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What Is “Ninjutsu” Martial Art? A Basic Overview of Ninjutsu

The martial art of Ninjutsu is masked in as much mystique and folklore as the Ninjas that are credited with practicing this ancient art. What is Ninjutsu? Is it still practiced today, and what form does this art take in the modern world?

Ninjutsu is the art of the Ninja, which incorporates skills to avoid detection, the use of specialized assassination weapons, and other close combat weapons and techniques that promote stealth. Modern Ninjutsu focuses on the combat techniques used by the Ninjas rather than the stealth techniques.

There is much controversy and dispute over the origins of Ninjutsu and the styles incorporated into this philosophy. We will present the facts about Ninjutsu, its history and origins, and some of the claims from various other fighting styles that claim to be the historical roots of Ninjutsu. You can then decide for yourself which aspects of this ancient practice you subscribe to.

History Of Ninjutsu

The history of Ninjutsu harks back to the ancient times of feudal Japan, where clans and warlords fought each other for dominance and territory in various regions of the country.

Espionage, assassinations, and covert activities became integral to these feuds, and the various clans’ agents were sent out to gather information, cause disruption, or assassinate prominent leaders in rival clans.

These skills were not part of the standard martial art styles taught at the time, so special training in the art or covert operations, stealth, and tactics often considered magical were needed to train warriors in these skills.

Consequently, Ninjutsu incorporated teaching fighting skills to a warrior and the stealth tactics required in these espionage-style tactics needed at this time in Japan’s history.

The styles used as the combat techniques in Ninjutsu varied from clan to clan, but the most common thought is that Jujutsu formed the foundation of the fighting techniques in Ninjutsu.

Did Ninjas learn Ninjutsu? Ninjas, or Shinobi, learned Ninjutsu with the various stealth tactics added to their standard combat training, commonly thought to be Jujutsu or variations of this style.

Thus, the combat training part of Ninja training depended on the fighting style typically practiced by their clan. Ninjas were often viewed with disdain because they operated in the shadows and attacked without facing their opponents face to face, which was considered dishonorable.

Ninjutsu is also referred to as Ninpo in some circles, and some training schools use the Ninpo naming in their versions of Ninjutsu.

Ninjas did not invent martial arts.
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Is Ninjutsu A Real Martial Art?

The modern form of Ninjutsu is considered a martial art, but it takes various forms, depending on the school or ryu teaching the style.

In its original form, Ninjutsu was not considered a martial art because the clandestine techniques taught to Ninjas were not applicable on the battlefield but rather in the realm of espionage, infiltration, and assassinations.

The modern take on Ninjutsu omits the clandestine techniques and focuses on the underlying base fighting techniques but with adaptations unique to each school.

Ninjutsu is derived from a variety of styles, including Jujutsu, Taijutsu, Kenjutsu, and others, which means that Ninjutsu is not traditionally a style in itself.

Ninjutsu is not formalized or centralized with a governing association to bring uniformity or organization to the style, which leaves it open to interpretation by the school teaching the techniques.

Many of the techniques taught as part of Ninjutsu are survivalist techniques, using any method at hand to avoid confrontation, quickly stop an attack and escape rather than stand and fight.

As a result, many martial arts purists do not consider Ninjutsu a martial art in the true sense of the word.

What Is the Modern Ninjutsu Fighting Style?

The Ninjutsu style you see nowadays is not a historic fighting style but a modern take on what people considered to be the style used by the ancient Ninjas.

Modern Ninjutsu teaches a wide range of fighting techniques, including ground fighting, grappling, submission holds, locks, punches, kicks, strikes, and using various weapons.

The essence of the Ninjutsu philosophy is to strike fast and escape rather than stand and fight and risk capture or death.

Modern Ninjutsu teaches a wide range of techniques, mostly based on Jujutsu techniques, but also incorporates the use of and defense against various weapons. 

Modern version of Ninjutsu

Does Traditional Ninjutsu Still Exist?

Ninjutsu in its original form no longer exists and is not taught in any modern dojo. The techniques offered in dojos called “Ninjutsu” are interpretations of the fighting skills that the ancient ninjas may have used.

Thus, you can learn Ninjutsu, but it will be the modern version which excludes the stealth, magic, and occultic practices often used by the historic Ninjas.

Modern Ninjutsu focuses on teaching effective self-defense techniques that can quickly get you out of a sticky situation and create a chance for you to escape. Modern Nunjutsu goes by various names, usually covered by the broad term of Bujinkan.

Can Ninjutsu Work in a Street Fight?

As with most martial arts, the effectiveness of Ninjutsu in a streetfight will depend on the effectiveness and realism of your training.

Most Ninjutsu techniques are based on Jujutsu, which is an effective martial art, but the effectiveness on the street depends on your proficiency in the techniques and your adaptability when things don’t go as planned.

Ninjutsu differs from Jujutsu in that it teaches more offensive techniques that can be used to quickly put an attacker out of action, allowing a quick escape.

What Weapons Does Ninjutsu Use?

Weapons used by original ninjas would have included a range of typical battle weapons and some more unusual weapons specific to their need for stealth.

Weapons such as the blowgun, which used poison darts to take out opponents from the shadows, the bow and arrow, axes, clubs, and even fireworks or explosives are ancient tools of the Ninja that do not have much relevance in modern Ninjutsu.

Today’s Ninjutsu does, however, teach sword skills with a wide range of blades, from the katana to the tanto. Other weapons include the Bo or Jo, which is a wooden staff, the Yari or spear, shuriken or Ninja throwing stars, and various chained weapons.

The types of weapons included in the curriculum at a Ninjutsu dojo will depend on the weapons adopted as suitable by the training program.

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The Difference Between Ninja and Samurai

The ninja specialized in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and assassination as they worked covertly to accomplish their missions. On the other hand, samurai were highly skilled fighters who followed a strict code of honor and combat when engaging in a face-to-face battle.

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Are There Ninjutsu Schools?

There are several schools or dojos where you can learn Ninjutsu, with many of the schools subscribing to the Bijunkan version of Ninjutsu.

These schools teach the practical self-defense techniques of Ninjutsu and leave out the clandestine espionage-oriented aspects or dark arts of the Ninja. 

Bujinkan USA is one such chapter, based in Tuscon, Arizona in the USA. There are various chapters of Bujinkan across the USA that teach Ninjutsu skills and techniques to all ages of students, from tots to old-timers!

Other Ninjutsu schools teach other expressions of Ninjutsu, borrowing a variety of techniques from other martial arts to create an effective self-defense system.


The ancient Ninja arts of Ninjutsu are not considered a martial art of their own because most Ninja skills were techniques for espionage, ambush from the shadows, avoiding detection, and quick strikes intended to kill. These were special skills taught to Ninjas for their missions in addition to the fighting skills they already possessed.

Modern Ninjutsu focuses on the combat and self-defense skills used by Ninjas and omits the clandestine techniques and skills utilized by these ancient special forces of the Japanese Feudal Wars.