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I have often heard that yes it does, and no it does not. The fact is that densho (transmission scrolls) do exist detailing the skills used in war and defense, including hand to hand combat. Does this qualify it as a martial art?

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Who is claiming that it does not, and on what basis? –  Dave Liepmann Aug 15 '12 at 17:58

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

From the standpoint of "is it a martial art" I think the answer is most definitively "yes." Many of the techniques it practices are very fitting in with other contemporary "martial arts." It teaches hand-to-hand combat and techniques such as dive rolls and breakfalls, among other things, that are commonly found in other martial arts. I can't really think of anything that would keep it from being considered a "martial art."

On the other hand, that's an easier question than whether it should be considered a traditional martial art. That's a substantially more difficult question, but not one that really detracts from whether it should be considered a martial art in its current form.

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Agreed in regard to the "traditional" sense... I've heard many claimants argue that it is not a martial art at all and should not be confused as one, which is why I asked. –  stslavik Jan 31 '12 at 23:05
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I've heard the same here and there, but I have a few friends that practice it and between talking with them and spending a few hours of trying to dodge a sword and counterattack effectively according to a structured drill in the class I attended, I'm not seeing what would disqualify it. –  David H. Clements Jan 31 '12 at 23:14
    
@stslavik What was their basis for saying so? –  Dave Liepmann Aug 15 '12 at 18:00
    
@stslavik: Are Judo, BJJ, Krav Maga, Kempo Karate and others martial arts, even though they are not traditional martial arts? Yes. As there are blocks, kata, joint locks, throws, weapons training and more in Ninjutsu, of course it qualifies too. The criticism has been regarding if it is a traditional art or not, as extensive proof has not been provided regarding linage etc of the schools. But, you have to remember that a lot was passed down from person to person, there are not written proof for everything. –  Deleted May 14 '13 at 12:20
    
@Kent martialarts.stackexchange.com/a/197/25 It makes for interesting discussion, but I'm not as sure as I used to be. Some ryuha that talk about martial skills also are in some places regarded simply as brigands. I lack the evidence to make a definitive judgment. –  stslavik May 14 '13 at 21:43

For some reference, Ive been training in a ninjutsu school for a couple years now.

From what I have gathered is that the ninjutsu aspect of the art is more of a state of mind rather than specific martial schools. The ninjutsu aspect focus's on getting out of line of sight and distracting the opponent. In fact the only unique ninjutsu kata i have found teaches the person to distract and invade the opponent.

Most of the other techniques are very jujutsu like.

This is a good read on the school i attend. http://blog.bushinbooks.com/archives/11

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I agree from the stand point of ninpo being a state of mind; when one applies ninpo to taijutsu, you change the state of your approach to taijutsu (since jujutsu is a form of budo taijutsu, by changing your approach to the problem, but not necessarily the technique, you make it ninpo taijutsu). Ninjutsu is specifically a skill set tied into tradition (see Shoninki for an example of skills specific to the ninja). –  stslavik Feb 9 '12 at 19:57

If we assume, as others have described, that arts such as Kyudo, Kendo, Kickboxing, Kumdo, Escrima, etc. are martial arts, then we need to give a broad definition to the term. Martial Arts could, therefore, be described as:

A codified system for the development of skills of or derived from the arts of war.

In this way, we include under the banner 1.) combat sports (which we must acknowledge as, at the very least, being derived from warrior virtues), 2.) philosophical pursuits of war (Heiho/tactics, for instance, or the zen aspects of Kyudo without including pursuits such as Shodo or tea ceremony), and 3.) weapon arts (to not exclude those arts that are purely related to the development of a weapon skill, such as Iai, whether or not they are viewed, correctly or incorrectly, as practical). Further, we exclude any need or demand for any moral guidance through the art, allowing both those arts dubbed do and jutsu to be acceptable.

Then, if we accept this definition, we must accept ninjutsu as a martial art, since it is inclusive of tactics, weapon skills, and those traditionally warlike aspects of effectively eliminating an enemy.

Edit

I've come to a new realization regarding ninjutsu, which I feel I need to share. Please forgive its depth. Going through the shoninki, bansenshukai, and shinobi hiden (along with new translations) have led to a new understanding. This too is likely to change.

