Weapons and Clothing of Bujinkan

Traditional Clothing

The Shinobi shozoku is a type of dark-coloured keikogi clothing, traditionally worn by practitioners of theJapanese martial art of ninjutsu. There is no evidence that historical ninja limited themselves to all-black suits, dark red and dark blue were actually more common and visually better for hiding in the night. During the fall ninjas were said to wear green and yellow to match the bamboo that often grew. Historically ninja spies and assassins were far more likely to be disguised as samuraiShinto or Buddhist monks, or peasants to avoid raising suspicion or capture.

The stereotypical outfit is made up of split-toed tabi boots (“jika-tabi”) and socks; special trousers with double-ties which fasten at the ankles, knees and waist; a jacket with overlapping lapels which is tucked into the trousers; protective arm-and-hand sleeves; and either a scarf that serves as a mask and hood, or a separate hood and mask. The outfit is made of strong, dark-colored fabric, usually black cotton, fitted loosely to allow freedom of movement. The jacket usually contains an interior shuriken pocket.

Ninja boots (jika-tabi), like much of the rest of Japanese footwear from the time, have a split-toe design that improves gripping and wall/rope climbing. They are soft enough to be virtually silent.

The actual head covering suggested by sōke Masaaki Hatsumi (in his book The Way of the Ninja: Secret Techniques) utilizes what is referred to as Sanjaku-tenugui, (three-foot cloths). It involves the tying of two three-foot cloths around the head in such a way as to make the mask flexible in configuration but securely bound. Some wear a long robe, most of the time dark blue (紺色) for stealth.

Training in a Dojo – What to wear

During training in a Bujinkan dojo, a practioner usually wears a black gi (keikogi), jika-tabi, an obi belt to indicate the wearer’s level of kyu or dan grade, and a black t-shirt under their gi. Due to the relaxed nature of the training it is common for people to only wear their gi pants, tabi, a black t-shirt and their belt.

Bujinkan training is a warrior class teaching that is highly adaptive to modern times. In the life-time of training for a Bujinkan student they will learn wearing everything from normal street wear to full Japanese Armour.

First class? Not sure what to wear? Read our beginners sections to find out more.

Weapons

In the Bujinkan we train with many weapons. This can be seen in the below picture of the inside of the Hombu Dojo, although there are more than what is pictured here. More photos of the Hombu dojo can be seen here.

A large variety of weapons are taught, such as sword (including daitowakizashi and tanto, bambooshinai, wooden bokkeniaitō a flexible aluminum replica sword that holds no edge, or swords made by soft modern materials are employed for safety such as padded bokken), staffs of various lengths (,hanbō), rope, kusari-fundo (weighted chain), kusarigama (sickle with chain), yari (spear), kamayari(spear with 2 rearward hooking blades), bisento (similar to the naginata), kyoketsu shoge (similar to akama except it has a dagger point and a rope of several feet attached to an iron ring), jutte (shaped like asai with just a single prong, at a smaller distance from the shaft of the weapon) tessen (iron fan), naginata(Japanese halberd), kunai (a bladed digging tool), as well various form of shuriken including bo-shurikenand senban shuriken. Weapons are categorized into four primary classes – sticks, blades, flexibles, and projectiles.

Other tools

The assassination, espionage, and infiltration tasks of the ninja led to the development of specialized technology in concealable weapons and infiltration tools.

Ninja are said to have made use of weapons that could be easily concealed or disguised as common tools, the bo and handclaws (shukoneko-te tekagi) probably being the most famous, except for the shuriken(throwing stars), which have more recently been popularized by comic books and mail order advertisements. Kunai (originally a gardening tool) was also a popular weapon according to some accounts, as they could be hidden easily or carried if the ninja was disguised as a gardener. It was the equivalent of a utility knife, often used to pry or cut rather than fight.

The makibishi (tetsu-bishi), a type ofcaltrop made of iron spikes, is also famous. It could be thrown on the ground to injure a pursuer’s feet or thrown out on an enemy’s escape path so that the targets could be cut down or shot down with bows and arrows while they looked for another escape route, but it could also be covered with poison so the victim would die slowly.


In popular culture, ninja also used special short swords called ninja-ken (or ninja-tō see below for explanation), or “shinobigatana” (Note the avoidance of the term ‘ninja’, but inclusion of the term shinobi, a synonym). Ninja-ken are shorter than a katana but longer than a wakizashi. The ninja-to was often more of a utilitarian tool than a weapon, not having the complex heat treatment of a usual weapon. Another version of the ninja sword was the shikoro ken (saw sword). The shikoro ken was said to be used to gain entry into buildings, and could also have a double use by cutting (or slashing in this case) opponents.


While the nunchaku are often associated with ninja in the contemporary western imagination, historic ninja use of the weapon is unlikely on anachronistic grounds. However, most historians believe that ninja may have adapted a rice-threshing flail into a weapon for similar use.

One known tool used by ninja is irogome (literally, “colored rice”). Irogome was uncooked rice seeds colored in five or six different colors: red, black, white, yellow, blue, and sometimes brown. They would be placed on the ground or handed to a ninja from a ninja. Each combination carried certain meanings like “all clear” or “an enemy check point is ahead”. When cooked, irogome would become a delicious and colorful rice snack that could sustain a ninja on an extended mission; however, reports of special powers that could be gained by eating such a meal, such as increased speed or semi-transparency, were most likely the result of hallucinogenic mycotoxins sometimes found on the brown grains.

Sometimes ninjas are associated with the katana or long, curved sword which is usually associated with the samurai. Ninja were also said to use smoke bombs or flash bombs.

Handclaws and Shuriken

Specialized weapons and tactics

KamaKama
Ninja also employed a variety of weapons and tricks using gunpowder. Smoke bombs and firecrackers were widely used to aid an escape or create a diversion for an attack. They used timed fuses to delay explosions. Ōzutsu (cannons) they constructed could be used to launch fiery sparks as well as projectiles at a target. Small “bombs” called metsubushi (目潰し, “eye closers”) were filled with sand and sometimes metal dust. This sand would be carried in bamboo segments or in hollowed eggs and thrown at someone, the shell would crack, and the assailant would be blinded. Even land mines were constructed that used a mechanical fuse or a lit, oil-soaked string. Secrets of making desirable mixes of gunpowder were strictly guarded in many ninja clans.

ninjutsuninjutsuOther forms of trickery were said to be used for escaping and combat. Ashiaro are wooden pads attached to the ninja’s tabi (thick socks with a separate “toe” for bigger toe; used with sandals). The ashiaro would be carved to look like an animal’s paw, or a child’s foot, allowing the ninja to leave tracks that most likely would not be tracked.

Also a small ring worn on a ninja’s finger called a shobo would be used for hand-to-hand combat. Theshobo (or as known in many styles of ninjutsu, the shabo) would have a small notch of wood used to hit assailant’s pressure points for sharp pain, sometimes causing temporary paralysis.

suntetsu is very similar to a shobo. It could be a small oval shaped piece of wood affixed to the finger by a small strap. Thesuntetsu would be held against a finger (mostly middle) on the palm-side and when the hand that was thrust at an opponent, the longer piece of wood would be used to hit the pressure points.

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