Monday, May 16, 2011

Ninja Weapons

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Ninja were known for their cunning and skillful use of various weapons. Many of these weapons were developed from farming tools, and others were based off of existing weapon technology of the time.

One of the most famous weapons of the ninja is the Ninjato (also known as the Ninjaken or Shinobigatana). Unlike the samurai who used katanas, the ninja did not have a lot of access to these weapons. During much of the time that ninjas were prevalent in Japan, katanas were very expensive and only samurai were allowed to own them. So it was much more practical for ninjas to develop their own swords which were the ninjato.

Ninjato Also Varied in Size and Length
On top of being easier to produce, the ninjato also had several other key differences from typical katanas. For one, the ninjato had a straight blade instead of a curved one like the katana. It was also known for having a square tsuba (hand guard) that was less common with katana that would serve as leverage for getting into high places or scaling walls. After the ninja used his sword for this, he would often pull the sword up on a string to retrieve it. Also, it is notable that ninjato were held with the blade facing outward with one hand, where as the katana was a two-handed weapon that was held in the direction of the enemy.

The ninjato was a great weapon for the ninja because it was shorter than the a katana making it easier to carry and easier to fight with in close quarters. It was also easier to draw out of its sheath and could even be thrown by the skilled ninja! Ninja were also believed to put poisonous dust in the sheath which would be unleashed as it was drawn or sharpen the ends of the sheath to make it possible to strike without having to even draw the blade.

There are some doubts as to whether the ninjato had existed, but not of the sources that I've seen that discredit the ninjato are very reliable.

The ninja also used a variety of projectiles including kunai and shuriken. The main difference between these two weapons is negligible, except that a kunai was often a short knife used mostly as either a projectile or a tool, and a shuriken was a round, square, triangular or star-shaped piece of metal that was made into a blade to be used as a projectile.

Shuriken and Kunai in Different
Shapes and Sizes

These weapons were very effective for surprise attacks and could be quickly hurled at enemies as a first strike or as a means to escape. However, unlike a lot of fiction would indicate, the kunai wasn't particularly a primary weapon used in combat, except for when unnoticed and attacking from a distance.

Ninja would also use poisonous darts to kill enemies from a distance which would have been a very effective way to kill an enemy without exposing the ninjas position or causing too much commotion. The yumi (longbow) was also used for this purpose (though most likely much harder to carry around).

Very Low-Profile Weapon
The Kusarigama
Another popular ninja weapon was the kusarigama (chain and sickle), which had a weight on one end of the chain and a sickle (known as a kama) on the other end of the chain. This weapon was very useful as well, as it could be used to strangle enemies, subdue the enemy's sword while still being able to kill him with the kama, scaling walls or climbing trees, used like a grappling hook, and was very useful for blending in with farm hands as well, a very low-profile weapon when used by a deadly ninja.

Ninjas also used smoke bombs after the introduction of gun powder, and blinding powder was also very common, kept in a small egg-like container that the ninja could crack open and hurl at an enemy's eyes, which is said to blind a man permanently.

Ninjas were also known to use climbing claws which could be fitted on the hands and feet to be used for scaling walls and trees but were also deadly weapons when necessary, either for blocking swords or for a very vicious attack.

Claws Were Used For Climbing
And For Combat
Though there are many other weapons used by ninjas, as I have stated before, a ninja's greatest weapon was not the blades and tools he carried on his back, but the cunning and stealthy espionage that they practiced. As it was more practical, ninjas often carried as few weapons with them as they thought they would need and would try to use their tools and weapons for as many purposes as they could find useful, as to not have to bring specialized tools to do the same job.

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What is a Ninja?

There is a lot of misconception about what a ninja is.

A ninja is a weapon. A ninja is a warrior.

First appearing in writing as early as 4th century according to some history, though it is hard to place the beginning of the ninja, and most scholars agree that they emerged around the 7th-10th century. According to most Asian historians, the ninja first developed in opposition to the elite samurai during the Heian Dynasty (794-1185).

By the 15th century, the role of the ninja was primarily hired mercenary or espionage. By this time, there was already boundless myths about ninjas, calling them demons and giving them mystical powers which were widely believed to be true, but in all reality, ninjas were very trained in silence and stealth and could easily hide or slip away quickly and unnoticed in a way that would lead others to believe they were magical.

Our story presupposes a modern Japanese society where ninjas have managed to survive and continue traditional methods of teaching and hired by clients and used as weapons and tools of espionage and mercenary. Taro is one such ninja, growing up in a civilization of ninjas long-thought to be extinct. But when Taro begins his first ninja mission, his whole world gets turned upside down.