Nin Gu - Ninja Tools

Nin Gu - Ninja Tools

In this section of the website you will find a brief glossary of all the weapons and tools traditionally used by the Ninja, this is provided purely for reference purposes to help students of Seal Martial Arts learn the names and specifications.

None of the weapons depicted should be used unless under the supervision of a qualified Seal Martial Arts Instructor, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu Shidoshi or Shihan.

Shinken (sharp) weapons should never be used in the Dojo under any circumstances, unless specifically attending a test cutting lesson (Tameshigiri), this is generally only practiced in Japan under the supervision of one of the Shitenno or practiced in your own time after extensive training on private property.

The official stance of the Seal Martial Arts Dojo is DO NOT train with Shinken weaponry, especially in the Dojo as it is illegal in the UK to bring weapons into a public place under the Offensive Weapons Act 1996. The student accepts all responsibility for any injury incurred outside the Dojo by misusing specialized weaponry intended for use by experienced martial artists.

In short your responsible for your own stupidity, stick with wooden, rubber or foam training weapons until you thoroughly understand what you practicing, throw Bo Shuriken (after training) instead of cheap throwing knives that can easily bounce back and cause serious injury, use your common sense and ensure you maintain control over the weapon at all times, no aimlessly waving a weapon around, bare in mind if you lose grip on a sword swinging it around it could easily take your arm or even head off it is a 3 foot long razor after all!

Just to clarify you shouldn’t be swinging a sword around anyway, Japanese swordsmanship is very controlled, the spinning motions and movements you often see in movies are derived from Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu who use shorter broadswords and position the body in a completely different manner, do it with a Nihonto (Japanese Sword) and your likely to cut off your ear (or other bits) due to the longer blade, in conclusion DON’T DO IT!

Kaginawa 鈎縄 – Hook Rope/Grappling Hook

The Kaginawa quite literally is translated as ‘Hook Rope’ and is a generalized term for a number of different climbing tools including the conventional western styled grappling hook. This particular Kaginawa is comprised of a three pronged claw (Kumade) and rope that could be used not only for climbing but also to restrain violent swordsmen from a distance by snagging clothing and flesh and dragging him to the ground. The Kumade could also be attached to the end of a Rokushakubo (6 Shaku Staff) and used in the same manner.

Shuko and Ashiko – Hand and Foot Claws

Shuko and Ashiko are hand and foot claws traditionally used by the Togakure Ryu Ninja for a variety of reasons, their primary purpose is to aid the Ninja in climbing trees, structures and other obstacles somewhat like a mountaineers crampons but they could obviously be used to devastating effect when used with the Ninja’s Taijutsu to block incoming cuts from an opponents sword and incapacitate them.

Ninja-To 忍者刀 – Ninja Sword

The Ninja-To (忍者刀) or Shinobigatana (忍刀) is the conventional sword of the Ninja portrayed in popular culture and animation. Their is some debate about the exact dates that this sword was used due to a lack of antiques from the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States) period being found but they do feature in various Ninja museums across Japan. The conventional belief is that the Ninja-To was more of a utilitarian bush knife of machete by comparison to the conventional Japanese Katana.

Their are several fundamental differences between the Ninja-To (忍者刀) and the Katana, The first and most obvious being that the blade is straight, this was due to a variety of reasons such as the Ninjas inability to replicate the complex forging processes used to create a Katana at the time but it also served a functional purpose as it makes the blade more stable so that the Ninja-To could be used as a step when in the Saya to climb over walls and other obstacles. The Kojiri (Metal Saya Cap) meant that the Saya could be secured in the ground and the Tsuba used as a step and the longer Sageo meant that the Ninja could hold it in their teeth, climb up and then retrieve the sword. In conclusion the Ninja-To could be compared to the modern soldiers Bayonet or Survival Knife.

Kodachi 小太刀こだち

The Kodachi is a sword that is roughly about midway between the Katana and Wakizashi. Literally translating into “small or short tachi”, is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (Nihontō) used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Kodachi are from the early Kamakura period (1185–1333).

This particular Kodachi is an Oniyuri Bujinkan Katana although technically it is more of a Kodachi due to the shorter blade, and larger Tsuka (handle) and fittings.

