Originally Posted on May 26, 2011 by Karri
I read a blog post recently asking how someone can become a ninja. The best way I can explain this is by sharing a little bit of understanding my instructor gave me.
Ninjas are to Japan what cowboys are to Americans. We love cowboys, and as kids we dress up as them. They are a staple in our cultural diet and nothing could possibly be more American. Grown men wear ten gallon hats and chaps, learn to rope cattle, shoot sixguns, rustle dogies, and cultivate convincing drawls and swaggers. But, no matter how much you eat from a chuck wagon or get yourself saddle-sore, you will never be a real cowboy.
The skills they learned were a response to a situation (i.e. the American west) that no longer exists. There are no more frontier towns, or cattle rustlers. They exist in memories and all the spaghetti westerns that fill our young minds with gunfights, outlaws and Indians.
In the same way, you could get as authentic taijutsu training as you can afford, buy every ninja weapon and “costume” you can find on the internet, learn all the obscure weather prediction, poisoning, underwater breathing, occult practices, horsemanship, explosives making, and other random out of date skills, travel to Japan and live in the mountains, speak perfect period Japanese and you would still not really be a ninja.
We train in ninja skills, we learn about their culture, we celebrate these people (while glassing over some of the less glamorous and ethically questionable behaviors). We surround ourselves with the trappings of ninja-ism because we love it. But, no matter how much we emulate and appreciate them, by not living in that time period and in that place we can never truly become them.
On the other hand, what it all comes down to I guess is who you identify with, right? A lot of Americans whose families have been living here for generations still call themselves Irish, Italian or German. Waitresses in LA who mail their headshots out to talent scouts call themselves actresses, and guys who go to a grappling gym once a week call themselves mixed martial artists.
So maybe, just maybe all it takes to be a ninja is to buy into it. Tell yourself “I am a ninja”. If anyone asks you what you do, say “Oh, I’m a ninja. How about you?” Skip the black pajamas (they’re about as accurate as train-robbers wearing black masks) and keep a secret “something” in your pocket to help you get out of a tight spot. Spend time watching people, and looking for things out of place. Think about how you might get out of the room you are sitting in, if things “got ugly”. Learn to walk around your house with the lights off. In short, make it a part of your life. If it fits your personality, get some training. If you’re really, super-serious about it I’ll even send you a secret ninja society membership card.
So, stick to your guns (or shuriken) and make people believe what you want them to by making yourself believe it first. If you want to be a ninja then BE a ninja. If you want to be a cowboy or a viking or a Spartan then just go out there and believe in it. If you’ve been paying attention, you might even realize that the same is true for being wealthy, or happy or in a great relationship. Just live like it’s already happened, and watch the universe play catch-up to your dreams.