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Vic20
31st October 2005, 05:27
I have been reading in the older threads that the idea of the ninja as an oppressed anti-samurai guerrilla force is a myth. That they were not assassins and spies. In fact it seems to be said over and over.

So what was the real role of this class of people in fuedal Japan?

Baio
31st October 2005, 05:35
ninja were spies http://www.ninpo.org/ninpohistory/ninpohistory.html

Gary Arthur
31st October 2005, 07:13
I have been reading in the older threads that the idea of the ninja as an oppressed anti-samurai guerrilla force is a myth.

To try to put this in some context, and this really is a personal opinion. But my belief is that the Ninja started off as samurai. Now I don't mean like we think of samurai today, as most of our understanding of the samurai comes after the 16th century or later. By what I mean is that the people who later became what we call the ninja, (which of course is a fairly modern term) were nobles. They were the rulers, advisors, generals etc. These people were defeated, and in those days if you lost a war, you could not just give up, say sorry and go home. You and your family would be put to death and your castles and lands confiscated. So the ninja began as defeated people needing to survive in harsh times (They were hunted down) and in a harsh environment (The Iga mountains).


That they were not assassins and spies.

Before we can answer this question we have to understand what we mean by assassin and spy.

Lets take spying first. It made good sense if you were trying to stay alive to know what your enemy was doing. Now we do need to be thinking about breaking into castles at this time, as this may be just intelligence gathering. The enemy however who wrote the history books viewed it as spying. Spying is also a loosely defined word. After all even in the UK we have had people looking at military aircraft. they have not broken into an airbase but they are just amateur enthusiast that have been arrested for spying.

If we turn now to assassination we find once again its a matter of perspective. If I killed Adolf Hitler in 1930 I would be a murderer. If I killed him in 1942 I would be a hero. To the Germman people I would be an assassin. If someone was trying to kill me and I defended myself which in the old days might mean killing my enemy, to his friends I would be an assassin.

I was also once told that the word assassion has changed somewhat. Today we think as an assassin as a cold blooded killer, but originally it meant someone you could not win against. This person went on to say "If you have ver experienced Hatsumi Sensei's technique you know you have been assassinated" In other words there is no way to win.


So what was the real role of this class of people in fuedal Japan?

The role of the ninja changed over time. From repressed peoples, to spies (yes they were latter used for actually sying on the enemy) to becoming the first police force.

And this is one of the wonderful things about Ninjutsu, and that is that with 1000 years of historyt and tradition there really is no easy answer.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

niten ninja
31st October 2005, 09:12
Wait people, who are we talking about? "ninja" or members of the Togakure Ryu? I don't think we are that qualified to talk about "ninja" as a whole, but we can talk about what the people from the Togakure ryu did. The reason for this view is that people often talk about "ninja" in very vague terms. Well anyway, Daisuke Togakure was a samurai and I've yet to see a record of a non-samurai ninja. I think ninja is more of a job title among samurai than a class of people. That link appears to agree. It also makes a lot of sense, you modify your tactics to the area your forces work in. The anti-samurai stuff is probably just that the Iga samurai were more independant from the central government than usual.

heretic888
31st October 2005, 22:19
So the ninja began as defeated people needing to survive in harsh times (They were hunted down) and in a harsh environment (The Iga mountains).

Gary,

I don't know where exactly you're getting your information from, but from roughly 1350 to 1580 CE, Iga Province was a self-governed independent ikki. This was precisely the period of time in which the 'ninja' are generally thought to have taken active roles in Japan's military history.

Laterz.

Gary Arthur
1st November 2005, 10:15
I don't know where exactly you're getting your information from, but from roughly 1350 to 1580 CE, Iga Province was a self-governed independent ikki.

Yes I know that, but i'm talking about the origins of the art, hense why I said began. So we are maybe taling the 1000-1100s. By the 1350s the role of the ninja had indeed changed.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

Ghost Cat
1st November 2005, 10:25
To try to put this in some context, and this really is a personal opinion. But my belief is that the Ninja started off as samurai. Now I don't mean like we think of samurai today, as most of our understanding of the samurai comes after the 16th century or later. By what I mean is that the people who later became what we call the ninja, (which of course is a fairly modern term) were nobles. They were the rulers, advisors, generals etc.

Instead of a long explination of what you thought they were and alnologies to things outside of Japan, how about you lay out the facts and sources that would back up your theory?

Me, I am with Heretic on this one. But if there is some sort of proof that we can view and see if it is in context or not my opinion is always subject to change.

heretic888
1st November 2005, 17:09
Yes I know that, but i'm talking about the origins of the art, hense why I said began. So we are maybe taling the 1000-1100s. By the 1350s the role of the ninja had indeed changed.

Gary,

If that's the case, then you're going to have to clarify what it is you mean by 'ninja' and 'ninjutsu' here. As Don pointed out on his Koga Ryu article (http://www.jigokudojo.com/koga.htm), we don't really have any historical examples of Iga/Koga 'ninja' activity prior to Ashikaga Yoshihisa's invasion of Omi Province in the 1480's.

In an excerpt from Ninja/Ninpo Gaho (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mza/UM_articles_content.html#8), Hatsumi stated that ninjutsu was born after the Kamakura Period. In the same excerpt, Hatsumi also states that the defeated soldiers (ochimusha) in question became jisamurai, not peasants.

I'm in agreement with Don. Where exactly are you getting your information from here??

Laterz.

Gary Arthur
2nd November 2005, 07:34
what it is you mean by 'ninja' and 'ninjutsu' here

Here we go again. All I tried to do was answer the guys question. Yes history buffs we all know its much more complicated than that, and being history its not always fact.

