Who doesn’t love ninjas in this day and age? If the success of American Ninja Warrior is any indication, not many people! For those who don’t know, American Ninja Warrior is a show where athletes compete on an obstacle course, performing great feats of strength to get through them. Here at Rebounderz, we actually have our very own Grand Rapids ninja warrior course available to try for all the budding ninjas out there. But before you start training, maybe you would like to learn a little bit more about what it means to be a ninja. Here, we go over some of the tools and weapons commonly used by ninjas.
This is probably one of the more famous weapons historically used by ninjas. Known colloquially in America as the “throwing star”, the shuriken was actually commonly used by all warrior casts in Japan, not just ninjas. There are generally two types of shuriken, the plate type and stick type. The plate type is what people generally think of when they hear shuriken, and can be three pointed, four pointed, or eight pointed. The stick type looks like a sharp nail. It is harder to throw accurately, but also does more damage than a plate type shuriken.
Like their samurai counterparts, ninjas also carried swords. The kind of ninja swords that you will find today differ from samurai swords in that they are a bit shorter, and are straight instead of curved. However, these were made in the Edo period, after the heyday of the ninja. They are, however, the closest extant swords to what a ninja in the warring states period might have carried. Their shorter length was likely made for versatility, so it could be used in close quarters combat as well as in the open.
This complex weapon is essentially a sickle attached to a chain attached to a weight. It was originally made from farm equipment, and indeed was used by the working rather than soldier class originally. Due to its versatility as a weapon and its ability to be concealed, it saw a lot of use by ninja clansmen. Generally, a ninja would swing the weighted end to either disarm an opponent or lock one of their limbs, then they would go in for the kill with the sickle. Most surviving kurasigamas from history were caste not by swordsmiths, but regular agricultural blacksmiths.
Unlike the previous entries, the kunai has historically been used exclusively by the ninja. It is much like the stick type shuriken, except with a more blade like edge on one end and a metal ring on the other. This design allows the kunai to not only be used as a deadly throwing weapon, but also as a tool. For instance, rope could be put through the metal ring, so that the kunai could be thrown onto a ceiling or tree branch and used as a grapple. Kunai can also be wedged into walls to create footholds that allow ninja to climb up. Finally, the shape of kunai meant they could also be used as sharp daggers for extreme close quarters combat.
Makibishi are what we would call in America caltrops. They are just little spiky protrusions of metal that stick out every which way. The ninja would use them to escape from battle with whatever valuable information they had stolen. They would throw them on the ground, and the samurai giving chase would step on them. The sandals of the time were not made to withstand metal puncturing, and the samurai would be unable to give further chase. Makibishi were originally made out of the fruits of the water caltrop. These fruits are naturally hard and pointy, but when baked in the sun become hard enough to cut flesh.
They may look more suited to Wolverine, but the ninja were using metal claws as weapons long before the X-men came on the scene. However, like the kurasigama, the tekko-kagi are a reapplication of a farming tool. Originally used as a sickle to tear out weeds, tekko-kagi were easily re purposed into a brawling weapon. It would often be worn on both hands, which gave ninjas an edge when facing a samurai with a single sword. They could use one hand to defensively block a slash, while going in with their other hand for the kill.
Like the tekko-kagi, tekken are a metal extension of the hand. In America, we call them brass knuckles. They are a metal bar that the hand fits through, so that metal protrusions stick out of the knuckles. They gained popularity with ninjas because they can be so easily concealed, are effective brawling weapons, and could even be used to stop a sword slice if absolutely necessary.
The manriki-gusari is much like the kurasigama in how it is put together. While the kurasigama is a sickle and a weight connected by a chain, the manriki-gusari is two metal weights connected by a chain. The length of chain in a manriki-gusari is considerably shorter than the kurasigama, however. Much like the kurasigama, it is easily concealable (more so, actually), and is used in combat in a similar way, with the weight being thrown either to injure to incapacitate a limb/weapon.
A diabolical weapon, the kakute is reminiscent of the prank hand buzzer that sends a shock to an unsuspecting victim. However, unlike those joke gags, instead of a small current of electricity, kakute give you an inch of steel in your flesh. They are essentially just a ring with sharp metal spikes facing away from the palm. As such, they are almost impossible to spot as a weapon and easy to smuggle just about anywhere. In a fight, they are used to make blocks very painful and gouge into exposed flesh.
Common to monks, samurai, and ninja alike, the amigasa is a type of woven hat. If you’re having trouble picturing it, just think of the character Raiden from Mortal Combat. He wears an Amigasa in the video game. While prevalent in many castes of Japan, the amigasa worked well as a tool for ninja because it could be used to smuggle weapons and information. It could also be used to cover ones face by keeping the head at a slightly downward angle.
Wow, ninjas sure do have a lot of equipment to keep track of! Luckily, modern ninjas only need their body, mind, and of course a ninja obstacle course to gain fame. Make sure to come by our Grand Rapids trampoline park with our very own ninja warrior course to test out your ninja skills. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions about our location, hours, or attractions.