The ninja were the secret agents and assassins of feudal Japan.
Also known as shinobi (‘stealers in’), they specialised in assassination, espionage and unorthodox methods of war.
Their use of stealth tactics led to the development of specialized weapons, such as the nunchaku and shuriken, as well as secret martial arts techniques, including wall climbing and concealment.
Their origin and martial arts methods remain shrouded in mystery when, due to a samurai campaign in the mid-1600s to destroy them, the ninja all but disappeared.
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The ninja were adept at using many of the same weapons as a samurai, but they would often use equipment specially developed for their espionage-style of combat.
Ninjato – Ninja Sword
Ninja swords are shorter than the swords used by samurai. The reason for this was that a larger sword was often too big or heavy to allow the Ninja to run quickly or hide in small places.
Also, the way ninja used the sword was different to a samurai. Samurai would swing their sword, severing limbs and slashing at the opponent. Ninja, on the other hand, would stab with their sword.
The saya (sword scabbard), which held the Ninja sword, is often longer than the sword itself. This allowed the Ninja to hide secret documents or carry distraction powder. Some times the saya also served as a breathing tube, for when Ninja had to swim underwater for long periods of time.
Shuriken – Throwing Stars
The shuriken is the trademark ninja weapon. The shuriken was simply a flat piece of metal with sharpened points that were thrown at the enemy.
The shuriken was not originally designed as a killing weapon. It was mostly used to distract or deter, so the ninja could escape. However, it was easily made lethal by dipping the edges in poison.