I have put my opinions on other posts, in this and other forums. This is my personel opinion. Lets leave it there.

My advice is that if you want to give your opinions to Vic 20 as he is the one that asked the question then please do so.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

niten ninja
2nd November 2005, 08:40
Ok, ninja are people who wear black all the time and sneak around stabbing people with straight swords, Ashida Kim is the Grand ninja of the world, this is just my opinion and it being, Yes history buffs we all know its much more complicated than that, and being history its not always fact. Just beacause my history is wrong doesn't mean you should question it. Anyway...

"So what was the real role of this class of people in fuedal Japan?"

I doubt there was a seperate class of people, probably just samurai.

saru1968
2nd November 2005, 12:31
Here we go again. All I tried to do was answer the guys question. Yes history buffs we all know its much more complicated than that, and being history its not always fact.

I have put my opinions on other posts, in this and other forums. This is my personel opinion. Lets leave it there.

My advice is that if you want to give your opinions to Vic 20 as he is the one that asked the question then please do so.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk


OWNed

:-)

heretic888
2nd November 2005, 20:58
Here we go again. All I tried to do was answer the guys question. Yes history buffs we all know its much more complicated than that, and being history its not always fact.

Gary, that is why it is important to separate fact from opinion --- particularly in regards to a subject as convoluted as ninjutsu history.

The problem here is that you're making just-so statements about history, yet refuse to cite the sources of your information. Furthermore, when questioned on this, you make use of appeals to emotion and the intellectual equivalent of, "why's everybody always pickin' on me?!".

If you're not going to cite the references and sources for your historical information, then all we're left with is baseless speculation. Opinion or not, you can't expect anyone to take such claims with any modicum of seriousness.


I have put my opinions on other posts, in this and other forums. This is my personel opinion. Lets leave it there.

I'm afraid I'm gonna have to call you on this, Gary.

Where exactly have you put out your definition of ninja and ninjutsu? In the last thread like this, I directly asked you your definitions of these terms but all you did was back-step and lob a series of disorganized quotations from Hatsumi and Tanemura (often taken out of context), making vague allusions to what you believed their definitions were.

However, nowhere have I seen you give a clear-cut explanation as to what you mean when you refer to a historical personage as a 'ninja'. As such, your statements about these individuals has no clearly discernible context in mind and will mean very little to those interested in their history.

Laterz.

heretic888
2nd November 2005, 21:07
My advice is that if you want to give your opinions to Vic 20 as he is the one that asked the question then please do so.

Well, my perspective (as inaccurate or distorted as it may be) is that the first historical reference to refer to the people of Iga and Koga as shinobi no mono comes from an Ashikaga annal known as the Nochi Kagami:

"Concerning shinobi no mono, they are said to be from Iga and Koga and went freely into enemy castles secretly. They saw hidden things and were considered allies. Strategists call them kagimono hiki."

My understanding is that this text dates somewhere around the early 16th century. Any reference to 'ninja' activity before this time is, at best, dubious (such as posthumous legends claiming Minamoto no Yoshitsune or Kusunoki Masashige 'founded' their own ninjutsu ryuha). In the Ninja/Ninpo Gaho excerpt that I cited in my last post, Hatsumi even said that the ninjutsu he speaks of was not born until after the Kamakura Jidai. This period ended around 1330 CE (marking the beginning of the Muromachi Jidai), when the Ashikaga family began to rise to power.

A few decades thereafter (around 1350 or so), Iga Province officially declared itself an autonomous kingdom with the name of Iga Sokoku Ikki. Before this time, the bulk of Iga Province's territory was a shouen to the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Eiko Ikegami briefly discusses the nature of this ikki (comparing it to the famous ikki of Yamashiro Province) in his The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan:

"Given the complexity of late medieval class relations, it is not entirely surprising that the Warring States period witnessed the emergence of some powerful large ikki organizations that incorporated people from different social classes. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, these larger ikki organizations sometimes included both the ikki of kokujin lords (samurai in the full sense) and those of villagers (dogo and lesser farmers) when they tried to set limits to the warring provincial powers. The most famous example of this kind of comprehensive ikki is probably the ikki of Yamashiro Province. In December 1485, thirty-six kokujin lords of the Yamashiro Province and 'peasants of all the province' gathered for a meeting during which they attempted to drive out the troops of the two shugo daimyo, which had been battling over the region. The ikki demanded the immediate evacuation of all the shugo daimyo troops from the province, proclaiming the area to be self-governing. Although the leadership of the ikki was in the hands of the allied kokujin samurai lords, the so organizations of the villages throughout the province also palyed a critical role in sustaining it. Miura Hiroyuki once called the Yamashiro ikki 'the people's parliament of the Warring States period.' Despite its great reputation in Japanese history, the Yamashiro ikki was far from an isolated case. It is known, for example, that Iga Province in the mid-sixteenth century was governed by a federation of local so villages consisting of kokujin and dogo. The Iga federation was administered by ten magistrates, but important matters were discussed at meetings of the entire membership of the ikki."

