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Style descriptions: N

Some styles of martial arts that begin with the letter N.

Naginata-Do (Japan)

Naginata-Do is another classical martial art; this one uses the naginata (halberd). It is very difficult to earn and emphasizes traditional etiquette and spiritual training. It is a popular competitive sport with Japanese women.

Ninjutsu (Japan)

"Nin" (perseverance), "jutsu" (techniques of), is the art of Japan's ninja warriors. Surrounded by much controversy, today's ninjutsu is derived from the traditional fighting arts associated with the Iga/Koga region of Japan. These arts include both bujutsu-ryuha (martial technique systems) and ninjutsu -ryuha, which involve a broad base of training designed to prepare the practitioner for all possible situations.

Historical records state that certain individuals/families from the Iga/Koga (modern Mie/Omi) region were noted for possessing specific skills and were employed (by samurai) to apply those and other skills. These records, which were kept by people both within the region and outside of the region, refer to the individuals/families as "Iga/Koga no Mono" (Men of Iga/Koga) and "Iga/Koga no Bushi" (warriors of Iga/Koga). Due to this region's terrain, it was largely unexplored, and its people lived a relatively isolated existence. This enabled them to develop perspectives that differed from the "mainstream" society of the time, which was under the direct influence of the upper ruling classes. When necessary, they successfully used the superstitions of the masses as a weapon and became feared and slightly mythologized because of it.

In the mid to late 1500s, their difference in perspective led to conflict with the upper ruling classes and the eventual invasion and destruction of the villages and communities within the Iga/Koga region. The term "ninja" was not in use at this time but was later introduced in the dramatic literature of the Tokugawa period (1605-1867). During this period, ancestral fears became common and the stereotypical image of "clans of assassins and mercenaries who used stealth, assassination, disguises, and other tricks to do their work" was formed.

Over 70 different ninjutsu-ryu have been identified, however, most them have died out. Most were developed around a series of specific skills and techniques and when the skills of a ryu were no longer in demand, the ryu would usually disappear. The three remaining ninjutsu-ryu (togakure-ryu, gyokushin-ryu, and kumogakure-ryu) are encompassed in Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi's bujinkan budo taijutsu system. These ryus, along with six other bujutsu-ryu (gyokko-ryu, koto-ryu, takagi-yoshin-ryu, shinden-fudo-ryu, gikan-ryu, and kukishinden-ryu), are taught as a collective body of knowledge.

In the 1970s and 1980s, ninjutsu was popularized in the West by Stephen Hayes and Masaaki Hatsumi. During this "ninja-boom," instructors of ninjutsu were everywhere; they have thinned somewhat but still abound. As with all martial arts, it would be wise to be very careful about people claiming to be "masters personally taught by the grandmaster in Japan." Beware of those who say they teach ninjutsu but only teach karate while wearing a black uniform. The term ninjutsu does not refer to a specific style, but more to a group of arts, each with a different point of view expressed by the different ryu. The physical dynamics from one ryu to another varies.

Ninjutsu is a generally soft Japanese martial art that incorporates armed and unarmed combat and is based upon the efficient use of momentum and body mechanics. The main principles in combat are posture, distance, rhythm, and flow. Students are taught to use the entire body for every movement and technique, to provide the most power and leverage. They will use the openings created by the opponent's movement to implement techniques, often causing the opponent to run into a weapon.

Ninjutsu practitioners evade attacks in ways that place them in advantageous positions from which a simple use of leverage may take control the opponent. Although ninjutsu does include linear and circular empty hand techniques (often called taijutsu, which encompasses punching, kicking, and grappling), much of the art's techniques involve weapons such as the sword, dagger, dart, weighted chain, and throwing star. It attempts to incorporate all aspects of fighting in all situations by incorporating such things as ground fighting, infiltration, and cryptography. Historically, ninja were masters of camouflage, concealment, horsemanship, explosives, and poisons, but such skills receive little, if any, emphasis in modern training.

Training progresses through skills in taihenjutsu (body changing skills) that include falling, rolling, leaping, posture, and avoidance; dakentaijutsu (striking weapons body techniques) that use the entire body as a striking tool; and jutaijutsu (supple body techniques) that use locks, throws, chokes, and holds. In the early stages, weapon training is usually limited to practicing how to avoid attacks, overcoming any fear of the weapon and understanding the dynamics of its use from the perspective of "defending against" (while unarmed). In the mid and later stages, once a grounding in taijutsu body dynamics is in place, practitioners begin studying from the perspective of "defending with" the various weapons.

In the early stages of training, patterns are provided as examples of "what can be done here" and "how to move the body to achieve this result." However, as practitioners progress, they are encouraged to explore the openings that naturally appear in movements and apply spontaneous techniques based upon the principles contained within the pattern. This free-flowing style is one of the most important aspects of ninjutsu training. Adaptability is one of the main lessons of all of ninjutsu-ryu.

Due to the combative nature of the techniques studied, there are no tournaments or competitions in ninjutsu. Since tournament fighting has set rules that compel the competitor to study the techniques allowed within that framework, this limits not only the kinds of techniques that they study but also the way in which they will apply those techniques. The way that you train is the way that you fight. Ninjutsu requires that its practitioners be open to any situation and be able to adapt their techniques to ensure survival.

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