The abilities of ninja to remain unseen and undetected have acquired a nearly legendary status in popular media. Originally taught with two of the traditional 18 disciplines of ninjutsu, the stealth techniques of ninjutsu derive from “shinobi-iri," the art of stealth and entering and “intonjutsu," the study of escape and concealment. While many of these methods have become outdated with the invention of electric lighting and modern security systems, a number of traditional ninjutsu stealth techniques have survived.
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The Stealth Walk
Often referred to as “shinobi aruki," ninjutsu stealth walking can simply be described as walking silently. While many traditional ninjas would wear soft footwear such as footpads and moccasins, the art of walking undetected was also a technique of guiding one’s steps carefully on the edges of the feet. By walking on the blades, or outsides, of your feet, you muffle the amount of sound that a normal footstep creates by both decreasing the amount of foot touching the ground and the amount of “kick” or “scraping” that occurs when the foot lifts. Students of ninjutsu are sometimes taught stealth walking on sand or gravel in order to gauge both the amount of sound created and the size of the track left for bystanders to witness following the ninja’s passage.
Climbing and Entering
Though relatively simple in theory, traditional ninjutsu dojos would instruct at length on the stealth arts of climbing and entering. The art of “monomi no jutsu” was dedicated entirely to discovering the weak point in an area’s defenses by appraising the amount of guards, light, traps and other stealth detections. As ninjas nearly always preferred to remain undetected, this stealth art assumed that the ninja would wait until night before attempting to enter a specific area. The use of grappling hooks and ropes, often disguised as a farmer’s sickle and belt, allow ninjutsu students to stealthily scale walls, towers and tree branches for silent escape or entry. To make your own grappling hook as the ninjas did, tie together two “kama” fighting sickles with a large length of rope and attempt to hook the sickle blades on a low tree branch. Pull at the rope gently to test stability and carefully climb up your rope.
Distraction and Misdirection
Though less useful today as a conventional martial art technique, the practice of “yoji-gakure” involves achieving stealth by distracting someone who may hear or otherwise notice your movements. While traditional distractions may involve actions as simple as throwing an object to cause noise, some modern versions might include having someone call the cell-phone of the person you seek to sneak by. “Joei-on jutsu," literally “the art of erasing light and sound” involves the careful art of keeping a light source between yourself and someone who may see you so that they are unable to see you behind the glare. Similarly, a sound of dripping water or other common noise may be used to audibly mask the ninja’s passing, enabling them to move stealthily and undetected.
Not for Beginners
Don't try ninja stealth techniques without years of training by an experienced teacher.