There is another work that relates to this by Pierre Francois Souyri, entitled The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society:

"In the sixteenth century, other regional communes, although smaller in scope, managed to last for several decades. One example was Oyamato. In this small region in Ise Province, in the upper Kumozu River basin, the inhabitants signed two documents in 1494. The first, signed by 350 heads of peasant families in the villages, was a five-article constitution laying out principles concerning rural life, such as 'You must not rob from others their right to cultivate the land: you must not steal.' In the second document, written a month later, forty-six jizamurai of the Oyamato region formed a collective to ensure power in the region: 'If anyone acts badly, inside or outside Oyamato, he will be judged and sentenced.' The warriors' league seized administrative and judicial control, and its authority was based on the charter signed by the 350 peasants. The two social groups had formed a united front. Although the low-ranking warriors had their had their own system of cooperation, they had to respect the agreement with the peasants, without which the region's autonomy could be challenged, as it had been in the Yamashiro commune several years earlier. Oyamato, once an estate, now became an autonomous society, independent of outside hierarchical control, with a double structure: the assembly of the forty-six low-ranking warriors and the general peasant assembly. The two groups had a relationship of power and domination, but without either a suzerain or absolute power.

The regional commune in Iga Province seems to have been a sort of geographic extension of Oyamato's political political and social structure. Its twelve-article constitution was written around I560. The communities of the Iga River basin had been defending themselves since around the beginning of the sixteenth century. The neighboring region of Koga in Omi, similarly organized, had no fewer than 30 fortification works. In Iga, local power was exercised by the jizamurai, sixty-six of whom had taken vows. Entrenched in their small fortresses, they collectively administered the territory and made laws. Talks were usually held in a Buddhist temple, the Heirakuji, but the basis of the regional commune was a federation of village communes, which wrote a 'constitution.' The following are some excerpts:

'In keeping with the union sworn by the by the members of the league, any attempt by foreign troops to invade the province will be repelled. If an alert is signaled by the watchmen who are guarding the fortified passes, the inhabitants must sound the alarm in each village and immediately go on alert. In this case, food and arms must be contributed and the fortified positions along the routes defended without a loss of strength. Men between the ages of seventeen and fifty will be mobilized. If the campaign lasts a long time, the men will work in shifts. In each place, captains will be designated among the warriors, and the people of the communes must obey them. In the temples and monasteries in the region, the older monks will pray for the prosperity of the country while the younger monks will go to fight. The text of the vows, in which the vassals of the samurai in the communes swore to obey their master and follow him to the end, whatever the fate of the ikki, will be posted in all villages....

Those mobilized peasants --- who are particularly successful and able to seize an enemy position on the border will be will be rewarded with the status of samurai. Anyone who is persuaded to enter into secret relations with foreign armies and to help them penetrate the province will be arrested immediately by the league. The inheritance of the traitor in question will be confiscated, his name struck from the registers, and his property consigned to the temple. Revealing the communes' situation to the enemy is considered a similar crime, and the punishment will be the same as that as that for traitors: death with public exhibition of the head....

The affairs of Iga having been well settled, we now see fit to unite our forces with those of Koga. Therefore, common assemblies between the two parties will held outside at the border between the two countries. Thus is it decreed and signed.'

The main concerns of the leaders of the league of communes in Iga were defense and war. The province was at war with the Miyoshi and with small-scale lords in neighboring Yamato Province. In Iga, the fighting had been constant, it seems, since the late thirteenth century. In the Kuroda estate, for example, studied in detail by Ishimoda Sho, banditry was endemic, and Auto attacked the Todaiji monastery in the late Kamakura period. During the civil war of the fourteenth century, local samurai formed regional alliances (gunnai ichizoku), which were transformed into organizations that in the sixteenth century assumed all local powers. The strength of the regional commune was in the military leadership of the peasants by low-ranking warriors. Although the social difference between the former and the latter was clear, it was it was not insurmountable, for the Iga commune also promoted heroic fighters.

The Iga league of communes lasted much longer than did the one in neighboring Yamashiro Province. The reason was probably the particular configuration of the area, a mountain basin relatively distant from the major routes. Oda Nobunaga finally put an end to the league by invading the province with his troops in 1581. Despite the difficulty of conquering a population that was completely mobilized for war and had very effective guerrilla fighters, Nobunaga and his artillery crushed the 'people of Iga' with cannon fire and dismantled all their small forts. The indomitable survivors kept tip a sporadic guerrilla resistance for several years, but Tokugawa Ieyasu finally was victorious when he made them specialized auxiliaries in the lower echelons of his bakufu. The structure of the regional communes in Oyamato, Iga, and Koga was apparently both horizontal and vertical. At the local level, jizamurai and peasants were organized within the community framework of the village. These communes were linked to other, similar ones to form a federation. But the jizamurai also provided hierarchical collective control of the region as a whole. These forms of organization were reminiscent of the 'valley communities' of the Swiss Waldstetten in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. The pact The pact of 1291, considered to be the founding act of Switzerland, was a 'peace charter' among local communes to prevent outside aggression, similar to the ultimatum made by the Yamashiro rebels to the Hatakeyama armies in 1485 and the twelve-point charter of the Iga commune around 1560. Regional communes of various sizes existed for different periods of time in Kai, Omi, Settsu, Izuni, Tanba, and other provinces. The existence of these federations on the scale of a region or province kept any centralized power from controlling the provinces of central Japan."

Regarding the status of the ninja themselves, Stephen Turnbull briefly discusses this in his The Lone Samurai and the Martial Arts:

"[...] when taken along with an army shinobi were treated as personal attendants serving in an expert occupation. Finally, as the Tokugawa had rules for just about everything in life, it is not surprising to find regulations covering the use of such persons. In 1649, in the bakufu's laws for military service, only those of 10,000 koku and above were allowed to be accompanied by shinobi when they went to war."

Absolutely none of this gives the fallacious impression that that the Iga and Koga shinobi were downtrodden peasants under the foothold of oppressive samurai overlords, a claim largely originating with Stephen Hayes' early books. Rather, they seemed to have mostly been jizamurai and kokujin who subsided among a quasi-democratic federation of allied villages in the provincial region.

