As with all myths and legends those who write history also shape our view, which we are happy to do here with the story of the Ninja/ninjitsu.
In the late tenth century, and early 11th century intellectuals and Tang generals fled China during the turmoil created by the violent civil war occuring there.
They brought with them the teachings of Sun Tzu and the Art of War (as well as medicines and other philospohies, many originating in India), methods for fighting considered ignoble by the Japanese lordly elite – the Samurai (warrior knights) who followed the Bushido code.
Most ordinary ninja were not from the nobility. They were villagers and farmers, who learned to fight by any means necessary for their own self-preservation.
It seems likely that the ninja slowly evolved as an opposing force to their upper-class contemporaries, the samurai, in early feudal Japan.
Modern misconceptions have identified ninjutsu as a form of combat art, but historically, ninjutsu largely covered espionage and survival skills, combined with forms of self defence available to the poorest in society (such as karate which means open hand and is a weaponless martial art).
It is interesting to note that many of the Ninja were women, this was a way of life practiced by all.
For a century or more, the blend of Chinese and native tactics that would become ninjutsu developed as a counter-culture, without rules.
As this counter culture deveoped, though, the nobility attacked the Ninja, eventually driving them into the mountains of central Japan.
The most famous ninja strongholds were the Iga and Koga provinces, networks of villagers where parents tought their children the skills of the Ninja, practising martial arts and blending them with survival skills, ability to run long distances, use of fire and water, fortification and strategy, and concealment.
For several hundred years the Ninja survived in their provinces as well as in other areas of Japan, until a unifying Monarch recognised them as the largest threat to his reign and defeated the Ninja in open warfare. However, the Ninja and their skills lived on to this day….