It seems that the vast majority of people who are interested in, and drawn to, the art of Japan’s ancient Ninja warriors only seem to focus on the “cool moves” and exotic weapons that they see in the movies. To these “fans,” the trappings ARE the art, and no amount of discussion or proof will convince them that the image is not the art.
As I remind my own students on a regular basis, the skills, weapons, masks, outfit, etc., that we see in the movies – are not the art. These things, individually, are no more Ninjutsu than owning a car and knowing how to drive makes you a professional race car driver!
What makes a Ninja a Ninja – the power that was passed down from the people originally known in ancient Japan as Shinobi no Mono – is not the skills, weapons, or anything else. In fact, most of these things were also known, used, and done by other warriors of the time.
The difference is not in what you can see, but what you can’t.
The power isn’t in the techniques and tricks, but rather in the way the Ninja thinks about, and approaches things – regardless of whether we’re talking about combat and self defense, or we’re talking about how and where you’re going to live your life.
In fact, one of the core skills of a true Ninja is one that gives his or her skills, weapons, and tactics, the power that they have.
Do you understand that?
The thing that makes the Ninja’s skills, techniques, and “moves” as powerful as they are, is the mindset that puts them to use – not the “things” themselves.
One of the strategies – one of the mental abilities of a true Ninja is summed up in the phrase “munen muso” (pronounced, “moo-nehn moo-soh”). The term itself simply means, “No-thought / “No-action,” but it is what is being pointed to that changes the entire “game” and gives the Ninja his power in any confrontation – against any attacker.
Munen-muso points to a state of mind that you must have when facing a skilled, determined, and intent opponent. It is not something that you do, so much as an aspect of who you are in that moment. You cannot “do” munen-muso, any more than you “do” anger. You are either “angry” or you’re not. And… you are either in a state of munen-muso, or you’re not.
So, what is munen-muso? As I said earlier, it really has two aspects to it, but it is the state of being completely neutral when faced with a violent attacker. These two aspects are really reflections of one mind – of one state of being.
One aspect is that of munen, “no thought.” This is the reflection of being “neutral” where you aren’t looking for anything. You aren’t guessing about what he is going to do. You’re not expecting anything, and therefor can’t be surprised when he doesn’t do what you thought he would.
The other aspect, that of mu-so, “no action,” is a different reflection of being “neutral.” Where munen represents an internal state of being, muso represents this calm, neutral, grounded-ness on an outward level.
Mu-so, “no-action,” points to the “stillness” of your presence and outward appearance to your attacker. You do not send any clues or cues about your intentions so there is absolutely nothing for him to pick up on – nothing for him to use against you.
As you can see, being a warrior – being a true Ninja – is much more than merely dressing a certain way or being able to mimic a few step-by-step kata that have been passed down over time.
So… the question is…
Are you just a “fan” of the Ninja? Does your idea of what it means to be a Ninja match some sort of movie image, or…
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