Laterz.

Andrew S
2nd November 2005, 21:12
Believe it or not, one of the Hattori Hanzos (I think it may have been the 2nd) engaged in some naughtiness which led to a general strike among the Koga ninja and eventually the Bakufu in Edo had Hattori executed!
I'm not sure if this in any way clears up or makes the definition more cloudy, however...

niten ninja
2nd November 2005, 21:33
Yeah... ninja are incredibly mystic... trade union ninja...

Adding on from what Heretic said, a quote from an answer that Karl Friday gave to the question of who ninja are, (note, I found it using a different computer and Convieniantly can't find it again...) His answer was that people probably did "ninja" work than were actually called ninja. Good sources.

Gary Arthur
3rd November 2005, 06:38
As I have stated, this has been talked about on other post and other forums and the quotes you will find there. I really do not have the time or energy to put again on the forums what has already been covered in depth elsewhere.

Maybe my responce to Vic 20 should have been "Do a search as this has been covered elsewhere".

Gary Arthur

Gary Arthur
3rd November 2005, 07:03
This may be of help. I originally started it to get peoples opinions of what Ninjutsu was all about. As one can see when reading it there are no straight forward answers.

Go to search, put in gyokko ryu and scroll down to "What was ninjutsu" I tried putting a link here but could not do it.

As one can see there are many opinions and answering Vic 20s question is not easy. The problem with history is that often there are no definitive answers. Sure there is evidence, but then its all based on how good that evidence is.

The problem with trying to explain the history of ninjutsu is that we rely on secondary or tertiary sources. In other words our sources come from some one else who believe something based on what they have heard.

For example Hatsumi Sensei says this.

In this regard we do not have tangible evidence like for example the history of Egypt, with all there many papyrus, painted walls, mummies, Roman sources etc. And there of course is much argument even in this field.

The problem then when studying the history of the ninja, is that in essence we are studying something that is almost absent from the historical and material record. There is no archaeology, and good historical sources are scarce.

Sure we have a few manuscripts (Shoninki, Ninpiden etc), and the ninja are recorded in Japanese history, but in many occasions we do not know how accurate these sources are, as they were written by people that were either/or
a) Not from a ninja background.
b) Enemies of the ninja so had a political agenda.

Some people have attempted to use the available sources to get a history of the ninja i.e. Stephen Turnbull, but again many disagree with his view.

So my belief is that much of this will be down to a point of view. Even if you present me with a written source, I may disregard that source as not very factiual (good evidence) based on my opinion.

In reality much of our views about ninjutsu today are based on the views of a few individuals, and therefore much of what filters down to us and finds its way on the web is based on other peoples views alone, and even these people have political agendas.

Therefore your view of the ninja may be different to mine. But none of us can prove absolutely whether we are right or not. The truth is that in reality we may all be wrong.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

niten ninja
3rd November 2005, 07:17
"Some people have attempted to use the available sources to get a history of the ninja"

What else can we do? Sources are all we have.

Ghost Cat
3rd November 2005, 10:38
The problem with history is that often there are no definitive answers.

If you do not think that there are any definate answers in this case, why the heck did you bother saying anything like you did? Can't you point to anything from a Japanese source (not an anology from some other culture) to back up what you said?

Gary Arthur
3rd November 2005, 11:14
Don
If you read my original post again, you will see I say "in my opinion". In fact I'm not really saying much about the history of the ninja at all, i'm mearly pointing out how the word assasin and spy can have different interpretations.

The only things I actually said were:
1/ That the original ninja were high class people. Both Hatsumi and Tanemura I believe have stated this.
2/ That they were originally a defeated peoples. Was'nt Shima Kosanta Minamoto No Kanesada defeated in battle, and therfore ended up in the mountains regions of Iga where he met Kagakure Doshi.

Please read my post again before you attack me for put out a false view of the art.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

Ghost Cat
3rd November 2005, 11:53
Don
If you read my original post again, you will see I say "in my opinion".

But most people base their opinions on observations and facts that they can detail. Especially when you talk about history.

So if you could put exact quotes and facts we can check, we can discuss this. In fact, scratch the quotes. I fear that a lot of them are taken out of context. Let us just stick to the facts as they can be found in historical works and work from there.

Heretic had no problem doing that with his excellent description.

heretic888
3rd November 2005, 14:31
Believe it or not, one of the Hattori Hanzos (I think it may have been the 2nd) engaged in some naughtiness which led to a general strike among the Koga ninja and eventually the Bakufu in Edo had Hattori executed!

Actually, it was the third. He was the son of the Hattori Hanzo we are all familiar with (both of whom share the name Masanari Hanzo). Also, I believe the revolt took place among the Iga ninja, not the Koga.

But, don't quote me on that. ;)

Laterz.

NickR
3rd November 2005, 15:37
Ok, ninja are people who wear black all the time and sneak around stabbing people with straight swords, Ashida Kim is the Grand ninja of the world, this is just my opinion and it being, Yes history buffs we all know its much more complicated than that, and being history its not always fact. Just beacause my history is wrong doesn't mean you should question it. Anyway...


:D My monitor is now wearing coffee out of my mouth ! :D

niten ninja
3rd November 2005, 16:22
I've got to remember to read through things before I post...

heretic888
4th November 2005, 00:32
Yeah... ninja are incredibly mystic... trade union ninja...

Hehe. :D

In all seriousness, though, I think something along the lines of 'defense federation' is a more accurate description than 'trade union'.

