Ninpo… “the way” of the Ninja

Articol de: Cristian Laiber, Raiden Dojo, Bucuresti – RO

There is a wide discussion over Ninpo, Ninjutsu and Ninja, and most of the times, there are confusions between these terms. It is true that all these words have common roots, and this is the “NIN” fragment, translated depending of the context in various ways, such as secret, hidden, occult perseverance, resistant, the ability of bypassing your own limits, and several others. The “NIN” Kanji (忍), sometimes read as “Shinobi”, evolved through times from an attribute, an honorifically title granted for some secret elite agents, into a total synonym of these true “shadow warriors”.

The term Ninja refers to the people practicing this discipline, but it doesn’t refer to the art itself. The art, the technique itself, was frequently called Ninjutsu (忍術), or Shinobi Bujutsu (忍び術) in older times, meaning “the secret art of fighting”.

Ninjutsu is the pure martial technique, in the form applicable by any Ninja in his mission, mostly Genin, the operating agents, the main heroes of all the legends with Samurai and Ninjas. Instead, some of the Ninja experts bypassed the physical fighting aspects and bypassed this level, and here is where a very important notion needs to be considered: Ninpo, the interior philosophy of the Ninja discipline, a new level of spiritual evolution.

Ninpo is more than a simple philosophy, because it is not limited by being “a new way of life”, expression that already became a pattern among the modern martial arts. Ninpo is a way of expressing ourselves, in the very true way that we are, and this is why the result is different from one person to other. The Ninpo spirit cannot be transmitted by writings; it can only be learned from a true master. Each student will understand this in a personal manner, and will transmit it further apparently modified, but the spiritual essences are in fact the same.

There are many Masters teaching Ninpo, but, no matter of the appearances, the essence needs to be the same. The “PO” element is not similar with the well known “DO” – the way from many modern martial arts (Karate-Do, Ju-Do, Aiki-Do, and Iai-Do). The Grandmaster Tanemura, Soke of Genbukan Ninpo, the first assistant of Hatsumi Sensei, said that the “PO” is like the water circuit in nature. If “JUTSU” is the technique of climbing the mountain and “DO” s are the various ways of reaching the point, then “PO” signifies the cloud over the mountain, which is practically immaterial. In Ninpo there is no end, the end is only the reason for a new beginning. Hatsumi Sensei, Soke of Bujinkan Ninpo said that “Ninpo is the essence of all the martial arts and military strategies, and even more”. He said that Ninpo is an immense force, but needs to be correctly used because, otherwise, it can turn back against the one who is using it, in the same way as the electrical energy can produce so many good things, but also dangerous accidents. “The true Ninpo is the movement of the flowers carried away by the winds. It needs to be recognition of love, of humans, of respect and peace ideals”

Shidoshi WATANABE Kondo was saying: “Powerfully seek everything that gives at least a bit of reality to the existence; Ninpo is a way of discovering the essence of life and death, and life is nothing but the shadow of death”. “Do not look for where it starts and where it ends Ninpo, because these are nowhere but in your imagination full of Tengus, and even if you may find an end, it is nothing but a reason for a new beginning!” was saying Ryumoto Seiji Sensei, one of the first disciples of Takamatsu Toshitsugu Sensei .

So many apparently different ways of expressing about Ninpo that all this Masters have, though they all emphasize the same truth. Ninpo stays as the only form through the tradition of the famous Ninja warriors is transmitted, from one generation to the others. Despite the history unfavorable turns, many of the Ninja Ryu-s survived (after all, it is one of the fundamental features of this art). Nowadays, practicing Ninjutsu as it was done in the past is practically impossible, and here is just a simple reason: The Naginata fighting was a necessity in the medieval Japan because of the weapon efficacy. Nowadays, learning the Naginata techniques bring no immediate use for self defense, for example. But the problem is more subtle, and goes beyond the technical plan toward the art dimensions: learning the techniques suppose a new level in martial arts practitioner, with a new manner of using the body, new distance (ma-ai) and, of course, new changes in movements energetic.

This is how the simple technique evolves into the interior and personalized assimilation of the spirit and the philosophy of the martial arts. A paradox is that this personalization itself, obviously subjective, can be an enormous obstacle in many cases, and this is the moment when the practitioner needs to be honest with himself, and to discern between the way it is and he want to become through this art. Only then, the “PO” starts the reveal, and, as known, a master can only show the way to his student, but “walking the way” is student’s full responsibility.

Ninpo, the way of the Ninja warrior, isn’t more difficult or easier than any other martial art; it needs to be approached by those feeling it close the heart, and without a true and sincere motivation, the Ninpo way will only be a waist of time.