Demystifying the Ninja on Unsolved History - Discovery Channel 6/2/04

 

This program seeks to explain the history of the ninja via historical records, and interviews with a historian, a modern day black belt ninja master, a navy seal instructor, a police veteran/security expert and a scientist/espionage expert. The ninjas were basically a secret society of mercenaries hired for espionage. There is not much evidence of ninja assassinations. Their roots are from the province of  Iga-Ueno , in the mountains of central Japan. It is the only place with a museum of Ninjutsu.

Ninjas disappeared about 140 years ago. Although there are scant records, they found a man who claims his great-grandfather was a ninja. In the family records he found a contract with a warlord, supporting the belief that ninjas were an organized secret society who were employed for secret missions. The actual mission was not mentioned in the contract..

It is believed that ninjas originated from Buddhist monks from China in the 14th century. The myth - a disillusioned samurai warrior met a mystic priest in the mountains of Iga-Ueno . The samurai was taught a new form of combat using the body and spirit.

Many feudal states hired ninja to spy during the chaos of civil war in the late 1400s. They rose to prominence and as their reputation grew, so did the myths.

Myth of invisibility - Ninja homes had concealed trapdoors, false floorboards, and secret passages. If attacked by enemies, they would seem to disappear into thin air.

Stealth walking - Ability to move silently on any surface was demonstrated by the modern day real ninja guy Stephen Hayes (looks like an old hippie). He is able to walk on a wood floor without creaking while wearing shoes. He says to relax, shift all weight on left foot, move right out, smoothly, pause, breathe, reach out left foot, etc.

Samurai - ninja's main enemies, they served the warlords as highly trained soldiers.

The aspects of ninjutsu (stealth and deception) is contrary to the honorable Samurai behavior.

Samurai vs. ninja myth - ninjas can defeat Samurais even when out numbered. The

ninja's odd movements, weird weapons, and the psychological fear of the ninja's powers, including use of poison, gave ninjas the advantage in battle.

Ninjas climbing walls - Stephen Hayes (ninja guy) shows climbing claws called Shuko which look like iron bands that fits over the palms of the hand with curved spikes. The spikes can wedge into the castle wall for climbing and be used as hand to hand weapons, and can even catch a sword between your palms with them. He then does a demonstration on how to disarm a sword with the claws.

Ninja weapons - Ninjas used special simple handheld weapons based on agriculture tools like the sickle. They also used a chain with a ball weight on one end which can strike out quickly and hit the enemy between the eyes. These unconventional weapons were more maneuverable in tight quarters vs. the samurai's long sword. They also do a sword demonstration where the ninja guy pulls his sword out and keeps the blade flat so it's harder to determine its length. Two guys attack the ninja and he shows how to attack low, jump and swing body weight around.to take out the second attacker.

Women were also trained in ninja arts while samurai were only men. Interview with Stephen Hayes's wife, also a modern day ninja - she says she can tell the type of attack just by the body position. She is so in tune with body movements and postures it's like reading minds by paying close attention to the senses.

400 years ago ninjas were a powerful force. They could assassinate a general in the castle. Many shoguns dreaded ninjas and tried to destroy them. Then shogun Tokagawa (1600s) offered them jobs as his personal bodyguards. They disguised themselves as gardeners using pruning shears as deadly weapons. With his vast ninja spy network, Tokagawa was able to brig peace and civil order to Japan. Then around 1868, entered the modern age and samurai were trained in the way of the West. Ninjas no longer operated, but their techniques are still used today by Special Ops, Navy Seals, SAS, etc.

Test Mission - They use a villa to represent the shogun's palace. A safehouse is on top floor and the security expert/LAPD veteran and his partner guard the target. Can an intruder penetrate the safehouse, get pass the guards, and kill the target. 5 rooms are wired with ten remote cameras, guards are told no outsiders allowed, not even the camera crew. They are armed with lasers. If attacker or defender gets hit with the laser, they're out of the game. The guards can't move furniture or make a barricade. They are told there will be a number of different attacks in any form over a period of 10 hours. The guards prepare for the gunfight in the bathroom. The guards are asked trivia questions so they have to move around the house to find the answers. They can't just stay in one place. The point is to simulate the daily routine of a bodyguard for months and years on the job.

The Navy Seals use camouflage ninja techniques to trick the eye and break up a person's silhouette. A sniper surveys the house and determines the position of the target using a high power riflescope. The team of 5 is dressed in dark color outfits, and a mask. It takes them 20 seconds to attack and take out the guards. But the guards only have handguns and the seals have automatics! Seals used the element of surprise and overwhelming fire power.

Ninja guy says the ninja would use deception/disguises and he is disguised as a camerman, no weapons at all. He has a can of air he uses to spray camera lenses but he is sent away by the guards. He comes back with a female assistant with food and drinks but rejected again. Guards are now very wary after the first attack. After three hours, the guards are getting bored. Ninja guy pretends to be slightly bungling and frustrated, and asks to spray the cameras. Guards are now calmer but still suspicions as they move to answer more trivial questing. Ninja guy helps with the trivia questions to win their trust. Finally, he is allowed to spray the camera near where the target is hiding, but there is a guard right in the doorway. He pretends to be upset about something, distracts the guard, then knocks him over and pushes the hat off the target (means he got him). It took 4 hours for the ninja guy. Demonstrates how ninjas would operate with no weapons right in the middle of danger.

Reading minds myth (clairvoyance) - CIA spent 6 years and $50 million on remote viewing research during the Cold war to locate Russian nuclear weapons and other military assets. They compare remote viewers to ninjas - on the same day as the mission, 9 miles away in a hotel conference room, remote viewers try to pinpoint the location of the target in the safehouse. They are only shown a drawing of the outline of building. After 3 hours they stop the session. 10 of 11 indicate correctly the top floor, 5 of 11 indicate within 15 yards of the target, while one was spot on. They also indicated the target was male, with dark facial hair. They show sketches of particular features of the safehouse (arches, pillars, crisscross grates on the windows, entryway, tile pattern, ceilings, staircase, etc.) Ninja guy says most well known successful remote viewers do the same thing as taught in old ninja methods. Historian says it's all myth and propaganda.

Ending: Greatest warrior did not use brawn but cunning.

Links:

real ninja - I found this one with photos of the ninja village and Stephen Hayes.

Other:

Checkout the book Across the Nightingale Floor   which describes wooden floors purposely created to creak to prevent assassins.