If you'll look back over the quotation I cited from Souryi's book, he makes it very clear that the primary concern of the Iga federation's leadership was the autonomy of the province and the protection of their borders. They even went so far as to include an article in their mid-16th century constitution stating that they will join their forces with Koga when the need arises. Obviously, military defense and political self-determination was the foremost concern of these jizamurai.

The fact that both Iga and Koga would temporarily hire out their fighters as mercenaries to other provinces simply adds to the point that these federations were principally military organizations.


Adding on from what Heretic said, a quote from an answer that Karl Friday gave to the question of who ninja are, (note, I found it using a different computer and Convieniantly can't find it again...) His answer was that people probably did "ninja" work than were actually called ninja. Good sources.

With all due respect to Dr. Friday, I'm not entirely sure I agree with that statement.

Just think about it for a second. There were a lot of people in Japanese history that did what you could consider "ninja" work. Stephen Turnbull has written about this subject extensively in some of his works on samurai and ninja history. During the Nambokucho no Ran especially, there were "ninja"-esque tactics and strategies employed by both the nothern and southern forces --- the most well-known probably being the stratagems of Kusunoki Masashige. The archetypal representative of this "ninja" work dates back to the mythical Yamato Takeru no Mikoto (who disguised himself as a woman and then assassinated a political rival), whose exploits are recorded in the Kojiki (circa 8th century CE).

As such, this leaves the term "ninja" all but meaningless as a label, since it can be applied to such a wide variety of personalities, social classes, and occupational roles. Instead, I would argue that the term can only be applied to specific groups beginning around the mid-15th century onward (such as with the famous Iga-shu). Otherwise, you're left with a label that is so broad and generic that you can't really say anything about the shinobi as a class of people (which was what the original post asked for).

Laterz.

niten ninja
4th November 2005, 06:32
"Instead, I would argue that the term can only be applied to specific groups beginning around the mid-15th century onward (such as with the famous Iga-shu). Otherwise, you're left with a label that is so broad and generic that you can't really say anything about the shinobi as a class of people (which was what the original post asked for)."

But isn't the point of it that they aren't a special class, but certain jizamurai using specialist knowledge, perhaps better suited to Iga province? Also where does this leave the Togakure Ryu lineage? That goes back much further than the 15th century.

"If you'll look back over the quotation I cited from Souryi's book, he makes it very clear that the primary concern of the Iga federation's leadership was the autonomy of the province and the protection of their borders. They even went so far as to include an article in their mid-16th century constitution stating that they will join their forces with Koga when the need arises. Obviously, military defense and political self-determination was the foremost concern of these jizamurai.

The fact that both Iga and Koga would temporarily hire out their fighters as mercenaries to other provinces simply adds to the point that these federations were principally military organizations."

This does sound like a slightly different version of all the ninja myths. Just to check, would it be wrong to say that ninja during the 15th century were jisamurai then? If so that would go some way to explaining the origins of all the oppressed ninja stories.

"As such, this leaves the term "ninja" all but meaningless as a label"

Maybe it is a semi-meaningless term. If I understood you right, the Iga ninja appear to have been as a class, jisamurai rather than ninja, so saying that's a job title for some of them is perhaps quite accurate.

jailess
4th November 2005, 16:35
OK, back on target (slightly), what about the history of the Togakure Ryu Ninja? where did they come from, and when? for any particular reason?

Also, could anyone tell me what the hell a Jizamurai is?

heretic888
4th November 2005, 18:04
This may be of help. I originally started it to get peoples opinions of what Ninjutsu was all about. As one can see when reading it there are no straight forward answers.

You've been given straight answers, Gary. You just chose to ignore them, falling back on the back-stepping and name-dropping that I mentioned beforehand.

But, for the sake of argument, I'll tell you now what I told you then:

To give a historical example, Fujibayashi Yasutake's Bansenshukai (http://www.ninpo.org/historicalrecords/bansenshukai.html) states that: "The elements of nin are covert [activity], information gathering, disguise, and surveillance." It also states: "There is yojutsu and injutsu in ninjutsu. Yojutsu is the way of entering an enemy territory by using a wise stratagem. Injutsu means infiltrating unnoticed by using a personal disguise."

If that isn't good enough for you, you can always go with the position of Japanese historian Watani (quoted in Turnbull's most recent book on ninja):

"So-called ninjutsu techniques, in short are the skills of shinobi-no-jutsu and shinobi-jutsu, which have the aims of ensuring that one’s opponent does not know of one’s existence, and for which there was special training. During the Sengoku Period such techniques were used on campaign, and included sekko (spy) and kancho (espionage) techniques and skills."

Dale Seago gave a very good explanation of ninjutsu on martialtalk once:

"'Ninjutsu', as such, really refers to the primary specialties/functions of historic ninja groups: intelligence collection and the associated skills of infiltration, disguise, running agent networks, clandestine communications methods, and use of specialized gear. Fighting or close combat played little part in any of that, unless an agent somehow 'screwed the pooch' and got caught under suspicious circumstances in some unauthorized place."

And, of course, you can also go with what Hatsumi says about ninjutsu history in the aforementioned excerpt (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mza/UM_articles_content.html#8) from Ninja/Ninpo Gaho:

"If it happened in this manner, the jisamurai had no option but to develop martial skills to protect themselves. It is said that the martial skills that were developed in turn - the invention of ningu, the incorporation of kajutsu - and still the reading of Chinese texts - were systematized into ninjutsu and ninpo was devised. Therefore it can be said that ninjutsu is a skill for escaping."