Ninjutsu is an erroneous name; the art is better written 忍ノ術, read "Shinobi-no-Jutsu", the arts of the shinobi. The art, or rather collection of skills, is not combative, and consists of a series of skills related to their abilities:

  • kajutsu and kayakujutsu – The use, carrying, and creation of fire and explosives (black powder and compressed explosives). This would include sub-skills of arson and demolitions.
  • Shinobi-iri - To go as a shinobi; that is, to move through a target location with the intent of completing a mission and without detection. This would include infiltration and extraction, cartography, human intelligence management (torture), breaking and entering, acting, deception, cold reading, espionage, conversational skills, disguise, con-artistry and misdirect, scouting, climbing, tunneling, and signaling.
  • Suijutsu - Swimming, boat building, and other water-crossing skills. I'd also include bridge/platform construction here.
  • Taigyou - Sabotage and trapping methods.
  • doku - Use and creation of poisons and acids.
  • Youjutsu - This might be a misnomer, but would include all the various esoteric practices the shinobi may study.

Now, this is shinobi-no-jutsu, or what we commonly call ninjutsu. Saying that it is a "martial art" is a bit like saying that a KGB agent living in the US during the cold war was a "soldier".

As far as combative skills, it's likely that many had training, likely in some form known to their family or through affiliation.

I don't know if this is an answer, but I thought I should post the new information and add it for evaluation.

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(Disclaimer, I train in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu)

Nin "JUTSU". The answer is in the name. Wikipedia

Update Dr Kacem Zoughari discussing ninjutsu as an martial art.

Is there a unique [set of martial arts] for the ninja? Not in my experience. The basic weapon work (bokken, bo, tanto) is very similar to other "traditional" Japanese martial arts, and so is the un-armed stuff. What is different (but again, not unique) is the emphasis on "warrior combat" and "battlefield awareness" with an eye on surviving, not achieving an honourable death.

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The -jutsu does not, in and of itself, make for a martial art. Further study of the Japanese language will show other cases where -jutsu is used to describe other skills (saiminjutsu means hypnosis, and taijutsu only means body skills, which can apply to the skills used by a prostitute or a baker in their day to day lives just as easily as a martial artist; the very reason that we describe our art as ninpo taijutsu or budo taijutsu) –  stslavik Feb 6 '12 at 16:36
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I stand corrected as to the etymology of the word. –  Guy Feb 9 '12 at 19:45
    
Sometimes I like Zhougari... Sometimes I think he's blinded by his own diagnosis. Nothing is unique, and it is true that ninjutsu does focus on surviving. There are techniques that specifically fall under the banner of ninjutsu, however they are not unique to the art, just as wrist locks are not unique to jujutsu or aikido. –  stslavik Feb 9 '12 at 20:00

I would think it can definitely be considered an art because it evolves over time, and students who become teachers will favor certain techniques and skills, and will assimilate techniques and skills from other arts.

It also is not a closed system bound by unbreakable rules - IOW if you come up with a new technique or skill that works then you can incorporate it in. This in itself would mean it satisfies the definition of an art as opposed to a science or practice.

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In japan, a ninja is basically a warrior that does not follow the rules of bushido (the way of the warrior); that means that it basically have no honor and can do whatever he wants.

That means that a ninja can murder, steal and perform any low-moral acts.

To make an analogy to modern times, you can think of a ninja as a "bad guy" on the broadest of the sense.

Then "-jutsu" suffix means technique.

Therefore ninjutsu is basically a list of the technique used by bad guys without honor. Is this an "martial" art? I doubt it.

However, the technique used are probably effective, if all that you care is to do bad things (as opposed to knowing yourself, build a better society and so on).

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Actually, this is almost entirely incorrect. See "Shoninki", "Bansenshukai", or "Ninpiden" for historical reference. I won't go into modern texts as these have little basis... –  stslavik Feb 1 '12 at 16:41
    
I thought to remove my post, but your comment is interesting... –  michelemarcon Feb 1 '12 at 16:53
    
@michelemarcon: Why not asks a question about it?... I'd upvote it. ;> –  Sardathrion Feb 2 '12 at 9:15
    
@michelemarcon: As would I. There's quite a bit of misunderstanding surrounding ninja. –  stslavik Feb 2 '12 at 19:47

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