Ninjutsu: History And Tradition

Reviewed by Don Houle

Ninjutsu: History and Tradition was the second ninjutsu book I ever bought, after reading a short article written by Stephen K. Hayes in Inside Kung Fu in 1984. It's the book that first got me seriously interested in training.

Filled with pictures, History and Tradition is a fascinating look at traditional ninjutsu. Just about every one of its 239 pages contains a line drawing or black and white photograph illustrating the technique or weapon described in the text.

The book begins with a description of the origins of the arts collectively known as ninjutsu. After describing the eighteen levels of training, Dr. Hatsumi goes on to give a detailed explanation of taijutsu (unarmed combat). Many of the photographs that appear in this section of History and Tradition are taken from Hatsumi's Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu, so if you can't find that book, this is probably the next best thing. The text explains in great detail the methods used by ninja to subdue enemies including taihenjutsu (rolling, leaping), kamae (postures), and many striking methods.

Next, many traditional ninja weapons are examined including shinobigatana (ninja sword), kusarigama (sickle and chain weapon), yumi (bow and arrows), yari (spear) and shuriken (throwing blades). Again, one of the best things about this book is the number of photos. They will keep you turning the pages to see what is coming next.

The final third of the book focuses on special training (escape and evasion techniques), secret ninja tools, and kunoichi (female ninja). The last portion of History and Tradition is the one that I really hold dear, and the ragged pages of my old copy show that I referred to it a lot! Dr. Hatsumi goes on to describe kiai (energy attuning) and kuji, which are best described as spiritual methods of attaining one's goals in the physical world.

I highly recommend this book for those who are involved in Dr. Hatsumi's Bujinkan training, and for anyone who would like to learn more about ninjutsu's past.