From another excerpt (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mza/UM_articles_content.html#7) from the Ninja/Ninpo Gaho, Hatsumi is more direct:

"Ninjutsu (the skills of shinobi) utilizes every science. It uses such things as the hearts of humans, physics, astronomy, geology, and psychology to investigate the state of the enemy or to disturb the enemy's position. It is a skill to defeat the enemy."

I don't know about you, Gary, but I'm seeing a pretty damn consistent picture here. I fall to see the logical validity of your premises.


Go to search, put in gyokko ryu and scroll down to "What was ninjutsu" I tried putting a link here but could not do it.

Try using the URL coding.


As one can see there are many opinions and answering Vic 20s question is not easy. The problem with history is that often there are no definitive answers. Sure there is evidence, but then its all based on how good that evidence is.

The problem with trying to explain the history of ninjutsu is that we rely on secondary or tertiary sources. In other words our sources come from some one else who believe something based on what they have heard.


The problem then when studying the history of the ninja, is that in essence we are studying something that is almost absent from the historical and material record. There is no archaeology, and good historical sources are scarce.

Sure we have a few manuscripts (Shoninki, Ninpiden etc), and the ninja are recorded in Japanese history, but in many occasions we do not know how accurate these sources are, as they were written by people that were either/or
a) Not from a ninja background.
b) Enemies of the ninja so had a political agenda.

Some people have attempted to use the available sources to get a history of the ninja i.e. Stephen Turnbull, but again many disagree with his view.

So my belief is that much of this will be down to a point of view. Even if you present me with a written source, I may disregard that source as not very factiual (good evidence) based on my opinion.

In reality much of our views about ninjutsu today are based on the views of a few individuals, and therefore much of what filters down to us and finds its way on the web is based on other peoples views alone, and even these people have political agendas.

Therefore your view of the ninja may be different to mine. But none of us can prove absolutely whether we are right or not. The truth is that in reality we may all be wrong.

No offense, Gary, but I would highly suggest you sign up for a Critical Thinking class at your local community college. You're basing your arguments on so much logical fallacies --- relativist fallacies, strawmen arguments, red herrings, appeals to emotion, etc --- that I don't even know where to begin.

But, to put it succinctly, just because there is disagreement about the subject or that the subject is difficult to directly examine does not mean any hypothesis is fair game here. Otherwise, then we have to give the 'histories' of the likes of Ashida Kim and Frank Dux the same validity as those published in peer-reviewed academic works.

Laterz.

niten ninja
4th November 2005, 18:13
According to Samurai Archives... Literally "samurai of the earth", rural samurai who often lived close to the land and were not entirely removed from the peasantry.

"OK, back on target (slightly), what about the history of the Togakure Ryu Ninja? where did they come from, and when? for any particular reason?"

Assuming Daisuke isn't just made up by one of the later heads of the Ryu, I'd say he didn't actually found the ryu but was head of the lineage that at some stage did eventually start a ryu. (This would explain why Togakure ryu seems to pre-date every other Ryu.) I think I remember hearing a soke at one stage was sword instructor to one of the last shogun, but left when he saw that that way wasn't too promising... Obviously I don't remember any dates or names so I'd be very distrustful of taking my memory as fact.

"Otherwise, then we have to give the 'histories' of the likes of Ashida Kim and Frank Dux the same validity as those published in peer-reviewed academic works."

Yeah... a Korean princess and a 12 black dragon ninja...

heretic888
4th November 2005, 18:19
If you read my original post again, you will see I say "in my opinion".

Opinions are backed up by sources and reasoning. You have consistently failed to deliver in these departments.

Gary, this is really quite simple: just cite where you're getting your information from. That's the very first step. From there, we can go on to critically examine the source(s) and evaluate how sound its information is.

Elsewise, all we're left with is unsupported speculation.


In fact I'm not really saying much about the history of the ninja at all, i'm mearly pointing out how the word assasin and spy can have different interpretations.

On your first post, maybe.


1/ That the original ninja were high class people. Both Hatsumi and Tanemura I believe have stated this.

If you consider jizamurai to be 'high class people', sure.


2/ That they were originally a defeated peoples. Was'nt Shima Kosanta Minamoto No Kanesada defeated in battle, and therfore ended up in the mountains regions of Iga where he met Kagakure Doshi.

At what point has Shima Kosanta Minamoto no Kanesada (or even Togakure Daisuke, for that matter) ever been described as a ninja??

I'm unfamiliar with any stories about him running clandestine intelligence networks, making use of diguise and infiltration techniques, or even engaging in hit-and-run guerilla raids against his enemies. But, perhaps you know something to this effect that I do not.

Just because these individuals are posthumously celebrated as the originators and inspirations for a body of knowledge that later evolved into a ninjutsu tradition centuries after their deaths does not mean they were running around doing full-blown ninjutsu in the 12th century.

Laterz.

niten ninja
4th November 2005, 18:29
"If you consider jizamurai to be 'high class people', sure"

I'm assuming the jizamurai in Iga had leaders... they would have been high class people, but they wouldn't have been the ones doing any of the "ninja" work.

heretic888
4th November 2005, 18:33
But isn't the point of it that they aren't a special class, but certain jizamurai using specialist knowledge, perhaps better suited to Iga province? Also where does this leave the Togakure Ryu lineage? That goes back much further than the 15th century.

I didn't mean to imply class in the sense of a distinct rung on a social ladder (i.e., upper-class vs lower-class), but moreso in the sense of a label of categorization.

As for the oral legends of Togakure Ryu, nobody ever said Togakure Daisuke was a ninja. Additionally, my understanding is that the school was originally called Togakure Ryu Happo Biken.