This served a very practical purpose as when the Ninja needed to draw his sword when faced with an opponent the longer Saya would act as a form of psychological misdirection meaning that the Ninja was able to draw the Kodachi at a far quicker rate than the opponent was expecting and cut him down before he even drew his sword. The Saya could also be loaded with Metsubishi (Blinding Powder) in the space left in the bottom to blind and disorientate the opponent or carry secret messages.

Bokken 木刀 – Wooden Sword

The Bokken or Bokuto is a Japanese wooden sword used for training in Kenjutsu (Swordmanship). The Bokken can come in a variety of sizes and are usually made of red or white oak and carved in the shape of a Katana. The Bokken is one of the primary pieces of equipment that you will encounter in the Dojo.

Rokushakubo 六尺棒 – 6 Shaku Staff

This name derives from the Japanese words roku (六), meaning “six”, shaku (尺) and bō (棒) . The shaku is a Japanese measurement equivalent to 30.3 centimeters (0.994 ft). Thus, rokushakubō refers to a staff about 6-shaku (1.82 m; 5.96 feet) long. The bō is typically 3 cm (1.25 inch) thick, sometimes gradually tapering from the middle to 2 cm (0.75 inch) at the end (kontei). This thickness allows the user to make a tight fist around it in order to block and counter an attack.

In the Bujinkan the primary school learnt for the use of Rokushakubo is Kukishinden Ryu (九鬼神流)

Wakizashi 脇差 – Short Sword

The Wakizashi has a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in), with Wakizashi close to the length of a Katana being called Kodachi and Wakizashi closer to Tantō length being called Ko-Wakizashi. The Wakizashi being worn together with the Katana was the official sign that the wearer was a Samurai or swordsman of feudal Japan. When worn together the pair of swords were called Daishō, which translates literally as “big-little”. The Katana was the big or long sword and the Wakizashi the companion sword. Wakizashi are not necessarily just a smaller version of the Katana, they could be forged differently and have a different cross section.

Wakizashi have been in use as far back as the 15th or 16th century. The Wakizashi was used as a backup or auxiliary sword, it was also used for close quarters fighting, to behead a defeated opponent and sometimes to commit Seppuku, ritual suicide.

The Wakizashi was one of several short swords available for use by Samurai including the Yoroi Tōshi, the Chisa-Katana and the Tantō. The term Wakizashi did not originally specify swords of any official blade length and was an abbreviation of “wakizashi no katana” (“sword thrust at one’s side”); the term was applied to companion swords of all sizes. It was not until the Edo period in 1638 when the rulers of Japan tried to regulate the types of swords and the social groups which were allowed to wear them that the lengths of Katana and Wakizashi were officially set.

Kunai 苦無 – Trowel/Dagger

A Kunai (苦無) is a Japanese dagger, derived from the masonry trowel. The two widely recognized variations of the Kunai are short kunai (小苦無 shō-kunai) and the big kunai (大苦無 dai-kunai). Perhaps the most important point to mention is that the Kunai is not bladed and was often used by the Ninja to dig holes and bore peep holes.

Although a basic tool, in the hands of the Ninja the Kunai could be used as a multi-functional weapon. Kunai were originally made to be farming tools but soon evolved into the weapons they have become today. The Kunai is commonly associated with the Ninja in popular culture and animation as a form of throwing knife although this is a popular misconception as this was never their original intended purpose. That’s not to say that they aren’t available as throwing knives today but they tend to be cheap replicas not really suitable for training.

Their are a variety of Kamae and applications for the Kunai which will be discussed more in depth during lessons.

Suntetsu 寸鉄 

A Suntetsu is a metal rod/spike about 6 inches in length with a ring attached to it. The middle finger is inserted into the ring and the Suntetsu rests in the hand using a variety of grips. Suntetsu are small, easy to conceal and relatively simple to learn how to use. Suntetsu are used for stabbing, poking, pinching, striking, smashing, scraping and throwing. You can use a single Suntetsu or a pair. 

In the Bujinkan Suntetsu are predominantly used for striking Kyusho.

Tanto 短刀 – Traditional Japanese Dagger

A tantō 短刀, “short blade”) is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto) that were worn by the Samurai class of feudal Japan. The Tantō dates to the Heian period, when it was mainly used as a weapon but evolved in design over the years to become more ornate. Tantō were used in traditional martial arts (tantojutsu) and saw a resurgence of use in the West in the 1980s as the design made its way to the US and is a common blade pattern found in modern tactical knives.