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The 18 skills of the Togakure Ryu Ninja
The Togakure ryu, established approximately eight hundred years ago, is now in its thirty-fourth generation. The ryu exists today as an organization dedicated to teaching effective methods of self-protection and promoting the self-development and awareness of its members. Due to the stabilized nature of contemporary Japanese government and judicial systems, the Togakure ninja ryu no longer involves itself directly in combat or espionage work. Pervious to the unificiation of Japan during the 16th century, however, it was necessary for the Togakure ninja to operate out of south central . At the height of the historical ninja period, the clan's ninja operatives were trained in eighteen fundamental areas of expertise, beginning with this "psychic purity" and progressing through a vast range of physical and mental skills. The eighteen levels of training were as follows:
Seishin Teki Kyoyo (Spiritual Refinement)
The Togakure ninja worked at developing a deep and accurate knowledge of himself, his personal power, his strengths and weaknesses, and his influence on the playing out of life. The ninja had to be very clear about his intentions, his commitments, and his personal motivations in life. Personality traits could often mean the difference between life and death in his line of work. Exercises in mental endurance, ways of looking at things, and proper perspective when evlatuating things, were taught to the ninja along with his physical skills. By evolving into a mystic's understanding of the universal process, the historical Togakure ryu ninja became a warrior philosopher. His engagements in combat were then motivated by love or reverance, and not by the mere thrill of violent danger or need of money.
Tai Jutsu (Unarmed Combat)
Skills of daken-taijutsu or striking, kicking, and blocking; jutai-jutsu or grappling, choking and escaping the holds of others, and taihenjutsu or silent movement, rolling, leaping, and tumbling asisted the Togakure ninja in life-threatening, defensive situations.
Ninja Ken (Ninja Sword)
The ninja's sword hada short straight single edged blade, and was considered to be his primary fighting tool. Two distinct sword skills were required of the ninja. "Fast Draw" techniques centered around drawing the sword and cutting as a simultaneous action. "Fencing" skills used the drawn sword in technique clashes with armed attackers.
Bo-Jutsu (Stick and Staff Fighting)
The Japanese stick fighting art, practiced by samurai and peasants alike, was also a strong skill of the ninja. Togakure ninja were taught to use the bo long staff (six feet) and hanbo "half-staff" cane (three feet), as well as sticks and clubs of varying lengths. Specially constructed shinobi-zue or ninja canes were designed to look like the normal walking sticks, but concealed blades, chains, or darts that could be used against an enemy.
Shuriken-Jutsu (Throwing Blades)
Throwing blades were carried in concealed pockets and used as harassing weapons. The Togakure ryu used a special four-pointed throwing star called a senban shuriken, which was constructed from a thin steel plate. The blade was thrown with a flat spinning motion and hit its target with a sawing effect. Bo shuriken or straight shaft darts and spikes were also constructed for throwing.
Togakure ryu ninja agents were taught to use standard Japanese spears and lances as middle-range fighting weapons. Spears and lances were used for stabbing and piercing attacks, and rarely ever thrown in normal combat. The togakure ryu also used a unique spear weapon called a kami-yari, or "sickle lance", which consisted of a spear blade with a hook at the base. The total length of the weapon was over nine feet. The lance point could be used to lunge and stab, and the hook point could be used to snag and pull the opponent or his weapon.
Naginata-Jutsu (Halberd Fighting)
Virtually a short blade mounted on a long handle, the Japanese halberd was used for cutting and slashing attacks against adversaries at medium range. Togakure ryu ninja warriors were also proficient with the bisen-to, a huge heavy-bladed version of the naginata halberd. Based on a chinese war tool, the broad-bladed weapon was heavy enough to knock down attackers, smash through armor, and ground the horses of mounted samurai.
Kusari-Gama (Chain and Sickle Weapon)
The Japanese chain and sickle weapon was adopted into the arsenal of the Togakure ryu ninja. A chain, six to nine feet in length and weighted at one end, was attached to the handle of the traditional grain cutting tool. The chain could be used to block or ensnare the enemy's weapon, and the blade then used to finish off the attacker. The kyoketsu-shoge, a weapon similar to the chain and sickle, was favored by the togakure ryu. The weapon consisted of a straight hand-held dagger blade with a secondary blade hooking out from the hilt, attached to a fifteen foot resilient cord usually made from women's or horse's hair. A large steel ring was attached to the free end of the cord.
Kayaku-Jutsu (Fire and Explosives)
Ninja were experts in the effective placement, timing, and rigging of explosive devices for demolition and distraction. In later years, the use of black powders and other explosives was suplimented with knowledge of firearms and their strategic applications.
Henso-Jutsu (Disguise and Impersonation)
Essential to the ninja's espeionage work was his ability to assume false identites and move undetected through his area of operation. More than merely just putting on a costume, ninjutsu's disguise system involved thoroughly impersonating the character adopted. Personality traits, areas of knowledge, and body dynamics of the identity assumed were ingrained into the nijna's way of thinking and reacting. He or she literally became the new personality, whether taking the role of a monk, craftsman, or wandering entertainer.
Shinobi-Iri (Stealth and Entering Methods)
The ninja's techniques of silent movement, breaking and entering, and gaining access to inaccessible areas became legends in feudal Japan . Togakure ryu ninja learned special walking and running methods for covering long distances, passing over floors silently, and for staying in the shadows while moving, in order to facilitate entry and escape.
Togakure ryu ninja were taught to be proficient on horseback, both in riding and mounted combat skills.
Sui-Ren (Water Training)
Stealth swimming, silent movement through water, methods of using special boats and floats to cross over water, and underwater combat techniques were taught to Togakure ryu ninja.
Unconventional tactics of deception and battle, political plots, and advantageous timing for use of current events were used by Togakure ryu ninja. By employing or influencing seemingly outside forces to bring the enemy around to doing what the ninja wanted him to do, ninja were able to work their will without drawing undue attention to themselves.
Cho Ho (Espionage)
Methods of successful espionage were perfected. This included ways of locating and recruiting spies and served as a guide for using espionage agents most effectively.
Inton-Jutsu (Escape and Concealment)
Ninja were experienced masters in the ways of using nature to cover their exit, allowing them to "dissapear" at will. The goton-po five elements of escape were based on a working familiarity with the creative use of earth, water, fire, metal, and wood aspects of nature and the environment.
Forecasting and taking advantage of weather and seasonal phenomena was an important part of any battle consideration. Ninja were trained to observe all the subtle signals from the environment in order to predict weather conditions.
Knowing and successfully using the features of the terrain were crucial skills in the historical art of ninjutsu.