Of course, I could be wrong. ;)


This does sound like a slightly different version of all the ninja myths. Just to check, would it be wrong to say that ninja during the 15th century were jisamurai then? If so that would go some way to explaining the origins of all the oppressed ninja stories.

If you're referring to the specialist warriors of Iga and Koga Provinces, the majority of them were probably jizamurai and kokujin. Additionally, the Iga federation had an article in their constitution stating that an ashigaru (conscripted peasant) who performed well in battle would be awarded the status of samurai. Thus, if you did have a 'peasant' ninja running around Iga he most likely wouldn't remain so for very long (providing he wasn't killed-in-action).

As for the "oppressed ninja stories", I would attribute those to Stephen Hayes' early books moreso than anything else.


Maybe it is a semi-meaningless term. If I understood you right, the Iga ninja appear to have been as a class, jisamurai rather than ninja, so saying that's a job title for some of them is perhaps quite accurate.

No, the point I was trying to make is that if you define ninja as one who does "ninja-esque work", then you're basically left with a label that is so generic and broad-based that you can't really say anything about these individuals as a group of people.

Laterz.

heretic888
4th November 2005, 18:41
Also, could anyone tell me what the hell a Jizamurai is?

The terms I have seen most commonly associated with the igamono and kogamono are dogo, jizamurai, and kokujin.

According to the glossary (http://www.samurai-archives.com/vocab.html) at Samurai Archives, these terms have the following definitions:

Dogo - Village leader, headman, especially one whose assets allow him a certain amount of political and/or military clout locally.

Jizamurai - ‘Samurai of the land’, ‘samurai of the soil’-rural samurai who often lived close to the land and were not entirely removed from the peasantry.

Kokujin - "Man of the province", "provincial"; term used to describe locally powerful samurai families during the Muromachi Period. As they were often not far removed from the peasantry in terms of priorities and concerns, kokujin were very much like jizamurai-if not the same, for all intents and purposes.

It should be noted that Ikegami distinguishes between jizamurai and kokujin somewhat in his The Taming of the Samurai. He holds the jizamurai and the dogo to be more or less identical, however.

Laterz.

heretic888
4th November 2005, 18:49
I'm assuming the jizamurai in Iga had leaders... they would have been high class people, but they wouldn't have been the ones doing any of the "ninja" work.

Don't be so sure.

The famed Hattori Hanzo was most definitely a leader of the Iga-shu, yet he certainly had no problem getting his hands dirty when it came to ninjutsu. The first Momochi Sandayu was also supposed to have multiple identities and separate lives, a very skillful use of ninjutsu.

In any event, my understanding is that families like the Momochi, Hattori, and Fujibayashi were the equivalents of minor daimyo in Iga Province. Regardless, this shouldn't be interpreted to mean they had feudal authority over the region, as Iga was still an ikki whose leadership was based on an alliance of corporate villages (so-son).

Laterz.

niten ninja
4th November 2005, 19:24
"I didn't mean to imply class in the sense of a distinct rung on a social ladder (i.e., upper-class vs lower-class), but moreso in the sense of a label of categorization."

I understand you now... That's kind of what I meant, a ninja as a catagory of soldier rather than as I thought the question meant, a seperate caste.

Gary Arthur
8th November 2005, 08:24
Original post

I have been reading in the older threads that the idea of the ninja as an oppressed anti-samurai guerrilla force is a myth. That they were not assassins and spies. In fact it seems to be said over and over.


My Reply

To try to put this in some context, and this really is a personal opinion. But my belief is that the Ninja started off as samurai. Now I don't mean like we think of samurai today, as most of our understanding of the samurai comes after the 16th century or later. By what I mean is that the people who later became what we call the ninja, (which of course is a fairly modern term) were nobles. They were the rulers, advisors, generals etc. These people were defeated, and in those days if you lost a war, you could not just give up, say sorry and go home. You and your family would be put to death and your castles and lands confiscated. So the ninja began as defeated people needing to survive in harsh times (They were hunted down) and in a harsh environment (The Iga mountains).

Don Roleys Reply

Instead of a long explination of what you thought they were and alnologies to things outside of Japan, how about you lay out the facts and sources that would back up your theory?

Me, I am with Heretic on this one. But if there is some sort of proof that we can view and see if it is in context or not my opinion is always subject to change.

Inyterview with Hatsumi from Ninja/Ninpo Gaho (1964)

Oose: I read in some book that during this period military commanders that were defeated in battle escaped to the Iga and Koga localities. And it was there that ninjutsu was born?
Hatsumi: That is exactly correct. The defeated soldiers (ochimusha) became the jisamurai, but at that time the hunts for defeated soldiers by the bakafu (military government) were strict - and before long the day threatened by the noise of the bakafu army's men and horses arrived. If it happened in this manner, the jisamurai had no option but to develop martial skills to protect themselves. It is said that the martial skills that were developed in turn - the invention of ningu, the incorporation of kajutsu - and still the reading of Chinese texts - were systematized into ninjutsu and ninpô was devised. Therefore it can be said that ninjutsu is a skill for escaping.

Gary Arthur
www.toshindo.co.uk

Ghost Cat
8th November 2005, 09:46
Gary,
So how exactly do you equate jizamurai with "nobles"? Or advisors, rulers, etc?

The whole thing is a bit of a long and detailed explination. Heretic has done a good job of detailing the situation during the Kamakura Bakufu period. To focus in on the fact that some of the residents may be desendents of people like Nishina Daisuke is a bit of a stretch. There is a whole lot being left out.

