan. The rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate brought peace and civil order, which cut the demand for the Samurais ever to fight. A historian of the time wrote that the Samurais during this period became "excessively fat round the waistline and it is doubtful whether most of them possessed even basic sword skills". The Ninjas came in to fill this vacuum. They were highly paid by the feudal lords who employed them - and they can be regarded as "professionals" in every sense of the word. They were much sought after for their services as paid assassins, hired killers, bodyguards, intelligence agents or spies.

  This period saw the Ninjas no longer as 'mountain people'. Slowly the Tao & nature lost its significance, and money was of more importance to this new generation. Each clan was dedicated to the study of a specific skill or tradition (or ryu, as they termed it), which characterised its particular brand of espionage or killing methods. Modern Ninjutsu schools seem to glorify this period of Ninja history. Some American Ninjutsu schools have even added guns as Ninja weapons: an American magazine has shown Ninjas receiving training in the use of M-16 assault rifles!

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