This is why I have reservations about translating things directly from Japanese. Writing for a Japanese audience a Japanese can leave some things out. But people that can't read the language in the original probably also don't know the things being left out because for the target audience, it is already known.

Andrew S
8th November 2005, 11:18
threatened by the noise of the bakafu army's men and horses arrived. If it happened in this manner, the jisamurai had no option but to develop martial skills to protect themselves.
and

Therefore it can be said that ninjutsu is a skill for escaping.

If you'll forgive my bluntness, it sounds little different from modern recon and special forces work. To which end, we may well ask "what was the role of recon in 20th century society? I doubt we'd get a simple answer on that one, either.

Spunky
9th November 2005, 08:44
No, the point I was trying to make is that if you define ninja as one who does "ninja-esque work", then you're basically left with a label that is so generic and broad-based that you can't really say anything about these individuals as a group of people.

First of all Heretic, I really enjoyed reading your highly informative explanation about the political and military state of Iga. Without getting too involved in the cross-fire here (and forgive me if I'm not thinking clearly, as I am rather loopy from sleep deprevation), I do have a question/comment in response to the above quote:

If someone is spying for an employer in the modern world, would it not be valid to refer to that person as a spy? And while field agents of the CIA could be called spies as well, the history of that organization (or say, that of spies in the Cold War) certainly doesn't apply to ALL spies in the history of the world. It would be rather impossible to write much of a common history of spies that doesn't group them into discrete contexts at some point.

Likewise, I don't find it unreasonable that one could refer to any individual performing so-called "ninjutsu" activities as a "ninja" (hey, there is ninjutsu found in the cirriculum of many non-Iga koryu), and at the same time refer in detail to a specific, historical group of ninja--such as individuals related to the Takamatsu-den which typically concern us.

I just think the problem is with vague, general questions such as "what was a ninja." It IS a generic label so it is difficult to describe in detail without specifying a particular group. The history/description of Iga ninja does not necessarily apply to TSKSR "ninja," right?

Excuse me while I pass out now :p

niten ninja
9th November 2005, 16:53
That sounds about right.

heretic888
9th November 2005, 20:56
So how exactly do you equate jizamurai with "nobles"? Or advisors, rulers, etc?

Don's making an important point here, Gary.

You see, if you said "noble" to me within a pre-modern Japanese context, I would immediately think kuge. However, this is obviously not the context you had in mind, as you are clearly referring members of the buke class.

This is why I think its important to use the proper Japanese terminology as much as possible, and I don't even speak the friggin' language. I would get so much more out of jizamurai than I ever would from "warrior of the soil" or "rural samurai", to the point that its better to leave such terms untranslated. Likewise with kuge over "noble" or "nobility".

This will help clarify what exactly you mean when you refer to these individuals as "nobles", "advisers", "administrators", and so on. Otherwise, we're just left with English analogies that may or may not be accurate.


The whole thing is a bit of a long and detailed explination. Heretic has done a good job of detailing the situation during the Kamakura Bakufu period. To focus in on the fact that some of the residents may be desendents of people like Nishina Daisuke is a bit of a stretch. There is a whole lot being left out.

Well, the explanations I gave were mostly in regards to the Muromachi Jidai (and the Sengoku Jidai in particular), but set aside that Don is spot on. ;)

Laterz.

heretic888
9th November 2005, 21:21
First of all Heretic, I really enjoyed reading your highly informative explanation about the political and military state of Iga.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.


If someone is spying for an employer in the modern world, would it not be valid to refer to that person as a spy? And while field agents of the CIA could be called spies as well, the history of that organization (or say, that of spies in the Cold War) certainly doesn't apply to ALL spies in the history of the world. It would be rather impossible to write much of a common history of spies that doesn't group them into discrete contexts at some point.

Likewise, I don't find it unreasonable that one could refer to any individual performing so-called "ninjutsu" activities as a "ninja" (hey, there is ninjutsu found in the cirriculum of many non-Iga koryu), and at the same time refer in detail to a specific, historical group of ninja--such as individuals related to the Takamatsu-den which typically concern us.

Well, look at it this way...

In my opinion, there are two classes of "spies" that we should distinguish here. The first class refers to those professional spies who have studied espionage as a formal subject, with an extensive body of training and education under their belt to make them good at what they do. The second class refers to those non-professional spies who just happen to be in the right place at the right time to pass along some information for the right price, often with little or no formal training in the craft of espionage.

Likewise with ninjutsu. To quote Stephen Turnbull's The Lone Samurai and the Martial Arts:

"[Japanese historian Sasama Yoshihisa] distinguishes between the expert shinobi, who passed on their traditions to their descendents, of which the Iga-shu are the best example, and others who were no more than bandits, hired temporarily as kancho."

This is an important distinction, I believe. The criteria I would establish for ninja and ninjutsu (or any bujutsu, really) is evidence of a somewhat systematic body of knowledge being passed down from generation to generation. Elsewise, we are left with the really silly situation where any person that throws another person is seen as proof of jujutsu, or somebody merely picking up and swinging a staff is seen as evidence of bojutsu. In my opinion, there has to be a relatively distinct body of knowledge or information that is being passed on from person-to-person with each generation.

This also gives us a further criteria to separate authentic Japanese ninjutsu from the likes of Ashida Kim and Frank Dux. If we claim that anybody that practices stealth or espionage is doing "ninjutsu", then that leaves the frauds wide open to claim that by such a criteria, what they are doing is just as much ninjutsu as what is done in the Takamatsu-den. So, obviously, a disctinction has to be maintained here.

But, you're right. Its largely a matter of the context that the individual speaker is using for his terminology.

Laterz.